"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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

California did to attorney Henry James Koehler IV what New York did to attorney Joel Brandes - and California and New York did a disservice to litigants in Family Court deprived of services of two legal trailblazers

Attorney Jim Koehler of California, who is 82 now (born in 1934)

is a skilled and famous family court attorney fighting for father's custodial rights - a movement that is picking up force in this country.

Attorney Koehler has been at the outset of the father's movement for joint custody of their children, and, according to his own statement, is behind enacting laws that introduced the concept of joint custody in 37 states, see video at 1:00:00.

What happened to attorney Jim Koehler at the hands of California State Bar, in his own words and words of reporters, is described in this video, starting at 59:00.

In 1980, at the age of 46, 9 years before his admission to California State Bar, when Jim Koehler was an attorney in federal court and in other states, he has reportedly won custody of his own son, and, reportedly, the publicity of the case brought him clients, fathers fighting for custody of their children.

When Jim Koehler became famous and started to attract more and more clients, fathers who wanted to pursue custody of their children, Jim Koehler experienced a backlash - he says, from a feminist movement who claimed that "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle".

This position expressed by NOW (National Organization of Women) in 2000 did not change much by 2006 when NOW argued against a joint custody with fathers by default - while, obviously, presuming that only a mother can get the child's custody by default. 

Attorney Jim Koehler was in the way of that anti-father feminist movement.

Attorney Koehler believes that the anti-father, feminist culture "seeped right into the State Bar", and attorney Koehler began to be targeted by the California State Bar, to the point that his own attorney had to go to the California State Bar's trial counsel with a demand to stop targeting Jim Koehler - because women prosecutors were, according to Jim Koehler taking his clients to lunch, trying to get complaints against Jim Koehler out of them.

In 1992 California State Bar punished Koehler with a 6-months' suspension for not performing in "client matters" in a timely manner where Koehler, according to his version of events (video at 1:01:00 to 1:03:34, acted in supervisory capacity, and his subordinates failed to do their jobs - one of the subordinates in question later became, according to Jim Koehler, a Family Commissioner.

He was also disciplined at that time for "commingling funds" in his escrow account - by his own version of events, for helping his clients by putting his own funds into the escrow account to help out to defray client costs.

In 1999, California State Bar punished Jim Koehler with a 60-day suspension for "improperly withdrawing" from a client's case.  Jim Koehler says though that he did withdraw from the case legally, that he has signed, as well as his client, a substitution of attorneys, but the mistake that Jim Koehler has made is that he entrusted the filing of the substitution to his client, a doctor with a brain tumor who at times acted erratically, and his non-appearance in court was qualified as improper withdrawing from the case.

During the 2 months of suspension, Jim Koehler worked as a paralegal (which is allowed in California) on a certain case, and after his suspension ended (automatically) and Jim Koehler was reinstated, Jim Koehler reportedly continued to work on the same case as an attorney of record for that client, a military father seeking visitation with his children.

According to Jim Koehler, when Jim Koehler won the case, the client and his mother did not want to pay the bill.  That actually happens often in the practice of law.

Jim Koehler had to sue for his fee.

The attorney in the lawsuit went through documents going back years, took one document to the bar, and, according to Jim Koehler, "lobbied the bar ferociously" for the period of 2 years to file charges against Jim Koehler.

In 2009, a disciplinary court ruled that Jim Koehler engaged in unauthorized practice of law (UPL) 10 years prior based on what he wrote in one letter and one note.  

All of taxpayers money expended upon that disciplinary proceeding was spent, and the proceeding was commenced because of one letter and one note written by a paralegal, because his wealthy client (the mother of the client who reportedly promised to pay the bill reportedly had a fortune of over 25 million dollars) refused to pay the bill.

The judge recommended disbarment of Jim Koehler even though he has stated that he had a "serious difficulty believing" Koehler's clients who obviously turned Koehler into disciplinary proceedings for a mickey-mouse claim dating back 10 years, in order not to pay a current bill for successful representation in a custody case.

At that background, the decision to order Koehler inactive was,, according to Jim Koehler himself, "a complete disconnect from the evidence - as if the trial has never occurred".

Jim Koehler believes that there is an "incredible pressure upon every of the Hearing Department Judges to find culpable every lawyer that comes before them".

Jim Koehler also believes that the judge's decision - which was a "disconnect" from the evidence is a result of the fact that Hearing Judges in the Bar Court are not elected, they are appointed, and the judge's salary is paid by the prosecutors, the State Bar, and the judge makes money for the State Bar by every culpable case where he finds against an attorney and orders the attorney to pay the costs of litigation.

