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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Did the Alabama State Bar Retaliate Against Lawyer Jennifer Paige Clark By Harassing Her to Death?

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

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had heard about Ms. Clark's death and understood there were suspicious circumstances, but had seen no reporting on it.

Thanks so much for looking into this.

jeffrey spruill said...

The "rule of law" be damned.

And one thinks these folks will not murder you! I ain't naive anymore-- right David W. Bouchard.

*

Jaffe said he'd known Holland Sr., the chairman of Farmers Bank, for 30 or 40 years. But, Jaffe said, he met with both Holland Sr. and March four times a year through an investment club, 20 Inc. The club, consisting of attorneys, business people and real estate investors, pooled money for real estate investments.

http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/988/498/141363/

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19980416&id=VTMzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zwgGAAAAIBAJ&pg=6989,3512615

http://bcove.me/xh82za7f

Anonymous said...

Jennifer was very well liked and respected here in Mobile. This story is tragic.

Anonymous said...

I've been heartsick since this happened. Jennifer was beautiful inside and out, and she is deeply missed.

James Greek said...

Georgia's state bar is as screwed up as Alabama's. Perhaps,even worse. They were unfair to my mom.

James Greek said...

The Atlanta area especially.

James Greek said...

The state of Georgia has a screwed up government. In approximately '02 my mom stabbed her drunken boyfriend with a knife and because of a retarded cop she went to ail without hearing her side of the story. She did not deserve to go to jail and that scum got what he deserved.

James Greek said...

And because of thi mess my mom went thru a lengthy and often heated battle in court. Costing her and Gergia taxpayers a lot of money.

legalschnauzer said...

James, I'm sorry for what your family went through. Court abuse doesn't affect just one person; it affects many people who are close to that person. The Jennifer Paige Clark story involves bad actions by the legal tribe in both Alabama and Georgia. Much more coming on that story.

jeffrey spruill said...

@James Greek

I've come to the conclusion ALL state bars are protection rackets that would fall under the RICO Act.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations_Acthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations_Act

jeffrey spruill said...

sorry!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations_Act

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Clark was one of the most trustworthy people I've ever known. The notion that she would violate ethical rules was way out there to those of us who knew her.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Jennifer attended the Jones School of Law at the same time I did. She was also one of my customers in the law library when I was assigned there as a work-study. Her death is very disturbing & I think our fellow classmate, Neil Tew, who is the Director of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation has a professional obligation to look into her untimely passing. The Staff of the Alabama State Bar has some explaining to do to.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Lots of students like Jennifer & I enrolled at the Jones School of law thinking we would be able to take the Georgia Bar Exam & practice law in the Atlanta Metro Area, but the Georgia State Bar suddenly changed the rules on us while we were in law school. It's very hard to find work in Northeast Alabama. All of the big law firms in Atlanta have associates who are admitted in Alabama as well as Georgia. High end clients tend to go to the Atlanta firms because appeals wind up at the US Court of Appeals in Atlanta. When the Georgia State Bar decided to stop letting us sit for their exam, it was a game changer. That alone killed many folks' careers and made it difficult for them to repay their student loans.

James Greek said...

They shoud have let my mom get off for stabbing her bf under the circumstances. But nooooooooooo! Se to the fact that Georgia is hell bent one forcing the law she had to go thru that he'll for a year!

James Greek said...

And you know who the judge was Ken Nix! Of cbbcounty! The one who grabbed those women's behinds!

Robby Scott Hill said...

I must disagree with Speaker Hubbard. He does have the power to hold the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court responsible for the conduct of the employees of the Judicial Branch of Government. He may do this by submitting articles of impeachment to the House of Representatives: Constitution of Alabama of 1901, Article VII, Section 173. http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Article_VII,_Alabama_Constitution
The next Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court may find it necessary to discipline some of his employees in order to avoid impeachment.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Also, Speaker Hubbard would have the resources of the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office at his disposal. Because State Government is situated in her district, Ellen Brooks & her staff of investigators may investigate any judge or any attorney anywhere in the State of Alabama, including the employees of the Alabama State Bar. District Attorney Investigators, who are law enforcement officers and not lawyers would have nothing to fear from the Alabama State Bar. If State Prosecutors refused to get involved, they could turn their findings over to the FBI or a US Attorney. Such actions would not be unprecedented. See the matters of Governor Guy Hunt, Governor Don Siegelman and numerous state officials previously investigated by Ellen Brooks.

legalschnauzer said...

