Tuesday, May 31, 2005

In Oregon The Scarlet Letter is P.

My Way News

It’s not that a former prostitute can’t teach in Oregon, it’s just that they won’t let her. That’s right; a conviction for prostitution at anytime in your life is a lifetime bar to getting a license and job as a schoolteacher. Now I am not advocating putting active street prostitutes into elementary schools and letting them teach minors. I am however wondering how a crime which is a misdemeanor (a less serious offense) can work as a lifetime prohibition to a career in the teaching profession.

I have been working with people in the adult entertainment field since I started practicing law. I have represented everyone from street-walking-male-transvestite prostitutes, to expensive escorts, from strippers and strip club owners, to madams and even a few adult entertainment movie “stars.” I have never once interview one and found that the work they were doing was a life long dream. In fact most of the lower pay scale sex industry workers (street prostitutes and pimps) were in “the life” (their euphemism for the work they do) because of drug addiction alcoholism and other social and medical problems. Few of these people get out of “the life” intact. Many die of disease or are murdered or suicide. Others just keep falling out of society deeper and deeper into homelessness and despair.

Those higher up on the food chain of the sex industry have a better chance of making it. If they are young enough and pretty enough they can bring in a lot of money for a while. The work and “the life” take its toll on a young person. There is nothing worse than seeing a kid just starting out in that business. They are still hopeful that it will all be over in a short while, and still optimistic enough to think that they can beat the odds. See them just a few months later and it is sad to say you see a dull glaze in their eyes. They are cynical and keep others at a safe distance. They build a wall around themselves so high that few if any can scale it. They grow cold toward others and their chances of coming out normal have all but faded away into the night. They often turn to drugs to help them block out the work and the people.

Now of course this is not everyone’s experience. Some of these kids find true love in a john who takes them off the streets, or out of the massage parlors, and takes care of them. However, that is so few that it is almost a statistical anomaly. Others however do make it out. They are smart enough or lucky enough to meet someone who will mentor them. Someone who will help them reach goals they used to dream about in better days. Many of my clients’ are here because the have no other skill that can pay them enough to keep them clothed and fed with a roof over their heads. Many suffer abuse and have no choice; they either play... or die. Others still have little children with no one to help them care for them physically or financially.

So then why do I think that the Oregon law is so awful? Because every so often someone of them makes it. Every so often one saves enough to get a home, or to pay tuition or to get the mental or physical help they need. Every so often one will surprise you. If you think that those that make it out have no value, you are just burying your head in the sand. What those kids can teach another about perseverance and keeping out of the gutter is amazing.

From the beginning of my career in criminal law, I have always tried to get this group to the next level of their life as quickly as possible. I have advised many of these (mostly) women on how to save money and how to find a financial adviser or accountant. The result of my work has yielded some truly amazing stories.

I have one former client who has finished medical school after 2 years of being a NYC street walker and homeless person. She cleaned up in a shelter for battered women that I took her to after securing her release from custody. Her pimp had been beating her from the time she was 16. It has been sixteen hard years. Now in her 30’s, she is an OB/GYN. She donates her time to a charity that works with runaways. She is giving back and she has told me I was her inspiration for that. I have a couple of law school graduates and more than a handful of social workers, schoolteachers, and even a couple of psychologists in the group.

This week I am attending one of my former client’s graduation ceremonies. She is getting her Master’s degree. She was a homeless mother of a young child when I met her. She became pregnant in her last year of college and left school. The baby’s father is of no help and her own family thinks her a disgrace. At least they did until she achieved her master’s degree. They were not there for her when she needed them so she did it on her own, (with a little encouragement from some others and me.)

I hope that her case will not come back to haunt her. She took the road she had in front of her to clothe feed and shelter her little one and herself. I am of the belief that she will be a great public servant and a role model to many women in the future. I already have her mentoring a young Hispanic mother who is trying her hardest to make it out of “the life” and into a program that will help her to become a teacher. We are not there yet. She is still working out there, but she has potential.

Imagine what would happen to her if she lived in Oregon. Imagine more what will happen to the kids that she could mentor. Like the Doc, the lawyers, and the shrinks we have worked with, she too has the ability to help others not be where she is. In Oregon, they fail to see the value in having someone who has “been there.” They only see the scarlet letter on her chest. They do not care about the child she raises while still a child herself. They are oblivious to the sexual and physical abuse she endured that led her to the work she now does. They fail to see the value of the person she is and can be. They focus instead on a behavior. They would rather point at her and ridicule than learn from the rich lessons that she can teach. Seeing and encouraging potential in a person is what a leader does. The state house in Oregon is devoid tonight of leaders.

