"If the judges interpret the laws themselves, and suffer none else to interpret, they may easily make, of the laws, [a shredded] shipman's hose!" - King James I of England, around 1616.

“No class of the community ought to be allowed freer scope in the expression or publication of opinions as to the capacity, impartiality or integrity of judges than members of the bar. They have the best opportunities of observing and forming a correct judgment. They are in constant attendance on the courts. Hundreds of those who are called on to vote never enter a court-house, or if they do, it is only at intervals as jurors, witnesses or parties. To say that an attorney can only act or speak on this subject under liability to be called to account and to be deprived of his profession and livelihood by the very judge or judges whom he may consider it his duty to attack and expose, is a position too monstrous to be entertained for a moment under our present system,” Justice Sharwood in Ex Parte Steinman and Hensel, 95 Pa 220, 238-39 (1880).

“This case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of not affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for admission. For this record shows that [the rejected attorney candidate] has many of the qualities that are needed in the American Bar. It shows not only that [the rejected attorney candidate] has followed a high moral, ethical and patriotic course in all of the activities of his life, but also that he combines these more common virtues with the uncommon virtue of courage to stand by his principles at any cost.

It is such men as these who have most greatly honored the profession of the law. The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and its glory if it is not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become a group of thoroughly orthodox, time-serving, government-fearing individuals is to humiliate and degrade it.” In Re Anastaplo, 18 Ill. 2d 182, 163 N.E.2d 429 (1959), cert. granted, 362 U.S. 968 (1960), affirmed over strong dissent, 366 U.S. 82 (1961), Justice Black, Chief Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan, dissenting.

" I do not believe that the practice of law is a "privilege" which empowers Government to deny lawyers their constitutional rights. The mere fact that a lawyer has important responsibilities in society does not require or even permit the State to deprive him of those protections of freedom set out in the Bill of Rights for the precise purpose of insuring the independence of the individual against the Government and those acting for the Government”. Lathrop v Donohue, 367 US 820 (1961), Justice Black, dissenting.

"The legal profession must take great care not to emulate the many occupational groups that have managed to convert licensure from a sharp weapon of public defense into blunt instrument of self-enrichment". Walter Gellhorn, "The Abuse of Occupational Licensing", University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 44 Issue 1, September of 1976.

“Because the law requires that judges no matter how corrupt, who do not act in the clear absence of jurisdiction while performing a judicial act, are immune from suit, former Judge Ciavarella will escape liability for the vast majority of his conduct in this action. This is, to be sure, against the popular will, but it is the very oath which he is alleged to have so indecently, cavalierly, baselessly and willfully violated for personal gain that requires this Court to find him immune from suit”, District Judge A. Richard Caputo in H.T., et al, v. Ciavarella, Jr, et al, Case No. 3:09-cv-00286-ARC in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Document 336, page 18, November 20, 2009. This is about judges who were sentencing kids to juvenile detention for kickbacks.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A tribute to corrupt public officials. Pennsylvania Senator Chaka Fattah

I have been doing some extensive research on public corruption over the years, and what has struck me is how many people - usually, those connected to the corrupt public official - lamenting that the corrupt public official is not remembered by his or her "good deeds", but only for his "single" misdeed for which he or she is caught and disciplined or convicted.

And, the higher the public official was, the more possibilities for corruption that public official had, the more power he or she had to suppress evidence of such corruption - and the more those close to the public official would claim that he or she erred only slightly, only once, and should be remembered for the "good deeds" and not for this "slight slip".

Yet, the slips that the corrupt public official is caught for is usually very bad, and covered some systemic abuse of public trust - because even the federal law enforcement (who usually catches public officials for corruption) is afraid to make a case against a high-standing public official unless evidence of corruption is overwhelming.

I call a public official "corrupt" not only if he or she is involved in financial corruption, but also if he or she is engages in misconduct in total belief of his or her impunity, and uses his or her position to commit misconduct, threaten whistleblowers, and/or prevent prosecution. 

Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently made it only harder to prosecute public corruption - by claiming I a recent precedent, "coincidentally" decided right at the time when both heads of New York State Legislature, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, were convicted and sentenced for public corruption, that the "quid pro quo" of favors that the public official provides in exchange for support in election campaigns is not enough for conviction for public corruption.

Yet, there was a conviction - and a 10-year sentence - imposed in federal court in Pennsylvania against U.S. Senator Chaka Fattah,

who has served so far 11 terms in the U.S. Congress, for dozens of counts of corruption under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, and to pay a restitution of $614,000 to victims of his corruption.

What the esteemed Senator was convicted and sentenced for was:

Senator Fattah claimed at sentencing that he helped "tens of millions of people", that the prosecutor's investigation of himself was "disappointing", and refused to recognize that he was guilty of what he was found guilty of at trial.

While a U.S. Senator currently draws a salary of $174,000, and Senator Fattah's wife Renee Chenault-Fattah (who is also an attorney)

who has reportedly been an WCAU-TV anchor for 25 years (she has recently left that position) and had a salary of $500,00 per year, Senator Fattah considered it possible to help himself from charitable and federal governmental funds to cover his personal expenses, and expenses of his son - who has been convicted, sentenced and is already serving his own prison term.

Yet, at Fattah's sentencing there appeared many people who promoted the theory of "slight slip" vs "a lot of good deeds", asking for leniency to the Senator convicted of many counts of fraud and money laundering which, involving misuse of enormous amounts of public and charity money for personal needs that, considering Senators and his wife's income, the sentencing judge called "astonishing".

Pleas for leniency included accounts of "mentorship" and coming to weddings, participating in campaigns to fight AIDS in African and being a "good friend of Israel", as well as educating poor children.

When an average Joe Doe steals $5 worth of stuff from a supermarket, he will have a criminal conviction, and all his minor indiscretions will be piled up on him.

When a U.S. Senator committed atrocious public fraud, people are lined up claiming that his "slight slip" should not overcome, in the eye of the sentencing judge, his "good deeds".

Actually, the judge was influence by the "good deed" argument - by giving Senator Fattah 10 years in prison instead of 17 to 22 years, as requested by the prosecution under the sentencing guidelines.

I hope that the U.S. Prison Bureau will not consider the "good deed" argument though and will not sent Senator Fattah to a country-club prison camp in Florida, as it does for many corrupt public officials.

When Senator Fattah was intentionally committing his crimes against the public - crimes proven to a jury of his peers - he was supposed to think about his own reputation.

And, by the way, Senator Fattah, who, together with his wife drew a combined salary of $674,000 a year, and stole even more from public funds - forced his attorneys in criminal proceedings, through a court order - to represent him for free.

Which only confirms how good and honest Senator Fattah is, and what he needs to be remembered by.

When he ran for 11 congressional terms, he ran not to serve the people, but very obviously to serve himself.

What people got from him in terms of "good deeds" is collateral to self-enrichment.

And, when he voluntarily ruined his reputation by engaging in criminal conduct, there is no point trying to resurrect it.

There is a saying - "stained silk is forever ruined".

So is a public official's reputation.

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