Don’t Worry About Me, I’m NOT Guilty of Murder

Don’t Worry About Me, I’m NOT Guilty of Murder

How would you react if someone walked up to you, shook your hand and said, “Hello. I want you to know, no matter what people might say, I didn’t kill anybody.”

What’s the first thought that runs through your mind?

If you have ever been accused of a crime, and the charges were later dropped or you were found not guilty by a jury, you know exactly what people are thinking.

Just being accused can haunt you your whole life. The worse the crime, the more fearful people get. Who’s going to want to take the chance on hiring you? What school will be comfortable having you on their campus?

Here are three examples of Hoosiers accused. Ask yourself, if you knew about their past, would you give them a chance?

A Teacher Shot on Her Doorstep

Kristi Redmon was an elementary school art teacher in Lafayette who lost her life because she answered the door one night. She was a Cubs fan, friendly, and generous with her time with kids according to the neighbors. They found her body after hearing the shots.

18-year-old Darius Printup, a young African-American man, was arrested for the crime. During the trial, his attorney told the jury it was true Darius had been knocking on doors in that neighborhood on the night in question. It was also true he was looking for people who had stolen drugs from him.

But he was, according to the attorney, not guilty of murder. There was no evidence. The young man was innocent. Darius was acquitted.

What do you think happens after police arrest a young black man for a crime they believe he committed and he doesn’t stay in prison?

If you guessed that he is arrested frequently for minor offenses like possession of marijuana and “visiting a common nuisance,” you’d be right.

What kind of a future does this young man have in his own community under the circumstances? What do you think would happen to you in his shoes?

Free After 21 Years a Prisoner

In the case of Trondo Humphrey, getting a second chance means battling the popular idea that our court system is infallible when it comes to locking people up.

Someone murdered Benjamin Laflin in February, 1996. He and a buddy drove to Anderson to buy crack cocaine. They argued with their dealer, who pulled a gun and shot Laflin. Roosevelt Brooks said he was with Humphrey and saw him greet the truck Laflin and his buddy drove in on. That made him the killer.

It was an unsworn statement that Brooks later recanted. The public defender assigned to the case should have objected to the admission of that statement into the trial. He didn’t.

Humphrey was sentenced to 60 years. It took 21 years for the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn the conviction. After two decades of doing time for another’s crime, he was a free man.

His mother told the Herald Bulletin she hoped Humphrey would move to Indianapolis or Mississippi to live with his uncle. Clearly she wanted him anywhere but Anderson after all the family had been through.

Can you blame her?

The Bush/Colombian Mafia Conspiracy

People often don’t give people much leeway when it comes to the why of killing a person. If they ended a likeable person’s life, they’re just plain guilty in the eyes of the public.

But sometimes the why makes a big difference.

Lori Barcroft killed Pastor Jama Iseminger in May 2012 at his Indianapolis church. That was never under dispute. What the court had to decide was whether she was a murderer or in desperate need of mental health services.

In cases like this, motive really matters:

Barcroft was upfront with police about why she killed Iseminger: She believed he was part of an international conspiracy to harm her and her family that involved the Colombian Mafia and the family of Presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush.”

Someone who is guilty of murder needs to be held accountable, but someone who is sick needs help. Let’s assume Ms. Barcroft was sick and she has a shot at getting better, at having a life.

How is she ever going to do that?

Who will let someone like her into their school or workplace? Who will even allow her into their independent living facility?

The answer is, no one who knows she killed a pastor. Even if she is better now. Even if she suffers from regret every day.

YOU DIDN’T KILL ANYONE, BUT THESE STORIES ARE ABOUT YOU.

The moral of all these stories is this: no matter what you were accused of, if the case was dismissed, you may be able to expunge it from your record. Expungement means wiping the slate as clean as possible. It opens the door to employment, schooling, housing opportunities and more.

Even if you were found guilty of a minor crime (not murder, but misdemeanors and minor felonies) and served time, expungement may be an option for you.

It may be your only shot at leading a normal life.

Learn more about Indiana expungement. Follow this link to contact us today.

You Did the Crime, You Did Your Time – 5 Facts About Indiana’s Second Chance Law

You Did the Crime, You Did Your Time – 5 Facts About Indiana’s Second Chance Law

Back in the dark ages in Indiana (before July, 2013), it didn’t matter what you did. If you were convicted of a crime it was on your permanent record. You were screwed.

