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Meet The New Spanish Inquisition November 29, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
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IT’S THE S.C. SUPREME COURT, BABY!

FITSNews – November 29, 2007 – Since our coverage of Beattygate and the South Carolina bar exam scandal has probably gotten us kicked off the S.C. Supreme Court‘s Christmas Card List this year, we figure there’s no danger in breaking the news this afternoon that the Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel is reportedly being investigated by federal authorities for the Gestapo-like search and seizure methods it uses in investigating ethical complaints against attorneys.

Employing a tool called the “Demand Subpoena Duces Tecum” – which sounds a lot like a form of lubrication we’d rather not get into – the Supreme Court can send an officer with a badge and a gun into any lawyers’ office at any time (with or without notice) and seize any file they want right there on the spot. In addition to this highly questionable investigative practice, which has been explicitly-sanctioned and employed by the Justices in numerous cases reviewed by FITSNews, the Court also doesn’t seem especially keen on having anybody looking over its shoulders.

Freedom from illegal search and seizure? Due process? Right to an appeal? If you’re an attorney in South Carolina, you can forget about all of those things …

“The attorney discipline process is South Carolina is exclusively under the jurisdiction of the South Carolina Supreme Court,” the Justices write in one of many cases we reviewed. “The South Carolina attorney discipline system does not allow for and expressly excludes any indications of due process in cases. The five members of the South Carolina Supreme Court (have) sole, complete power and control over all aspects of the attorney discipline process. There is no group, political subdivision or any other branch of government in South Carolina that has any authority to review the actions of the South Carolina Supreme Court and its functiorial units. All rules related to attorney discipline show that any actions taken by the functional units are only recommendations to the Supreme Court (which has) complete discretion over all cases.”

Unless we can’t read – and having spent some time in S.C. public schools, that’s a distinct possibility – when you consider the Court’s Spanish Inquisition-style information gathering methods, its disdain for due process and the absence of any recourse whatesover for attorneys to appeal the Justices’ rulings, you’re left with nothing short of totalitarianism.

No wonder none the dozens of attorneys (and attorney-legislators) we’ve interviewed in the wake of the bar exam controversy declined to speak with us on the record. Why would they say anything? Especially when the Court can snuff out the career of any attorney it wants, at any time, for any reason and without any threat of facing the consequences of such an action.

Well, almost.

According to our sources, federal investigators are taking a closer look at the Court’s “Stalin-esque” methods after suspicions were raised in two recent cases involving South Carolina attorneys who were “inquisitioned,” disbarred by the Court and subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

One of these sources, who works for a federal agency in Washington D.C. (one with remarkably far-reaching oversight authority), declined to discuss specific cases with FITSNews, but did say that the Court’s tactics “raised a lot of red flags” within his agency.

And while our source did not confirm whether or not a federal investigation was currently underway, he refused to confirm that one wasn’t, either.

Law enforcement sources back in South Carolina also declined to discuss any potential involvement in an investigation of the Court, although one source did confirm that a former Court investigator was fired last year for “irregularities in the investigation of lawyers,” and that the firing – which was authorized by Chief Justice Jean Toal and former Disciplinary Counsel Chief Henry Richardson – may have been an effort to shield the Court from future problems.

Irrespective of the status of federal or state investigations, the unlimited and unchecked power of the Court – and the potential that exists for its abuse – is downright frightening, and apparently not widely-known among those in the legal profession.

Several lawyers we spoke with for this story had no idea that the Court had such sweeping authority over the profession, but one of them didn’t hesitate to question that unbridled influence in light of the poor judgment shown by the Court throughout the recent bar exam scandal.

“If the Justices are willing to fix a bar exam as a political favor, what’s next?” the attorney told us. “What’s stopping them from wrecking somebody’s career as a political favor?”

Our point exactly.

