Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

Three Florida Lawyers Discover How Reporting a Crime Can Be Unethical

DUI_setup

How can you get disbarred for reporting a drunk driver? Three Florida lawyers were up to the task.

Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut were found to have “maliciously” set up the drunken-driving arrest of their opposing counsel in a  high-profile defamation trial, and Judge W. Douglas Baird,  the referee in their legal ethics case,  wrote  that Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut should lose their licenses permanently under the legal ethics standards of the Florida Bar.

In 2013, C. Philip Campbell was representing radio shock jock Todd “MJ” Schnitt in his slander suit against another DJ, “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem. Clem was represented by the Adams and Diaco law firm. Campbell  left court and went to Malio’s Steakhouse in downtown Tampa, near his home and office. While Campbell was at the eatery, he was spotted by Melissa Personius, a young paralegal who worked for Adams and Diaco.

According to testimony, Personius called her boss, Adams, to report that Campbell was in the restaurant. Then Personius sat next to Campbell and the two bought each other drinks. As the night proceeded, Personius periodically relayed information to Adams. Adams then contacted Diaco and Diaco constacted Filthaut to agree upon next steps. The key was that Filthaut was friends with Sgt. Raymond Fernandez, who was then head of the Tampa police DUI unit, thus was able to sic  the DUI unit on the unsuspecting opposing counsel, who was in the process of being plied with liquor by Adams and Diaco’s attractive paralegal.

When it was time to for the targeted lawyer to leave, Campbell told Personius that she was too tipsy to drive and offered to call her a cab. Personius protested that she didn’t want to leave her car at the restaurant overnight and asked Campbell  if he would move the car for her. “Of course,” he said, nice guy that he is. As Campbell drove her vehicle up the street, he made an illegal turn and was pulled over by Fernandez officers, who were lying in wait. He was arrested and charged with DUI. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Tales of The Corrupted: David Ignatius’s Hillary E-mail Scandal Whitewash

This is how the world ends. The ethical world, anyway...

This is how the world ends. The ethical world, anyway…

I am charting the Clinton Corruption of the Democratic Party and how it spreads to other populations, like progressives, feminists, journalists and voters. I fear that a map of the projected progress will look like one of those scary plague or zombie computer progressions in scenes from movies like “Outbreak,” showing the entire nation turning blood red over a series of progressions beginning with a single carrier in Montana or someplace. “We have 72 hours, gentlemen, until the whole nation is infected!”

Still, there is hope. Last week I was struck by the sad cast of Clinton surrogates that her campaign trotted out to argue that it is ridiculous for anyone to think that a Secretary of State should be expected to follow her own department’s best practices, take proper steps to protect sensitive communications or tell the truth. The most raving was Howard Dean, who essentially adopted the Big Lie approach employed by James Carville. “Look,” Dean told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd last week, “this is, in fact, manufactured partly by a press that’s bored and partly by the Republicans….She can’t be blamed for this. So I look at this as the usual press frenzy, the pack journalism, and I think it’ll go away, because there’s no sense to it.” Dean should have also mentioned the bored FBI, the bored judges, and the hundreds of bored lawyers I have discussed the issue with in ethics seminars. If there is one of the latter group who agrees with Dean (who isn’t being paid by the Clintons), he or she hasn’t had the guts to say so out loud. Then Hillary sent a sacrificial lamb to Fox News, a poor ex-Bill Clinton State official named Ellen Tauscher who looked terrified…

Tauscher

….spoke in a shaky voice,  stumbled and stuttered and made no sense at all, teeing up junk like this…

TAUSCHER: Look, Secretary Clinton has former foreign service officers, civil servants. I did as undersecretary too, that make sure all of this information is protected. It is physically impossible to move things from the classified system to the unclassified system. We are only talking about the classified system, unclassified system. Everything on the classified system is where it belongs and there is no question about that. The Federal Records Act makes very clear that the person that transmits the information is responsible for the classified — classification of the information. And is it possible that Secretary Clinton was passed something by somebody and somebody and somebody? Yes. That would have been true if it had been on the state dot-gov e-mail system. But I mean, I think that we all understand that Hillary Clinton is held to a different standard. But let’s get it straight. Let’s be lawful and let’s be smart about this. We’re talking about unclassified e-mails. We’re not talking about classified e-mails, we’re talking about unclassified e-mails and they are clearly subject to what people interpret…. And there are differences between the State Department and the intelligence community right now.

As Olsen Johnson said in response to Gabby Johnson’s “authentic frontier gibberish” in “Blazing Saddles,” “Now who can argue with that?”

My impression was that no articulate, honest, credible Democrat was willing to defend Clinton, hence the campaign’s reliance desperate resume peddling hacks like Tauscher and principle-free madmen like Dean and Carville.

