Archive for the ‘Attorney General’ Category

Former Kansas AG Phill Kline is suspended from law practice for at least 3 years

October 22, 2013


Rejecting an attorney discipline administrator’s call for disbarment of a former Kansas attorney general, the state’s supreme court on Friday indefinitely suspended attorney Phill Kline.

Now working as a visiting law professor at Liberty University in Virginia, Kline is expected to be able to continue in his job there even if he does not have a law license, the Kansas City Star reports. He can reapply for bar admission in three years.

Kilne’s lawyer, Thomas Condit, called the 154-page ruling by the state’s top court “not an acceptable result” and said he and his client are exploring their options for further action. Condit said “there was never any deliberate dishonesty” on Kline’s part and said the disciplinary action resulted from “cherry picking” comments that Kline made over a period of more than five years and taking them out of context.

At issue in the case was Kline’s conduct both as AG and Johnson County district attorney concerning investigations of abortion clinics operated by the late George Tiller in Wichita and by Planned Parenthood in Overland Park. Kline accused the two clinics of violating state law concerning abortions and shielding pedophiles by not reporting when underage girls sought abortions. Kline sought medical records.

He brought a criminal case against Planned Parenthood in 2007, which a subsequent AG opted not to pursue. It charged the clinic with falsifying records and providing illegal abortions, reports the Associated Press. Tiller was acquitted by a jury in 2009 on all 19 counts in a misdemeanor case alleging that he illegally performed late-term abortions. The physician was murdered later in 2009 while he was attending church in Wichita with his wife.

Tiller’s lawyer and the forewoman of a Johnson County grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood accused Kline of misleading the court and mishandling evidence, resulting in the legal ethics case against him. Kline has complained that the case was politically motivated, fueled by those who object to his views on abortion.

Although the supreme court did not agree with all of the conclusions of a three-member disciplinary panel, it found that Kline had violated 11 legal ethics rules and what it called a pattern of misconduct with a selfish motive. The supreme court also expressed concern that Kline has not acknowledged his wrongful actions.

Among other misconduct, Kline failed to properly advise a grand jury about applicable law, gave false and misleading information to courts about the handling of patient medical records from abortion clinics and instructed his staff to attach sealed documents to a public filing, in violation of a court order, the supreme court found.

Full Article and Source:
Former Kansas AG Phill Kline is suspended from law practice for at least 3 years

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Mark Zahner, chief elder abuse prosecutor for CA AG Kamala Harris’ DOJ, steps down amid criticism of selective enforcement

August 3, 2013

California’s chief elder abuse prosecutor is leaving office amid sharp criticism that he has selectively enforced criminal elder abuse laws against a small number of vulnerable, small-fry defendants while sparing the principal malefactors of systemic elder abuse, the wealthy, politically connected, corporate-owned nursing homes.

According to reliable sources, Deputy Attorney General Mark L. Zahner, who, since at least 2003, has been the chief of prosecutions for the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA), in the California attorney general’s Department of Justice (DOJ) in Sacramento, is stepping down from his position at the end of this month. Mr. Zahner is reportedly leaving his office to head an association of district attorneys in California.

Source:
Mark Zahner, chief elder abuse prosecutor for CA AG Kamala Harris’ DOJ, steps down amid criticism of selective enforcement

Deal allows Galveston judge replacement

June 22, 2013

GALVESTON – Indicted Galveston County Court-at-Law Judge Christopher Dupuy agreed Thursday to a deal allowing a replacement judge to be named until criminal and civil cases against him are resolved.

Although Dupuy is under suspension by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, a second suspension order was sought in a civil lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and local attorney Greg Hughes.

The suspension in the civil lawsuit will allow visiting District Judge Robert Kern of Fort Bend County to appoint a temporary replacement in County Court-at-Law Court No. 3.

Noting that Dupuy is already suspended, Assistant Attorney General David Glickler called the second suspension “an exercise in legal gymnastics.”

Dupuy was indicted last month on eight criminal charges relating to his conduct in office, including two felony charges of official oppression. A Galveston County grand jury issued a ninth indictment last week accusing Dupuy of improperly practicing law as a sitting judge.

Dupuy would be removed permanently and automatically from office if convicted of one of the felony charges.