Maybe once in your rough past you got caught stealing to survive.

Or the cops found a tiny bag of weed on you at a party when they came to break it up.

You might have just gotten stupid one night and blew a .09 into a breathalyzer.

Unless that charge was dismissed, chances were it would never go away. Bad decision? Sure. Did you deserve the penalty? Probably, at the time. But what you don’t deserve is for that one mistake to haunt you for the rest of your life.

That’s what the Second Chance Law of 2013 is all about: getting the record of that conviction “expunged” (erased, basically) so you can get your civil rights back.

Here are 5 facts you need to know. WARNING: READ THEM ALL BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING.

  1. You can’t get any crime expunged.

We’re not talking about the big stuff, here. If you were convicted of murder, rape, possession of child pornography or perjury, to name a few, that’s a whole different conversation.

What we are talking about are misdemeanors and most Class D felonies. If you’ve got one of those on your record, read on.

  1. Sit tight. This is going to take a while.

If you were lucky enough not to get convicted, you can petition to seal your arrest records one year after the date of arrest. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you’ll need to wait five years to apply for expungement; if it was a non-violent felony, eight years; and if we’re talking about a felony deemed violent or sexual in nature, 10 years.

There’s one important thing you can do in the meantime: stay clean. When the time comes, you’ll need to have completed your sentence, have no additional charges pending against you, and your driver’s license can’t be suspended.

  1. It’s not true expungement … but it’s pretty close.

It’s important to understand that when Indiana says “expungement” it almost means it. True expungement would mean completely erasing your criminal history, but the best this state has to offer is hiding it from most people, like employers. Sorry, but it will still show up to criminal justice organizations – like the court and the police.

The Second Chance Law is still a huge step forward. You’ll be able to get a job, vote, go to school, even legally purchase a firearm, all because it’s no longer anybody’s business what you did but the courts and police.

  1. If they ask about expunged records in an interview, you have the right to SUE THE BASTARDS.

It is none of their business! In the eyes of the law, you are no longer to be held accountable for the crime. You’re protected. Now it’s the employer who asks about it who’s in the wrong, not you! You have the right to a new life and to make those who try to take it from you pay hefty fines for pissing on your parade.

  1. You only get one shot.

You better have read all the way to the end, because this is important: you can only apply for expungement of all your conviction and arrest records once. Imagine waiting five, eight or 10 years to petition the court, only to have the request denied because you “failed to comply” with something or other you didn’t even know about.

A second chance at life may be available to you. Don’t blow it. Please, contact my office before you do anything. Let’s work out a winning strategy that will get you off the hook for good!

I Shouldn’t Have Offered to Drive Her Home

Meet “Jason”, age 26

I’ll never forget that party after Jenny’s graduation open house. It should have been all happy memories. God, I wish they were.

I liked Jenny’s friend Sarah. Sarah was beautiful, and fun. We would go cruising with friends on the backroads and when it was Sarah’s turn to drive, she would always go the fastest. Pushing 100. Long blonde hair blowing in my face.

There were always other guys around, douche bags she would flirt with. One of them, Chris, dealt pot outside school like every day. I had no idea how he didn’t get caught. He was one of those skinny punk types, holey t-shirts, blue hair. Pierced everywhere.

For once, Chris wasn’t around. None of the douche bags were, because Jenny didn’t run with that crowd. It was my chance to get Sarah alone for once.

It was a barn burner out on some farm. A couple of kegs, jungle juice in a metal trough. Eminem on the stereo. There was Sarah, dancing with some girls with a cup in her hand.

I wasn’t much of a drinker but I needed some liquid courage. I got myself loose enough that I could get close and dance with the girls around Sarah. By the time I got over there they were about done, started playing quarters. All I wanted to do was get Sarah alone and tell her I liked her, but she wanted to drink. So I drank.

I was pretty wasted when I noticed Chris had shown up. It was so easy to tell he was dealing. Jenny about gagged when she saw him. She wasn’t a fan either.

Sarah started talking to him and I just couldn’t stand it. I went over there and heard her tell Chris she wanted to go home.

So what went through my mind was, I got two choices. I can let her go home with a drug dealer and probably get into all kinds of trouble, or I could do something about it.

I stepped up and told her I was heading out. I could give her a ride.