Shame on leaders who will not lead! Opinion polls should not be the sole basis of political decision-making. Polls need to be consulted no doubt about it, but sometimes you have to lead people through a forest and hope they will not hate you for it in the end. That too is what leadership is.

Those of my clients who have been in this crazy life and made their way out, have more insight into human nature and more courage than the entirety of the state senate and the state assembly of the state of Oregon. I pity the taxpayers there.

If you want to comment, you may leave one here, or, you can write to me directly, by visiting our website at www.colleluorilaw.com.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Testilying: Where perjury goes unpunished

Public Defender Dude: PD Liable in Rampart Frame-ups

There is a joke that criminal defense lawyers sometimes tell when they talk about cases like those cited above. It goes something like this "Q: How can you tell when a cop is lying A: You see his lips move." Cynical? Yes. But like all jokes there is a grain of truth to it. The fact is that police perjury, or testilying, is a reality that supports a bigger lie, That a trial is a search for the truth. It can't be unless all of the witnesses do in fact tell, at least their version, of the truth.

What bothers me most is not the idea that police lie. No group: police, lawyers, judges, politicians, is immune from having bad apples. What bothers me is the level of toleration for such behavior if it comes from a person or group that is supposed to uphold the law.

I once had a trial with a very good Assistant District Attorney. A real straight shooter if ever I met one. We both agreed after the trial (which I miraculously had won) at least two of the police witnesses had lied. I asked my friend what he would do. He shrugged and said he was going to report it to a superior in his office who would let it drop. I asked why they would not prosecute what I saw as a clearly important case of wrongdoing. The reply astounded me and to this day disappoints me. My friend said " If we were to go after these guys, Win lose or draw we get trouble. We give defense attorney's fodder for their cannons and we may lose a bunch of important prosecutions of drug and mob guys." He continued, "their friends and the rest of the patrol, rather than see us as watchdogs will see us as soft on crime. They think of us as a team and when you turn against one of them you are the enemy of all of them. Our office cannot afford an adversarial relationship with the police." So why report it at all? "Well next time they come in with a case I will not have to handle it." This of course reminded me of Pontius Pilot who "washed his hands" of his deeds. Sure that police officer is no longer your concern but...

People ask me all the time how I can represent those people who are guilty of crimes against others. I guess it is because more than anything I have come to realize that the worst crime I can think of is convicting someone who is innocent, especially because someone wanted to profit, advance their career or do something else other than solve a crime by arresting and reforming the wrongdoer for their action. When we stand quiet for such behavior we too become a part of it, we are complicit in its wrongdoing. I have always felt that a crime by someone against someone else is not as bad as a crime committed in all our names against any one or more of us.

The political realities of a prosecutor's office are such that I do not think they are the one's to bring this type of behavior to for punishment. Rather I think there should be a special prosecutor appointed by the courts to oversee police and government corruption and perjury. There should be laws that force compensation from the wrongdoer's pension to the person who has been wronged ( after all the people of the state should not have to pay twice, once for the wrongdoers salary and once again because he fails to do his job) and there should be a further requirement that any other compensation above and beyond that given from the pension fund be reduced from the budget of the police department and prosecutor's office that permitted the atmosphere of corruption to exist. That might curb testilying. May not cure it but if it stops just one innocent person from being set up by a cop or prosecutor, it will have been worth it. Maybe then we can believe that a trial is in fact the search for the truth and be closer to most of our definition of justice.

Friday, May 20, 2005

In the absence of leadership the people will drink sand

My Way News

There is a scene in the film The American President when an advisor played by Michael J. Fox tells the president, played by Michael Douglas, that the people want leadership! In the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert to a mirage and when they discover there is no water, they will drink the sand.

As often happens in the world of criminal law, fear rules the politicians and other so called "leaders." Those that are supposed to govern fear the loss of their jobs. Hence, they pander to the fears of the public. They do easy things that have little positive effect but seem hardlined,rather than do and say things that can really makelife better.

The news story above is a perfect example of how people in power treat the rest of us like mushrooms. They don't tell us the truth. They keep us in the dark, and they throw manure on us. The new "no sex offender" rules at all Six Flags amusement parks is the perfect example of the "mushroom phenomena."