Judge Honn who made the decision that was a "disconnect with the evidence", was reappointed - again - to the State Bar Court in 2014, and here is his official history of appointments, reported at that time:

So, here is the history of appointments of Judge Honn, as a timeline

  • 2003 - appointed as a hearing officer for the California State Bar;
  • 2004 - reappointed for a 6-year term;
  • 2010 - after the "disconnected" decision against Jim Koehler, reappointed for another 6-year term;
  • 2014 - before the expiration of his 6-year term, Judge Honn was promoted, appointed as a Review Judge of the State Bar Court.
Apparently, making decisions which are "disconnected from the record" despite serious doubts in veracity of witnesses pays off up the career ladder.

The three appellate review judges of Jim Koehler's discipline in 2009 were women feminists (one of them became presiding judge of State Bar Court in 2014).

Jim Koehler describes the attitude of three appellate judges as: "how dare you appeal that because you are guilty, and all that is left is a hanging"?

I recognize the attitude.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari review.

That the alleged violations that led to disbarment (inactive status) is an understatement of the century.

Not only Jim Koehler worked under the supervision of an attorney at the time, but, one of his transgressions was to tell the client to call him one week before the expiration of his suspension, which was clearly meant to help, not hurt the client, and was clearly projected into the time when Koehler lawfully resumed the practice of law.

The official version of events, according to the disciplinary order, was that Attorney Henry James Koehler IV (Jim Koehler) was suspended for 60 days in 1999, and, despite suspension, allegedly continued to give legal advice to client and even signed a retainer agreement with one client - even though the retainer agreement provided for services of another attorney, and for services of suspended attorney Koehler only as a paralegal.

Yet, even if Jim Koehler's actions qualified as unauthorized practice of law (UPL) in California, the statute of limitation in 2010, when he was brought in for attorney discipline based on that episode, would not have applied.

Jim Koehler was never criminally prosecuted UPL, and no self-respecting criminal prosecutor would have charged him for the nonsense the State Bar charged him with.

Yet, attorney Koehler was disbarred for allegedly giving legal advice during his 60-day suspension - in reality, Jim Koehler was guilty for providing good lawful legal representation to, as Jim Koehler indicates, a wealthy client who thought that it is cheaper to pay for an attorney to oppose a fee lawsuit and turn Koehler into the bar than to pay his bill.

Attorney Koehler actually said that his communication with his former clients (parents in a custody battle) were "tea and sympathy" comments and not legal advice.

Yet, in the order of disbarment, despite "serious doubts" about credibility of the accusers, appointed judges paid by the prosecutors (the State Bar), and prosecutors who were Jim Koehler's competitors, applied the so-called Rule 1.7(b)  - the "3 strikes" rule.

This was the 4th disciplinary action against Jim Koehler - and it resulted in an automatic disbarment.

The State Bar decided to end the "career of a legal maverick who blazed a path towards greater gender equality in family courts of the State of California and the nation" (video at 1:09:52).

A similar story - where work as a paralegal is used to discipline an attorney, has recently developed in New York.

Same as in California, paralegal work in New York is not licensed and is not considered the practice of law.

Moreover, in 2014, a judge, Chenango County Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dowd, has ruled that an unlicensed paralegal can draft legal pleadings, and an attorney for whom he worked may charge a legal fee for those pleadings, drafted by an unlicensed paralegal without any attorney supervision.  

Of course, the paralegal in question worked for Richard Harlem of Oneonta, NY, son of a retired late State Supreme Court Justice and Chief Administrative Judge of the 6th Judicial District (who was involved in his own improprieties, but escaped unscathed due to his connections).  

Richard Harlem "coincidentally" was at the time of the decision and long prior, and, reportedly, still is, also a landlord for the influential New York State Senator James Seward, and friends of Senator Seward cannot do wrong - as shown by the history of ascension of Senator Seward's former "legislative counsel" Robert Mulvey, an anti-gay judge who was promoted to the Chief Administrative Judge of the 6th Judicial District, the seat occupied in the past by Richard Harlem's father, then required from assigned judges to rule in cases as he wanted them to rule and demoted them for disobedience, like he did with Judge Biaggio DiStefano of Madison County, and who received a quick promotion to the Appellate Division to preside over the same case in which he was assigning judges in the trial court, a complete disqualification - and toss an appeal on a forged technicality - Senator Seward's former counsel Robert Mulvey helping out Senator Seward's landlord Richard Harlem.  Nothing too corrupt.

In 2016, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that a disbarred attorney, an expert in Family Law, should not be reinstated because he was providing paralegal services - which the court deemed unauthorized practice of law for Joel Brandes, but not the practice of law for anybody else.

So, New York and California are brother states in corrupt use of attorney discipline against experts who influential attorneys in the state want out of the picture.

Both in the case of attorney Joel Brandes in New York and attorney James Koehler in California, skilled family court attorneys are prevented by contrived disciplinary decisions from practicing and helping people, while the whole justification for existence of attorney regulation and licensing is protection of consumers.

Who is being protected when trailblazers like Joel Brandes and Jim Koehler are kept away from protecting people's rights in court?

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