Are Michigan courts so easily compromised?
While observing the actions of Asst AG Harry Martin just prior to him throwing in the State’s towel on the Mark Baker case, the untrained eye easily recognized the disdain being heaped upon a private citizen in a courtroom.
But there was considerably more on display, and I’d like to point it out to you.
All attorneys are required to live and work in accordance with a Code of Ethics. The Code is written, very specific, and well-known to all who have passed the bar exam, and to many who did not. At no time is an attorney allowed to address another attorney’s client without the express permission of the clients attorney, and it must also be in the presence of the client’s attorney so the client is protected.
When the Asst AG left the Defense Counsel’s table and walked over to the Plaintiff’s table to confront Mark Baker, you’ll notice he didn’t ask permission to speak to Baker. He just barged right in, commenced to throwing his weight around, and completely trashed his obligations and responsibilities as laid out in the aforementioned Code of Ethics. And sadly, Baker’s attorney didn’t rise to the occasion and give the Asst AG a verbal backhand for his transgression.
But it gets considerably worse.
In order for our judicial system to be held in the highest regard, and to prevent even a smidgin of doubt about whether or not justice is indeed impartial and blind, it is illegal for any attorney to have an ex parte meeting or conversation with a judge about a case the two of them are involved in.
In other words, when an attorney is speaking with a judge about a case, whether in the courtroom or in chambers or anywhere else- the other attorney involved in that case must be present and completely aware of both sides of the conversation.
You’ll notice the Asst AG telling the courtroom observers that he had spoken with the judge prior to the previous hearing that was cancelled as a result of the conversation, because the Asst AG did not appear at the pre-scheduled time. He claimed it was because of the weather- which is likely, but the weather does not give him license to participate in an ex parte communication.
A considerably more appropriate- and legal, way to handle that situation would be for a court administrator to have made the call to the Asst AG.
Typically, when one party to a case fails to appear for the pre-scheduled hearing, the court determines regularly that they have conceded their case. The court has the prerogative to reschedule the hearing due to extenuating circumstances, but you better believe that if it’s a defendant who is late or absent for a hearing, the significance of the absence is acknowledged and a bench warrant is quickly issued. Absence in a civil hearing is also quite significant-and provocative.
Disturbingly, this is the second time in less than a year that I have observed a case where the DNR is being sued, an Asst AG is not at the hearing, the presiding judge has engaged in an ex parte communication, and the hearing is rescheduled.
This illustrates a double-edged problem here in Michigan.
For starters, we have what appears to be an attitude of court ownership in the AG’s office, or at a minimum, expectations of special treatment or a legal playing field disheveled in their favor.. They feel they don’t have to make diligent efforts to arrive on time, or at all for that matter, and they can confidently assume the court will ignore the inconvenience and right to a timely address ofgrievances by citizens of the state.
And apparently, judges are all too willing to ignore expectations of timely, blind justice, above board, and disinfected communications with members of Attorney General Bill Schuette’s cadre of boorish assistants.
And to make matters worse, the case against the Baker family, and how it was handled, also reeks of frivolousness and cronyism and perhaps most concerning and scurrilous- arbitrary use of laws and regulations as a weapon of the state.
For example, when the state wants to leave the door open for future attacks by including “Other characteristics not currently known to the Mi DNR that are identified by the scientific community” in it’s Declaratory Ruling, you realize it’s only a matter of time before the other jackboot drops.
Does anyone really believe that “climate scientists” are the only scientists willing to sell their souls?
This isn’t the rule of law, this is just plain old tyranny- pure and simple.