The Charges against me are not the typical types of charges you usually see against lawyers. Instead, all of the charges were generated or instigated by Hennepin County Judges.
Many of you know that I have been willing to take client cases in which judicial conduct was questioned. When the client decides to question judicial authority (by filing a motion to recuse, or by making a complaint to the Judicial Standards Board, for example), and if the law and facts support that, I will help them with the legal process. It seems there are judges who wish I would not do that lawyer work. But the work is important for clients and in pursuit of justice, and I take those things seriously.
Did I realize that I was painting a target on myself by doing this work? Kind of. That is, I never thought of it at the beginning. I just did my job. I had yet to learn how many lawyers were initmidated into not doing this type of work. I really didn’t know I was standing out.
I know it now.
And I still continue to do this work.
My clients’ right to criticize judges is protected by the First Amendment. And I am their spokesperson. If all Americans shut up and back down when we are pressed, the First Amendment would shrivel up and blow away.
Over the years, judges have been asked to uphold the First Amendment in this country. Sadly, they have not been quite so willing to do so – when it comes to judges. (See my discussion of lawyer gag rules and In re Graham).
Let’s see how this plays out.
Over time, I’ll go through each of the charges against me with you in some detail. But for this post, I’m just giving an overview.
Judge Lucy Wieland’s complaints
In 2006, I encountered some conduct of Minnesota Judge Lucy Wieland. At the time, she was Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial District (Hennepin County). My clients and I filed a complaint with the Judicial Standards Board. This was the first time I had done this. Boy was I naïve. Even as much as I knew about accusing government insiders, I guess I assumed that the Board would investigate, and hold her accountable.
As it was, Judge Wieland was not held accountable. The JSB did not even investigate. Instead, the JSB faxed Judge Wieland a copy of the complaint I’d written. And Judge Wieland turned around and sent it to the Lawyers Board, claiming that I had made “false” statements against her in that complaint.
Usually, the toughest part of proving retaliation is proving the connection between the protected conduct (here, filing the complaint with the JSB) and the retaliatory conduct. Judge Wieland has made that part easy in this case, by actually filing the JSB complaint with the Lawyers Board.
Also in 2006, when we realized that the JSB was not going to help, I helped the same client file a federal lawsuit naming Judge Lucy Wieland. After my client settled the case with the Attorney General’s Office, Judge Wieland turned around and sent the complaint(s) in that case (yup, the ones we’d filed with the federal court, also First-Amendment-protected conduct) to the Lawyers Board, and claimed I’d made “false” statements about her.
Ok, so now I got how it worked. Criticize a judge – we attack your law license. Folks, it’s been this way in the system for many years. But based on what I know about the current Minnesota justice system, I am hopeful that a lawyer can defend against these types of charges. And, I have raised the First Amendment as one of my defenses.
The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
Some of you already know that I have for several years defended lawyers at the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (the prosecutorial arm of the Lawyers Board). I defend lawyers there as zealously as I defend all types of people. Based on what I know about government prosecutors (and this, from much experience) I would venture to say that there are those prosecutors within the OLPR who are not thrilled to litigate against me.
Make no mistake, the OLPR which decided to charge me in this case is my opposing counsel in other (Lawyers Board) cases. Do you wonder whether the OLPR has charged me to try to get me out of their hair? I’ve wondered that.
The OLPR added one of its own charges to the complaints made by Judge Wieland. The OLPR alleged that I had made true statements about a hearing in a criminal case. That’s right, true statements. And what did they charge me with? Making a false statement.
Judge Lloyd Zimmerman
In late 2010, a client and I filed a JSB complaint against Judge Lloyd Zimmerman (district judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota) after we observed disturbing conduct by him during a hearing.
Within a few months, Judge Zimmerman had generated or continued two of the charges that are now filed against me. Hennepin County Judge Robert Blaeser and retired Hennepin County Judge Thomas Wexler are the official “complainants.” But Judge Zimmerman’s conduct and motivation loom large in both of these charges.
In one of those two charges, I am being accused of filing a document that removed Judge Zimmerman from a client’s case (meaning he would get a new judge assigned, which he did) without cause (meaning we did not have to state a reason). This seems to have disturbed Judge Zimmerman, who made an ex parte communication by email, to get Judge Blaeser to go out of his way to put Judge Zimmerman back on the case. Which he did. My client immediatley made a complaint about this process, even before we knew about the ex parte email. But the JSB did nothing to hold these judges accountable. And I was the one that got charged.
In the other of those two charges, I was accused of stapling two documents wrong (mixing up the pages). Yup, mixing up the pages.
(Is this how you want your tax dollars spent?)
Chief Justice seat up for Election this year (2012)
These Charges are set on a stage in which it might be important to remember that in 2010, I and two others worked to get the Chief Justice position on the ballot this year – 2012. (That seat had not ben run for 10 years.) In that 2010 lawsuit, I stated my intention of filing to run for that office.
I have not made a secret of the fact that I am a judicial reformist.
Let’s see how this plays out.
As more than one person has commented, it’s easy to see who would want me not to succeed in a campaign to be Chief Justice. How about those who are committing or benefitting from judicial misconduct? Once this image is drawn, it’s tough to get it out of your head.
Watch to see who has already attacked me, and who lines up to attack me this year. What we’ll probably end up with is a list of those who want to keep the “old ways” – that is, protecting judicial misconduct and the judges who commit it, and those who benefit from it.