Category Archives: Law

THE RETURN OF RENEE GILL-PRATFALL?

Sat, 29 Dec 2007 16:35:07

No the dipshit former Councilwoman and State Rep isn’t planning to run for office BUT she’s been nominated for an administrative position at Dollar Bill U SUNO. LINK. According to a former senior SUNO staffer Gill-Pratfall is completely unqualified to act as director of recruitment and a bunch of other stuff. But SUNO is one of the last places that the Klepto Congressman has any pull and RGP is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dollar Bill Inc. Is this a major scandal in the context of Debrisville muck? No but it *is* a travesty. Plus I love the nickname that I gave her so much that I never miss a chance to deploy it. Repeat after me: Gill-Pratfall.

In other tales of Debrisville muck: former Council Prez and convicted felon Oliver (the Bad Actor) Thomas’ friends held a political style fundraiser for his family. I have nothing against Oliver’s wife but he should have socked away his bribe money for a rainy day instead of once again putting the bite on campaign contributors. Oh well once a pol always a pol…
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THE SLOW EDDIE BLUES: SECOND VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST

Thu, 19 Jul 2007 15:48:36

Orleans Parish DA Eddie Jordan appeared before the City Council’s criminal justice committee yesterday to defend the indefensible; aka his record. Unfortunately some of the usual suspects (no not Kevin Spacey) showed up to defend Jordan on racial grounds. According to his defenders those who oppose Jordan are all racist rednecks which is manifestly preposterous. If anyone has the time to do some digging I suspect that we’ll learn that some of Slow Eddie’s defenders have ties to Dollar Bill’s machine. LINK.

My friend Brian Denzer has posted his reaction to yesterday’s hearing at Citizen Crime Watch. It’s an impassioned hearfelt and beautifully written post. Well done Brian. Thanks for all your efforts to make this a safer city. Please don’t get too discouraged: New Orleans needs your passionate advocacy.

CROSSING JORDAN

Wed, 18 Jul 2007 14:26:28

Crossing JordanSlow Eddie

 LEFT: Jill Hennessy as a cranky teevee ME. RIGHT: Slow Eddie Jordan inept real life DA.

The teevee show Crossing Jordan was recently cancelled and most New Orleanians would like to see the Slow Eddie Jordan District Attorney show canceled as well. I’m not standing up for Jordan: he’s been a bad and even worse stubborn DA. He seems to need remedial lessons in how to pick up the phone and talk to the NOPD. BUT I think one should look before one leaps. What happens if Slow Eddie beats an uncharacteristically hasty retreat? According to my diligent friend Celcus the First Assistant DA Gaynell Williams will replace the man who appointed her. I’ve only seen her on the teevee news from time to time but she doesn’t appear to be the brightest bulb in the lamp. Do any of my lawyer readers have any first hand experiences with Ms. Williams that they’d like to share?

The impulse to see Slow Eddie’s head on a pike is understandable but Ms. Williams is unlikely to be a better DA than her boss: she’s the first assistant so she’s part of the problem. Since Dollar Bill’s hatchetwoman Stephanie Butler controlled patronage at the DA’s office Ms. Williams is one of their peeps. This may be why some on the City Council want to bring in a special counsel to oversee the prosecution of violent crimes in the parish in lieu of demanding Jordan’s resignation. I’m not sure which would be the better choice BUT I’m not sure that creating a new incumbent is the best idea come the next election: Slow Eddie is toast but his replacement might have a shot. 

The *real* problems at the Orleans Parish District are institutional. The mass firings of experienced support staff and investigators at the beginning of Jordan’s tenure have demoralized the office ever since. I know an ex-ADA who was approached for one of the newly created higher paying jobs who declined because she didn’t want to work for Jordan and his minions which is in turn I realize another argument for his resignation.

There’s little doubt that Eddie Jordan has been a disaster. The arguments for his resignation and/or removal are compelling ones. I don’t however expect that he’ll resign or be removed until he faces the voters. Make that *if* he faces the voters. Slow Eddie’s critics need to keep the pressure on but they should also start shopping for a candidate to replace him at the next election.
That’s the end of my stint as the village contrarian; for now that is.

DOLLAR BILL’S HOUSE OF CARDS…

Wed, 20 Jun 2007 16:58:38

…appears ready to fall down and go boom-boom after the latest shoe dropped. Jeez talk about tortured as well as mixed metaphors. Former NOLA School Board President and Jefferson ally Ellenese Brooks-Simms had pled guilty to taking a bribe from <drum doll> Dollar Bill’s big brother Mose. Mose Jeff was paid $500K as a “consultant” by a software company and he in turn slipped $100K to Ms. Brooks-Simms.

