License Restored, for Now

On the ninth day of jury selection in the case of United States of America v. Joseph Biggs, et al, otherwise known as the Proud Boys insurrection case, my law license was suspended for six months by the same Connecticut judge who presided over the judicial train wreck involving Alex Jones and Sandy Hook families. It cast into doubt my ability to continue on the Biggs case, which is pending in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Biggs wants me at counsel table. He has a Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice. So we filed emergency paper work in the federal court in D.C., where we are in trial; in the Washington Disciplinary panel's office; and, in the Connecticut Appellate Court. This afternoon, the Appellate Court granted a temporary emergency stay. I'm "unsuspended," at least for the next few weeks.

The underlying issue is my office's release of medical records of plaintiffs suing Jones to a bankruptcy lawyer working on Jones's case, and to another lawyer representing Jones in Sandy Hook litigation. Neither had filed what are known as appearances in Connecticut or in the bankruptcy case. In the judge's view, that made the disclosures a violation of an order restricting disclosure to counsel of record, a view of the order that is by no means self-evident.

But the judge swings the gavel in her courtroom.

The disclosures came to light when a lawyer in Texas mistakenly sent them to a lawyer representing other Sandy Hook families in a case against Alex Jones pending in Texas. That lawyer made great sport of the mistake in a televised trial, although he never looked at the records nor shared them with a third party. Indeed, the two lawyers who received them did not look at them. No one looked at them in violation of the order.

The judge ruled that the records could have fallen into the hands of others, as though I had mailed them to CNN. It was an and histrionic overreaction to the evidence before her. She also ruled that I had previously disclosed confidential information in violation of the same order. I had referred in general terms in a court pleading to testimony about legal fees and instructions of counsel to a client not to answer questions about who funded the litigation of Jones. I didn't name the party; identify their gender; or, in fact say much more that I just said. It was no violation of the order; not even close.

Connecticut is unique among states permitting trial judges to discipline lawyers for conduct appearing before them. The disclosure at issue occurred in a proceeding the judge either read about in the newspaper or heard about on television. If this is before the judge, then I have played in every Super Bowl I ever watched.

The judge is stunned by my misconduct. Me, I am stunned the state trusts her with a robe and a gavel. Folks are afraid of this judge, and not for good reason.

Why would the judge do this? I think Emerson teaches why: "When you strike at a king, you must kill him." The same, apparently, applied to queens.

My office had moved to disqualify the judge, taken emergency interlocutory appeals to the state Supreme Court -- one of which went to full briefing, and otherwise challenged her ability to be fair and impartial to Alex Jones. We clashed in a televised trial versus Jones, a trial in which she so lost control of the proceedings that she at one point sat gaping as a plaintiff's lawyer and Jones exchanged heated words; I shouted objections as though to an empty room.

We're preparing to appeal the $1.5 billion default judgment against Jones, a case we believe this judge butchered with her rulings.

She got her revenge.

The appellate court has given us 10 days to write a brief about why this stay should extend until we can fully challenge her disciplinary decision, a scornful 49-tract short on scorn and rife with error. It's unclear how long the stay will be extended. We're hoping for as long as it takes to appeal the disciplinary suspension. That's the long game.

The short game is that it restores me to a place at counsel table in the Biggs trial. Mr. Biggs is delighted, as am I. My license to practice in D.C. was questionable given the fact that I had waived into the bar in Washington; the waiver rules required me to me admitted in another state. The rule is less clear about whether I have to maintain a bar membership in another state to practice here. For a day or so, I agreed not to speak while we tried to sort it out. Once the jury entered the room and was empaneled today, I objected. I am still member of the D.C. bar until suspended incident to Connecticut's rule. Mr. Biggs was denied counsel of choice in violation of the Sixth Amendment today. That could taint the verdict, if the Government gets a conviction.

I can live with losing my law license in the course of representing unpopular people and challenging judges who diminish the luster of the robe. But I would have had a hard time being sidelined in the Proud Boys case.

"Objection," I'll likely mutter in my sleep tonight. The government is expected to call its first witness tomorrow morning, you see.


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© Norm Pattis is represented by Elite Lawyer Management, managing agents for Exceptional American Lawyers
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