April 22, 2024

Deeds Done in the Dark: Leftist Lawyers Caught Engaging in Attorney Misconduct

Many on the far left believe the ends always justify the means.

Editor’s Note: This column was coauthored by Meese Center Senior Fellow Sarah Parshall Perry.

A scathing report by three federal judges on the “misconduct” of plaintiff lawyers in a challenge to Alabama’s ban on gender-transition medicine for minors illustrates something we learned a long time ago: Many on the far left, including radical lawyers employed by self-proclaimed civil rights organizations, believe the ends always justify the means and that rules of ethics don’t apply to them.

The report is the result of an investigation into the lawyers who filed three related lawsuits — Walker v. Marshall, Ladinsky v. Ivey, and Eknes-Tucker v. Ivey — challenging Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act in 2022. The state enacted the law that year to eliminate the use of experimental hormonal and surgical procedures on minors who experience discomfort with their biological sex.

The final report, issued by three judges representing all three federal court districts in Alabama, was initiated after Judge Liles C. Burke accused the lawyers of judge-shopping to get a particular judge they wanted assigned to the cases. Judge Burke called it “a particularly pernicious form of forum shopping” and “a practice that has the propensity to create the appearance of impropriety in the judicial system.” Ouch!

The judges obtained sworn testimony from the 39 plaintiff lawyers who filed these lawsuits. After holding five hearings, they concluded “without reservation” that 11 of the lawyers in the Walker and Ladinsky lawsuits engaged in “misconduct” by attempting to “circumvent the random case assignment procedures” of the Alabama federal courts. The investigation went forward despite some of the lawyers’ claims that the investigation violated their right to due process.

So, what happened after Alabama passed this much-needed statute protecting minors from radically experimental medical interventions, now disfavored among most European nations? The 53-page report goes into great detail: The lawyers tried to avoid the random assignment policy and the assignment of the case to Judge Burke by claiming the cases were related to another case that had been closed “for over a year.”

That case, Corbitt v. Taylor, challenged an Alabama law preventing individuals from obtaining a driver’s license listing a gender different from their biological sex unless they could show they had undergone surgical and medical treatments to change their gender. Judge Myron Thompson, a Carter appointee, held, absurdly enough, that the law violated the 14th Amendment.

According to the report, the lawyers did everything they could “in an attempt to steer the case to Judge Thompson — including marking the case as supposedly related to Corbitt and calling Judge Thompson’s chambers” to talk to him about the case, even though the case had never been assigned to him. After the case was assigned to Judge Burke, the lawyers dismissed the lawsuits, then refiled almost immediately to get a different judge.

The lawyers who engaged in the misconduct include those from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Why does this matter? Because, as the report points out, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said that trying to circumvent the random assignment of cases “constitutes a threat to the orderly administration of justice.” And according to the 5th Circuit, such manipulation brings the “judicial system itself into disrepute” and “permit[s] unscrupulous litigants and lawyers to thwart our system of judicial administration.”

The judges went to great lengths to point out the misbehavior of one of the lawyers: Carl Charles, a former Lambda Legal employee who now works at the Justice Department. He was interviewed twice about ex parte phone calls he made (without the knowledge of the defendants’ lawyers) to Judge Thompson’s chambers, the details of which Mr. Charles “reported” to the other lawyers working on the Walker case “via email.”

When asked multiple times about these calls, Mr. Charles “unequivocally and repeatedly testified that he did not call [the] judge’s chambers.” It was only after the interviewing judges “read his cell phone number to him” that Mr. Charles suddenly asked if he “could correct his earlier answers and admitted that he did call Judge Thompson’s chambers.”

Yes, Mr. Charles — a lawyer who now works for the Department of Justice — lied to the panel of judges under oath until he was confronted with hard evidence that exposed the lie.

The question now is whether any of their employers or state bar associations will take any disciplinary action against any of these lawyers. So far, at least, there is no indication that the Justice Department, the private firms, the advocacy organizations or state bar authorities have done so.

Apparently, so long as you’re litigating a “woke” cause, anything goes.

Republished from The Heritage Foundation.

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