Aug
30

Censorship In Paradise?

Whither Joane Garcia-Colson?

I wrote about Joane's departure from Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College a few days ago. She was executive director for the past nine years. Rumor has it she fled the ranch under a cloud, taking with her a fat severance package. I wondered whether her departure was related to the departure of board members in years passed. Was the college pruning all but those punch drunk on Kool Aid?

Since writing the piece, I received a series of emails, some as comments on this page, others privately. I can't say I've stirred a hornet's nest. Those affiliated with the ranch are too savvy to acknowledge criticism. Ignoring critics is passed off as refusing to share power; call if the flip side of the oft-repeated big lie that becomes "truth." Ignoring dissidents and difficult questions can also yield conformity: Humming in unison becomes the music of the spheres.

But a bunch of we mosquitoes are raising questions.

Why is the ranch perceived as belonging to the college when, in fact, it belongs to the Spence Foundation? Are donations used to make improvements to an entity over which the college has no control? Are the boards of the Spence Foundation and the Trial Lawyers College so interlocking as to really reflect the will of one group, or, as the case may be, of one man? What are the terms of the lease between the college and foundation?

I was curious to see if Joane weighed in on the topic. So I went to the Trial Lawyers College website. I checked the list of alumni blogs. My blog was not listed, which is fine: I've not sought, nor am I seeking, a listing. But Joane's is listed on the college website at http://www.ljgc.wordpress.com/. So I clicked on and received a note that her blog is "temporarily unavailable." Try it youself: The college's website is http://www.triallawyerscollege.com/. I did not have that problem with any other blog listed on the page.

So I typed in the address of Joane's blog. Lo and behold, I can retrieve it; I just cannot retrieve it through the college's website. Has she been blacklisted from the tribe?

The title of her last piece is "Blind Loyalty, Betrayal and Self-Preservation: The Silencing of Dissent." It is a bitter piece that names no names. It has the feel of being written just this side of a non-disparagement clause in a separation agreement. Why is her page now suddenly unavailable via the college's website? Is there now censorship in paradise, too?
Comments (6)
Posted on September 2, 2009 at 9:01 am by G
Dear Norm:
Why would anyone teach at one? Why d...
Dear Norm:

Why would anyone teach at one? Why did you teach at TLC? Why did you stop? What compels you write this blog? And if you were upset with the way the school is being run why didn't you just send Gerry a letter? Or an email? You write him about your tough cases? And he helps you. Why wouldn't you just shoot him a note and ask about the finances? Like any good reporter would do? Lots of whys?

Why would anybody want to go all the way out to Wyoming to teach at a school that they are afraid of the person they are learning from? Why would they want to teach his methods? What a horrible life to lead,

Maybe they really don't want to teach his methods. Maybe they want to teach their own. But they want the people that come to learn from him for their students. But the students didn't come to learn from them, they came to learn from Gerry, and they came to learn his methods.

Over the years I have had dozens of issues with the school's program and I have taken them up with Gerry in private. And always he listened. Sometimes I was flat out wrong, sometimes I was right. And when I was right it caused change in the school. He listens very, very, well.

But challenge any great leader in front of his tribe and he will shut you down. He has to. To do otherwise would show weakness. Challenge him in private and you become a trusted friend.

A public challenge is a statement that the challenger wants to be leader. It may be done under the guise of "discovering the truth" but really it is an attack on the other person's leadership. This will cause the loyal members of the tribe to gather and attack back. It has been played out a zillion times over history, just as it is being played out here.

Why start your own school? If you are unhappy with the school you are presently in, it would be the sane thing to do if you didn't want to bother with the all the politics of changing the one you are presently a part of. It is really easy to do. You start with one student and if you are good your fame spreads. If you are bad it turns into a very short career choice.

Gerry was unhappy with the law schools so he started his own program. I'm VERY glad he did.

And Norm, thank you for giving us all an opportunity to be heard.

G

Posted on September 2, 2009 at 4:38 am by Norm Pattis
Folks:
Someone want to tell me who these folks ar...
Folks:

Someone want to tell me who these folks are? I can figure out who Bettinger is. But I don't know who genius is and I'd like to know who anonymous is, or is suspected to be.

A note to Genius: Why would anyone open their own school?

N

Posted on September 2, 2009 at 2:03 am by Genius
Dear Anonymous:
You are a beautiful writer. I ...
Dear Anonymous:

You are a beautiful writer. I am so sorry the lecture bombed as it did. You have my apology for boring you. But you should have gotten up and left. I did when I got bored with the psychodrama stuff we have all done a thousand times. And you should've stood up for Carl. If he is truly your friend. But you didn't. So I will.

