President of Alabama State Bar replies to charges of misconduct by Bar member US Attorney Leura Canary: I’m not interested so stop contacting me.


J. Mark White, President of the Alabama State Bar, responded to my e-mails regarding the unethical conduct of Leura Garrett Canary, who is herself a member of the Alabama State Bar. Here is his e-mail, quoted in full, and my response to him.

E-mail from J. Mark White, Esq., President of the Alabama State Bar:

J. Mark White <mwhite@waadlaw.com>
[other e-mail addresses deleted]
date Sat, Dec 6, 2008 at 7:42 PM
subject RE: Alberto Gonzales and Leura Canary named to Top Ten Prosecutors list for 2008
mailed-by waadlaw.com

Please do not send additional emails to me. If you have a complaint file it with the Alabama State Bar. The process and forms are on the web site. If you feel so strongly about this matter please exhibit the courage to file a formal complaint. I assure you complaints are handled in a professional manner. Emails to a mass of people accomplish nothing. Take me off your email list.
Mark White

Mr. White,

Thank you for replying to my e-mail. At your request, I’ve removed your name from my general e-mail list.

Responding to allegations of unethical conduct by affirmatively requesting to receive no further information does nothing to advance the credibility of your claim that complaints of attorney misconduct in Alabama are handled professionally. Consider also this e-mail I received from Roger Shuler:

About three years ago, I filed a bar complaint against Bill Swatek, the lawyer who filed the bogus lawsuit that started all of my legal headaches. The Alabama State Bar didn’t even investigate it. Swatek has a 30-year history of ethical problems with the bar, including a suspension of his license.

Under bar rules, an attorney with that kind of history is supposed to be scrutinized even more heavily when new complaints arrive. Also, the fact Swatek was opposing counsel (not my attorney) is supposed to irrelevant under bar rules. He still owes a duty to the opposing side to conduct himself in an ethical manner.

When I questioned the bar about their failure to act on my Swatek complaint, one of McLain’s staff people at the time admitted that they get so many complaints that they usually don’t do anything with the ones involving opposing counsel.

Not exactly an awe-inspiring example of professionalism. He has a more at his blog.

Mr. White, I specifically copied you on only two (2) e-mails. I first copied you on the e-mail I sent to Tony McClain, the General Counsel of the Alabama State Bar, because he has the authority to initiate a disciplinary investigation on his his own motion based on information he receives or acquires from any source. This e-mail regarded the unethical conduct of Leura Garrett Canary, a member of the Bar of which you are the elected President. I then also copied you on an e-mail announcing that Leura Garrett Canary had been named one of this country’s Worst Prosecutors for the year 2008.

However, someone of your professional and personal accomplishment should realize that I didn’t just add your name to ‘a mass of people [who can] accomplish nothing.’ Check again the first e-mail you received from me. Note that I copied you on these e-mails in your professional capacity as President of the Alabama State Bar Association. I did this to establish that you have – at a minimum – constructive knowledge of Ms. Canary’s conduct.

Your reply, however, also – rather amateurishly – confirmed that you actually received both of my e-mails, including the first e-mail in which I tediously detailed for you Ms. Canary’s unethical conduct as well as the specific Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct that her conduct violated. You, therefore, also confirmed that you are “[a] lawyer possessing unprivileged knowledge of a violation of Rule 8.4” by Ms. Canary, pursuant to Rule 8.3, Reporting Professional Misconduct of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires that you “shall report such knowledge to a tribunal or other authority empowered to investigate or act upon such violation.” [My emphasis] As explained in the Comments to Rule 8.3 , your “failure to report a violation would itself be a professional offense.”

When you were elected President of the Alabama State Bar Association, it was reported that your theme ‘might be “justice for all.”‘ Your press release from the Alabama State Bar states that “the goals of [your] administration would be[] ‘to remove barriers to justice for Alabama’s poor, to embark on an immediate course to change the nature of state judicial elections, and to champion efforts that increase the public’s confidence in our system of justice…'[, and that key] projects will include … [a]ssisting the bench and bar in improving civility and professionalism . [My emphasis] My hope was that you would receive my e-mail and live up to your words. However, your reply establishes your words are without the substance of conviction.

And none of this is changed because I publish anonymously. There are many reasons, as you know, to publish under a pseudonym not the least of which is sound tactics. It wasn’t cowardice when Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense under the pseudonym Publius. Since publishing his work was an act of treason punishable by death, it was self-preservation. Thanks to men and women like Thomas Paine, the words I publish are not treason. But even though I won’t face prosecution for treason, don’t believe that I face no threats because I choose to publish as I do. And it’s not paranoia if they ARE out to get you . The ounce of prevention anonymity provides me – hopefully – is just a pound of cure but it does not make me a coward. Anyway, I don’t think that you even believe your charge of cowardice.

But it especially surprised me that a self-proclaimed champion of the integrity of the justice system who wants ‘justice for all’ would resort to calling me a coward especially while displaying true champion’s courage by asking me to leave him alone. Although you claim to seek justice for all, you have failed to actually do anything when the cause of justice demands action. In short, Mr. White, the question must be directed to you: where’s the courage demanded by your own words?

Please also note that I have removed you from my general e-mail list, but I will continue to send e-mails to you in your official capacity as President of the Alabama State Bar. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, your computer department can show you how to digitally stick your head in the sand (just ask them how to block my e-mails). Alternatively, you could resign as President of the Alabama State Bar Association since you don’t want to fulfill your obligations to the Alabama State Bar and the public you swore to serve.

E.M.

Crossposted at Oxdown Gazette.

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4 Responses

  1. hey e.m.!
    happy new year!

    as a non-lawyer, my only contact with the bar association (here in south floriduhhhhh) resulted in nothing but aggravation. i called and wrote to them to complain about 2 lawyers who misrepresented their experience to me. one of them outright lied to me and took money he was not entitled to. the bar did absolutely nothing whatsoever. it seems that you need an attorney in order to hire an attorney in this state if you don’t want to get ripped off. i thought that the bar would be different when it comes to high profile matters like the siegelman affair, but i guess i was wrong again.

  2. And a happy New Year to you as well Nonnie.

    Generally, about half of all complaints against attorneys come from the grieved attorneys’ clients and most of those complaints stem from fee disputes or dissatisfaction with the results of the representation. And even if the attorneys with whom you dealt were appropriately cleared, the process still left you with the impression that justice was not served. Experiences like yours are why it’s incumbent on attorneys to insure that they police their ranks. If these attorneys acted unethically, they should have been sanctioned and it shouldn’t require an act of Congress for a typical citizen to have her grievances addressed.

    Instead of hiring an attorney to hire an attorney, one of the best ways to hire an attorney is by getting referrals from friends.

    Regarding high-profile matters, I think that adding politics only makes it harder for the discipline process to work effectively, especially if/when the unethical attorneys’ are allied with those attorneys that have the power to regulate (or not, depending on their political whims).

  3. Hey e.m.,

    http://geneo.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/an-open-letter-to-president-obama/

    I think I’m really back. :)

    That one is intended to make a point and encourage people to think. This one elaborates my concerns. http://www.leftinalabama.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=3387

    I’d appreciate your opinion on this matter. I consider the advice I give in the second link to be prudent, but I need to make sure I’m not hitting the wrong notes and risking making people more fearful than they really are.

  4. er “than they really need to be.”

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