Brooks-Simms was <you guessed it> first elected to the School Board as a “reformer” and “fiscal watchdog.” So her plea washes away the alloy of hypocrisy that clung to her during her tenure on the board. There’s nothing worse than people who steal from school children and I’m glad to see her hoist on her own petard. But at least she’s not a cheap crook: $100K is a nice piece of change.

This story is reminder of why we have the cumbersome bifurcated post-K public school system. The NOPSB cannot be trusted. Like Ms. Brooks-Simms they all claim to be “reformers” when they run for office but the reformist urge seems to pass upon victory.

It will be very interesting indeed to see who in Dollar Bill’s extended family will follow him and Mose Jeff into the dock. Dollar Bill’s allies (and enemies too) have treated the Orleans Parish school system like their own private piggy bank for years. I think those who steal from children should be placed in the stocks at various locales throughout town to be pelted with rotten fruit and veggies.

Oyster has more on this delightful delicious and de-lovely development. LINK.

LETTEN NAGIN OFF EASY?

Thu, 07 Jun 2007 16:33:18

The NOLA blogosphere’s lone investigative Zombie Ashe Dambala has yet another interesting post. It’s based on the comments of an anonymous reader about *why* the otherwise hyperactive US Attorney Jim Letten has left C Ray and his cronies alone. The information is unverified but it makes a world of sense. What follows is informed (I hope) speculation.

Here’s the gist of the post and my extrapolations therefrom: C Ray was a Republican until running for Mayor. His former aide and ex-Repub State Legislator Garey Forster (who also brokered the Couhig endorsement) spoke to Karl Rove about NOLA politics and told him that C Ray was the best Mayor they were going to get in NOLA. The upshot of this conversation was that C Ray has been left alone whilst they’ve investigated the hell out of the Morial administration which has the added benefit of bugging Senator Mary Landrieu. Landrieu as you may recall was elected by a whisker to her first term in 1996 and went through a Senate investigation as to whether her victory was due to Morial based voter fraud. A Senate committee chaired by John Warner (R-Va.) didn’t find any voter fraud and Mary was seated.
Back to Jim Letten. In the last few months we’ve learned a lot about how the Bush Justice Department is run. The US Attorneys who did NOT play ball politically were fired by Gonzo and his henchmen at the behest of the White House. Jim Letten who is a career prosecutor survived the Gonzo gate purge. He must have been playing ball on the focus on Morial scheme which also made sense from a prosecutorial sense: the Morial administration was rife with patronage and corruption. In short Letten could have his political cake and eat it too without becoming a complete Bush sycophant and whore. He appears to be a very gifted bureaucratic infighter as well as a talented courtier.
The recent raid on the LIFT production company offices indicates that any forebearance that Letten had for Nagin and his cronies may have ended. The Nagin regime was actively involved in the Treme film studio scheme that may be part of the Federal investigation into LIFT.
As I said at the beginning of the post I’m drawing inferences and trying to connect the dots on this thing. Dambala’s information comes from an anonymous source but it makes sense. I also don’t mean to cast any aspersions on Jim Letten: on balance he’s been a very good US Attorney. BUT career prosecutors are rarely appointed US Attorneys; especially not in the Bush-Ashcroft-Gonzalez years. Letten was in fact acting US Attorney for years after then Governor Foster’s choice Fred Heebe withdrew after giving everyone the heebie jeebies over allegations that he abused his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend.
Anyway it’s going to be very interesting to see how the LIFT story unfolds and how Letten’s office handles cases involving C Ray’s cronies in the future. Jim may no longer be Letten Nagin off easy.
Jeffrey and David have more on this story.

THE FAMILY JEFFERSON

Tue, 05 Jun 2007 16:44:44

It took a very long time due to the FBI’s arrogant decision to raid his Congressional office but a massive 16 count indictment has been handed down against Dollar Bill Jefferson. I’ve skimmed the indictment online and the case looks solid. It seems NOT to rely on the evidence gathered in the still under appeal search.