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Comments»

1. Question - November 29, 2007

What was Toal burying in the flower beds the other day? just curious…

2. Attorney Fears « Not Very Bright - November 29, 2007

[…] 2007 by notverybright Since this blog doesn’t deal in rumors, I’ve not written about this story, which has been circulating out there.  That doesn’t stop seem to stop others, […]

3. Just Another Embarassed SC Lawyer - November 29, 2007

#2

put up or shut up, NVB. if you’ve paid attention to this blog, it is rumor-free, speculation-high, and we’re generally pissed off about this whole damn thing. If you’ve got something of value to add, just do it already. But I’ve seen enough of your crap on other blogs to know you’ve got nothing.

On another note, I was talking with another lawyer tonight who had this to say— despite what Toal may or may not do, Costa would never have gone along with the plan, and neither would Moore, if something shady were involved. In fact, this lawyer speculates that the justices never found out about the phone calls from Harrison and Burch, that the clerk and Hearn kept the phone calls to themselves, and is covering up for a very bad job of bar examination.

I think the idea has merit. You appellate lawyers out there (if there are any), what do you think? you’ve appeared before these folks before, know their opinions like the back of your hands. I have to agree that everything I’ve ever seen out of Pleicones lead me to believe he would never participate in such.

4. Hairball - November 29, 2007

“WARNING sicWILL ROBINSON” Rather, sic(k) willie.

These guys are about to eat you alive. Not because you’re about to harm them. You’re less than a flea on their dogs’ arses.

There’re going to “do it” to you because it’s legal, because they can, and because they want to see the expression on your chubby little face. 😦

5. Pete - November 29, 2007

If one does not believe this story, just call Lesley “Lee” Coggiola at the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and ask her. She can’t deny it. Or call the former head of the ODC, Henry Richardson, Jr. who left the head of the ODC job at 130K a year to be the special legal counsel to the Suimter County Sheriff’s Department.

6. FITSNews - November 30, 2007

NVB and Hairball-

Ya’ll betta axe somebody!

-FITSNews

7. Response to #3 - November 30, 2007

I would like to believe your theory and justices would also I’m sure. However, why would the court take such a hit on this issue just to cover for Hearns and the bar examiners? Wouldn’t they have at least attempted to shift some of the blame to them at some point?

I think you may be right that the justices were not directly contacted, although that is still unclear. However, I think the justices, or at least some of them, “knew what to do” when the question came before them. The absolute flimsyness of the their public statement only confirms that. How they got the information is irrelevant.

As to your regard for their quality opinions. I generally agree with most of Toal’s opinions. Does that mean that I shouldn’t believe that she was involved in two hit-and-runs and a possible DUI? No one is perfect, especially when you are in a position with almost uncheckable power. Sadly, I think the court made a hasty decision in a time of weakness. Clearly they didn’t anticipate the consequences.

8. concerned - November 30, 2007

sic willie, you are right on this one. If a bar member had hit a car and went home and avoided the police after driving drunk, all hell would break loose.

Where was the gestapo when the people of SC needed them?

9. Blog Credibility « Not Very Bright - November 30, 2007

[…] 30, 2007 by notverybright A recent exchange, here and over at FITSNews, has raised an old issue I’ve addressed in this blog before.  That is: How important is it […]

10. Meaning of Liff - November 30, 2007

Nobody expects the S.Ct Inquisition….whose THREE primary means of persuasion are fear, intimidation, subpoeanae duces tecum, and an unwavering devotion to the pope…FOUR, four primary means of persuasion….

11. Rob W. - November 30, 2007

Has the Spanish Inquisition Monty Python meme been mixed with the Spanish Inquisition musical scene from “History of the World Part 1” ? It should be- if there’s anything funnier than Monty Python, it’s synchronized swimming with nuns.

12. notverybright - November 30, 2007

A few points in response.

First, I’m not sure people understand that when I link in my blog to an entry here, that link shows up in the comment section here even though I haven’t left a comment on this site. I’m not trying to throw cold water on whatever fun you people have here.