It seems the good folks at Six Flags were sued last year, because a worker at one of their theme parks molested three(3) children. They were hit with a six figure settlement. Their answer to the problem? They have decided to ostracize anyone who has ever been convicted of a sex crime whether they are an employee or a visitor.

According to the Associated Press:
"Six Flags added wording on the back of (2005)season passes to all 30 of its U.S. amusement parks this year stating that it reserves the right to refuse entry to anyone convicted of a sex crime. The amusement park said it does not actually plan to run background checks on everyone entering the park, but visitors seen acting inappropriately could be subjected to a check and thrown out."

Didn't they already had a right to throw out anyone in the park who acts inappropriately? So why am I complaining about this rule? Because it is nonsense. It is meant to give unsuspecting parents the idea that Six Flags parks are safer because of this rule. It is not true. It is no safer than last year. It is however an idea that will catch on because it is easy to do and costs the park nearly nothing. It does however ostracize further, a group of people who have a bunch of problems to begin with. Worse yet Sex offenders have no one who can fight for them, as they are on the outs in their communities,schools, even in their own families.

Soon we will hear about how it is legal to ban them at church! ("I don't want to sit next to this guy, he is on that sex registry even though his "crime" was having sex with his 15 year old girlfriend when he was 20, 40 years ago.")

How about this as a solution. Six Flags will step up security at their parks. They will do a better job of screening their employees. They will also give instruction about this crime to their supervisors. Then they can give a great big donation to groups that work to rehabilitate offenders.

Oh, I can hear the great masses now: "You call yourself conservative? Don't you know you can't rehabilitate a sex offender? You have to keep them off the streets for as long as possible, and once the get out, keep them out of your town. They are dangerous"

WRONG. I have worked on a great many sex offense cases, and I can tell you (and so can most other professionals in this area) many of these individuals can be helped. Some however cannot be helped. Sex offenders fall into distinct categories, and their rehabilitation experience must be tailored to their needs individually.

In fact those most likely to reoffend after successful rehabilitation are those that molest children under ten (10) years old of the same sex.
Rehabilitation is very possible for over 80% of offenders. It is costly and lengthy. In fact it is a well known theory that jailing most sex offenders makes it harder to rehabilitate them.

A Recent study in Canada following nearly Five Thousand (5000) offenders found:

"...using the data from 10 follow-up studies of adult male sexual offenders (combined sample of 4,724). Results indicated that most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually, that first-time sexual offenders are significantly less likely to sexually re-offend than those with previous sexual convictions, and that offenders over the age of 50 are less likely to re-offend than younger offenders.
In addition, it was found that the longer offenders remained offence-free in the community the less likely they are to re-offend sexually. Data shows that rapists, incest offenders, “girl-victim” child molesters, and “boy-victim” child molesters recidivist at significantly different rates. These results challenge some commonly held beliefs about sexual recidivism and have implications for policies
designed to manage the risk posed by convicted sexual offenders." .

So if this is true, why not spend our tax dollars helping those we can help, and further incarcerating those we cannot help? Because it is easier to tell us none of them can be rehabilitated. Then pass a few laws that play into the fears of our constituents over incarcerate offenders so we seem tough on crime.

From the days of Sen. Joe McCarthy (actually earlier, try the Salem Witch Trials) politicians and so called leaders, foster mass hysteria for their own political gain, and then to keep their jobs blame a straw man for the problem that they refused to address. This has always been the answer for those that will not lead but will stand up at the mike and sell us sand.

Mine is not the popular view of sex offender correction, and it is not one that the parents of the injured child want to hear, but most sex offenders can and should be rehabilitated as quickly as possible. Not only is Jail not a deterrent to a real sex offender but it actually can aggravate the problem, most, if not all of the time. Again I am not advocating light jail sentencing for all sex offenders. I understand that there are a some that will be recidivists and in fact will probably take bigger chances in order to get their thrills. I am however saying, that passing stupid rules or ineffective laws makes us no safer. It fosters a false sense of security which could lead us to be less diligent. In fact it surely doesn't help us to address the issues in an honest and forthright way.

That is the real crime here. That we are not safer and could be in greater danger, and we are not talking about it because no one has the intestinal fortitude to confront the conventional thinking.