When we got in my car I was feeling pretty good. She was in a good mood, talking about how much fun she’d had at the party, looking forward to the summer. I thought this drive, right now, this was my chance to tell her how I felt about her.

It was a warm June night. We had the windows open, she was sticking her head out the window, imitating her dog. I was laughing. She told me to go faster.

It was an open county road. We’d gone cruising here a million times. But it was dark, and even though I didn’t admit it to myself at the time, I was drunk.

I missed my turn. When I realized it, I slammed on the brakes, skidded on gravel … too close to city limits. There were lots of graduation parties going on that night so the cops were out, ready to catch idiots like me.

I did a U-turn and started to speed up. Too fast. Sarah grabbed my arm and told me she was about to puke. I pulled over, she got sick in the ditch, and that’s when I saw the red and blue lights on the rear view.

That was eight years ago. I blew a 0.12, spent the night in jail. My mom screamed at me all summer, Sarah never talked to me again and my graduation gift to myself was probation on an OWI charge.

College plans ruined, and that was only the beginning. I’m 26 now. I live with my mom, who never lets me forget what I did. I’d love to go off and live on my own but I can’t get a decent job to save my life. A friend of my mom’s cousin let me come wash dishes, part time, minimum wage. I’ve had lots of interviews but every time my Class C misdemeanor comes up I can see it in their eyes: I’m toast.

I thought by now Sarah and I would be married with a kid on the way. I was supposed to go to college for computer science, supposed to be working as a programmer in Indianapolis by now. Instead, because of one dumb mistake I’m stuck.

What am I supposed to do?

The above story is a work of fiction, but you might find it familiar. If this character could easily be you, there’s a chance you could get the OWI charge erased from your criminal record. Contact Bruce Munson today to discuss your options for expungement.

It’s time to move on with your life.

Want to Erase Your Past? Now You Can in Indiana

Regret is a tough emotion to tackle. We go over the mistakes we made in the past over and over again, and we ask ourselves why we didn’t keep our mouths shut, or say no to that last drink, or stay away from those people.

We’ve all made mistakes. Usually we deal with the regret, forgive ourselves and move on.

Some of us don’t have that option. Sometimes the pain of regret can’t heal, because we are constantly reminded of our mistakes and asked to pay for them. For the rest of our lives, in some cases.

Kristen’s Story

Kristen Brasher thought she would never escape the consequences of her mistake. In 2008, at 19 years old, the Seymour native pleaded guilty to “attempted possession of a controlled substance.”

The public doesn’t know all the details, but we can guess. Hers is likely a familiar story of teenage anger or escape or a search for belonging … whatever the cause, it led her to drugs. She got caught trying to buy what she thought she needed at the time.

On the advice of her attorney, she accepted the consequence. She thought all she faced was a year of probation, the completion of a drug and alcohol program and community service.

What she couldn’t possibly understand until experiencing it was how serving her sentence would not be the end of her regret. That wound would be reopened, again and again.

For five years, every time Kristen interviewed for job – Seattle, Kansas City, it didn’t matter where – her criminal record haunted her. She had to answer for getting into that “wrong place, wrong time kind of thing” everywhere she went, knowing it would cause any potential employer to think twice. One even outright told her they couldn’t hire her because not enough time had passed. Company policy. Sorry.

Then came Indiana’s Second Chance Act of 2013, dramatically expanding the rights of people like Kristen to have their criminal record “expunged,” or erased in the eyes of the law.

On September 15th, 2013, Kristen became the first person to file for expungement of her record in Jackson County. With the help of her attorney, on March 14th, 2014, the crime was erased. She was finally free of it. Kristen used her new clean-record status to become a CASA (court-appointed special advocate), a volunteer supporting and speaking for foster kids in court proceedings. She also got a job at a technology company in Columbus.

“It doesn’t have to hinder you from getting employment,” Kristen said. “You don’t have to have your record following you the rest of your life.”

What is expungement?
Expungement is the most thorough way of erasing your criminal past. While certain folks, such as law enforcement or immigration officials, will still be able to view your records by request, potential employers will not.

How do I get my criminal record expunged?
Really, the first thing you should ask is, “Am I eligible to have my record expunged?” If you murdered someone or committed a sex crime, for a couple of examples, we need to have a different discussion. But assuming you are eligible, like Kristen was, there’s a pretty complicated process to go through to get you to the Promised Land.