This week, it was more of the same. On “This Week With Martha Raddatz Pretending To Be George Stephanopoulos,” Hillary’s designated liar was a state senator I had never heard of who refused to answer Raddatz’s questions. My favorite exchange: Raddatz asked her about polls showing that a majority of the public believes that Hillary lies and isn’t trustworthy, and whether this wasn’t a serious concern for the campaign?

“Well, I certainly don’t feel that way!” the surrogate answered, with that frozen smile these people get when they have to stick to talking points and admit nothing.

Still, the Clinton Corruption Contagion (CCC) is spreading to the thoughtful and credible. The venerable Cokie Roberts, on the ABC roundtable today, has embraced the deceptive and misleading media spin that the only issue is whether the e-mail revelations ultimately costs Clinton significant support. No, that’s not the issue at all, at least not the one the news media should be concerned with. The issue is what Clinton did and what she said, and whether being incompetent, conflicted, reckless with sensitive communications and lying about it repeatedly, plus destroying evidence, disqualifies a former Secretary of State from being considered as a legitimate Presidential contender. Cokie Roberts’ analysis has now deteriorated into “Will Hillary’s lies and blame-shifting work?”

Hearing her talk like that is like watching Dana Wynter open her cold, inhuman eyes post-podding in “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.”

Then there is David Ignatius, one of the Washington Post’s more trustworthy pundits, who authored an op-ed some CCC infected staffer headlined “The Hillary Clinton e-mail ‘scandal’ that isn’t.” Continue reading

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The Nurturing Of Race Hate, Part Two: The Daniele Watts Saga

daniele-watts

Last September, African-American actress Daniele Watts (“Django Unchained”) engaged in lewd, if non-felonious, public conduct, then exploited the tensions arising out of Ferguson to claim victim status, police harassment and race prejudice. When the police were exonerated by the recording of her arrest and she was ordered to apologize by a judge (and asked to apologize by civil rights leaders, who were embarrassed after they rallied to her support only to find that she had played the race card without  justification), she failed—twice—to deliver a sincere apology. She is defiant and intoxicated by her martyrdom, another young African American who has been convinced of her entitlement to be an anti-white racist.

To appreciate the tale, we have to go back to September 11, 2014, when the actress and her white boyfriend, a “celebrity chef,” were visibly engaged in sexual conduct in their car in broad daylight on an LA street. Neighbors complained—we have not yet reached the point where rutting in public is legal and acceptable, but give progressives time—and police responded. Naturally, as this was at the height of the Ferguson controversy, the news media immediately reported the story as more police harassment of black citizens, this time for “kissing while black.” Here’s a typical account from  September 14: Continue reading

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Law vs. Ethics: A Snatched Bar Mitzvah Gift, A Leaky AG, An Embarrassing Scoreboard, and”OINK”

Oink

I try to keep my legal ethics seminars up-to-the-minute, so while preparing for yesterday’s session with the Appellate Section of the Indiana Bar, I came across a bunch of entertaining stories in which the ethics were a lot clearer than the law, or vice-versa. All of them could and perhaps should sustain separate posts; indeed, I could probably devote the blog entirely to such cases.

Here are my four favorites from the past week’s legal news, involving a mother-son lawsuit, a brazenly unethical attorney general, a college scoreboard named after a crook, and police officer’s sense of humor: Continue reading

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The Next Time You See One Of Those Opera Commercials About Selling Structured Settlements, Think About “Rose”

Rose

Because I worked as the general counsel for the late Richard Halpern, a kind and brilliant man, I know a lot about structured settlement, and also about the slimy businesses that conspire to destroy them. Richard’s company, The Halpern Group, worked with trial lawyers to develop structured settlements for successful plaintiffs who had won long-term damages for catastrophic injuries due to medical negligence, product liability or other torts. Most of these clients were poor, and if their millions in damages, designed to help them survive the rest of their lives, were awarded in lump sums, the result would almost always be catastrophic. These were poor people, for the most part, with poor families and poor friends and neighbors, none of whom had any experience or success managing money.  Drop millions on someone who has never had luxuries of any kind, and a spending spree as well and handouts to needy or greedy friends and acquaintances were sure to follow. For their own protection (or the protection of minors needing lifetime medical care), these plaintiffs of Rich’s lawyer clients were advised to forgo a big lump sum in favor of an annuity which would pay out regular amounts over time.

The plaintiffs own the income stream, but not the annuity itself. With assured income developed according to projected needs, the plaintiffs and their families could be assured of security and relative comfort and well-being—relative, because damages can seldom make up for broken bodies, minds and lives. Let me take over for myself here, from a post I wrote on this topic almost exactly six years ago.

