Personal and Professional Disclosure
I come to this campaign with some issues for which it is very reasonable and appropriate for the voters to want all the information available to explain that background. I understood that at the time I made the decision to seek this office. That is why I am posting this.
I currently have a suspended law license, suspended for a year and a day effective February 9, 2010. I am eligible for reinstatement, and am in the process of seeking that reinstatement now.
I have also had some personal struggles, which became publicly known through my disciplinary proceedings, and which are a matter of public record. The two issues relate to each other, and are part of a story that must be understood when answering the question “why were you suspended?”
The short answer is I was suspended because some of the personal issues that I have dealt with in the past interfered with my practice, and I let a client down. There is also evidence shows that suggests that I became a target of the attorney disciplinary system because of the nature of the cases I handled, and the people I represented and worked with.
I suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder most of my life resulting from some severe burns I suffered as a child. I had some issues related to that condition that caused me problems off and on throughout my life. I never received a proper diagnosis or treatment for it, and self-medicated with marijuana, which is now recognized as one of the most effective PTSD treatments. In 2013, I did, after nearly 40 years of suffering with the condition, receive a diagnosis, and have received proper treatment for it. I do not use marijuana or any prescribed medications of any kind now.
My practice was largely devoted to civil rights cases. I have represented minorities, women, whistle blowers, and victims of police and government abuse, and have sued many highly placed public officials and wealthy public and private institutions over the years, including Penn State University and Hershey Foods. I was “zealous” and competent in my representation, always. There is evidence to suggest that civil rights lawyers all over the country, and lawyers who speak out against questionable conduct of judges and courts, are disproportionately subjected to sanctions and for discipline.
I experienced some personal problems related to my medical condition that interfered with my practice around 10 years ago, and was unable to follow through on a case for a client for medical reasons. I saw that the client received assistance from other counsel, and paid another attorney to pick up and help. He had trial counsel, but lost the trial, and made a complaint to the Disciplinary Board. There were, in sum, professional failings related to this for which I have always accepted responsibility.
That is the case that was the basis of my discipline. I contend that, in retrospect, my discipline was out-of-proportion to the violations, but have accepted responsibility for all of my shortcomings.
Because of medical mistreatment I experienced in and around the same period of time, I had no medical evidence to put on at the time of my hearing on the charges. I admitted most of the facts, and stipulated to a moderate punishment because I wanted to put the matter behind me and get on with my active practice. That stipulation was rejected, as was a similar recommendation by a hearing panel, and the full Disciplinary Board summarily imposed a suspension for one year and one day, with no further right for hearing or argument by me. That recommendation was accepted by the Supreme Court. The year and a day period is significant because it requires a reapplication and hearing process to get reinstated for any discipline over one year.
After the hearing on my discipline, the client came to me and apologized for filing the complaint against me. He also asked me to represent him again.
The Disciplinary Board published an opinion that contains statements of fact that, while largely true, appear to present me in an unfavorable light. Again, I had no mitigating medical evidence, which I now have. That was a highly significant factor in my discipline, i.e., if I had appropriate medical evidence, I likely would not have been disciplined, or the punishment would have been substantially mitigated, and I would have my license now.
There is an implication that can be read into the Disciplinary Board opinion that I misused client funds. This is false. The client paid me, and all agreed that I more-than-earned the amount he paid me. I even paid money out of my own pocket to other counsel to ensure he had adequate representation when I experienced the medical issues. I handled the fees as I believed was customary in the litigation practice. This issue creates an impression of some sort of dishonesty on my part, but there is none. I never engaged in an act of dishonesty or deceit throughout my career.
I have attempted to go back and have my old disciplinary proceedings opened, and have my prior punishment reduced under principles recognized in the law for opening prior judgments. My efforts have been denied by both the state and federal courts. My reinstatement has been resisted because of my activities through the Pennsylvania Civil Rights Law Network, and my writings on www.pennsylvaniacivilrightslawnetwork.com, and some videos that are posted at www.youtube.com/PCRLN1776. In these matters, I am highly critical of the courts, and the quality of access to justice in our country. Please review these materials at great length, as they contain very important information.
