J.A.I.L. News Journal
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Los Angeles, California
December 29, 2005

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The Inherent Right of ALL People to Alter or Reform Abusive Government
The Right Upon Which All Other Rights Depend
www.SouthDakotaJudicialAccountability.org
The Torchbearer for J.A.I.L. Nationally - Support Them!
P.O. Box 412, Tea, S.D. 57064  -  (605) 231-1418
 
Less Respect For The Profession Than When Starting Law School
By Stacy Ryan, Recent Law School Graduate
Nebraska JAILer, sar8297@mac.com
 
The public is tired of a runaway legal system accountable to
only themselves. Although its members have recognized
the problem for years and announced a call for reform,
the system does not change. As a result, the public lost respect
 for the legal profession and has begun to demand change.
There is corruption in every profession but lawyers and judges
 are in the position to do the most damage not only to the public,
 but also to our justice system. If the legal system wants
 the respect it once deserved it will be accountable,...
                                                          -- Stacy Ryan
Barbie & Ron,

I am proud to say I am a recent law school graduate. I am sorry to say I have less respect for the profession than I did when I started my law school career. So, why did I spend 3 years and thousands of dollars to attend law school? Because after years of messy, expensive, unethical litigation with my ex-husband (by the way he's a judge in my city) I was sure this was not the way the system was supposed to work. I was sure that I could somehow expose the unethical conduct of both my ex and his lawyers and perhaps help others before they were caught in the "litigation vortex".

In telling my story to legal types, most would look at me skeptically and say nothing. I found there is a code of silence with lawyers, they will not criticize one another, no matter how egregious their peer's conduct might be.  Before I spent class time in my law school's legal clinic, the administration found I was active in judicial accountability and I was cornered by two law professors who actually demanded that I disengage myself from any criticism of the judiciary. Two members of the bar instructed me that I was not "allowed" to say anything bad about a judge! They wholeheartedly agreed with me that the courthouse was a "good ol boys" club but as a law student soon to be lawyer I could not speak my mind.  That semester they kept me out of the courthouse because they were convinced they would lose cases because of me.
For my last paper, I chose to research the lawyer disciplinary process. I would have researched the judicial disciplinary process but not much information is available. Lawyers and only lawyers become judges so I believe this is relevant to J.A.I.L.

J.A.I.L will find the research interesting yet nothing new. Distrust of the legal system is also nothing new to the American Bar Association. Despite the ABA's  efforts to reform the profession, its members are still not listening. This is interestingly but not surprisingly illustrated by the continual criticism of the South Dakota effort by various bar members.

Some information from my law school paper:
In 1970, an ABA committee reviewed the nation's attorney discipline system. The committee found a "scandalous situation" requiring "immediate attention.  Led by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, the Clark committee found deliberate efforts to discourage any public dissemination of disciplinary activities. Fueled by the public's dissatisfaction with the bar and the courts, the Clark Report stated, "With few exceptions, the prevailing attitude of lawyers toward disciplinary enforcement ranges from apathy to outright hostility. Disciplinary action is practically nonexistent in many jurisdictions; practices and procedures are antiquated; many disciplinary agencies have little power to take effective steps against malefactors."

In 1992, an ABA panel led by New York University Dean Robert McKay, reported that the public has a "growing mistrust" of the lawyer disciplinary process. The McKay Commission concluded that the practice of allowing bar officials to control state disciplinary systems was perceived as a gross conflict of interest. The commission criticized attorney discipline as "too slow, too secret, too soft and too self-regulated."

In August 1996, the Conference of Chief Justices passed a resolution for a National Study and Action Plan Regarding Lawyer Conduct and Professionalism. In that resolution, it was noted that a significant decline in professionalism existed in the bar. The public's confidence showed a corresponding decline. From the conference report:  "There is the perception and frequently the reality that some members of the bar do not consistently adhere to principles of professionalism and thereby sometimes impede the effective administration of justice."  The Conference focused on an effort to involve the state supreme courts in raising public opinion of the profession. The court of highest jurisdiction in each state was considered to have the ultimate responsibility for regulation of the legal profession.

 In 1999, the National Action Plan on Lawyer Conduct and Professionalism was adopted by the Conference of Chief Justices. The plan included recommendations on how lawyer complaints should be handled. Some jurisdictions dismissed up to ninety percent of all complaints because supposedly the conduct alleged did not violate the rules of professional conduct. The commission gathered information about the dismissed complaints and found that many of them in fact did state legitimate grounds. In their recommendations, the commission claimed that the disciplinary system disregarded tens of thousands of complaints annually.

