In February 2013—African-American Heritage Month—it’s easy to grow complacent about the strides made by blacks in the legal profession.After all, the President of the United States is African-American and a former president of the Harvard Law Review.The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, is African-American, as is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.But the trail that has culminated in seats of power and influence in Washington, D.C. began over 160 years ago with the first African-Americans to enter the American legal profession, overcoming incredible barriers that no white aspiring lawyer had to conquer.
In his groundbreaking 1999 book Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844–1944, J. Clay Smith, Jr. (a former dean of the Howard University School of Law who served in both the Carter and Reagan administrations, and a biographer of Thurgood Marshall) sheds light on the earliest African-American attorneys.The first African-American to be admitted to the bar in the United States was Macon Bolling Allen of Portland, Maine.An article in the September 14, 1844 Portland American newspaper describes how Allen (who was born a free man in Indiana in 1816), initially applied for admission to the Maine bar but was “refused on the ground that the applicant was not a citizen of Maine” (at the time, under the U.S. Constitution, no black was considered a citizen of the United States).But Allen, a former schoolteacher who had studied the law under the tutelage of local abolitionist and attorney Gen. Samuel Fessenden, would not be turned away.He applied to be admitted by examination, and as the newspaper account states, “He was thereupon called before the examiners, a committee of the Cumberland bar, and sustained a satisfactory examination—the committee recommending him to the Court as a fit candidate—and accordingly he was admitted in the District Court to practice as an attorney and counsellor at law in the courts of this state.”
But being admitted to practice and making a living as an attorney are two different things.Allen found few whites willing to have a black lawyer, and Maine had a tiny African-American population whose legal needs couldn’t sustain him.So, he relocated to Boston, Massachusetts in 1845, and he would again have to seek admission by passing a bar examination.This time, however, his physical stamina was needed as much as his legal acumen: the site of the examination was 50 miles away in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Allen couldn’t afford transportation.He walked the entire distance, and though physically exhausted, passed the exam, becoming the first African-American attorney in Massachusetts.Allen would also become, just 3 years later, the first black to hold judicial office in the United States when he became justice of the peace for Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
After the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina.There, in 1873, he briefly held one judgeship before being elected a probate court judge in 1874.After Reconstruction, he moved to Washington, D.C. where he became an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association.Allen died in 1894 at the age of 77, but his legacy lives on in one particularly meaningful way: a Boston civil rights law clinic bears his name.
Allen’s rough road to bar admission was traveled by other early African-American lawyers.At the age of 15, Robert Morris was hired as a house servant by a wealthy white Boston lawyer.Impressed with Morris’ aptitude, the lawyer encouraged his employee to “read the law” and pursue a legal career.In 1847, Robert Morris became the second black lawyer in the United States.He would go on to file the first civil rights lawsuit challenging segregation in public schools, in the 1848 case of Roberts v. Boston.In 1850, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled against Morris and his client in a decision that would later be cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the highest court in the land upheld segregation under the doctrine of “separate but equal” (a doctrine that stood until the landmark 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education).
In 1857, Edward Garrison Draper became the first African-American admitted to practice law in Maryland.It wasn’t easy—Maryland law at the time limited admission to the bar to “free white citizens,” leaving Draper ineligible with two strikes against him—he was black and therefore not considered a citizen.But Draper was undaunted, and he convinced the authorities to admit him to practice by stating that he didn’t plan to practice law in Maryland, but instead needed to be admitted as a lawyer so that he could practice in Liberia, where he intended to emigrate.Texas wouldn’t have an African-American attorney until 1877, when A.W. Wilder was admitted to practice.