I have been told by my former attorney that he could get me my license back if I take down my site, and the federal disciplinary prosecutors have specifically cited my writings and videos as a basis for not returning me to practice, on the asserted grounds that they demonstrate that I am not fit to return to the practice of law. That is false. I will not take down my site, and no one should be required to compromise their constitutional rights as a condition of practicing law.
Federal Middle District Judge Matthew Brann wrote an opinion for public consumption a week after I announced my candidacy for Congress with which I vehemently disagree. He found me unfit to return to practice, citing my PCRLN materials. He had only been a federal judge for less than a year at the time. Everything I have said in those materials is demonstrably true, and I invite further inquiry into all of these matters. I am making all the supporting documents available.
As a result of all of the foregoing, I have also suffered catastrophic personal financial losses. I believe that many meritorious cases of mine, and/or that I was working on with others over the years, that should have gone to trial, have been dismissed on errant grounds, and the medical mistreatment I was subjected to also contributed to my situation. There are tax liens and judgments against me. I have, however, never put my personal financial condition above my commitment to justice. These matters will all be resolved in time.
There is an abundant amount of information in the public domain that is available concerning all of these matters, and I am making it available here.
I am running for Congress despite all of the foregoing, knowing full well that my opponent will seek to use select pieces of these things for political advantage. I suspect the press, favorably inclined to my opponent, or disinclined to me, will do the same. The Republican Herald of Bloomsburg had already done so in 2010, and released all my disciplinary matters widely in that area. I was Counsel in state and federal actions at that time exposing what is alleged to be grave and extensive misconduct behind the internationally known Centralia mine fires. There is evidence that there was never any fire that was ever going to threaten the existence of the Borough of Centralia. The Republican Herald appears to have some interest in casting me in a pretty bad light. I will talk about those matters during my campaign.
I have always conducted myself as a professional, with integrity and honesty, and should, rightfully, be returned to the practice of law. My experiences as a civil rights lawyer have given me a unique insight into some of the problems that are affecting our political culture and society, but are not often talked about. While my personal experience is part of it, this is not a personal mission. I have seen too many people who I believe have been mistreated by the system, and had their faith and confidence in their courts and governments shattered, and had those rights with which they have been “endowed by their creator” cut off and denied, and recourse to their courts for remedies, and their vindication cut off and denied. It is a problem with much wider implications.
In 1821, Thomas Jefferson said the following:
The germ of destruction of our nation is in the power of the judiciary, an irresponsible body – working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall render powerless the checks of one branch over the other and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.
And in Federalist 17, Alexander Hamilton said:
… the ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice … is the most powerful, most universal, and most attractive source of popular obedience and attachment. It is that which, being the immediate and visible guardian of life and property, having its benefits and its terrors in constant activity before the public eye, regulating all those personal interests and familiar concerns to which the sensibility of individuals is more immediately awake, contributes, more than any other circumstance, to impressing upon the minds of the people, affection, esteem, and reverence towards the government.
I believe my experience has given me a unique insight into these matters, and their truthfulness and aptness to our current political and cultural climate. These are matters of high public importance that must be addressed, and I felt I had an obligation to discuss them on the PCRLN site.
The mass media, however, for institutional reasons, does not cover these matters with any depth, and the judiciary has largely excised itself from the checks and balances of the other branches. They are very important political issues, and I feel I have a duty to discuss them as a candidate for the United States Congress.
I have a personal history that does not disqualify me from anything. My own suffering has taught me empathy and compassion for all suffering anywhere, and a commitment to eradicate it. My disciplinary history, and that of a friend and colleague of mine by the name of Don Bailey, has given me a unique insight into the workings of the system, and how the admonitions of Thomas Jefferson are being carried out.
It is time for some real change in this system by getting back to some very basic fundamental issues like due process and fairness. That is why I decided to run for Congress. The personal and disciplinary stuff is just part of the story that brought me here. The voters can decide on its true importance.