Experience has taught us that lawyers can lie in most any setting--in a courtroom, during a deposition, over lunch--and almost always get away with it. In fact, we personally have witnessed numerous examples of lawyers making statements that either are clearly lies or don't meet the initial smell test--only to see the legal establishment help them get away with it.
So we were not surprised to learn that an Alabama lawyer has admitted to making a false statement under oath--and he apparently will not be held accountable. For good measure, it involves a case that we have reported on here at Legal Schnauzer.
The lawyer in question is Kile Turner, a partner at the Birmingham firm of Norman Wood Kendrick and Turner (NWKT). Angela Turner Drees, also an attorney, filed a federal lawsuit against former Jefferson County Judge R.A. "Sonny" Ferguson over his handling of her divorce from Kile Turner.
During the divorce/child custody proceedings, Kile Turner stated under oath that Dr. Hajo Drees, Angela Turner Drees' current husband, had been convicted on two felony counts of domestic violence--one involving his ex wife and one involving his son. Those statements apparently played a key role in Turner receiving custody of the three children, triplets, that he had with Angela Turner Drees.
Kile Turner, in a proceeding before the Alabama State Bar, reportedly acknowledged that those statements were not true. But Angela Turner Drees has not been allowed to have contact with her children for more than two years. And we've seen no signs that Kile Turner will be sanctioned for making false statements before a court, statements that helped him benefit in the course of litigation.
This information comes to light through a press release that Hajo Drees issued on March 7. (See the full press release below.) Drees, a former international economic-development executive for the State of Alabama, was forced out of his job not long after allegations surfaced against him in the Turner divorce case. Drees has returned to his native Germany, partly to obtain work that was comparable to what he had in Alabama.
Drees said he issued the press release to set the record straight, clear his name and call attention to the legal profession's tendency to protect its members, rather than sanction them, for admitted misconduct. The press release includes contact information for NWKT, the Alabama State Bar, and the Defense Research Institute (DRI), along with Hajo Drees. All of the parties received copies of the press release before it was made public.
We reported on the Turner divorce in a pair of posts from June 2009:
Domestic-Relations Court: Another Alabama Cesspool
Domestic-Relations Post Strikes Some Serious Nerves
From reporting on the Turner divorce, and following its aftermath, its easy to understand why Hajo Drees' press release is dripping with thinly veiled sarcasm. Consider this:
Mr. Turner clarifies that even though his testimony that Dr. Hajo Drees was convicted of domestic violence was repeated multiple times and in multiple court filings in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, he meant to cause no harm. He did not lie--he made an honest mistake. He simply did not know the difference between a criminal conviction and a civil hearing.
Dr. Dress apparently finds it hard to believe that a partner in a major law firm does not know the difference between a criminal conviction and a civil hearing We share that disbelief. Here's more from the press release:
Birmingham law firm Norman, Wood, Kendrick and Turner acknowledges that Kile Turner admits and confesses that he made a mistake when he did not state the truth under oath. Mistakes are human and even lawyers make mistakes in court, especially when it concerns their private matters that have significant financial repercussions. Kile Turner now wishes to correct the record and let it reflect that Dr. Hajo Drees was never convicted of any felony crime, noting that even though making this false statement to the court benefited him at the time, it was made in error--a harmless mistake that was certainly not intended to mislead the court into ruling in his favor.
Drees, it seems, has learned a lesson that we, too, have learned the hard way: Lawyers make "mistakes" in court, and such "mistakes" are especially likely to occur when the case has "significant financial repercussions" for the lawyer. In other words, if you are about to hit a lawyer in his wallet, you'd better be on the lookout for a "mistake." In Turner's case, considerable funds involving child support were at stake--not to mention child custody.
Does Drees consider Turner's false statements to be a "harmless mistake"? Apparently not, given that Drees' wife has not seen her children in two-plus years--and Drees himself has seen his professional life upended.
Where does the Alabama State Bar stand in this matter? Hajo Drees seems to hold special contempt for an organization that is supposed to keep wayward lawyers in line. From the press release:
The Alabama State Bar Association certifies that Alabama licensed attorney Kile Turner did not lie under oath. (Case #, ASB 08-176 (A)) In fact, it ruled that Mr. Turner is absolved of all consequences from making the mistake of giving false factual statements to multiple courts under oath to win his case. The Alabama Bar further states that it has and will punish anyone who states that Kile Turner lied while he was under oath in an Alabama Court. The Alabama Bar acknowledges that Kile Turner made a mistake when he presented totally false and manufactured evidence but recognizes that he meant no harm to anyone, especially to Dr. Hajo Drees and his family by convicting him of a felony crime that entered the public record and illegally found him guilty of domestic violence for the past three and one half years--even though this mistake was pointed out to him over fifteen times.