These earliest African-American lawyers became members of the bar the way most white lawyers did at the time, by “reading the law” under the guidance of an older attorney and then passing an examination (usually oral) by members of the local bar.John Mercer Langston was no exception.Born free in 1829 in Virginia to a former slave, Lucy Langston, and the white plantation owner, Ralph Quarles, who freed her and then fathered 3 sons with her over the course of a 25 year relationship, Langston was raised in Ohio after both his parents died.After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oberlin College, Langston applied for admission to law schools in New York and Ohio but was denied because of his race.So, he “read the law” under the guidance of an attorney and U.S. congressman, Philemon Bliss, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1854.
Langston became active in the abolitionist movement, and helped runaway slaves escape to freedom through Ohio’s segment of the Underground Railroad.After the Civil War, he served as president of the National Equal Rights League and in 1868 became dean of Howard University’s law school—the first black law school in the United States.In 1870, he assisted in the drafting of what would eventually become the Civil Rights Act of 1875, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1875.He later became, during a period of increasing disenfranchisement for blacks in the Jim Crow South, the first African- American to be elected to Congress from Virginia (and one of only 5 blacks in Congress during that turbulent period).
These early African-American attorneys overcame incredible obstacles in their quest to join this profession.They gained their legal knowledge through countless hours of self-study at a time when law schools would not admit them, vowed to uphold a Constitution under which they weren’t even considered citizens, and plied their trade in courtrooms where blacks could not even serve on juries.Lawyers like Macon Bolling Allen, Robert Morris, and John Mercer Langston blazed a trail that legal giants like Thurgood Marshall would later follow, and their legacy deserves to be remembered and honored.
(For more information on early African-American legal pioneers, I recommend the work of the Just the Beginning Foundation, a multiracial nonprofit organization whose goal is to increase racial diversity in the legal profession and on the bench; its website is www.jtbf.org).
Last week, we looked at some of the odder laws and lawsuits in courts around the globe.This week, however, we return home for a survey of some of the lighter moments in our legal system.The following examples illustrate that no one appreciates legal strangeness quite like we do here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Remember those fake nose, glasses, and moustache disguises you could get as a kid?Will, believe it or not, your right to wear a disguise is protected by law.Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit tackled the issue of whether having a witness testify while incognito violates a criminal defendant’s right under the 6th Amendment to confront the witnesses against him.The case involved a confidential informant testifying in a public courtroom against an alleged member of a powerful Mexican drug cartel accused of weapons smuggling.While the witness understandably wanted to remain in disguise, defense lawyers argued that the jury might prejudge their client if a prosecution witness showed up in court with a fake moustache and wig.The appellate court came down in favor of false moustaches.
32 year-old Brandon “Mickey Vegas” Gadson vehemently denied charges of flying 3 women to Alaska and advertising them as prostitutes in 2010 during a recent sex-trafficking trial.But then, the mounting evidence to the contrary began to undermine Gadson’s statements that he wasn’t a pimp.First, there was the little matter of being caught in an undercover prostitution sting with 3 women and $10,000 in cash.Then, there was the annoying fact that Gadson had posted ads on Craigslist.org and Backpage.com offering the women as “available for commercial sex acts.”Finally, it’s really hard to maintain credibility when denying you’re a pimp when you have the word “Pimp” tattooed on your neck, as Gadson does.Not surprisingly, Gadson will be spending the next year and a half behind bars.
50 year-old Donna Lange of Everett, Washington stands accused of murdering her boyfriend.The act of murder isn’t itself all that unusual, but her alleged choice of weapon is.Witnesses claim that Lange smothered her lover to death with her breasts.Police have recommended charges of second-degree manslaughter (maybe they should throw in motorboating without a license, for good measure).This isn’t an isolated incident, either; in November 2012, a German woman was accused of trying to murder her boyfriend with her 38DDs.For some criminal defendants, I suppose, their cups runneth over.
26 year-old Jared Gurman of Long Island is accused of the attempted second-degree murder of his girlfriend Jessica Gelderman.Gurman allegedly shot her in the back with a .22 caliber assault rifle.The couple had apparently had a heated argument over whether a “zombie apocalypse” could happen in real life, with Gelderman disagreeing with Gurman’s position that it could.Sounds like someone’s taking those episodes of “The Walking Dead” too seriously.