 Like Maitri I’m a bit sick of the endless Dollar Bill controversy but I do think it’s worthy of ongoing discussion. Jefferson   his family and associates have been major players in NOLA politics for some 30 years. Dollar Bill has *always* been ethically challenged which is why nobody was surprised about the frozen dough in his freezer. His re-election was equally unsurprising his main opponent Princess BOLD d/b/a Karen Carter ran an incoherent and inept campaign which consisted of proclaiming “I’m a reformer” over and over again. Her refrain was unconvincing and her campaign was as they would have said in the 1930’s from hunger.
Back to the indictment: in perusing it I was struck by how much evidence there seems to be against Andrea and the Dollar Billettes. (Sounds like a doo-wop group doesn’t it?) I suspect that the prosecution will dangle threats of family indictments as a means to get Dollar Bill to cop a plea. Thus far he shows no signs of doing so BUT he does have Big Daddy/Pater Familias syndrome: his relations are the only people he seems to care about. He certainly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about his constituents. The Picayune has once again demanded his resignation but I assume they know that it’s as likely as C Ray going four sentences without saying man man.
For other views of the indictment check out the TP’s Stephanie Grace Schroeder Oyster and the only person who thinks Dollar Bill will walk Mr. Gloomy Pants of the yellow blog. I’m sure others will chime in soon as well.
 
UPDATE: Celcus pulls out his 12-string guitar and strums up a helluva post about Dollar Bill. LINK.
 
UPDATE TOO: Josh Marshall has an amusing clip up at Talking Points Memo about the Fox Noise Channel’s inability to tell one African-American Congressman from another. LINK. 

MUGGED BY REALITY: INDIGENT DEFENDER DISPUTE FOLLOW-UP

Tue, 26 Sep 2006 04:32:31

Last night’s episode of “The Wire” turned my thoughts once more to the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Program (IDP) mess. Retired police Major Bunny (Father Of Hamsterdam) Colvin took a job as a contact person for an academic study on kids and crime. The professor guy wanted to study 18-21 year olds until Bunny gave him a sample of how far gone they really are. It was the academy colliding with the real world and getting its ass kicked.

In what passes for the real world here in post-K Debrisville law professors are trying to recreate an idealized version of the IDP and keep getting mugged by reality. Professor Steve Singer failed to show up for a contempt hearing Friday but Judge Frank Marullo lifted the citation because what he’s really after is a *realistic* reform of the system. Judge Marullo has asked the 9 members of the new and allegedly improved IDP board to appear before him on October 25th. Here’s the money quote from the Picayune piece:

“If the philosophy is to crash the system to fix it that’s crazy ” Marullo said. “If you crash that system you’re destroying the city of New Orleans. You’re destroying one of the pillars of our system here that keeps everybody civilized.”

This is what happens when people take the “clean slate” notion literally. Repeat after me: there is NO clean slate. The academics who think they can bring Platonic perfection to the Orleans Parish criminal justice system need to rethink their absolutist agenda.  Back to Judge Marullo:

“All I’m interested in is that the system works ” Marullo said Friday. “There is an excuse for everything these days and its name is Katrina. I don’t even want to hear the word anymore. These people charged with some of the most heinous crimes they need representation. They are sitting behind bars and nobody is representing them right now. If they don’t have representation everybody loses. The whole community loses.”

Former senior indigent defender Dwight Doskey wrote an impassioned op-ed piece for Friday’s Picayune. Doskey is being held hostage by the dispute between the purist reformers and the judges. The Louisiana Supremes refused to allow Doskey to withdraw from representing 20 capital defendants which violates their own guidelines for the number of capital cases any one attorney can handle. Additionally Doskey lost his house to the flood and no longer lives in Orleans Parish as required by the law. Also Doskey is NOT being paid to handle these cases. It’s a farce y’all. Here’s how Doskey closed his article:

“The Supreme Court’s vote is not an expression on the legal merits of my argument. It is simply a statement that it either does not have the time or the inclination to intervene at this time. But when will it?

I realize that the judges want the system to work. Most would prefer not to dictate how the public defender system should operate and there are legal arguments to the effect that judges do not have the power to so dictate.

But this is a broken system. The defendants in my 20 death penalty cases will receive ineffective representation and therefore even if they are convicted they will be granted new trials years from now — when witnesses have vanished. (In the meantime I will be in bankruptcy.)

Without a functioning system of public defenders victims lose defendants lose the citizens lose. Public outcry is the only way to force our elected Supreme Court to participate in reforming a sadly depleted system.

Wednesday morning I was appointed to yet another capital case. This one is a quadruple murder.

Start yelling now.”

Where’s Howard Beale when you need him? 