Over the next few months we’ll be exploring the ins and outs of expungement in Indiana in this blog, but please don’t consider anything you read here as comprehensive legal advice. Every case is unique. You’re going to need a good attorney to make sure you get the result you want.

Why Bruce Munson?
I’ve been doing this for over a quarter century. I’ve seen the law come down too hard, too often, and I’ve seen lives destroyed by past mistakes. Indiana’s Second Chance Law has opened the door to a new life for people like you who haven’t been able to move on. I’m focusing on this right now because I want to help as many people as possible take advantage of this opportunity.

If experience, skill and heart aren’t good enough reasons to hire me, I don’t know what is. Come back to this blog to learn more about expungement as we go, or just contact me today to discuss your situation.

You won’t regret it.

I.B.S. (Irritable Bruce Syndrome)

I.B.S.  (Irritable Bruce Syndrome)

I’ll keep this short and sweet.  It seems like every day that I see someone on Facebook trashing some private citizen about some purely personal matter.  Let me just say this:  Doing so says more about the trash-or than it does the trash-ee.

Facebook

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Biofuel, esoteric numbers, and alleged fraud

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett calls it the biggest fraud prosecution in Indiana history.  An 88 count indictment charges four men connected with a now-closed Middletown business, e-Biofuels, and others, of fraud at the $100 million level.

IMG-20130921-00332

Much of the alleged misconduct involves RIN’s — renewable identication numbers associated with batches of “green” fuel.  A RIN is a 38 character code (count ’em, 38 characters; as a point of reference, remember that the entire U.S. population requires only nine figures) assigned to each batch of biofuel.  Here’s a chart that’ll make RIN’s easy to understand:

RIN chart

source:  www.ers.usda.gov

OK, so maybe I exaggerated the “easy to understand” part.

The Middletown boys are accused, among other things, of re-using RIN’s.  Who’da thunk that this byzantine regulatory framework might provide a platform for alleged fraud?

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LIFE IMITATES LAWYER JOKES

The old joke goes like this:

A lawyer died and arrived at the pearly gates. To his dismay, there were thousands of people ahead of him in line to see St. Peter. But, to his surprise, St. Peter left his desk at the gate and came down the long line to where the lawyer was standing. St. Peter greeted him warmly. Then St. Peter and one of his assistants took the lawyer by the hands and guided him up to the front of the line into a comfortable chair by his desk.

The lawyer said, “I don’t mind all this attention, but what makes me so special?”

St. Peter replied, “Well, I’ve added up all the hours for which you billed your clients, and by my calculation you must be about 193 years old!”

pearly-gates2

MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD:

An Ohio lawyer who billed for lengthy work days on court-appointed cases, including one that stretched for 29 hours, is facing a disciplinary proceeding.

However, Ben Swift did the work and just needed to keep better records, his lawyer told the Dayton Daily News.

An audit showed that he had billed for days that included 29 hours of work, 23 hours of work, 21.5 hours of work and 21 hours of work.

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MULTITASKING LAWYER OF THE WEEK

In an effort to restore some dignity to this blog, we offer Exhibit A from our file of multi-tasking lawyers:  Jerry Springer.

the_jerry_springer_show-show

 

 

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Unfairly Snoped?

Has a Muncie musician/bar owner been unfairly Snoped?

I’m not sure I’ve ever before personally known someone who has been the subject of a Snopes item.  (Snopes.com purports to arbitrate the truth or falsity of various rumors, theories and urban legends.)

Mike Martin, owner of Muncie’s FOLLY MOON bar and grill, has discontinued live music because of a dispute with the state fire marshal’s office.  He has been led to believe that the state agency is acting on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security in regulating, and charging fees to, venues that offer live music “from a stage.”  The qualifier is significant, sense Folly Moon has no stage (despite a reported finding to the contrary by an administrative law judge).

Snopes has pronounced “false” the idea that Homeland Security has banned live music:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/arts/livemusic.asp  Snopes Screenshot_2013-09-22-20-46-00

Here’s a contrary take on the issue:  http://www.infowars.com/homeland-security-is-now-regulating-live-entertainment/

Screenshot_2013-09-22-20-46-29

So…are you feeling lucky? Want to make a little wager about what I’ll find once I delve into this thing? Let’s bet one of Folly Moon’s delicious burgers (and let’s limit this wager to the first three people to take me up on it).  I will bet — without yet having done an ounce of research — that the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security empowers state agencies to require permits of the sort that they are trying to impose on Mr Martin. And if that proves to be the case, it illustrates just have a tricky it is for the Snopeses of this world.