Second, I’m well aware of how pissed the SC Bar is at the moment and how many of them want something done. But if you think angry, anonymous comments in a blog are going to actually achieve anything, you’re dreaming. What’s your Plan B?

Third, “I’ve seen enough of your crap on other blogs to know you’ve got nothing” is a little vague. What “crap” and what “other blogs?”

Fourth, if this blog accurately exposes facts that need to be exposed, more power to you. The difficulty here is knowing what’s fact and what’s not. The style here makes that determination particularly difficult.

13. George of the SC Legal Jungle - November 30, 2007

#3

Funny you mention Costa and Moore…. you said, “despite what Toal may or may not do, Costa would never have gone along with the plan, and neither would Moore, if something shady were involved.” Costa is so far up Jean’s skirt, if she takes a hard right turn it will break his neck… Moore just wants out of there… See documents posted on http://www.impeachJeantoal.com…. Ironic you mentioned Costa and Moore… they are the two justices who signed an Order with Queen Jean approving the Demand Subpoena Ducus Tecum. Waller and Barnett were smart enought to “not participate.”

14. Bad SC - November 30, 2007

Question to all of you. The fact that a bill is going before the Judicial Committee (headed by Jim Harrison) that will effectively extend the mandatory retirement age of SC Supreme Court justices is something that needs to be brought to light for the general public to know about.

This is not a conspiracy theory… this bill is going before the judicial committee, I believe in January. Here is the link to the Bill:
http://www.scsenate.org/sess117_2007-2008/bills/3082.htm

People, we need to think of how we can get the media to pick this story up. This is further evidence of a motivation on Toal’s part to do a favor for Harrison because it directly affects her. She is the obvious reason that this bill is here in the first place.

Any suggestions on things we can do here?

15. Some one who cares - November 30, 2007

#14-
There are some 500 bills “in” the Judiciary Committee over the course of a two year session. The vast majority of which NEVER get a hearing. The bill to which you are reffering has never had a hearing despite having been introduced almost a year ago. Look at the sponsor, look at the history that the same link will provide you. The bill is going no where fast. It’s not “coming before the Judiciary Committee”. It’s been introduced, it’s been reffered and now there it sits with hundreds of other bad ideas that legislators have drafted up every year. If your going to look to attack some one at least have one or two of your facts strait or in the alternative, know something about the legislative process here in S.C.

16. Para"site" - November 30, 2007

#12

Why do you keep trying to piggyback off this blog and then start talking smack? FYI, your blog is really lame and has ZERO content. You are really making yourself look like an ass.

17. Just Another Embarassed SC Lawyer - November 30, 2007

#7 and #13,

very good points about all of the justices-i do agree with you two (rather than with the lawyer with whom i was talking a couple of days ago) that the idea that noone but the clerk and Hearn knew about the phone calls is rather unlikely.

And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

18. notverybright - November 30, 2007

#16 –

🙂

It must be nice to have the kind of loyalty that #16 has to this blog. Either that or sad in a lonely stalker-scary sorta way.

The rhetorical pattern of that comment rang a bell. The pattern goes: (1) FITSNews criticized; (2) The Commenter (using different names) springs into action to say “Quit picking on this blog because you’re making yourself look like a [whatever].”

If this is not your mother leaving these comments, you have yourself one loyal reader. And, I’d wager, a potential stalker here.

Judge for yourself.