58 year-old Minnesota lawyer Thomas Lowe was just disbarred.What caused the Minnesota Supreme Court to revoke his law license?According to the order disbarring Lowe, he had admittedly had an affair with a client he was representing in a divorce case.As bad as that may be, it gets worse: Lowe actually billed her for the time they spent having sex!Some critics of the legal profession would say that’s like getting charged twice for the same service.
There have been several instances around the country of pregnant women trying to beat traffic tickets for using the HOV or carpool lane by explaining that there were indeed two people in the car.But 56 year-old Jonathan Frieman of San Rafael, California recently got very creative in trying the same argument.After being pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer for an apparent vehicle-occupancy violation, Frieman showed the patrol officer incorporation papers as his passenger, saying that, legally, a corporation occupied his car and should be counted as a passenger since under the law a corporation is considered a “person.”Yet, despite Frieman’s lawyer arguing that highway signs requiring “2 or more persons” are unconstitutionally vague, traffic court judge Frank Drago would have none of it. “Common sense says carrying a sheaf of paper in the front seat does not relieve traffic congestion.”Frieman was found guilty.Common sense – 1, creative excuses – 0.
The White House’s “We the People . . .” website allows citizens to petition the administration for just about anything; of course, to get an official White House response, a petition has to garner at least 25,000 signatures.Earlier this year, a petition for Texas to secede from the Union got a lot of media attention.But what about some of the lesser-known petitions?One such petition asks the Obama administration to secure funding for and begin construction on a Death Star (yes, just like in “Star Wars”) by 2016.That petition was signed by 1,428 people who left their parents’ basements long enough to sign it.Another petition, with 2,972 people signing on, calls for the government to “dissolve the current legal system and replace it with a single Hall of Justice, run by Judges; motorcycle-riding law officers who act as police, judge, jury, and executioner.”That’s right: there are 2,972 people out there who would like to replace the rule of law with something straight out of the abysmally bad Sylvester Stallone movie “Judge Dredd.”I fear for the future of this great nation.
We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s an app for that.”Well, if your marriage is on the rocks, now divorce advice is no farther away than your iPad.The app “iSplitlite,” is an iPad based tool that “helps divorcing couples split up their marital assets/debts” and assists in making “visual decisions about ‘who gets what’ more quickly, with less adversity and acrimony.”Wow—an app to assist in the dissolution of a marriage.For those of you who feel we’ve let technology run amok, consider this: you still have to fight over who gets the iPad itself.
My fellow Conservative Americans we’re slowly losing our freedoms with this Socialist almost Communist in the White House, along with his cronies and his lap dogs in the media. Man, can you imagine the field day the media would be having if we had a Republican doing what this inept man in the White House is doing today? They’d be reporting daily, “we are in a full fledge depression, why has not the President help the Sandy victims (like when President Bush was lambasted daily with the Katrina victims), he’d be facing impeachment for the screwed up mess in Benghazi after our ambassador and other government officials were killed all due to a lie about a stupid video and they’d be ranting about high gasoline prices and 8% (or higher for blacks & Hispanics) unemployment”. I’ve never heard so many outright lies covered up by the media for this lying President in all my entire life. And sadly folks, we have 4 more years to put up with this lying scoundrel. Hopefully American voters will come to their senses in the next Senate election cycle and kick the Democrat Senators out in the cold and put the brakes on the assault on our freedoms by this want to be tyrant in the White House.
