17 July 2009

The Importance of Depth In Reporting

Alan Predergast at Westword and Felisa Cardona at the Denver Post, both published reports about evidentiary hearing in the ongoing saga of the attorney regulation proceeding against Colorado attorney Mark E. Brennan -- that got started when a federal judge sanctioned his trial conduct in a federal employment case against the City and County of Denver. (See also this Denver Business Journal Report noting how rare such evidentary hearings are in Colorado in attorney discipline cases.)

Cardona's story has a fair amount of detail on the merits of the underlying case for a Denver Post report, but either due to editing or a failure to report in the first place, utterly misses the drama of the hearing itself, which is the actual news that took place yesterday. In fact, once you read the Westword account, one feels like Cardona has been cast in the role of Ford Prefect, whose massive monograph on the planet Earth, compiled after fifteen years of research, is reduced by his editors to just two words in the published edition of the The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, "Mostly harmless." The subplot, in the comic novels by Douglas Adams, was a satire of the editorial practices of his frequently employer, the BBC. But, apparently the Post has a lot in common with its British cousin.

What details were omitted? How about these tidbits from the Westword post:

It began with Presiding Disciplinary Judge William Lucero slapping attorney Mark Brennan with two contempt citations. It ended with Brennan leaning into opposing counsel Kim Ikeler, moving him bodily away from the podium and calling him "a little piece of shit." . . .

For the past three days, Lucero and two other members of a state disciplinary panel have been hearing testimony and considering whether Brennan's license to practice law should be suspended for "conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal" and "prejudicial to the administration of justice." . . .

When Brennan took a cutting and mocking approach to questioning prosecution witnesses, Lucero instructed him to tone it down, then fined him . . . . Testifying in his own defense for more than five hours, Brennan did his best to scandalize the panel with his view of Blackburn's supposed efforts to sabotage his case: "The mere fact someone puts on judicial robes doesn't make them a saint. They get to be judges because they have friends in high places ... a lot of incompetent people get to be federal judges in this country." . . .

The physical confrontation between the two, late in the closing arguments at the end of the hearing, led to sheriff's deputies being summoned to the courtroom. ("This is not trial by combat," Judge Lucero complained.) But Brennan was allowed to finish his final bit of speechifying, during which he called on the panel to merely censure him rather than suspend his license over "nonsense." He argued that witnesses and attorneys who hide evidence and offer perjured testimony -- as, he insisted, happened in more than one instance during the Cadorna trial -- are much more deserving of punishment.

A recent pleading filed by Brennan with the Colorado Supreme Court in the disciplinary case prior to the trial described the federal judge in question as his "nemesis" and the federal court employees he dealt with as the judge's "minions."

The Denver Post story misses all of this drama, although Colorado Law Week managed to get it all on video. The Post story omits the pathos and utter futility of Brennan's effort at his disciplinary trial.

The Brennan trial was the moral equivalent of the terrorist who is brought before a tribunal to be tried for his offenses who cries out "Allahu Akbar," says the United States deserves every misfortune that has ever become it or its citizens and takes credit for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Rather than merely confessing his guilt, Brennan personally demonstrated his culpability to the Presiding Judge.

Even if the tactics Brennan used in the federal trial weren't culpable enough to warrant his suspension, I'm pretty sure that this became harmless error when he shoved the mild mannered opposing counsel in the attorney discipline case. I'm pretty sure that the presiding judge who had to hold him in contempt multiple times at the disciplinary trial and call in sheriff's deputies for assistance is not going to rule in Brennan's favor, and that the Colorado Supreme Court will back him up on that point.


Anonymous said...
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Bouldergeist said...

Where's the "depth" in your reporting, Andy?

I couldn't help but notice that some crucial facts are missing from your servile hit piece. Imagine not being able to face your accuser, depose adverse witnesses, call or even contact potential favorable witnesses, or put on evidence tending to show that you were being prosecuted for political purposes. Those were the grave disabilities under which Mark Brennan was forced to labor -- something you would have known if you had done some actual study of the record (which is available at KnowYourCOurts.com).

This was a drumhead trial, no less odious or farcical than the star chambers of the Tudors. The condemned man took that charade of a proceeding about as seriously as it deserved to be taken. He knew that the outcome was predetermined, as did anyone with a modicum of legal training who was paying even the slightest attention.

It is symptomatic of the cascade failure of what could laughingly be called our court system, as it groans under the crushing weight of the lack of accountability of public officials. Power minus accountability always equals tyranny, and always has since the dawn of time.

You are either an idiot or a courtesan; there is no third option.

Mark B said...

Yet again, Mr. Zero-Willeke, you gleefully disparage me without benefit of proper study. You yet again make it a point to profess your great superiority over me though you don't know me, and wouldn't make a patch on my behind, as a lawyer or a man.