Once they are on their own, however, the compensated victims are targeted by viatical settlement companies, both those with cute opera-singing commercials and those without. They undermine the sound advice of the attorneys with slogans like “It’s your money!” and try to persuade the former plaintiffs to unstructure the structured settlement by selling the annuity’s income stream to the viatical settlement company at a deep discount. Result: the annuity company gets the regular income at bargain rates, and the victims get a new, smaller lump sum to dissipate in exchange. The statistics say that the customer of the viatical settlement company will run out of cash long before he or she runs out of the need for it. But for the company, it’s a sweet deal.

It’s also despicable. The viatical settlement industry like to use lottery winnings, which are usually paid out in annuities like structured settlements, to justify their business. Lottery winning are windfall funds; while the same dissipation  hold for those lump sums (most multi-million dollar lottery winners have no money left after five years), the winners are usually no worse of after the money has been blown than they were before their number came up. When the money is a settlement for an injury, however, losing it is calamity. I would consider a viatical settlement company that only bought the income stream from lottery annuities ethical. There is no such company, however. The victims with structured settlements are a much larger and more lucrative market.

I have written about these legal but unethical businesses more than once. The first time, on The Ethics Scoreboard, I described a viatical settlement company only by using quotes from its own website, and explained what it meant, accurately. The company’s lawyers demanded that I take down the post, claiming that I had disparaged them (by using their own words and making it clear how they made their money.) I was in no position, with a family, a struggling business and aging parents, to engage in a legal battle of principle (though I suspected the company was bluffing, and I didn’t know Ken White and Marc Randazza then, both courageous blogging lawyers who assist bloggers who are threatened, like I was being threatened, to silence them. I took down the post. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The WDBJ Shooting

Shooter

As you know by now, a reporter and her cameraman were shot and killed Wednesday on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia. The shooter was a a former reporter at the same station his victims, 24-year-old WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and 27-year-old photographer Adam Ward, worked for. Another woman was shot at the scene and apparently will recover. The shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, fatally shot himself in his car after fleeing. He had used Bryce Williams as his professional name.

Later it was learned that Flanagan had successfully sued the station (it settled), which had fired him in 2013 after he had worked there briefly. Earlier he’d been employed at several other stations across the country, and had sued some of them as well. He tweeted prior to his rampage that Parker had used a racist term in his presence.

ABC then reported:

“A man claiming to be Bryce Williams called ABC News over the last few weeks, saying he wanted to pitch a story and wanted to fax information. He never told ABC News what the story was.This morning, a fax was in the machine (time stamped 8:26 a.m.) almost two hours after the shooting. A little after 10 a.m., he called again, and introduced himself as Bryce, but also said his legal name was Vester Lee Flanagan, and that he shot two people this morning. While on the phone, he said authorities are “after me,” and “all over the place.” He hung up. ABC News contacted the authorities immediately and provided them with the fax.”

The 23 page fax included such comments as…

  • “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS. Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15”
  • “What sent me over the top was the church shooting,” referring to June’s mass shooting at the  Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
  • “And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”
  • “As for [Charleston shooting suspect] Dylann Roof? You [censored]! You want a race war [censored]? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …[censored]!!!”
  • “I was influenced by [ Virginia Tech shooter] Seung–Hui Cho….That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.”

A few observations: Continue reading

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More E-Mail Deception From State: Does Anybody Care? Well, I Do. And You?

Another day, another Hillary advisor, another scandal...

Another day, another Hillary advisor, another scandal…

The private server of Hillary Clinton isn’t the only intrigue going on the should make us wonder just how corrupt our leaders and aspiring leaders are. There has been a new development involving another set of emails that should cause public outrage and alarm…if the news media had the integrity to report on it.

In 2012, Gawker filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking the State Department to produce e-mails related to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines (now a top Hillary Clinton adviser) and his contacts with  thirty-three listed media outlets. Reines was involved in an intemperate email exchange with Gawker journalist Michael Hastings in which he told Hastings to “fuck off;” naturally Gawker, being Gawker, wanted to dig up dirt on him.

[It’s a side issue, but any high ranking government official  that tells any journalist to “fuck off” should be forced to apologize and be punished or sacked.  This just one more example of the Obama Administration’s aversion to accountability and management competence.]

The U.S. State Department officially stated in 2013 that there were no such emails, reporting that “After a thorough search . . . no records responsive to your request were located.”

Last week, after a federal judge demanded a“court-ordered status report,” Justice Department lawyers, reporting on behalf of the State Department, announced that the previous statement was a teeny bit off. The State Department had found of “5.5 gigabytes of data containing 81,159 emails of varying length” sent or received by Reines, of which about 17,855, or 22%, were relevant to the initial FOIA request.

Wait…what?? Continue reading

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