Full Article and Source:
Deal allows Galveston judge replacement

See Also:
Indicted Texas Judge’s Ex-Finance Changes Her Story

Retraction and Apology to District Judge Kerry Neves of Texas

Indicted Texas Judge’s Ex Fiancee Changes Her Story

June 9, 2013

Yet another twist in the case involving a Galveston County judge who was indicted on criminal charges last week. You know the story the ex-fiance’ told about the judge wanting to kill his ex-wife and kidnap his children and live with them in New Zealand? Well, was it just that, a story? Tara Compton testified Wednesday saying Dupuy had started moving forward with making the plan a reality. She says he bought a gun with a silencer, purchased bars of silver to cash in later, sent her a picture of a house in New Zealand, said he knew someone to buy fake passports from and she says he discussed staging a boating accident on Christmas vacation so they could then disappear to New Zealand and she says the plan was to tell his kids their mom was killed in a car crash.

This emergency custody hearing where all of this testimony is taking place was called after these allegations surfaced. Compton had also said she was afraid of what Dupuy might do to her. Well, today, two days after giving the other testimony, Compton’s story wasn’t exactly the same. She’s now telling the court there was no plan to kill Dupuy’s ex-wife and no plot to take the kids out of the country.

Instead, Compton told the court Dupuy was just frustrated and stressed and it was a simple conversation, not anything he planned to carryout. “He said IF he was going to do it (kill his ex-wife) that’s how he said he would do it by going to his ex-wife’s door wearing a ski mask or get a low-life to do it and have an airtight alibi. He didn’t say he would do it,” said Compton on the stand.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Galveston Judge Ex-Fiance Changes Her Story

See Also:
Indicted Texas Judge Christopher Dupuy Faces More Troubles

Retraction and Apology to District Judge Kerry Neves

Alabama AG Applauds the Protecting Alabama’s Elder’s Act

May 30, 2013

Attorney General Luther Strange applauded final legislative passage of the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act. The bill extends and strengthens legal protections from financial exploitation and physical or emotional abuse for all people aged 60 and older.

“I am pleased that the Legislature has strengthened our state laws to provide special protections for all who are 60 years or older,” said Attorney General Strange. “Previously, such protection applied only if the victim was defined as physically or mentally impaired. Sadly, experience tells us that criminals repeatedly target older people as victims, and the law passed today is a strong weapon to combat this.”

The Attorney General’s Office was actively involved in leadership of the Interagency Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, which crafted the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act. The Council was created by the Alabama Legislature to examine this problem and suggest solutions. Members include representatives of about 30 various law enforcement, judicial, legal, health and senior advocate agencies and other organizations.

Full Article and Source:
AG Luther Strange Applauds The Protecting Alabama’s Elder’s Act

Texas Judge Christopher Dupuy Indicted on 8 Criminal Charges

May 23, 2013

A Galveston County judge has been indicted on eight criminal counts charging him with abuse of office, including retaliation against the attorney representing the judge’s wife in a divorce case.

The indictments, presented to state District Judge Kerry Neves by attorneys from the Texas Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday, accuse County-Court-at-Law Judge Christopher Dupuy of two felony counts of obstruction or retaliation, two misdemeanor counts of official oppression and four misdemeanor counts of abuse of official capacity. If convicted on any count, Dupuy would be automatically removed from office.

He was arrested about 3 p.m. and posted bail of $19,000 about two hours later, Galveston County sheriff’s spokesman Major Ray Tuttoilmondo said.

Dupuy could not be reached for comment and a spokesman for the attorney general declined to discuss the case.

The indictments offer few details, but they were presented only hours after a Galveston County attorney filed a civil lawsuit seeking the judge’s removal from office. The petition for removal accuses Dupuy of failing to obey an order from a state appeals court, abusing his authority by retaliating against attorneys and threatening the district clerk while attempting to interfere in Dupuy’s own divorce case.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Indicted on 8 Criminal Counts

See Also:
Retraction and Apology to District Judge Kerry Neves of Texas

NY A.G.: ‘Abusive’ Photos Taken of Local Nursing Home Patients

May 18, 2013

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Wednesday that two certified nurses’ aides have been charged with taking gruesome, illegal photographs of 11 patients at a trio of area nursing homes.