According to the American Bar Association, in 2002, 121,000 complaints were filed against 1.2 million lawyers. Only 3.5 percent led to formal disciplinary action and just one percent resulted in disbarment. Of these 121,000 complaints, 96.5 percent resulted in no discipline or informal punishments in the form of private sanctions. 
In 2002, HALT, An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform, produced the Lawyer Discipline Report Card to assess whether states had taken any action to improve their lawyer discipline system. HALT is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group dedicated to reform projects that challenge the legal system to improve access to the courts and reduce costs at both the state and federal levels. (see www.HALT.org)

In just one area of their report, HALT criticized state "gag rules". Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota and Washington prohibited complainants from telling anyone about their lawyer complaint before complaints become "public".  (note that most lawyer complaints never become public) The complainant who talks could be held in contempt, fined or even imprisoned! A few of these states have struck down their gag rules,  finding that the rule poses an unconstitutional restraint on free speech, already noted by the Chief Justices in 1999.

Speaking from experience, I was instructed that my complaint against a judge "remained confidential under Nebraska law". Despite my best efforts I could not get the highest court to explain to me just what that directive meant. I found later that my state indeed has a  "gag rule."
The following incident was reported in my city and illustrates just why the public has lost confidence in the justice system.

In March 2005, an Omaha Douglas County District Judge reviewed the file of a 26-year-old Omaha man whose third drunken-driving infraction put a motorcyclist in critical condition. The Judge declared that probation was not appropriate. The accused's wife began crying, the man begged the judge not to send him to prison. The judge changed his mind. The accused's attorney (who by the way, was a buddy of the judge) mentioned that the accused's dad is a lawyer. "I know his father," the judge said. "That's another problem. By that I mean it just makes this more difficult."

In an appeal attempt, this judge's decision was affirmed by the higher court.
The public is tired of a runaway legal system accountable to only themselves. Although its members have recognized the problem for years and announced a call for reform, the system does not change. As a result, the public lost respect for the legal profession and has begun to demand change.

Despite the poor press, lawyers exceed one million in the United States. There are surely ethical lawyers in practice but they fail to report or criticize one of their own. The result is the good suffer the poor conduct of the bad. In my research, I also found that the public often fails to employ a lawyer because of distrust of the profession.
There is corruption in every profession but lawyers and judges are in the position to do the most damage not only to the public but also to our justice system. If the legal system wants the respect it once deserved it will be accountable, invite public opinion and involvement, openly emphasize and demonstrate ethical conduct and properly punish the unethical. I would then be proud to be a part of a profession that demonstrates integrity and respect for our nation's legal system.  

It is time bar members start listening and follow the directives of their own organizations.

Here's to change in 2006!
 
Respectfully, 
Stacy Ryan
Nebraska JAILer
sar8297@mac.com

Our thanks to Stacy for this personal testimony and research on this very important topic. She even commented "Distrust of the legal system is also nothing new to the American Bar Association. Despite the ABA's  efforts to reform the profession, its members are still not listening. This is interestingly but not surprisingly illustrated by the continual criticism of the South Dakota effort by various bar members."
 
Yet, we recently had an admonition from another JAILer, an attorney, who warned Ron that he deserves to lose this cause because he dared to ask rhetorically of the 250 members of the South Dakota Bar Association: 
"Do the People of South Dakota actually believe these lawyers have decided to do this out of the kindness of their hearts?"  --referring to the free legal services SD lawyers say they will be offering to the poor. Many of our readers have told us of the "free legal services" they were offered, and as the saying goes, "There is free cheese in every mouse trap."
See JNJ 12/26/05 "South Dakota State Bar Panics" http://www.jail4judges.org/JNJ_Library/2005/2005-12-26.html.
 
It is no secret that besides the judiciary itself, the Bar Association nationally is the natural enemy of J.A.I.L., as is its closely associated law enforcement industry. It is the Bar Association that hosts and trains (brainwashes) the legal fraternity consisting of judges and lawyers. It is the Bar Association that has made the legal system what it is today and which the People seek to alter and reform through J.A.I.L. Ron's disdain for the legal profession shouldn't be a surprise to anyone-- and it is the profession to which Ron's above question is directed. Ron has numerous attorney-friends, and so he recognizes not all lawyers are corrupt. However, the system prevents them from having any impact on resolving the corruption. As Stacy reports,
"There are surely ethical lawyers in practice but they fail to report or criticize one of their own. The result is the good suffer the poor conduct of the bad." She says that there is a "code of silence" with lawyers. 
 
Ron recognizes J.A.I.L.'s enemy when he sees it, and the South Dakota State Bar has no effective disguise. "Prejudging" the motivations of the members of the Bar is, in fact, not an issue. Their track record has long been shown for many years. The evidence has already been established and they routinely depend on their brethren, the judges, to cover up for them (and this includes law enforcement corruption). Ron has experienced this phenomenon himself throughout his 18 years of legal battle. He has been fighting a closed club all those years, and realized that law doesn't matter. Of course they're going to criticize J.A.I.L.
-Barbie
victoryusa@jail4judges.org
 

 

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