(1) “Point me in the direction of a blog that is run by someone who is witty, free thinking, and not toeing a party line. You can’t, because there are none. … I don’t view Will’s blog as gospel but he does point out the MANY flaws within our State that need to be addressed. But I understand how you can miss all that because he probably called you, or your puppet master, out on something really embarrassing. By the way, quoting ol’ “Edgar Allen” makes you look like nothing more than a pompous ass. Honestly, I wish more people in SC read this blog….” 9. Doc Smith – September 16, 2007

(2) “You were wrong. So don’t focus on minor points presented by your opponents when you need to focus on the major points. Those points are the ones that make you look like a moron.” 36. Here you go GFWYF – November 13, 2007

(3) Why do you keep trying to piggyback off this blog and then start talking smack? FYI, your blog is really lame and has ZERO content. You are really making yourself look like an ass. 16. Para”site” – November 30, 2007

19. Parasite - November 30, 2007

#18

I take credit for 3, but not 1 and 2. I guess you could consider me to be a “loyal” fan as I do visit this site regulary and enjoy the content. I do not agree with everything that Sic Willie says, but I respect his point of view. I am not Sic Willie’s mother nor do I even know him personally.

As for being a lonely stalker, well, you might want to take a look at yourself. Judging by your creepy waterfall banner and almost complete lack of web traffic, I would assume that you are lonely and solitary creature. I might even classify your repeated hostile postings on this site as “stalking”. I am sure you are a nice person and mean well, and I do not want you to take offense to my comments. I just think it would be better for you to let this go because nothing you do on this post will change the facts. This blog is better than yours. Thus, perhaps you could turn your time and energy to improving your own blog instead of bashing this one. Every yin needs a yang. Best of luck!

20. Pete - November 30, 2007

Children, behave. Each go to your corner and sit in timeout for 5 minutes, then get back on task. Cleaning up the South Carolina state government. Don’t make me tell you this again.

21. A lawyer - December 1, 2007

Parasite, you were so busted on those 3 comments. LOL.

And does anyone really question whether Folks is the best means of cleaning up anything? Even if you don’t know his history, this blog leaves you feeling dirty. Notverybright is right. Credibility matters.

22. LOL-BTW - December 1, 2007

haha! busted. Nice try. Notverybright indeed!

23. SC Lawyer - December 1, 2007

A lawyer,
If you are actually a lawyer, which you probably are not. If you are equating credibility with the absence of anonymous sources, then I disagree with your comment. This article is right on par with the use of anonymous sources in this issue because we are dealing with the legal field. The legal field has to answer to the almighty Supreme Court of SC. The issues involved are potentially incriminating to the Supreme Court of SC. No attorney in his right mind is going to go on record non-anonymously and state what he truly believes.

Yes anonymous sources are typically not considered to be the best sources in the world of journalism, but in a “whistleblowing” type of situation such as this… it’s basically all you’ve got and these issues are things that need to be brought to light to the public. Credibility matters, yes, but so does the truth.

I commend FitsNews for taking a risk on publishing this whole bar exam scandal in the first place. It wouldn’t have been brought to the light of day if not for FitsNews… the State did not pick up on it until later. Again, good job FitsNews. Let the haters hate, but at the end of the day you were the first on the story.

24. Pete - December 2, 2007

In his 2003 book, Breach of Trust, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn writes: “Power is like morphine. It dulls the senses, impairs judgment and leads politicians to make choices that damage their own character and the machinery of Democracy.”

25. SC - December 3, 2007

I agree with #23… all we have are anonymous sources because it endangers people’s careers to speak out against the court. This country is founded upon free speech, but sometimes there are reasons out there for one not wanting to be identified for fear of retribution when speaking (think Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal).

When a situation is sticky, you have to go with what you’ve got. And that’s what fitsnews has done with the bar exam scandal and that’s what the State has done to an extent (got to credit them for publishing some anonymous sources too). If you didn’t go with what you had, anonymous or not, then the truth would never come out and we would all have to live under this court’s oppressive ways forever. Be glad that people are brave enough to stand up for what is right, even if they don’t want to play career Russian Roulette.

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Albert Einstein

“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” – Edmond Burke

Just a few quotes that I felt to be relevant. We have good people here who HAVE done something… even if anonymously, and you shouldn’t call those publicizing their comments to be “bad journalists” or “yellow journalists”. Yellow journalism does exist, but it is not concerned with bringing to light what should be brought to light for the good of humanity, but rather it aims merely at selling papers. This is not yellow.


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