Even if Folly Moon’s owner has mischaracterized the issue, it’s clear that there is AN issue.  It’s one that will likely be addressed by Indiana’s court of appeals, in which case you will be sable to read more about it on this blog.

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Indiana’s Son of Sam law.

A newspaper article recently made reference to a civil case I’m handling.  I won’t discuss details of the case here beyond mentioning the fact that I invoked Indiana’s “Son of Sam” law.

“Son of Sam” laws were adopted by numerous states after serial killer David Berkowitz was feared to be in line for another killing: the one he theoretically could have made by selling his story to a book publisher or movie producer.

David_Berkowitz

Indiana’s version of the law,  Ind. Code § 5-2-6.3, requires that 90% of the proceeds from the story rights be made available to the victim (assuming that the perp is convicted of the crime that made the rights valuable).

The phrase “Son of Sam”, by the way, is something that Berkowitz heard, or thought he heard, in the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze” around the time that a voice from his neighbor’s dog was instructing him to kill.

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Multitasking Lawyer of the Week

Nelson Mandela, the ailing human rights activist, had a career as an attorney.  Let’s keep him in our prayers.

Mandela

 

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SCAMMING THE SCAMMERS

The 411 on 419’s:  Scamming the scammers.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Like many cliches, this one has truth and wisdom (although if you follow it too rigidly, you’ll miss out on some great all-you-can-eat buffets).

Who among us hasn’t received an email like this one:

lucrative

That leads to something like this:

scam email

To my knowledge, no American has ever made a nickel by lending his identity to a total stranger who claims to be an heir to a multi-million dollar fortune.  Yet the scams persist.  They often emanate from West Africa; they’re commonly known as 419 scams, after a section of the Nigerian penal code.

The typical 419 scam involves a request for some sort of modest fee(s) needed to access that big pot o’ gold. Once the sucker — which could be you, were you not too smart for this sort of thing — remits the fee, the scammers either disappear or ask for more money.

These scams have given rise to SCAMBAITERS who, for their own amusement and that of interet viewers, try to waste scammers’ time in various ways, including having them pose for absurd pictures:

fun yet

Here’s a top ten list of scams-on-the-scammers:

http://listverse.com/2010/09/11/10-great-scam-baiting-operations/
Authorities who try to find and prosecute scammers take a dim view of scambaiters.  If you’re tempted to goof with someone who has approached you with a preposterous inheritance scheme, be sure not to furnish any real info. Create a email address used only for this purpose. And keep this in mind: when you devise ways to waste the scammers’ time, you’re likely wasting some of your own.

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Didn’t Abe Lincoln warn us about believing everything we find on the Internet?

Just yesterday, I stumbled across a site called nolo.com and found this insight into Indiana divorce law:

“Indiana is a mixed state, which means that you can use either fault or no-fault grounds as the basis for seeking a divorce.”

Wrong.  Indiana is a no fault divorce state, period.  Try to inject fault- oriented evidence and see how quickly the judge will blow the whistle on it — unless evidence of, say, adultery, is incidental to a relevant issue.  If, for example, a cheating spouse is cheating with a child molester, and has that person around the kids, the evidence can come in.  The evidence in this example is not about cheating, but about fitness for custody.

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MULTITASKING LAWYER OF THE WEEK

“Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, verbose, a showoff. There’s no question that I’m all of those things.”   — Howard Cosell.

HOWARD COSELL for a time juggled two careers — practicing law and broadcasting sports commentary.  Before he devoted his full time to broadcasting (and to a long, symbiotic relationship with Mohammed Ali).  Baseball great Willie Mays was among his legal clients.

cosell

His much-parodied, nasal delivery came from beneath a rug that might as well have sported a sticker labeled “rug”.  He died in 1995.  Sports coverage, particularly of football and boxing, has never been the same.

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TEXTING AND…KNOWING SOMEONE’S DRIVING

TEXTING AND… SOMEONE ELSE’S DRIVING

day-earth-stood-still-3

(from crisconner.com)

You’re texting while driving, you’ve drifted out of your lane, and —

texting-and-driving

CRASH.