The A.G. reported that the aides, both Centereach residents, violated the patients’ privacy and trust, taking photos of one patient’s bedsore, a video of a dementia patient “riveted with fear,” and other instances Schneiderman called “abusive and alarming.”

“These aides engaged in actions that are illegal and will not be tolerated in New York,” Schneiderman said. “The people engaged to take care of our most vulnerable citizens have a special responsibility, and I will do everything in my power to protect the right of every New Yorker to safe, respectful and quality care.”

Schneiderman said the 11 incidents occurred at Woodhaven Nursing Home in Port Jefferson Station, Jefferson’s Ferry in South Setauket, and the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook.

The two nurses, 25-year-old David Rover and 23-year-old Thomas Mocera, were both arraigned in a 15-count indictment – all felony charges – on Tuesday in Suffolk County Supreme Court. Rover is charged with seven counts of unlawful surveillance, one count of dissemination of an unlawful surveillance image and two counts of offering a false instrument for filing. Mocera is charged with five counts of unlawful surveillance. Each count carries a sentence of 15 months to 4 years imprisonment.

Rover had been arrested in March and Tuesday’s indictment followed a more thorough investigation by authorities. According to the A.G., the incidents reportedly occurred between September 2009 and March 2013. Schneiderman laid out the contents of the grisly photos.

Full Article and Source:
A.G.: ‘Abusive’ Photos Taken of Local Nursing Home Patients

Professional Discipline of Federal Prosecutors Reaches a New Low

April 16, 2013

An administrative judge has vacated suspensions of two federal prosecutors who were disciplined by the Justice Department for their flagrant misconduct in prosecuting and convicting the late Senator Ted Stevens. The two prosecutors – James Goeke and Joseph Bottini – were exoriated by the trial judge, Federal District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, for their willful and repeated acts of misconduct. (A third prosecutor, Nicholas Marsh, committed suicide after the case unraveled).

Attorney General Eric Holder believed that the misconduct was so severe that he asked that the conviction be vacated and the charges dismissed. Henry Schuelke, a private lawyer appointed by the trial judge to see if a contempt charge against the prosecutors was warranted, conducted a two-year investigation, reviewed over 128,000 documents, and issued a scathing 514-page report in which he concluded that the prosecution of Senator Stevens was “permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have corroborated Stevens and seriously damaged the credibility of the government’s key witness.” The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) conducted its own investigation and concluded that the prosecutors had engaged in reckless misconduct and ordered them suspended for 15 and 40 days respectively.

The administrative judge has now vacated those suspensions. It is not possible to reconcile the result of the administrative judge’s ruling with the conclusions of Judge Sullivan, Attorney General Holder, the Schuelke Report, and the OPR. Indeed, the Schuelke Report is probably the most extensive post mortem of a criminal trial ever in the way it analyzes the prosecutors’ conduct and mindset based on their private emails, notes, memos, conversations, court filings and courtroom arguments, as well as their depositions, and which reveals quite powerfully their sordid and clandestine actions to win a criminal conviction at all costs. The Report methodically and exhaustively dissects the way the prosecutors manipulated flimsy, ambiguous, and unfavorable evidence, systematically concealed exculpatory evidence from the defense and jury, and thwarted defense attempts to locate favorable evidence. If anything, the Justice Department’s imposition of the rather modest suspensions on the prosecutors was grossly inadequate and disappointing. And now even those meager suspensions have been removed. Why?

The convoluted opinion of the administrative judge provides a revealing picture of why federal discipline of prosecutors for their misconduct is so dysfunctional. The judge concluded that the disciplinary proceedings by the Professional Misconduct Review Unit (PMRU), the body responsible for disciplining prosecutors after the OPR finds misconduct, contained a “harmful procedural error” which prejudiced the prosecutors and required the suspensions to be vacated. Trying to describe this so-called “prejudicial error” requires a serious and steady grip on reality, because the judge’s reasoning is unprincipled.