Besides forcing Americans into buying Government Hospitalization Insurance (Obamacare), which will not be cheap as he lied to Americans, he now is infringing on our 2nd Amendment, which protects an individual, the right to possess and carry firearms! Sure, I like so many of Americans was appalled and brokenhearted when a misguided disturbed 20-year-old. Adam Lanza, fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members at Sandy HookElementary School. Before driving to the school, Lanza had shot and killed his own mother, Nancy, with her gun. As first responders arrived, which is usually the case, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Liberals like Obama quickly blame assault guns with large clips as the culprit. Yet, serial killers like Dennis Rader, the BTK (bind, torture & kill) strangler, an educated and church going man, used his hands and other blunt instruments to kill 10 innocent individuals. Rader testified in court that after he killed Josephine Otero’s parents and brother, he took the 11-year-old girl to the basement where he hung the little girl and masturbated over her body. Prior to her death he told Josephine that soon she’d be with her parents and brother in heaven.
Then there’s Theodore “Ted” Bundy, a serial killer who kidnapped, raped and murdered over 30 young women. Bundy would overpower his victims, bludgeoned, shot, or stabbed his victims after he raped them. Besides decapitating 12 of his victims he sometimes would revisit his crime scenes for hours at a time, grooming and performing sexual acts with the decomposing corpses. He once called himself “ . . . the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.” This piece of human trash died in the electric chair on January 24, 1989. Bundy, by the way was a handsome and charismatic man.
Notice my 2nd Amendment loving friends neither of these two serial killers used an assault weapon or a gun with a large clip. They used bats, blunt instruments, knives and their hands, as have many other serial killers I could cite. Hitler, but the way used Hydrogen Cyanide to kill 6 million Jews!
I find it almost laughable how these anti gun liberals want not only to curb the selling of certain weapons but also to treat mental illness more aggressively to supposedly stop mass killers. My friends, having grown up in a tight knit Hispanic community from the 40s to the 80s, I personally knew scores of men and women who were harden criminals and would kill you as to look at you. One such killer and friend was Tony “Bolofas” Garcia. Tony and I went to junior and high school where we became close friends. Tony was a smart student, got along well with others and after graduating married a girl who lived in my block. Tony and his wife had 3 lovely children and he was a hardworking provider for his family. Later, Tony killed 2 men, both strangers in cold blood while fishing. Why? No one knows. After killing two unarmed men, Tony killed another man in a bar and later during a shootout; at another bar Tony was fatally wounded leaving behind his 3 kids and wife. During his murdering rampage I often ran into Tony being that his in laws lived near my parents house. We laughed, talk, joked, but he, nor did I, ask him what turned him into a vicious killer.
Another man who murdered several men in my old neighborhood was Luis “La Linea” (The Line) Arteaga. Luis was about 7 years older than me, but his brother, Mario, and I were close friends and thus I met him through Mario. What struck me of Luis was that he was a mild mannered, very respectful to others and to this day never heard him curse or swear. Attributes that you would not expect of a man who had a reputation of being a cold-hearted killer.
When I turned 21, I started to frequent the local Hispanic bars in my neighborhood. It was at these bars that I met and was befriended by Luis. Luis was a loner. Usually he drank by himself and he didn’t bother anyone. Having a reputation of being a killer, other want to be macho Hispanics often would taunt Luis and curse him. He’d finish his beer and leave the bar. One such taunting man and his buddy once followed Luis to another bar in the same block and again cursed Luis and hit him with his gun. Luis quickly pulled out his revolver and killed both men. During the melee, Luis was shot in the throat. My pastor and friend, Father Alvarado, asked me after Sunday mass after the much publicized shooting and killing of two men by Luis if I knew him. I told him that I did and Father Alvarado told me, “James, Luis’ mother called me to give him his last rites and though he was shot and could talk he never said a bad thing about the two men he killed who were in the same emergency room at the hospital.”
Folks, no government, nor Biden or Obama can ever enter the mind of someone who kills and why they kill. And get this, Dennis Rader the serial killer, used a rubber ball to strengthen his hand to ease strangling his victims. I guess liberals will soon try to stop us from buying rubber balls!