Carl is a brilliant lawyer - I just read the transcript of his entire trial he scored the big one on - it is stunning work. I learned from it. A wonderful mind and a real asset to the college. And I felt sorry that I bored him as well. If I had known that someone that bright was in the audience I would have talked about more interesting things. Gerry told me how brilliant he was so I tried to talk to him several times before the lecture, but he wasn't open to talking. I guess he is kind of shy. So I was left clueless who my audience was. So I dumbed down the lecture. Which bored you too. Sorry.

I have never said that I was a genius - Gerry says that - but our conversations are different than any open lecture I would ever give. And the highest paid part is easy to do - I'm a lawyer - most trial consultants aren't. Again, sorry it offended you. It offended me that I even said it. My own insecurity raising its ugly head.

But honestly, people come to TLC to learn from Gerry Spence, they don't come to learn from Anonymous - or even Carl. They come for Gerry Spence. Even the great lawyers come to learn from him. If you think you know as much as he does you should open your own school. You can call it Anonymous TLC. But you won't do that, instead you will spend your life hiding behind his name, too scared to go out on your own, and too afraid to stand up for your beliefs. And that is who you are.

But I went to TLC too. So I will offer you some free advice. Show some courage. And if you get tossed out of TLC start your own school. Its easy if you really are as brilliant as you think you are. I'll be your first student.

Genius

Posted on September 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm by Anonymous
I notice on the list serve that some of the TLC "t...
I notice on the list serve that some of the TLC "tribe" have asked for your banishment from the list serve. Something must be wrong here.
I think these cool aid suckers and fringe suckers prove your point about censorship by calling for your banishment. What a bunch of hypocrits. Guess they learned nothing at TLC.

Posted on August 31, 2009 at 12:00 pm by Anonymous
I have checked it out and you are right, they have...
I have checked it out and you are right, they have disconnected the link to Joanne's blog. Sad and pathetic. Guess TLC does not believe in free speech.

Posted on August 30, 2009 at 10:26 pm by Anonymous
Censorship in Paradise? Something must be wrong he...
Censorship in Paradise? Something must be wrong here. TLC is based on love, openess and honesty. All opinions, even the voices of dissent are honored and valued at TLC. Really???? Who spiked the cool aid?

Anyone who was at staff training as I was knows that censorship is alive and well at TLC, or "Mecca" as the new president calls it. During a presentation one morning by Gerry and an invited guest, the alleged and self labeled "highest paid trial consultant in America," and a "genius" as Spence described him, the staff were asked by Gerry to give honest feedback about how they were feeling about the presentation. Believing that "honesty" and "openness" were more than empty words but truly valued principals of both Spence and TLC, one of the staff, Carl Bettinger, responded truthfully -"I am bored." To this Spence bristled more than a little mildly, got angry and threatened to pull the plug on the session. Spence acted like a little child throwing a tantrum when he doesn't get his way so threatens to take his toys and go home. To be honest, this session was boring, was of little value, and had wasted nearly a day and a half of valuable staff training time. Carl wasn't only speaking his truth, but spoke the truth of many of us who were present. But Gerry's message was clear - he doesn't ever want criticism, just accolades; he doesn't want the truth and if you give it, he will get angry and punish you. How dare Carl speak the truth and say what many of the staff were feeling.

At the next meal, I saw Gerry in the corner of the cookhouse with his two trusty sidekicks, including the new president, holding court with the invited guest and speaking in a voice loud enough to be heard across the room, badmouthing Carl for speaking up, claiming he (Carl) was seeking to take over the college, that he had malicious motives for speaking up and that he, Gerry, would in no uncertain terms let him know that his comment was not appreciated and would not be tolerated. In fact, Gerry used more foul words and labels to describe Carl than I have ever heard spoken on the ranch before. His comments were outright mean and cruel. And no one stopped him. No one spoke up. No one defended Carl. The two trusty sidekicks, both members of the board and one of them the new president, sat and encouraged Spence to continue his tirade against Carl. And these are the new leaders of TLC? I was disgusted.

The next morning, Spence called Carl to meet with him and they spent 4 - 5 hours together with Spence woodshedding Carl and taking him to task for speaking up and speaking his truth and that of many staff members. Spence worked Carl over good. He verbally beat him down. I saw Carl later that day and he was a beaten man, sad, hurt, in pain. He asked those of us who were angry at how he was treated to please not speak up because it would only make things worse, both for Carl and for anyone defending him.

Spence then proceeded to publicly humiliate Carl in front of the entire staff at the next morning session and made Carl apologize to the staff for speaking up. It was simply horrible and painful to watch. But perhaps the worst part was that the staff sat in silence and permitted one of their most trusted and loved fellow staff members to be treated so horribly, humiliated and muzzled for the indefinite future. The message sent to all of the staff was, essentially, do what I say, speak not against me, criticize me not, or I will punish you. So, is there censorship at TLC? You bet there is! And we are all guilty of enabling Spence and the rest of the TLC leadership to treat those who have given so much, like Carl, in such a hateful manner. We promote what we permit.
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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis

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Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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