According to the PMRU policy, a Justice Department attorney assigned to the unit makes an initial decision on the appropriate punishment, either a reprimand, suspension, or removal. This attorney – hardly an independent decision-maker but rather a colleague of the prosecutors being reviewed – “became convinced that the prosecutors had not committed professional misconduct” and concluded that he did not have the authority to propose any discipline. Given the OPR’s finding that the Stevens’ prosecutors had engaged in reckless misconduct, and given the fact that the attorney assigned to propose discipline did not believe that any discipline was warranted, the Justice Department, pursuant to PMRU policy, appointed the chief of the PMRU to review the matter and impose discipline if he believed discipline was warranted, which he did – the 15 and 40 day suspensions.

But the administrative judge, in contravention of unambiguous language spelling out the policy of the PMRU which authorizes the chief of the unit to “issue or propose disciplinary action,” ruled that the chief of PMRU has no authority to impose discipline after his underling has decided that no discipline is warranted when, in the opinion of the underling, the Stevens’ prosecutors had done nothing wrong to warrant discipline. By ignoring the clear-cut policy that authorizes the chief of the unit to overrule his subordinate and impose discipline if he believes discipline is warranted, as well as ignoring plain common sense, the administrative judge, using Alice in Wonderland reasoning, ruled that since the initial attorney “had not made a final decision about the level of discipline” (and of course he made no final decision since he did not believe that any discipline was warranted in the first place), the chief of the unit was disabled to take any action on his own, even if he believed that misconduct had been committed (as the OPR had concluded), and discipline was warranted. In other words, the underling, not a particularly independent and unbiased decision-maker, gets the last word on official policy.
  
Hopefully, the Justice Department will appeal this preposterous decision, both to vindicate the soundness of its own disciplinary policy and procedures, however impotent they are, and to counteract the absurd claim of the disciplined prosecutors that they have been “vindicated” by the administrative judge’s ruling.

Source:
Professional Discipline of Federal Prosecutors Reaches a New Low

PA: Funeral Director Charged with Forging Life Insurance Policy Documents

April 14, 2013

A Schuylkill County funeral director was charged following allegations that he forged life insurance documents by appointing his business as the owner and beneficiary of the policy.
4-8-13 Oravitz250x275
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane identified the defendant as Stephen Oravitz, 58, 135 Brandonville Road, Ringtown. Oravitz is the owner of Oravitz Home for Funerals, 40 North Jardin St., Shenandoah, which is also charged.

According to the criminal complaint, Oravitz submitted change of ownership and change of beneficiary forms to Mutual of Omaha in July of 2011, making the Oravitz Home for Funerals the new owner and beneficiary of a life insurance policy.

The charges state that the individual who owned the life insurance policy filed a complaint with the local police department and reported that she had never authorized any changes to her life insurance policy.

Kane said that the woman who owned the policy had dealt with the Oravitz Home for Funerals regarding her late husband?s arrangements and allegedly provided Oravitz with a copy of the cover page of her own $10,000 life insurance policy for informational purposes while prearranging her own services.

The charges state that the woman also provided Oravitz with the name and telephone number of the beneficiary of the policy to assure that funds existed to provide for her future burial.
Agents from the Attorney General’s Office emphasized that this is an ongoing investigation.

Full Article and Source:
Schuylkill County Funeral Director Charged with Forging Life Insurance Policy Documents

Minnesota Attorney General Wants Deeper Background Checks on Guardians

December 6, 2012

After hundreds of allegations of guardian abuse, neglect and theft across the nation, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson wants a more rigorous background check process for all guardians and conservators in Minnesota.

She is backing legislation, written by state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, and Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, that would provide greater protection to vulnerable adults under the care of guardians.

“This legislation would update Minnesota law to help ensure that guardians meet the high standards necessary to look after another person,” Swanson said.

The proposed legislation would require guardian background checks every two years instead of the current five years. It would expand the checks to include whether a guardian previously had a professional license denied, suspended or revoked.

It also requires they disclose any information that could decrease their ability to act as a guardian. This information includes whether they have filed for bankruptcy, were found liable for fraud or have had a restraining order against them.

Swanson’s office pointed to the conviction of guardian Terri Ann Hauge as to why the tougher law is needed. Hauge was suspended from practicing law in 1995, but because Minnesota law does not require she disclose the suspension, Hauge was appointed to serve as a guardian for dozens of adults.

Hauge stole more than $22,000 from a client, leaving him with $33 in his bank account, prosecutors said.

Full Article and Source:
Minnesota Attorney General Wants Deeper Background Checks on Guardians