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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Telling the Truth Costs A Lawyer Her License


A state bar association has suspended the license of a lawyer for making truthful statements in court filings.

That sounds like a headline from The Onion. But as we reported in a  previous post, it is true. And now we have a document from the Alabama State Bar to prove it.

Angela Turner Drees is fighting to get her law license reinstated, but for now it is suspended for one year. In what "misconduct" did Drees engage? She told the truth about the actions of another lawyer, and in the legal profession, that apparently can get you in trouble.

When it issues such decisions, does the Alabama State Bar expect the public to take them seriously? Better yet, how did the state bar become so dysfunctional that it would issue such a decision in the first place?

We suspect it's driven by many perverse "rules," both written and unwritten, that seem to permeate the legal profession. Consider just a few oddities that are present in the Angela Turner Drees case:

* Was the ruling against Angela Drees issued by a judge, someone with special knowledge and experience in such matters? Nope. It was issued by a regular lawyer, a guy who apparently is appointed to such duties because he's been around a long time.

* Was Angela Drees punished largely because she is a sole practitioner? The answer appears to be yes. The opposing lawyer in question, the one who really did make false statements in an official proceeding and admitted to it, belongs to a major downtown Birmingham firm. Has he been punished? Nope.

* Why did the opposing lawyer in the Drees case confess to having made false statements in a court proceeding? The answer, apparently, is this: A lawyer faces an automatic loss of his license if he is found to have lied to the bar; a lawyer who lies to a judge in open court can usually get away with it, especially if he belongs to a large firm or has political connections. In the perverse world of the "legal profession," lying to the bar is a very risky thing to do. Under such circumstances, even the worst legal scoundrels are likely to tell the truth. In this case, the truth revealed that Angela Turner Drees had been making factual statements all along. And yet, she's the one who had her license suspended.

Again, do bar associations expect the public to take them seriously?

This all grew out of Turner v. Turner, the kind of classic judicial con job that seems to regularly emanate from Alabama's domestic-relations courts. Here is how we described the basics in a previous post:

Turner v. Turner involves Kile Turner, the Turner in the title of [the Birmingham firm Norman Wood Kendrick and Turner], and Angela Turner Drees, who is also a lawyer and used to practice at the Birmingham firm Haskell Slaughter. The Turners were married and had triplets together before getting a divorce.

They initially had a shared-custody agreement, but that changed when 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. Richard Vincent, Kile Turner's attorney, seconded those statements in court proceedings, and that apparently played a key role in Turner receiving custody of the triplets, who are now 10 years old and have not seen their mother in two-plus years.

Are the charges that Kile Turner and his lawyer made against Hajo Drees true? Three public documents indicate they are not--and that Turner and Vincent now have acknowledged, in a proceeding before the Alabama State Bar, that they are not true.

We already have reported on a writ of mandamus and a motion to strike, both filed by Angela Turner Drees, that indicate Kile Turner's statements regarding Hajo Drees were false. Now we have a document from the Alabama State Bar itself.

Angela Turner Drees


The ruling was issued by Billy C. Bedsole, who is identified as a disciplinary hearing officer for the Alabama State Bar. What is Mr. Bedsole's main qualification? It's apparently that he's old, having been admitted to the bar in 1963. Also, he is a member of the Mobile firm Stockman and Bedsole.

First, let's consider a couple of complicating factors in the Angela Turner Drees matter before the Alabama State Bar:

* Drees did not attend the disciplinary hearing. That's because a bench warrant had been issued for her arrest for failure to attend a court proceeding in Jefferson County. Why did Drees fail to attend? She was in Germany, where her husband lives, when a hearing in Turner v. Turner was called on short notice. The cost of an airline ticket on such short notice was extraordinarily high, and she was unable to obtain one in time to attend the hearing.