Lance Armstrong’s long-awaited confession to Oprah Winfrey that he doped during his years of competitive cycling—years that saw him win the Tour de France 7 times—will have far-ranging repercussions.They will likely have a seismic effect on the sport of cycling itself, as the full details of how Armstrong alternately bullied and cajoled teammates on the U.S. Postal Service team into supporting his scheme emerge, and as the story behind Armstrong and his advisers’ manipulation of the drug testing protocols is revealed.Armstrong’s reputation and the good the cancer survivor did through his Livestrong Foundation are irrevocably damaged as well.But one area in which the effects of Armstrong’s sudden about-face are already being felt, and will continue to be felt for some time, is in the legal arena and not just the court of public opinion.
Armstrong may be poised to reap the legal whirlwind brought on by years of his vehement denials and outright litigiousness.One clear example is that of SCA Promotions, a Dallas-based insurance company that insured $12 million in bonuses paid to the disgraced cyclist.Pursuant to an insurance policy taken out by Tailwind Sports (owner of the U.S. Postal Service team) to cover performance bonuses owed to Armstrong if he won his fourth, fifth, and sixth Tour de France titles, SCA was obligated to pay the money if Armstrong was the “official winner” of the sport’s premier race.But SCA had had its suspicions about Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs for a while and, at first, refused to pay the bonus for Armstrong’s sixth Tour de France win in 2004.Armstrong took the company to a binding arbitration hearing in Dallas in 2005 over the $5 million owed under the contract, and won.Now, however, SCA and its lawyer, Jeff Tillotson, want their $12 million back.
After the Oprah interview and Armstrong’s admission, SCA announced its plan to file a lawsuit.As Tillotson stated, Armstrong “doped during all those races, and USADA and UCI have stripped him of his official title status.So, under those circumstances, my client naturally wants his money back.We have made a demand for return of the $12 million and if that money is not returned to us, my client will pursue litigation.He feels Lance Armstrong neither has the legal right, nor frankly the moral right, to keep those funds.”Tillotson professes to being shocked at Armstrong’s admissions during the Oprah interview, saying “it was pretty clear from the first few minutes of the interview that he had committed perjury in our legal proceedings in the U.S.”That brings up an interesting question: will Armstrong be charged with perjury?Armstrong has made a number of declarations under oath denying engaging in doping, but he may not face perjury charges on all of them since criminal perjury allegations are subject to statutes of limitations that vary by state.It’s likely that only the more recent admissions could result in perjury charges.Federal perjury is subject to a 5 year statute of limitations.However, even if Armstrong doesn’t face as many perjury charges as some might expect, charges of obstruction of justice and making false statements to government officials remain a distinct possibility.Among other investigations, Armstrong was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation in 2011 and 2012.
There are other potential legal battles facing Armstrong.He’s already a defendant in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former teammate Floyd Landis, who maintains that Armstrong and others breached contractual and fiduciary duties to the Postal Service team by cheating.Landis’ suit seeks the approximately $30 million that the USPS paid to the team, plus potential trebling of damages that could bring the total to $90 million.In addition, Armstrong was fairly litigious as he sought to protect and perpetuate the story he had created about himself, suing individuals who dared to accuse him of doping for libel.This includes USADA executives, Emma O’Reilly (a former assistant to the Postal Service team), and others.One likely plaintiff is London’s Sunday Times newspaper, which paid Armstrong a reported $1.5 million to settle the libel lawsuit he brought against it, following a June 2004 article accusing him of using banned substances.In 2006, Armstrong dropped defamation lawsuits in France; at the time, Armstrong rather cockily referred to his track record in the courtroom of winning defamation lawsuits, saying “I think we’re 10-0 in lawsuits right now.My life is not about that anymore.I’ve answered all the questions.”
Actually, even in the wake of his admissions to Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong has not “answered all the questions.”Depending on the extent to which he comes clean with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the cyclist may face more litigation and more charges.Some of the people he sued for defamation are likely to give Armstrong a taste of being on the receiving end of a defamation claim.And, although the Livestrong Foundation that Armstrong started may suffer fundraising losses in the wake of his confession, it is doubtful that the charity will face allegations of fundraising fraud.Besides Armstrong’s recent distancing himself from the foundation, there has never been any claim that Livestrong violated any applicable tax or charitable fundraising laws.
