Siegelman Daughter: Lawyers Can't Protect Against Unjust Judge

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman's daughter, Dana, provided a powerful insight this week about a rarely spoken shortcoming in the nation's legal system.

Even the best defense lawyers are no match for a trial judge determined to convict, as she told a radio interviewer.

Alabama legal commentator Roger Shuler reported her remarks Nov. 30 in, Dana Siegelman Makes A Profound Statement About The Perils We All Face From Corrupt Judges. Shuler has written hundreds of columns about the Siegelman conviction in 2006 on hoked-up corruption charges before Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama's middle district.

"Former Congressman Parker Griffith said this week that the Don Siegelman case was a 'political assassination' and an 'embarrassment' to the U.S. Department of Justice," Shuler wrote in his most recent analysis, which is worth reading in its entirety. "Neither Parker Griffith nor Dana Siegelman is a lawyer, so they did not pull any punches. Griffith called Fuller 'a weak individual,' but Dana Siegelman went much farther -- and she illustrated the problem that corrupt judges can pose for all Americans."

Dana Siegelman, 27, at right, said on the radio progarm, "We had a great legal defense team--lots of people who really love dad. They are brilliant lawyers, but you can be the best lawyer in the entire world and if you get in front of a corrupt judge, there’s really not much you can do. And that’s where they found themselves."

The Justice Integrity Project has observed such problems many times.

But bar associations and court administrators are not motivated to probe deeply because they operate with an overwhelming presumption that judges are fair, and investigations of attorneys are best undertaken under the "Good ol' Joe" theory of investigation.

As the late Yale Law School ethics expert Geoffrey Hazard once explained to me, bar associations tend to believe at the outset of client complaints that "Good ol' Joe" couldn't be a bad person or a bad lawyer because he doesn't show such tendencies publicly to other lawyers. My column on this included the true story of a lawyer who was permitted to practice his specialty of matrimonial law for years following a criminal conviction -- until, appeals exhausted, he had to report to Connecticut's maximum security prison to begin his sentence for murdering his wife.

We have seen many times evidence of highly offensive unfairness, or at least suspected corruption. But court rules and economic realities restrict those in the legal community with relevant inside information from sharing it in any way likely to be effective.
 
A similar problem hurts the public when rogue prosecutors operate without effective control, although that problem is potentially curtailed if fair judges are presiding. Radio host Tommy Tucker of WWL in New Orleans again invited me to appear on his show Nov. 30 to discuss the latest news regarding a scandal in the U.S. attorney's office in that city.U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's reaction was to give a speech saying he and his team would remain "strong," as indicated by a news clipping below.
 
My suggestion to the radio audience was that the public should also remain strong -- by insisting on due process and other fair dealing from authorities. One way to do so is by signing the Siegelman petition for a presidential pardon, at the left of this column.
 
 
 
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Related News Coverage

Parker GriffthLegal Schnauzer, Dana Siegelman Makes A Profound Statement About The Perils We All Face From Corrupt Judges, Roger Shuler, Nov. 30, 2012. Making a joint radio appearance with GOP former Congressman Parker Griffith, Dana Siegelman cut to the core of her father's case -- and shed light on the issue of judicial corruption, which plagues our justice system at both the state and federal levels. Griffith called her father's trial judge "a weak individual," but Dana Siegelman went much farther -- and she illustrated the problem that corrupt judges can pose for all Americans. The issue came up when the radio host asked about possible recourse, considering that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case, and noted that "a raft of lawyers" must be working on a case that involves such a clear injustice. Dana Siegelman's reply?

Justice Integrity Project, GOP Former Congressman Decries Injustice for Siegelman, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 27, 2012.  A Republican former congressman provided new momentum Nov. 26 for petition drive to free former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman from the unjust prison sentence he is serving. Former Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith, right, described Siegelman's seven-year sentence as a "political assassination" in a remarkable interview by Lila Garrett on KPFK, a Los Angeles-based radio show available nationwide.

Washington's Blog, Alabama Judicial Scandal Could Taint Many Cases, Not Just Siegelman’s, Andrew Kreig, May 19, 2012. An Alabama newspaper has exposed a judicial sex scandal that deserves national prominence — which it’s not getting so far. The May 17 headline was “Federal judge’s lengthy affair with court worker is exposed.” U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller An Alabama newspaper has exposed a judicial sex scandal that deserves national prominence — which it’s not getting so far.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

WWL-TV, Letten: 'We are strong. We will not be distracted,' Nov. 29, 2012. U.S. Attorney Jim Letten went on the record Thursday about the online ommenting scandal in his office. Letten addressed the issue at a luncheon in downtown New Orleans. "Your United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana is strong," Letten told members of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. "We are focused. We are fully engaged and moving forward, only forward without missing a step." A bold statement from a man whose office is under fire. Earlier this month, Letten's then-First Assistant Jan Mann admitted to posting comments about ongoing investigations and newsmakers on a local news website. This spring, another former top prosecutor Sal Perricone resigned amid similar revelations. Letten, making his first public statements since Mann's activities were outed in a defamation lawsuit, focused on restoring confidence in the work of his office. "Know this, neither I, nor this U.S. Attorney's Office will be distracted or deterred from fairly, aggressively, relentlessly investigating, pursuing and prosecuting those who violate our laws," said Letten. Despite the misconduct on his watch, Letten still had plenty of supporters in the room full of local law enforcers and business leaders.

Justice Integrity Project, Judge May Grant New Trial for Police Suspects In Katrina Killings, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 26, 2012. A New Orleans federal judge will consider a new trial for five of the city's police officers convicted in the killings of city residents in the chaos after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  In an order issued Nov. 26, U.S. District Kurt Englehardt said he would await a Justice Department internal investigation before ruling on a motion by defendants seeking a new trial because of misconduct by high-ranking members of the local prosecution office. U.S. Attorney Jim Lette has led the New Orleans-federal prosecution since his appointment in 2001 by President Bush.