* Did the court in Jefferson County intentionally set up Drees for a failure-to-appear warrant? It certainly looks that way. The original judge in Turner v. Turner, R.A. "Sonny" Ferguson, has been connected to an Alabama hunting club where member judges and lawyers reportedly conspire to fix divorce cases. Multiple federal lawsuits have been filed over the hunting-club issue, including two by Joseph W. Blackburn, a professor at Cumberland School of Law on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham. (Note: Judge R.A. "Sonny" Ferguson mysteriously announced his retirement from the bench last year, even though he is only in his mid 50s and almost certainly could have served for another 10 to 15 years. He now is with the Birmingham firm of Christian and Small.)

The bottom line? The Alabama State Bar punished Angela Turner Drees for two primary reasons: (1) It claims she falsely stated in court documents that Kile Turner and his attorney, Richard Vincent, had been adjudicated guilty of perjury by the court in Turner v. Turner; (2) It claims she falsely stated that Turner and Vincent were both being subjected to disbarment proceedings.

Angela Turner Drees says neither of those statements were false. She says a court document, which was not presented at her disciplinary hearing, shows that even Judge Ferguson found that Turner and Vincent had, in fact, made false statements before the court--and the judge's finding means the matter was "adjudicated." She also says that the Alabama State Bar currently is investigating charges of misconduct against Turner and Vincent, even though earlier complaints were dismissed.

A reasonable person can get lost in the technicalities of the Alabama State Bar's findings against Angela Turner Drees. But this much is clear: Kile Turner and Richard Vincent admitted to the state bar that they made false statements to the court in Turner v. Turner.

In his report and order suspending Angela Turner Drees, Billy C. Bedsole writes about Kile Turner's allegations against Hajo Drees. Bedsole states that his findings are based on Turner's testimony before the Disciplinary Board of the Alabama State Bar.

What does Bedsole find? "Mr. Turner testified as to his knowledge of Mr. Drees having been convicted on a charge of domestic violence." Then Bedsole writes: "Later in the custody proceedings, it was discovered that there was not an actual conviction for domestic violence."

In other words, Kile Turner admitted to the disciplinary board that his statements regarding Hajo Drees were false. Does Billy C. Bedsole consider that a serious matter? Apparently not. He dismisses it as "nothing more than a  minor mistake or inadvertence." (Never mind that this "minor mistake" helped give Kile Turner full custody of the Turner triplets and a highly favorable financial arrangement.)

As for Richard Vincent, Kile Turner's lawyer, Bedsole writes: "Mr. Vincent testified that he originally believed that Mr. Drees had been convicted of domestic violence but later realized he was incorrect."

Vincent, like his client, admits to having made a false statement in Turner v. Turner--and the Alabama State Bar's "disciplinary board" does not seem to be the least bit bothered by it. In fact, the board proceeds to punish Angela Turner Drees, the victim of these false statements.

Is the Alabama State Bar running a kangaroo court? Is that question an insult to kangaroo courts?

Here is the full report and order on the Angela Turner Drees matter before the Alabama State Bar:

Angela Drees--Alabama State Bar

14 comments:

jeffrey spruill said...

Now I understand why Judge Robert G. Doumar arranged for Chief Justice Rehnquist to speak before the local Bar Association. Not only to impress lawyers of his political connections-but it would be a sign that judicial corruption & denial of due process was OK'ed by the head of the federal judiciary.

Remarks of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
100th Anniversiry Celebration
Of the Norfolk and Portsmouth Bar Assoication
Norfolk, Virginia
May 3, 2000

http://www.supremecourt.gov/publicinfo/speeches/viewspeeches.aspx?Filename=sp_05-03-00.html

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure your information is correct. Angela Drees appears to still be practicing law in Pensacola, Florida. If she had a suspended license wouldn't she have to stop practicing law? See the link below:

http://www.pensacoladefenselawyer.com/Attorneys-Consulting/Angela-T-Drees.shtml

legalschnauzer said...

I can't call up the Florida State Bar Web site at the moment. But if you try it, I suspect you will find that Angela Drees is licensed to practice law in Florida. If that's not the case, this Web site might be out of date.

To my knowledge, a suspended license in one state would not prevent a lawyer from practicing in another state where she was licensed. Drees' case was before the Alabama Bar. Not sure it had anything to do with the Florida Bar.

