Lawyers in Legal Trouble Roundup
Former Cleveland Judge Angela Stokes now working at a suburban Chick-Fil-A
The disgraced former Judge Stokes was permanently barred from holding public office in a deal with the Ohio Supreme Court that saved her law license. As a judge she was viewed by the Ohio disciplinary counsel as an imminent threat to anyone unlucky to work for her or to worse to be a defendant in her courtroom. For that reason, even before she was prosecuted by the disciplinary counsel she was removed from the bench by both a preliminary order of the chief judge of Cleveland Municipal Court and by the Ohio Supreme Court. Stokes, the daughter of the legendary U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes and the niece of the first black man to serve as a Big City American Mayor, the late Carl Stokes is now working clearing tables at a suburban Chick-Fil-A according to Cleveland.com.
Prosecutorial Misconduct | Texas prosecutors in Corpus Christi caught suppressing evidence; allegations of DA perjury
As followers of the recent report from the University of Michigan on reversals of the wrongfully convicted realize, Texas prosecutors and courts set a high bar for the rest of the nation in this category of wrongful convictions. The great criminal defense blawg, Grits for Breakfast has the report from the Corpus Christi Caller Times about the finding of prosecutorial misconduct by the trial judge in the murder case of Courtney Hayden for allegedly Anthony Macias. Reporter Krista M. Torralva writes:
“State District Judge Nanette Hasette reversed Courtney Hayden’s murder conviction Monday and granted her a new trial.
‘The court concludes that the intentional suppression of evidence and lack of timely disclosure of exculpatory, mitigating and impeachment evidence described herein constitutes prosecutorial misconduct and undermines the confidence of the public in the judicial system, and the outcome of this trial specifically.’”
In addition, they have published an anonymous letter to the trial Judge which accuses the DA of perjury.
Prosecutorial Misconduct | Maine’s Supreme Court upholds a murder conviction despite allegations of sophomoric courtroom antics by the prosecutor
The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal has this report on a ruling by an appellate court upholding a murder conviction despite serious concerns of misconduct by a prosecutor. Christopher Williams at the Sun Journal writes:
[The defendant’s] appellate attorney, Adam Sherman, told the high court during oral arguments in May that then-Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson had feigned sleep, mouthed nonverbal instructions and gestured to the jury during the defense attorney’s closing argument at Robinson’s 2012 trial. Benson has since been appointed to serve as a Maine District Court judge.
Sherman said that prejudice created by Benson’s inappropriate behavior outweighed the evidence presented at trial and skewed the jury’s guilty verdict, entitling Robinson to a new trial.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court released a unanimous opinion that Benson’s “misconduct” by feigning sleep in an effort to annoy the defense attorney didn’t affect the jury’s verdict, agreeing with the lower court judge’s conclusion.
Writing for the high court, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm said, “Without question, that conduct was sophomoric, unprofessional and a poor reflection on the prosecutor’s office.” The question for the high court was whether the trial court judge made a mistake in concluding that Benson’s antics did not affect Robinson’s right to a fair trial—it answered that the alleged antics of the prosecutor did not affect the jury’s guilty verdict.
Hooker claims that the Cops, Lawyers, and Judges can’t get enough of her milkshake or something like that
Yesterday I highlighted lawyer sexual misconduct prompted by the arrest of an Alabama lawyer for alleged rape. I went on to point out that this is something that would crop up again and again and I provided a link to a northern Ohio case where a lawyer, Michael Fine, recently surrendered his law license in response to being caught in the act of trying to hypnotize a female client who he is alleged to have planned to rape.
Mystery 10-week absence of local Judge in Virginia; Allegations of sex harassment
Judge Robert Beasley Jr. of Virginia’s 11th Judicial District resurfaced after a mysterious 10-week absence beginning last November. Mark Bowes at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has been digging around and he has this:
“According to law enforcement, attorney and court-related sources, Beasley was temporarily suspended after allegations of misconduct surfaced involving several female clerks in the localities where the judge presided — principally in Powhatan, Amelia and Dinwiddie. A state trooper met the judge at his house advising that he did not need to appear for work beginning about Nov. 24 because of the misconduct allegations, sources said.”
There’s often a back-story | Cleveland.com really, really dislikes Judge Grendell; He responds
With the retrenchment of the formerly all powerful print media, there is a noticeable and laudable trend at many of the major media websites of real journalists taking on entrenched political and legal powers.
In Cleveland, the Advance Media property: Cleveland.com aka the Cleveland Plain Dealer aka Northeast Ohio Media Group, etc. (I’m sure a newspaper near you is undergoing similar permutations) – had a reputation through the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s of being fully in the pocket of the community’s social, political, and legal elites. A similar reality in Boston is highlighted in the brilliant movie Spotlight. In Cleveland, the town’s only major paper, the Plain Dealer was actually a villain in a lot of the public corruption stories and clergy sex abuse scandals as it largely abandoned its journalistic role as a public watchdog throughout most of the 20th century. Which is not to say that there were not exceptional reporters at the Plain Dealer (Jim McCarty, David Briggs and others) who did brilliant work investigative work but who were stymied by their publishers. Since the dying out of the print press, real journalists are again assuming the mantle of public watchdog.
Nowadays the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction and when the local media targets a political figure like Judge Grendell story after story tend to follow casting official acts in doubt even, one might say, a less than flattering light. Which brings us to local Judge Timothy Grendell spot-on response in his most recent battle royale with Cleveland.com, Grendell, a former GOP state legislator is no stranger to controversies dating back decades. Judge Grendell sued the Ohio General Assembly and lost; and, better yet he sued the Ohio Supreme Court in federal court and lost. He recently held a member of the local GOP in contempt of court over a political dispute—which is at the heart of recent stories in the media.
The lesson is that in considering stories of lawyers and judges in “legal peril,” always, always bear in mind that there is usually “history” and more than one side to a story including mine.
William Crosby is a contributor for LawNewz.com. He authored the Bad Lawyer Blawg.