I did not shove Ikeler, as you falsely assert. He approached me from behind as I was making my closing, in deliberate and blatant violation of numerous previous instructions by the court at my request that he not be allowed to come near me while I was at the podium. I simply reached out and restrained him by placing my hand in front of him as I faced the bench, as would a teacher or cop in holding a line back. He tried to push by, then backed off, and I turned to face him and tell him to get away from me.

He is a mousy punk who originally recommended after interviewing the jurors that the charges against me be dismissed for lack of evidence, but then proceeded to prosecute me at the direction of his superiors for "crimes" he knows I did not commit in order to continue collecting his paycheck. He omitted any reference to the jurors' exoneration of me from his report to the Atty Reg Committee, and refused to submit my response to his report to the Committee on the pretext it exceeded an unwritten "policy" limiting length of such reports to 4-5 pages. His was 21 pages in length. Mine was 24. In short, Ikeler did the same thing to me the City did to Cadorna. He had just asked the judges to virtually disbar me for the serious offense of working hard for 5 years to win my client's case. I was certainly furious, but I did not shove him.

Come to think of it, now I realize why you so sympathize with worms like Ikeler and Blackburn. You are of the same species. Were you objective, you would mention that the jury foreperson testified quite strongly in my favor and condemned Blackburn for his unlawful new trial order.

Were you objective, you would note that none of the evidence offered supported the grant of a new trial based on clear and convincing evidence that the jury's deliberations were tainted by my conduct. Were you objective, you would point out that is a condition precedent under Rule 59 and 60 to overturning a constitutionally sacred jury verdict, yet Blackburn ignored it.

The EVIDENCE, the evidence, particularly the jury foreperson's uncontradicted testimony, proved beyond the jury was not influenced in my client's favor by my alleged misconduct. All 7 jurors contacted by Ikeler in January, 2008 told him they decided the case in compliance with the judge's instructions. Most stated that I conducted myself very professionally. Four stated, if they ever need a lawyer, they will call me. At least one stated that he congratulated Blackburn for keeping me within bounds during trial, which is damning evidence that Blackburn seriously erred error in foolishly admitting he is incompetent in order to justify granting the City a do-over.

Were you objective, you would rehearse some of the very strong evidence supporting the jury's verdict. Were you objective, you would rehearse the many ways in which the City subverted justice to destroy my client's life.
Were you objective, you would note that many jurors were very critical of the City's performance. I could go on. The essential point is that your talents are wasted. You should really be a City Attorney, or perhaps a prosecutor in Communist China. You would fit right in.

Dave Barnes said...
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Anonymous said...
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Bouldergeist said...

I love this quote, Andy:

Markos at Daily Kos has likewise, repeatedly illustrated cases where it is the traditional media, and not the bloggers, who act amorally. In reality, blogs have some rather well established ethical standards in practice, including the ethical standrads of (1) disclosing sources through hyperlinks, (2) not suppressing meritorious comments that disagree with the author, (3) rallying around efforts of interested parties to suppress blog reporting, and (4) not accepting uncritically false or misleading statements of fact made by interested parties as mere opinions.

Recognize it?

Mark Brennan has outed you as a whore of the Mullarkey Mafia:

Andrew Oh-Willeke
Of Counsel at Akerman Senterfitt

* Executive Committee Member, Colorado Democratic Party (Feb 2009 to Present)

* Treasurer, Democratic Party of Denver (Feb 2007 to Feb 2009)

That you are an apparatchik for Chicago's West Ward (Alaska is the North Ward) tends to color your reporting. You have skin in the game.

Bouldergeist said...

Just out of curiosity, Andy, how do you feel about the practice at dKos of suppressing dissenting views via the use of "donuts" and bans? Even by your own admission, it is unethical.

Every time you do that, you give ammunition to the Republicans.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I remove comments almost exclusively for two reasons -- they are unrelated spam, or at the request of the author (not always granted). I reserve the right to remove comments are reasons like incivility, but almost never do.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, these Bouldergeist and Mark B people are bat-shit crazy! The "birthers" of CO politics?

Stephen R. Diamond said...

"The Brennan trial was the moral equivalent of the terrorist who is brought before a tribunal to be tried for his offenses who cries out "Allahu Akbar," says the United States deserves every misfortune that has ever become it or its citizens and takes credit for the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Rather than merely confessing his guilt, Brennan personally demonstrated his culpability to the Presiding Judge."

You would convict for a defiant cry "Allahu Akbar" and a hyperbolic admission? No wonder you think Mark Brennan culpable!

The Brennan prosecution isn't unique. Bar prosecution for courtroom "misconduct" is the new wave in the subordination of the state bars to the judiciary. In California we have the Richard Fine case and the Philip Kay case. Lawyers need to understand these portents, as a matter of professional survival.

kanBARoo court has started an Installment on the Brennan case's significance. ("Threat to advocacy from overdeterrence — The Mark Brennan case," http://tinyurl.com/naa5ky)

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Mark B is the subjet of the story.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Related story.