|Jennifer Paige Clark|
Jennifer Paige Clark had a solo law practice in Mobile, Alabama, that focused on the legal needs of middle- and low-income individuals. A former scholarship basketball player at Auburn University in Montgomery (AUM), Clark had an active life; she was a dedicated runner, practiced yoga, taught tango and ballroom dancing, and opened her home to numerous cats and dogs. Records suggest that she zealously represented her clients and took her ethical obligations seriously.
The Alabama State Bar, however, subjected Clark to a four-year investigation that culminated with the suspension of her law license on May 17, 2012. Nine days later, Jennifer Paige Clark died, at age 41.
Clark's obituary in the Mobile Press-Register says she died of unknown causes, and family members say they have not been notified about a cause of death. Clark's mother, Hilda C. Clark of Flowery Branch, Georgia, says her daughter experienced a number of disturbing events--threatening e-mails, suspicious phone calls, vandalism, vehicle break-ins, and more--during the last two years or so of her life.
Hilda Clark says foul play has not been ruled out in her daughter's death, and she has asked State Rep. Mike Hubbard to conduct an independent investigation. The Alabama Speaker of the House clearly wants nothing to do with such a probe. In a letter dated August 27, Hubbard informed Hilda Clark that he was forwarding information about her concerns to the Alabama State Bar and the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. (See documents at the end of this post.)
That's like taking concerns about Butch Cassidy and forwarding them to the Sundance Kid. Hubbard either is clueless, oblivious, or intentionally trying to provide cover for shameful misconduct that resulted in a young woman's death.
Our review of records in the Jennifer Paige Clark case strongly suggests the Alabama State Bar harassed her to death. We will assume, for now, that Ms. Clark wasn't murdered. But we have seen ample evidence that she was placed under the kind of relentless pressure that can cause a person to break; she was facing disbarment, which was likely to remove her means of making a living for at least three years. And Ms. Clark had no guarantees that she ever would get her law license back; it would be subject to the whims of the same people who removed it in the first place.
The Alabama State Bar acted with highly questionable motives during its four-year investigation of Jennifer Paige Clark; records indicate it was an all-out, coordinated assault. The chief coordinator was Robert E. Lusk Jr., assistant chief counsel with the state bar.
In our review, we found no grounds for discipline at all against Jennifer Paige Clark, much less suspension and probable disbarment. The grounds for discipline seem to stem mostly from her alleged conduct at a hearing, which should not have been held in the first place. If Ms. Clark behaved in an indignant fashion before the bar hearing, our review suggests she had cause.
Hilda Clark, in her letter to Speaker Hubbard, makes her feelings on the subject clear:
Robert Lusk is ruthless, and he has made it his mission to destroy Jennifer's professional career, ruin her financially, destroy her reputation, and implode her life. We believe there is prosecutorial misconduct by Robert Lusk and that he has an ulterior motive to cause such destruction to our daughter. He has demonstrated such vitriolic anger and hate that it is evidence there is an underlying personal vengeance. We believe he was promised financial gain for "removing her from the system."
How did Jennifer Paige Clark wind up in the cross hairs of the Alabama State Bar? It seems to stem from two cases, one in Georgia and one in Alabama. In both cases, Ms. Clark represented her parents, Larry and Hilda Clark, of Flowery Branch, Georgia:
* Clark v. Flowery Branch, 2003-CV-2830--This case involved allegations that the city had caused water to be diverted onto private property. During the course of the litigation, Jennifer Paige Clark was admitted pro hac vice to represent her parents before a Georgia court. The case dragged on for roughly four years and became contentious, with Ms. Clark running afoul of a judge named Jason Deal and an attorney named Paul Stanley. The conflict with Deal and Stanley apparently led to one set of charges against Ms. Clark before the Alabama State Bar.
* Sunrise Village Condominium Owners Association v. Larry H. Clark and Hilda C. Clark, 2010-CV-900028--This case involved a condo that Ms. Clark's parents had purchased in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in 2001. Hurricane Ivan badly damaged the complex in 2004, with some owners wanting to use insurance proceeds to repair it, while others wanted the property to be destroyed. The Clarks were in the former group; the condo association, the City of Gulf Shores, and powerful business interests apparently were in the latter group.
Jennifer Paige Clark took legal action to keep the complex from being destroyed, but the association sued her parents for an assessment they say they had paid in full. The case went before Baldwin County Circuit Judge James H. Reid, who issued an order that was favorable to the association.
This case apparently led to a second set of charges against Ms. Clark before the Alabama State Bar, based on an anonymous complaint.
Ms. Clark appeared for an evidentiary hearing before the Disciplinary Board of the Alabama State Bar on May 16, 2012. She received an immediate order of disbarment, and on May 17, the bar filed a Petition for Interim and Summary Suspension based on her alleged conduct at the hearing. On May 18, Clark filed a Notice of Appeal with the Supreme Court of Alabama, which placed a stay on the order of disbarment.
A Mobile lawyer named Dennis Knizley faxed a notice of appearance on Ms. Clark's behalf, along with a Petition for Dissolution or Amendment of Interim Suspension, on May 24.
Knizley would not get an opportunity to plead Ms. Clark's case. Two days later, his client was dead.
(To be continued)
JP Clark Hilda Letter
JP Clark Hubbard