Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another Reason The Practice Of Law Is Becoming So Disgusting

The most frustrating aspect of the practice of law in this country is that attorneys in the practice face the same disparate treatment by those responsible for enforcing the rules of practice against them as we see with private citizens charged with violating our laws. Too often, those of us with fewer resources to defend ourselves are held to the absolute highest standard of conduct while those with money, power and connections engage in far more outrageous conduct and face few consequences for their actions--even to the point of being rewarded for their bad behavior. Two recent cases out of Chicago illustrate this troubling point.

Sladjana Vuckovic, a 44-year old Chicago attorney, has been a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid for ten years providing free legal services to indigent clients. During the course of representing a client who was charged with killing a Chicago police officer, Vuckovic allowed her client to use her cell phone while she was meeting with him in an interrogation room at the Calumet lockup where her client was being detained. Vuckovic is now on trial for committing a felony count of bringing contraband into a penal institution. She faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted, in addition to possible disbarment as an attorney. Prosecutors insinuated to jurors that Vuckovic was trying to obstruct the police investigation by aiding her client in cooking up an alibi or destroying evidence. Vuckovic, who testified in her own defense, claims nobody ever told her she couldn't take her cell phone with her into meetings with her clients, which she estimated she had done a 100 times before. She believed the ban on contraband applied to bringing things like guns, knives and drugs into the lockup. Vuckovic no doubt has witnessed far worse transgressions being committed by attorneys practicing in the Cook County legal system on any given day without so much as a bat of the eye.

The same prosecutor who is trying to put Vuckovic behind bars and destroy her legal career is Cook Co. State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who beyond having the right political connections, probably shouldn't even have a license to practice law, let alone decide the fate of criminal defendants. Alvarez has aggessively prosecuted Illinois' eavesdropping law to make it a felony for private citizens to videotape the public actions of police officers with sentences of up to 15 years in prison. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals harshly criticized Alvarez' "extreme position" in striking down her application of the law to criminalize an activity that clearly should be protected by the First Amendment. "On the merits the State’s Attorney has staked out an extreme position. She contends that openly recording what police officers say while performing their duties in traditional public fora—streets, sidewalks, plazas, and parks—is wholly unprotected by the First Amendment," Judge Diane Sykes wrote in her opinion. An unapologetic Alvarez attacked the ACLU's standing to challenge her application of the law, accusing it of engaging in “advocacy under the guise of First Amendment infringement.” Alvarez had the audacity to appeal the 7th Circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this week decided against hearing her appeal, allowing the 7th Circuit opinion against her to stand. As respected constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley observed, her actions are a "disgrace."  "As a native Chicagoan, I remain astonished that citizens have allowed Alvarez to remain in office as she has publicly sought to strip them of their rights and block a tool that has been used repeatedly to show police abuse," Turley writes.

I'm not as astonished as Turley. I see it happening across the board in the legal profession. There is very little relationship in the practice of law today in this country to the degree of a person's integrity and fitness to practice law and their success within the profession. The most dishonest and deceitful seem to thrive in the practice, while attorneys who try to adhere to the standards of conduct they are sworn to uphold too often come up with the short end of the stick. Vuckovic may lose her license to practice law for volunteering her services to an indigent client. The most ruthless and unethical attorneys with no shortage of clients with deep pockets are the ones the bar association is always patting on the back for providing "pro bono" services, while those of us who get stuck providing a substantially more free legal services without choice than we ever get compensated to perform are brushed aside and crushed with a hammer for the most trivial of transgressions.

UPDATE: The jury hearing Vuckovic's case acquitted her after less than three hours of deliberating. They obviously saw through the corrupt motives of Alvarez's office in bringing these charges against her. The Tribune includes this item about attorneys admitting they routinely carry cell phones into meet with their clients and allow them to use their phones:
The charges against Vuckovic sparked a controversy among criminal-defense lawyers who said they routinely bring their cellphones into police interview rooms and sometimes let clients make calls. The consensus of many defense lawyers was that Vuckovic would not have faced criminal charges if it wasn't for the highly charged atmosphere surrounding an investigation into a police officer's slaying.


Cato said...

I wrote a comment, but I'm too scared to post it.

CircleCityScribe said...

Cato goes off, like the typical Lefty....

I don't stand with the Left!!!!

What Sladjana Vuckovic did was a CRIME! The jury (D-Chicago) screwed up!!!

We all lose. Justice loses most. -But Gary points it out so well, that "There is very little relationship in the practice of law today in this country to the degree of a person's integrity and fitness to practice law and their success within the profession. The most dishonest and deceitful seem to thrive in the practice.

"Corruption is as corruption does."

--The Democrat Machine

Gary R. Welsh said...

I don't see it that way, Scribe. The prosecutor had no proof of a criminal intent on Vuckovic's part. I'll lay money that criminal defense attorneys regularly carry their cell phones with them when they go into meet with their clients. Think about it. A person with money can afford bail to get out of jail while they are awaiting their trial. Do you think they sit at home and don't talk to anyone on the phone. Meanwhile, those stuck in jail have to worry about their few opportunities to make calls from jail (for a fee) being recorded.

SW Lane said...

You were probably confused Cato, because this did not involve any police officers. Therefore, we enjoyed being spared your typical illogical, screeching rants.