According to Hajo Drees, the Alabama State Bar has shown that it is willing to go after anyone who would dare question Kile Turner's integrity--while showing little interest in the integrity of the judicial process in Alabama.
Are we surprised to see that the Alabama State Bar, so far, has taken no serious action against Kile Turner? Not at all. We've seen lawyers make statements, in official settings, that range from "blatantly false" to "outrageously fishy." And we've yet to see one held accountable. Want some examples of how lawyers can "bust a move" when trying to wriggle out of a jam? Try these:
* The Bill Swatek Shuffle--Pelham, Alabama-based William E. Swatek is Exhibit A here at Legal Schnauzer for all things involving the words "legal" and "sleaze." Swatek filed a bogus lawsuit on behalf of our criminally inclined neighbor Mike McGarity, launching our legal headaches. We've outlined Swatek's sleazy tactics in a seriees of posts. But here is one of our "favorites":
During the course of litigation, Swatek filed a Motion to Clarify, seeking to join three additional neighbors in the lawsuit against me. The motion claimed that the three additional neighbors had viewed photographs of property belonging to them and wanted to assert conversion claims against me. There was only one problem with Swatek's motion: It was filled with lies. One of the neighbors, Eric Hallmark, told me in a phone conversion that he was not familiar with the motion and had no intention of joining a lawsuit against me. At a deposition of his client, Swatek stated that prior to filing his Motion to Clarify, he had a meeting with the additional neighbors in his office. Swatek further stated that he was “positive” the motion was drafted with their permission. Swatek was not under oath in the deposition, but clearly was lying in an official proceeding regarding Hallmark's statements, which I have on tape. And the motion Swatek crafted amounts to fraud on the court, and since he used the U.S. mail to send it to me, it probably constitutes a federal crime. I reported it to the Alabama Bar State--and the matter was not even investigated.
* The Angie Ingram Boogie--Angie Ingram is the chief lawyer at Ingram and Associates, a Birmingham debt-collection firm that joined forces with NCO to repeatedly violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) in an effort to collect an alleged debt involving your humble blogger and an American Express card. Mrs. Schnauzer and I filed a federal lawsuit, which is ongoing, alleging FDCPA violations and other claims. In the course of the litigation, Ingram admitted that they had no documents from American Express that showed I even had an AMEX card, much less that I owed a debt on one. I tape recorded conversations with Ingram representatives, providing irrefutable proof of FDCPA violations, fraud, and other wrongs. But Ingram/NCO, with the help of Birmingham lawyers Wayne Morse and Laura Nettles, have pulled all sorts of shenanigans in an effort to beat a case that can't be beaten--at least under the actual law, with an ethical judge. Here is just one example:
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are required to send written notice, letting an alleged debtor know about his rights under the law--including the right to receive details about the debt in question. Failure to send such a document--known as a "mini Miranda" notice in the debt-collection trade--is a violation of the FDCPA. In answers to interrogatories in our case, Angie Ingram stated under oath that her firm sent me a "mini Miranda" notice on July 9, 2007, two days before they talked via phone with my wife and three days before they talked with me.
There's a slight problem with Ingram's sworn statement: It almost certainly is not true. I tape recorded my conversations with the two Ingram representatives on July 12, 2007, and neither of them mentioned having sent the "mini Miranda" notice. In fact, they never mentioned the written-notification requirement at all. That's why I sound baffled at times during the recordings; I was being told I owed a sizable debt, but I had received nothing to that effect in writing. The first time I had heard about the alleged problem was in these phone calls. Under the law, that's not how it's supposed to work. (By the way, we soon will be presenting these recordings here at Legal Schnauzer, so readers can get an up-close sense of the unlawful stunts some debt collectors will pull.)
We did not tape record my wife's conversation with an Ingram representative on July 11, mainly because we weren't expecting the call and we had received nothing in the mail indicating we had an issue over an AMEX card. But Mrs Schnauzer later testified in a deposition about her conversation with Ingram representative Tracy Mize. Here is what Mrs. S. said, under oath, when asked to describe the call:
Well, let's see. I was trying to think. She did say that it was a courtesy call, that it had been recently forwarded from American Express to their office. And she admitted, she said, 'We haven't sent a letter out yet.' We're going to--we're going to do that, is what she said, you know, from them, something in writing.
Both my wife and I testified that we never received the "mini Miranda" notice. But the law only requires that the notice be sent, not that it be received. At the deposition, Angie Ingram produced a copy of a letter, dated July 9, 2007, that she said had been sent to us on that date. Was she telling the truth?
Well, clearly anyone at her firm could have produced the letter after the fact and dated it to come before the phone calls to us. A review of computer files at the Ingram law firm would reveal when the letter actually was written, but we have been consistently stonewalled on discovery so far.