Your liability is a no brainer for the person (or estate) who files suit against you.   But what about the person on the other end — the person with whom you’re texting?

Fresh out of New Jersey:  A very recent appellate court decision indicates that a person texting with someone known to be behind the wheel could face liability.  The New Jersey case involves a 17 year old defendant accused of texting with the driver who allegedly caused a collision.  The New Jersey defendant got off the hook, based on inadequate evidence of actual knowledge that the other texter was driving, but the court’s opinion leaves the door wide open to a claim against a person who knowingly texts with someone known to be driving:

“We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving,” said the court.  “But we also conclude that plaintiffs have not presented sufficient evidence to prove that Colonna had such knowledge when she texted Best immediately before the accident.”

The lesson:  Don’t text with someone you know is driving.  Especially if one of you is in New Jersey.

newsboy

 

 

 

 

Read further about the New Jersey case HERE:   http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/remote_texter_can_be_held_liable_for_distracted_drivers_crash/?utm_source=maestro&sc_cid=130828AU&utm_campaign=weekly_email&utm_medium=email

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Sure, there are bigger law offices. Probably there are better law offices. But can you name a law office that has a better selection of waiting room reading material?

IMG_20130826_083332

 I didn’t think so.

 

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 MULTITASKING LAWYER OF THE WEEK

Before he became a frequent presence on Comedy Central roasts, Jeff Giraldo was an attorney with the prominent firm of Skadden, Arps and Whoever-else-they-are.   He once represented co-roaster Jeff Ross on a charge of inciting a riot.

Comedy Central's "Roast of Joan Rivers" - Show

Here he is roasting Joan Rivers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_HUoJzEuIM

Giraldo died in 2010, apparently from an accidental overdose of prescription meds.

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 I promise I won’t wait another two weeks for a blog update.  My fingers are crossed.

 

 

DO YOU WANT YOUR ATTORNEY GAGGED?

SHOULD YOUR LAWYER BE GAGGED?
An Indianapolis lawyer indicates that he is facing a disciplinary proceeding for, among other things, something he said about a judge in a private email.  If he’s right, the implications may be of concern to everyone.

gaggedPaul Ogden is the attorney in question. His blog can be found here at ogdenonpolitics.com

He spares few if any details. I don’t believe I’ve met Mr. Ogden, and I have no opinion to offer about the merits of his claims.  I share his concerns about disciplinary overkill in matters involving expressions of opinion by attorneys.

Just over a decade ago, Indiana’s Supreme Court whacked a lawyer with a 30 day suspension for, in essence, criticizing of court of appeals decision too harshly.  This should scare anyone who believes the legal system should be a guardian of freedom.

The case I’m referring to, should anyone want to have a look, is In the Matter of Wilkins, 777 N.E.2d 714 (Ind. 2002).  It was reassuring to see two of the five then-sitting justices of the Court dissent, finding the attorney’s comments “within the broad range of protected fair commentary on a matter of public interest” (quoting from Justice Boehm’s dissenting opinon).

Back in the 90’s, a friend of mine ran for judge in a nearby county, and pledged to hold night court to reduce “the backlog of cases.”  She ended up with a public reprimand despite the fact that her “brochure may have been technically correct.”  In Re Bybee, 716 N.E.2d 957 (Ind. 1999),  Hmmm.  An attorney slapped for disseminating correct information.  Quick GPS check:  We’re still in America, right?

How close has this issue hit to my own home?  Somewhat.  Nearly a decade and a half ago, DelawareCounty’s prosecutor, Rick Reed, faced a disciplinary action after criticizing a local judge (whom I won’t name here, given that she later lost an election and started a new life elsewhere).  Among his offenses: telling a reporter that the judge’s “arrogance is exceeded only by her ignorance.” I my effort to be helpful to the cause of free expression, I submitted an affidavit to the Disciplinary Commission in which I, as then president of the local bar association, opined that “many of my colleagues would agree with the statement that ‘her arrogance is exceeded only by her ignorance’, although some might argue that it’s the other way around.”  I amused at least myself with that affidavit – but was nearly sanctioned for it, according to a source I trust.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Who is best positioned to comment on courts and judges?  Those who practice before them.  Judges who can’t stand the heat should stay out of the robes.

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TALE FROM THE TRENCHES – OR URBAN LEGEND?