Even Armstrong’s writings have come back to haunt him.Amidst jokes that Armstrong’s autobiography would have to be moved to the “fiction” section of libraries and bookstores, two readers have filed a federal lawsuit in Sacramento, California seeking class action status.They allege that they wouldn’t have purchased Armstrong’s bestseller, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, had they known the true facts concerning the cyclist’s doping.They seek refunds and, of course, attorneys’ fees.
Armstrong’s visit to the electronic confessional of the Oprah Winfrey show and his belated admissions hastened the fall from grace of someone once regarded as a true American hero and an iconic Texas personality.Sadly, the last races Lance Armstrong will compete in and likely lose will be races to the courthouse.
With the legislative session underway in Austin, Texans will once again face crucial questions about how to prioritize our spending. The difference this time is we face a budget surplus, rather than a shortfall. It’s a testament to the low-tax, less government regulation and litigation economic model that has made Texas the envy of the nation.
The LoneStarState has led America in job creation for several years, at one point accounting for 40 percent of all jobs created in America during the recession. We’ve seen Dallas, Houston and Austin thrive while Detroit slowly becomes a ghost town. We’ve seen California businesses flock to our state. We’ve seen Texas reinvent itself as a high tech powerhouse when a few decades ago we were known only for oil and cattle.
Texas quite simply works, and it’s not by accident. It’s a deliberate product of decisions that have been made in the decade since Republicans took over both houses of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. Have those decisions been perfect? No. Could we have done even better? Sure.
All Texans, regardless of party, want to see Texas continue to be a great place to live, work and raise a family. But while we may agree on the destination, we disagree on the roadmap to get there. Republicans believe in the intrinsic value of the private sector and the free enterprise system, whereas Democrats place that same emphasis on growing our government. Republicans want to limit the scope of local, state and federal government control over our daily lives. Democrats seek to expand power and control by these entities and look to them for solutions to our problems.
Our state and nation face real problems, and expanding the role of government is a seductive shortcut to getting things done.Economies are built on fundamental rules that you can’t bypass with government action. That’s why government stimulus fails in the long run, but the freeing up of markets unleashes their potential for growth for years to come.
With a budget surplus this session, Democrats will call out like Chicken Little that the sky is falling and that we have to spend more money to stop it. I won’t disparage the argument. We can always have a healthy debate about our priorities. That debate will make us stronger in the end.
But to abandon those principles that have kept Texas’ economy the strongest in America would be foolish. Our budget surplus isn’t because we taxed too little, it’s because we’ve experienced economic growth that wasn’t there before, which is directly attributable to our own fiscal discipline. While the federal government is tottering on fiscal cliffs, Texas has retained top credit rankings from Moody’s Investor Services and Fitch Ratings. And our economy has thrived.
In the 2013 legislative session, Republicans are once again guided by three core principles: 1) respect for the taxpayer; 2) focus on the core functions of government; and 3) ensure Texas is prepared to meet the challenges of the next 20 years.
The differences between the Republican and Democratic approaches are clear and fundamental, and the real, practical effects of those policies are evident and inescapable. Texas has the strongest economy in America precisely because of Republican-led, strong fiscal policies, and we need to stick to the solutions that have served us well.
In Texas, we are fundamentally changing the role of government to get by with less from our government, not because we don’t want to solve our problems, but we recognize that a rising tide ultimately lifts all boats. There is no problem we face, as a state or nation, that can’t ultimately be solved by a little honest economic growth. And in Texas, we’ve built the model for America.
Rep. Linda Harper Brown (R – Irving) represents District 105 in the Texas House of Representatives.She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Texas House Republican Caucus.