What about other evidence? In conversations with me on July 12, two different Ingram representatives never mentioned that a "mini Miranda" notice had been prepared or sent. In a conversation on July 11, according to uncontroverted sworn testimony from my wife, Ingram representative Tracy Mize said such a notice had not been sent.
The "preponderance of evidence," to borrow a popular phrase in the law, indicates that Angie Ingram's story does not add up. We fully intend to file a bar complaint against Ms. Ingram, and perhaps someone will be able to check her computer files to determine if she made an "honest mistake" that was "harmless"--much like the mistake Kile Turner made, which helped to smear Hajo Drees and cost Angela Drees custody of her children.
In addition to the Bill Swatek Shuffle and the Angie Ingram Boogie, we now have the Kile Turner Tap Dance.
We will be writing much more about the Turner/Drees case, about some lawyers' tendency to make "mistakes" under oath, and about the Alabama State Bar's utter failure to hold its members accountable for gross misconduct.
(To be continued)
Below is the full press release regarding Kile Turner. We should note that it has twice been removed from the Scribd document-hosting site--and I have received no notification from Scribd that it removed the release. I've received no notice that the press release violates the Scribd terms of service. But it has disappeared twice. It appears someone has broken into Scribd for the purposes of keeping this document from public view. For now, the document is not on Scribd, but it is on Legal Schnauzer, in its entirety:
Press Release March 7. 2011
For immediate release:
Dr. Hajo Drees is not convicted and guilty of domestic violence. Alabama lawyer Kile T. Turner, a partner at N.W.K.T Norman, Wood, Kendrick and Turner of Birmingham, Alabama did not lie under oath to a Jefferson County, Alabama Circuit Court in 2007 when he testified and stated in public documents that Dr. Hajo Drees was convicted of two felony crimes, one against his former wife and one against his son. Both statements by Mr. Turner are false and the record is hereby being set straight. (DR 2005-0354.01 RAF – now retired)
Mr. Turner clarifies that even though his testimony that Dr. Hajo Drees was convicted of domestic violence was repeated multiple times and in multiple court filings in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, he meant to cause no harm. He did not lie – he made an honest mistake. He simply did not know the difference between a criminal conviction and a civil hearing.
Birmingham law firm Norman, Wood, Kendrick and Turner acknowledges that Kile Turner admits and confesses that he made a mistake when he did not state the truth under oath. Mistakes are human and even lawyers make mistakes in court, especially when it concerns their private matters that have significant financial repercussions. Kile Turner now wishes to correct the record and let it reflect that Dr. Hajo Drees was never convicted of any felony crime, noting that even though making this false statement to the court benefited him at the time, it was made in error – a harmless mistake that was certainly not intended to mislead the court into ruling in his favor.
The Alabama State Bar Association certifies that Alabama licensed attorney Kile Turner did not lie under oath. (Case #, ASB 08-176 (A)) In fact, it ruled that Mr. Turner is absolved of all consequences from making the mistake of giving false factual statements to multiple courts under oath to win his case. The Alabama Bar further states that it has and will punish anyone who states that Kile Turner lied while he was under oath in an Alabama Court. The Alabama Bar acknowledges that Kile Turner made a mistake when he presented totally false and manufactured evidence but recognizes that he meant no harm to anyone, especially to Dr. Hajo Drees and his family by convicting him of a felony crime that entered the public record and illegally found him guilty of domestic violence for the past three and one half years – even though this mistake was pointed out to him over fifteen times.
As a partner at N.W.K.T, Mr. Turner is pleased to have his record corrected. Certainly after three years of being confronted with his innocent mistake and his false statements of fact under oath, he is pleased to be absolved from any wrongdoing in this matter. Mr. Turner is looking forward to finally putting this matter of lying under oath to a Circuit Judge to win his case behind him and concentrate on his duties at work as an honorable lawyer with high morals, ethics and standards of integrity.
Mr. Turner clearly embodies the undeniable and convincing drive that defense trial lawyers must exhibit in order to win cases for their clients – and winning by all means necessary.
As an active member and Steering Committee leader of the Defense Research Institute, (DRI), Mr. Turner is certainly concerned about ethical behavior in his profession. The DRI has been made aware of this matter and supports Mr. Turner completely as they do all their members when they make honest mistakes and do not tell the truth to judges.
For more information please contact:
Financial Center, Suite 1600
505 20th Street North
Birmingham, AL 35203
Tom Kendrick: email@example.com
Alabama State Bar
415 Dexter Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36104
Tony McLain: firstname.lastname@example.org
55 W. Monroe, Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60603
Ms. Massaron Ross: email@example.com
Dr. Hajo Drees, MBA
Mr. Drees: firstname.lastname@example.org