Let’s ignore the question of whether Muncie, Indiana is urban enough to have an urban legend.  I heard this from a source I consider quite reliable, so I’m going to pass it along as fact.

A woman was testifying in a court proceeding involving the placement of children. She was asked, “what’s your connection to the children?”  She said, “I’m the aunt.”  She was asked, “are you the aunt on their dad’s side or on their mother’s side?”  She replied – feel free to blurt it out if you see it coming – “both”.

house-incest

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MULTI-TASKING LAWYER OF THE WEEK

Samyr Laine is a triple jumper who competed for Haiti at the 2012 Summer Olympics.  He is a Georgetown graduate who has worked for a couple of New York law firms.

Samyr Laine

Sex and Attorney Disbarment

HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A LAWYER/AUTHOR SCORNED
Well, maybe the disciplinary commission…
Karl_n_Dee_Dee

An Indiana lawyer became a former lawyer by writing a tell-all book about a former client. Joseph Stork Smith was disbarred last week for, among other things, violating attorney-client privilege. In disbarring him, did the Supremes furnish him with a valuable promotional blurb: “The book that got its author disbarred”?

You can find and read the court’s opinion HERE: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/07171301per.pdf

But you won’t find the title of the book or the name of the client in the Court’s opinion. The Court is big on client confidentiality — even if the client is a public figure, and she was. So I’ll tell you who it was, and I’ll tell you all about the book.

Mr. Smith’s ex client was “Republican strategist” DEE DEE BENKIE. The book is called “ROVE-ING HER WAY TO THE WHITE HOUSE : Machievelli’s Sexy Twin Sister”.

rove-ing

Smith’s verbal portrait of Benkie is unflattering — if unflattering is the right word for a description of someone alleged to have once moonlighted as a “lot lizard”, a phrase that I hadn’t previously heard as a synonym for “truck stop prostitute”.

As told by Smith, the tale involves Ms. Benkie’s need for legal help with some pesky criminal matters in Indiana (where, as Denessa Purvis, she was Miss Ripley County in 1985). The residue from these matter reportedly could have been troublesome for the security clearance Ms. Benkie needed to work in the White House during the George W. Bush administration. The right stuff apparently happened, Ms. Benkie got her clearance and her job, and a close personal relationship reportedly developed between Ms. Benkie and strategist Karl Rove.

Smith describes developing his own close personal relationship with Ms. Benkie. He recounts a serious of incidence in which he loans her money under the threat that not loaning it will make her default on debt she already owes him (could she have learned this approach — if indeed this was an approach she took — from U.S. foreign aid policy?) Ultimately, Smith tells us, his financial dealings with Dee Dee cost him a family farm.

The Indiana Supreme Court found that Smith violated a number of rules of professional conduct in the book, including “representing a client when there is a concurrent conflict of interest due to the lawyer’s personal interests without obtaining the client’s informed, written consent” and ” information relating to the representation of a former client except as permitted or require.” Smith is disbarred, effective August 28, 2013 (disbarments usually allow some time for the attorney to wrap up pending matters).

I am acquainted with Ms. Benkie, though not well enough to enable me to write a tell-all (or tell anything) book, and not well enough to pass judgment on Smith’s allegations, which involve “sex, criminality, not following the Golden Rule”, and “jeopardizing the security of the United States”. I have never met, but have spoken on the telephone with, Smith, who, sincere though he sounded, is contradicted as to at least one anecdote by one of the figures in the book that I know pretty well. When I asked my source about a particular event, and his role in it as described in the book, he replied succinctly: “Never happened.”

As I read Smith’s telling of episode after episode in which he threw good money after bad at Dee Dee Benkie in response to her cajoling, wheedling and threatening, I recalled — and added to — an old adage: first time, shame on you; second time, shame on me; seventh time, I need therapy.

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I don’t want to get in disciplinary trouble with my Tales from the Trenches, so I’ll not name names, but an unbalanced client — now demonstrably deceased — once saw the obit of a person with whom he shared both first and last names. He called in and left this message: “I need Bruce to call me. I’m thinkin’ I might be dead.”

phone grave

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MULTI-TASKING LAWYER OF THE WEEK:
Broadcast journalist and recent self-portrait artist GERALDO RIVERA practiced law before embarking on a broadcasting career that took him to Al Capone’s vault and beyond.

geraldo-selfie