Cato said...

When I see the sick, demented, hateful words of the authoritarian fascist right, it's so clear why the Republican Party is fast fading in support and identification.

No civilized person would want to stand in the company of brutal savages such as Circlelogic or SW Lane. The country they desire ought not be allowed to exist anywhere in the world.

When the Republican Party turns its back on suffocating laws, police, prisons, and abandons its hatred of freedom, it might again have some national relevance.

SW Lane said...

Thanks for providing an example of what I spoke of earlier, Douche.

CircleCityScribe said...

I believe we already had an attorney arrested in Indianapolis for giving a cell phone to an inmate in our jail.

Bottom line, it's unethical, wrong, and in the instant matter, the jury's decision wasn't in line with the law....

Cato said...

Regarding CircleLogic's 7:11 comment, if the Nazi Republicans had their way, they'd have attorneys arrested for providing legal advice and counsel to the accused.

The Republicans have made every non-crime into a felony. Every decent person knows it's poerfectly acceptable for an attorney to let a client use a cell phone. Only a twisted and sick person would try to criminalize a basic and normal act.

The Republican worship of eradicating freedom shows them to be the party of very sick and insecure people who look to the government to empower their otherwise weak lives.

SW, Obama's your President. Every day, you live in an Obama America. The next President will also be a Democrat, and we're on the way to having a fully Democrat Congress. I'm not a big fan of Democrats, but I'll pick them, every time, to keep your sick party out of power.

Cato said...

By the way, CircleLogic, here's a Civics lesson you missed. Juries are above the law. The People are the final authority, and the People rule via juries.

If the law says that it's illegal to buy or sell marijuana, and a jury thinks the law is silly Republican nonsense, the jury can find the person not guilty, and the jury's finding is the law, not that laughable nonsense that that some politicians create under pressure or influence from lobbyists.

SW Lane said...

World War I-Woodrow Wilson (D)
World War II-FDR (D)
Korea- Harry Truman (D)
Vietnam-Kneedy/LBJ (D)

You're such a F-ing idiot Cato, to turn a local issue into a geopolitical one, but since you took it this way, enjoy the above-listed historical reference. I cannot even remember the last time I voted GOP, so once again, you're making screeching rants that have no basis in facts.

Do us a favor and get sterilized, lest you breed any like-minded progeny. One generation of you is enough to bear.

Cato said...

SW, quit being a coward, and quit being ignorant.

The interventionist policies advocated by previous Democrats are sown deeply into current Republicanism. Ron Paul tried to extricate foreign interventionism from the Republican Party, but the fascist wing wanted no part of it.

Quit being a coward, SW. People like you are why the Republicans are being routed and humiliated.

CircleCityScribe said...

I believe Cato is a victim of the 60's.

Bottom line Cato in Indiana the conduct is criminal. If you don't like it, I believe there are plenty of opportunities for you to live your life in Afghanistan, Mexico, and beautiful Iraq. I'm sure Cato would be happier there.

IC 35-44.1-3-8
Possession of a cellular telephone while incarcerated
Sec. 8. A person who knowingly or intentionally possesses a cellular telephone or other wireless or cellular communications device while incarcerated in a county jail commits a Class A misdemeanor.

IC 35-44.1-3-5
Trafficking with an inmate
(d) The offense under subsection (b) is a Class C felony if the article is:
(1) a controlled substance;
(2) a deadly weapon; or
(3) a cellular telephone or other wireless or cellular communications device.

CircleCityScribe said...

P. S. Cato, I recommend you take remedial Indiana Law. While awaiting your enrollment, I'll provide the cite:

Blaker v. State, 130 Ind. 203, 29 N.E. 1077 (1892). On appellate review the Supreme Court approved the instruction but admonished, “the Constitution gives to juries in criminal cases the right to determine the law as well as the facts. It does not, however, give to them the right to disregard the law.”

Cato said...

CircleLogic, the Supreme Court is in no way fit, nor does it have the authority, to tell a jury how to rule.

It's arrogance for a court to think itself fit to tell a jury, its master, what to do or how to rule. Courts are subordinate to juries.

Juries are above the law. Courts are subject to the law and juries.

SW Lane said...

"Quit being a coward and quit being ignorant, SW"

Coming from you, I consider those labels a compliment, as you are the one who has vapors whenever the anonymity of posting is ever challenged, and 99.9% of your drivel is just that, ignorance. But in that your opinion has to mean something to me in order validate it, I'll brush off the labels as meaningless.

If you ever want to drop the nickname and post by your proper name, I'll immediately follow.

(And no cheating, using a name from the obituaries!)

CircleCityScribe said...

Cato, your comment: "Juries are above the law." shows that you are not on the same planet as the rest of us. (...and definitely not the same country.)
Sorry, Cato, you can make your strange comments but there is nothing that implements those comments. (thank goodness)

You have no force of law to back your strange comments, so they amount to nothing more than dreams of a "Victim of the 60's" (which are likely 'herbally' enhanced for effect)
I gave the legal citation. It's the law of Indiana no matter what you say, Cato. It is what you must obey.

Cato said...

SW, you can brush off 2+2=4 as meaningless, if you want, but it's still the truth.