A true conservative wants government to interfere in the lives of its citizens as little as possible. Politicians who call for keeping someone in prison for even one day longer than necessary to rehabilitate them, are not conservative. They are lazy and are wasting our resources. Those are not conservative values. Waste is a tool of the left who love throwing money at a problem even if it fails to yeild a desired result.

It is time for true conservative politicians to start having the hard conversations about the principals in our Constitution, its Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Now those guys in 1776, They were leaders.

As always if you want to reach or speak to That Lawyer Dude, you can reach me here by leaving me a message or sending a email through the contact page of our website: www.colleluorilaw.com

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Everyday heroes

Man's greatest actions are performed in minor struggles. Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment and poverty are battlefields which have their heroes - obscure heroes who are at times greater than illustrious heroes.- Victor Hugo

A number of times each year, it seems the people we serve up as heroes to our young, fail us. Ballplayers take steroids; a singer molests a kid, or drinks and drugs; a politician has their hands in the wrong pocket or some other more tawdry place. I am sure the problem is not that these people are all that bad, as I am sure that they were never all that good. I mean what qualities qualify them to be roll models anyway. Being able to run faster, or jump higher, or make friends easier, does not qualify for hero status in my book. No, in fact many who do have these gifts are rare to share them. It may be because of the heavy scrutiny they are under, or the pressure of their career forces them to keep others away.

No, the heroes in my book, are those that suffer with us when we fail, or when we hurt. They are the people who are there for us when no one else is home (or when others are hiding behind their curtains too afraid to come out and be counted on our side.) They toil on our behalf for little or no renumeration and no thanks. They aid the poor and often take money from their own meager wages to help out those even less fortunate.

Many are very talented, but because they are dedicated, (and I mean really dedicated to a proposition far more important than money) they stay and work for ridiculously low wages in ridiculously harsh circumstances. They get the scorn not only of those whom they prevail against, but also of those they serve. They are the most underappreciated lot of professionals I have ever met. They are Legal Aid Society Counsel, Public Defenders and Assigned counsel lawyers.

These folks take on the wrath of the court house and the courts. They take the toughest cases, ones that no one else will handle, and they rarely say no to any assignment. They occasionally do snap (usually when a client they have worked hard for announces that he wants a "real lawyer" thinking that someone he doesn't pay either is not that smart, or not willing to work that hard.) In actuality many people are far better off with legal aid lawyers because they can rarely afford a lawyer who has that much experience trying criminal cases.

May is Law month. It is the time when we celebrate our being a nation of laws not one of cult or of tyranny. I would like to dedicate this month this year to lawyers for the poor and accused. I would like it to be dedicated to the men and women of the Legal Aid Society, the Public Defender's office and those that work as Assigned Counsel in the courts. I would also like to dedicate it to the memory of a friend and collegue Tom Concannon who was the head of the Federal Defenders Bureau of the NY Legal Aid Society in the Eastern District of New York. Tom was the quintessential public defender and he will surely be missed.

If you have any comments feel free to leave them here or contact me directly at www.colleluorilaw.com.

The Positive Review

The Positive Review

Hey we have a new sister!! Check her out and let us know what you think. Leave us a message or write to us at home at www.Colleluorilaw.com. Hope you enjoy her and can use the information in this new venture

Friday, May 06, 2005

Honor thy Mother and get suspended from school! Happy Mother's day..Not

Student Suspended for Call to Mom in Iraq

That Lawyer Dude has always had profound respect for school teachers. They taught me to read and write, opened my eyes to a world beyond my home town and stoked the fires of my dreams when I almost gave up on them so many years ago. The same cannot be said of School administrators. The story above is just the type of thing that boils my disdain for those that "administer."

Seems that a High school Junior (age 17) was suspended for accepting a telephone call on his cell phone from his mother who is serves our country in Iraq. When he was told to end the call he said, "this is my mom calling from Iraq. I am not hanging up on my Mom." I say RIGHT ON! No one knows when the next time will be when he speaks to her. In fact as I am sure he is painfully aware, there may never be a next time. Hang up? Because of some silly school rule? I would be hard pressed to think of anything short of shooting breaking out over there that could get me to hang up first.