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES PART TWO

Sat, 16 Sep 2006 15:54:36 

The other day I discussed the new regime at the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Program (IDP.) I expressed some reservations about the academics who have swooped down on the system to save it from the ancien regime. Another shoe has dropped. But before I riff on current events allow me to digress; as if you had any choice. Many moons ago when I was a Tulane Law 1L” I had Gary Roberts for Civil Procedure. The very first thing Roberts wrote on the board was this: Rule #1-Never piss off the judge. He went on to tell us that even if the judge was a jerk and an idiot we had to act as if they knew what the hell they were doing. Why? They’re mini-dictators in their courtrooms and while you can walk up to the edge of insubordination you have to know when to stop. You should stand up for your client but do NOT disrespect and/or insult the judge in the process. Why? Your client will be the one who suffers in the end. Repeat after me: Never piss off the judge.

Back to Professor Steve Singer the new big cheese at the IDP. He’s violated rule #1 by pissing off Judge Frank Marullo. He’s been asked to show why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to appoint lawyers in 3 capital cases. Why has Singer moved so slowly? Because all the experienced capital case lawyers have either quit the IDP or have been reassigned due to Singer’s changes. Of course the contempt threat is more of a wake up call than anything else but it’s what happens when you lip off like this to the Picayune:

“[Singer] cited a recent review by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance that found the system was “court-based rather than client-based ” meaning attorneys were more focused on the needs of judges than defendants.”

That may well be true but trash talking the judges is only going to piss them off Mr. Singer. Judges *like* the system to revolve around their needs. If you want to change that you have to do it quietly rather than bragging about it to the local rag. Also if you’re going to make sweeping changes make sure that you can try cases while the system is in transition.

So newbies at the IDP please repeat after me: Never piss off the judge. 

POST-SCRIPT: I know what you’re thinking: what about Judge Elloie? Judge Elloie deserves public condemnation for his bonding policies. BUT if I were trying a case in his courtroom Rule #1 would still be in effect. Why? Your client’s fate is in his hands and a lawyer’s duty is to the client and not their own opinions. Case closed. 

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Tue, 12 Sep 2006 16:11:20

I’ve decided to take a break from my new career as a tabloid blogger and take a brief look at some recent reforms made to the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Program (IDP.) There was an article in today’s Picayune about the culture clash between new IDP honcho Steve Singer and Judge Terry Alarcon. Singer is an academic (Loyola Law) who is attempting to implement his ideas in the rough and tumble of the real world. The Judges aren’t very happy thus far and with good reason: the reforms have had unintended consequences  6 of the most experienced defenders have quit. Why? The IDP is no longer allowing defenders to work part-time. In the abstract this sounds like a good thing but in the real world it has led to the resignation of 2 experienced lawyers who handle capital cases. It would have been wiser to phase in the reforms and to grandfather in people like Robert Jenkins who is one of the ablest criminal law practicioners in the South.

I must confess that turning over the IDP to academics gives me pause. Singer does have some real world trial experience but he’s mostly motivated by a crusading spirit. Let’s hope he doesn’t get worn down by the day to day grind of dealing with incompetent ADAs cranky judges and lying clients. The system clearly needed reforming pre-K I only hope the new IDP board and their lawyers have staying power. The criminal justice system has a way of  turning idealists into cynics. It will be interesting to watch.

FOTI’S FOLLY FOLLOW-UP

Wed, 19 Jul 2006 14:12:02

I posted somewhat in haste yesterday based on the assumption that the press knew what they were talking about. Why on earth did I assume such a thing? I plead temporary insanity. I should know that the media knows absolutely nothing about the legal system. The Memorial Hospital Three were “accused” of murder by the AG but not “charged.” The press assumed more co-operation with the Orleans Parish DA’s office than had really happened. In short Charlie Foti has dumped a 3 ton sack of shit in Eddie Jordan’s lap. Splat.

I think that my colleague Dangerblond cut to the chase in pointing out that Foti’s posturing may have more to do with potential civil cases against Tenet than with a criminal case. If that’s so Foti’s posturing is even more shameful. It is highly unusual to arrest people who have NOT been formally charged in the context of an 11 month long investigation. Mr. Foti was too busy pandering to religious leaders and posturing for the cameras to consider the irregular nature of his actions. I suspect however that Foti was disappointed by the low key national coverage of the initial announcement: they’re too busy covering that pesky Middle Eastern crisis to give Charlie more play.  Sorry Charlie.

Finally I continue to find the allegations by Foti to be incredible: would an experienced MD run around informing staff that she planned to dispatch patients? Not bloody likely. This sounds like a cartoon version of the real world. Patients are eased out of pain and allowed to die in peace every day.  I suspect that the people who scream the loudest about “mercy killing” haven’t seen close friends and relatives die slowly and in agonizing pain. I have and it taught me that there are things that are much worse than death.

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