Anonymous said...

She doesn't appear to be licensed in Florida either. I don't think you can advertise as a lawyer once your license is suspended, can you? The Florida bar website says you can actually be sent to jail for practicing there without a license. Hopefully, she is aware of the issue and has the website corrected soon. I would hate to see her end up in jail on top of her bar suspension.

Robby Scott Hill said...

This is all getting rather nasty. While the Drees matter has been on appeal, somebody decided to off the Chairman of the Disciplinary Commission. While the Bar immediately scrubbed his name from their website, Martindale.com clearly shows Mr. Lazenby's position as "chief hatchet man" with the State Bar.

http://www.martindale.com/R-Blake-Lazenby/36208-lawyer.htm?b=Y

Nobody deserves to be murdered over politics, but the State Bar may have pushed some battered & drained soul over the edge this time. The Bar should be praying that whoever murdered Mr. Lazenby didn't decide to start at the top of the list & work his way down to exact his revenge on a hopelessly corrupt institution.

http://www.cbs42.com/content/localnews/story/Attorney-found-dead-in-his-Sylacauga-home/Bjvu4aNliEe6RcojNc3mAQ.cspx#.Tjf7DSLLmHo.facebook

Robby Scott Hill said...

Law firms are permitted to hire non-attorneys, even disbarred attorneys & list them on their website as a consultant, paralegal or other staff. I don't see where her page says she is currently licensed to practice law in Florida or any other state.

You can't stop somebody from working or having a webpage just because they have been suspended from the practice of law or denied admission to the bar. If this practice were illegal, I would have been jailed years ago.

The Bar Associations are limited by the First Amendment & your right to work. Both Alabama & Florida are right to work states. I know this is going to piss off a lot of you Republican lawyers out there, but the right to work statutes apply to all of us folks you have disbarred & denied admission to. So stick your favorite union busting law in your mouth & suck it. Cry me a river & appeal it to the GOP Supreme Court because one of your poorly drafted laws doesn't work in your favor every time.

Robby Scott Hill said...

The Alabama State Bar failed to do their research before they denied me admission to the bar exam in 2005.

They have made me like Obi Wan Kenobi after he was killed by Darth Vader. By striking me down, they made me more powerful than they could ever imagine.

Even after my departure from this life, I will haunt them as Kenobi's ghost haunted Vader.

Our posts and comments will linger on, inspiring others to oppose their evil ways.

I have spoken out on many things, but there are still other matters on which I have yet to speak. When statutes of limitations expire & the time is right, even more light will shine on the darkness that pervades the legal profession in Alabama.

legalschnauzer said...

Rob:

Thanks for your insights. Well stated, as always.

jeffrey spruill said...

Cry me a river & appeal it to the GOP Supreme Court because one of your poorly drafted laws doesn't work in your favor every time.

They're always plotting so expect it.

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/287321-1

Anonymous said...

Her firm has listed her on "findlaw" as a lawyer and they don't use the disclaimer that is required to be be posted for non-lawyers working at lawfirms. To the average person, I think it looks like she is practicing law. Hope the Florida State Bar doesn't find out or that could get ugly. Wonder if her boss knows?

Also, if you go online, the Drees appeal was dismissed. Her license is now offically suspended. They don't actually suspend it until after the appeal is over. That happened a few weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Robby, feel your force jumping off my computer screen.

jeffrey spruil said...

anon:

I did feel the spirit of the Birmingham law firm of Norman Kendrick Wood and Turner in: Bar Association Punishes Lawyer for Telling the Truth.

Anonymous said...

The legal "profession" is doomed to "pitchforks and torches" should knowledge regarding the "rule of law" ever again impinge on public awareness:

http://www.nazisociopaths.org/modules/article/view.article.php/c1/34

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loathe and despise the court system in this state - particularly the vile domestic and family courts. Until you've have some drunk, good old boy, court reporter screwing, ignorant, red-neck f*ck sitting in judgment over you and your children, you could not possibly understand.

Fortunately, there is justice higher than earthly justice - and that is meted out for eternity.