I tend to like teachers as jurors. You see I have found that teachers are very good at paying attention to rules. Hence when I am trying a case, a teacher on the jury is like a watchdog. She is bound to keep the jury focused on the issues and on the rules of law such as: "Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" and the "Presumption of Innocence." There is little room for free thought in a jury room, when it comes to such important bedrock principals such as those received in a jury charge. I do not want jurors who guess at what "really" happened. I want them to determine only if what the prosecution alleges happened, was proven by the government, beyond a reasonable doubt. Teachers understand the principals and pay attention to the rules. They also have the courage to say when they disagree, and seem to respect others who disagree with them in the jury room. Two very sought after traits. I have never lost a case where I have had a teacher as the jury foreman.

Administrators are another story entirely. I get frustrated with them because they are so stringent in their rules. They think that their rules are inviolate, and I have met very few who understand the meaning of flexibility of the law. They often over react when challenged, and have difficulty admitting mistakes. They do not like to have their behavior questioned. They do not see themselves as public servents, however they are not protected by tenure, they are not their to teach, they are infact public servents and just like any other beauracrat they must be held accountable for their decisions and behaviors. They are policymakers. Their refusal to see that every rule has an exception often leads to ridiculous decisions that are indefensible (even by good defense lawyers like me :) )

How great a child psychologist do you need to be to realize that a seventeen year old boy whose mother is serving in a forward position in Iraq is bound to be a little protective of her and maybe a little touchy about getting to speak to her 2 days before Mothers day? Suspension?! How absurd. Even if the child did become verbally abusive (which happened after the fact) is there no understanding of the stress that kid is under, especially at this time of the year?

Now an Administrator will tell you that "if we make an exception for one we have to do it for all." WRONG!! Exceptions are exactly what they are. They get decided on a case by case basis, and if you cannot differentiate between an emergency or a situation that calls for rule bending, and one that does not, then you should not be in a position to make the call to begin with.

Another favorite is "our lawyers said that this is the rule and so we must follow it to the letter or risk lawsuits." Yes, it is a very good idea to listen to your lawyer. In fact one who pays a lawyer and doesn't heed her good advice is an idiot. However most seasoned lawyers would tell you that laws are living breathing documents. They are to be applied in appropriate doses and at appropriate times. If I were this school district's attorney, I would quickly advise them to end the suspension, clear the child's school record, and see if they could arrange for the kid to speak to his mom through the military's lawyer on Mother's day. I would also speak to the idiot assistant principal that decided the discipline and try to teach him how to apply the rules of law (and my advice) so that he doesn't tick off half the people in the district; county; state; and nation.

Now for those that do not understand why am so upset that I would write a column on this issue, let me be real blunt. I have been ambivalent about our involvement in Iraq. I do not believe it is morally wrong for us to be there, but I am very "confused" about why we went. This does not in any way lessen my concern and admiration for those that are there doing our bidding. Our service men and women are brave and honorable people who have agreed to sacrifice their families, their careers and their lives for our enduring freedom. This does not mean that they are saints or that they do not have to be held to a high standard of conduct (as the recent El Gahrib prison scandal has proven), it does mean I think they and their families deserve a little slack from those over here who benefit from their sacrifice.

If I had been the youngster whose mother called him on the phone I would not have hung up either. After we had finished our call, I would have reminded the "powers that be", that there is a commandment that says "Honor thy Mother and Father." Hanging up on his mom would not be in keeping with the spirit of that commandment. I know of no commandment that says Honor the stupid inflexible rules of self important overpaid executives who cannot see the forest for the trees.

I hope someone in the state of Georgia has the guts to stand up and say that the adults in this situation made a mistake. I hope that they have the power to force an apology to this child and to the rest of the military families they have insulted, and that they will try to do better to distinguish the shades of gray in life. That type of behavior would be a really good teaching tool and a great lesson for their students. I only hope they have the ability to admit a mistake and the wherewithal to right it. Lastly if these denizens of scholastic society do not set things straight, I hope there is a lawyer there just as angry as me who makes them pay for their inflexibility. Then they might "get it" so that this zero tolerance garbage is better understood to mean zero under normal circumstances. War has never been, is not and hopefully will never be, a normal circumstance in any child's life in this country. Let us all pray this Mother's day that it is not a circumstance we ever become accustom to.

One more thing, I hope for the sake of all our soldiers families, that they are all safe this Mother's day and that they return to their families soon. Very soon. That's it for today. As always you can reach That Lawyer Dude by leaving a comment below or by visiting our law firm web site at www.colleluorilaw.com Have a happy and safe Mother's day.