Good info, Rob. Wasn't Ms. Brooks reportedly looking into Bob Riley's activities at one point?

Robby Scott Hill said...

Yes Roger, she is still investigating him. Here's the most recent matter http://www.rickeystokesnews.com/article.php/ag-strange-hands-over-riley-investigation-to-da-brooks-30304

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for the update, Rob. Sounds like a pretty limited investigation, given all the crap surrounding Riley.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Speaker Hubbard is merely passing the hot potato. He has extensive powers, including passing legislation to limit the power of the Alabama State Bar & conducting hearings where he can hold employees of the State Bar in contempt of the State Legislature if they refuse to answer questions, but Speaker Hubbard appears to be out of touch with the People of Alabama. We have three branches of government to provide checks and balances against corruption and the abuse of power by any one branch. Why won't Speaker Hubbard or Governor Bentley exercise their constitutional authority in this case? If there won't be an investigation outside the Judicial Branch, we might as well close the other two branches and let our state be ruled exclusively by judges.

David in S. Alabama said...

A couple of years after Ellen Brooks became DA I talked to her about a matter that I thought she could look into. She said she couldn't because it was outside of Montgomery Co. I responded saying that she had jurisdiction any where in the state of Alabama if a crime involvle anything connected to state government. She said I was misinfromed. Maybe in her case DA stands for Dumb A**.

Robby Scott Hill said...

David - Most Democrat politicians don't take the time to read the Constitution or the Code. They really have no idea what they can't or can't do unless their advisers enlighten them. Now Republicans have turned the act of doing whatever they can get away with into a form of art. Don't have enough power? Seek an Attorney General Opinion. What's the matter? Your Republican AG won't help you out? Then Appoint a Special Attorney General from the other party who has an axe to grind against the guy who beat him in the General Election. I think Robert Lusk & the Alabama State Bar have much to fear from Roy Moore, especially if the Democrats take back the Governor's Mansion or the Legislature. This state is ripe for a political blood bath due to so many previous showdowns between egos. Much of it crosses party lines and the war is far from over. Many more people will be losing elections, getting fired and going to prison before it's over.

Robby Scott Hill said...

I'm going to be a walking dead man for blowing the whistle on State Government, but regular readers of this blog know I was once the Legal Research Assistant for the State Lands Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Condos which are located adjacent to state-owned submerged lands must pay fees for riparian easements on those submerged lands for things like boat slips. Many of those condos were in arrears to the state on those fees before Hurricane Ivan struck. I know because I was the de facto debt collection agent for those fees, but my supervisors, namely James Hillman Griggs, asked me to drag my feet on collecting those debts. When I tried to take the bar exam the following year, that became one of Robert Lusk's big issues at my hearing with the State Bar. Griggs is financially tied in with the condo developers and back when I could still view his Facebook, Robert Lusk had pictures of himself on the beach. Yes, Jennifer Paige Clark was not the first Jones Graduate to get into trouble with the State Bar over those condo developments. The Staff at the State Bar has become the bitches of those multi-million dollar condo developers because so many lawyers and judges are part owners of those condos and/or do highly paid legal work for them. It crosses party lines too. Go crying to the Democrats & you won't get an audience. Even the most Liberal Democrats among us love them some ocean front property. You don't do anything to reduce profits for those real estate developers or you go down hard. Also remember that Orange Beach is where the Mayor had Weed planted in his office and City Attorney Larry Sutley went down when they wouldn't do what the Riley Gang wanted. I'm not happy with the corruption in Orange Beach. There is also a shop on Highway 59 not far from all of those condos that sells Marijuana to lawyers and judges. It has been protected by the State Police for a long time. I won't call them out by name, but if you go upstairs and ask for the red t-shirt special, you'll get a green plastic bong with Primo Weed (no seeds or stems) wrapped in a red t-shirt.

Robby Scott Hill said...

I feel like this blog is my intellectual home. If there is any way possible, I'm going to haunt the comments section after my death and provide pithy legal analysis from the grave. Thanks Legal Schnauzer for giving me the forum I never had on Goat Hill. On second thought, I think I shall have my disembodied spirit haunt the State Bar headquarters because they deserve it so very much :)

legalschnauzer said...

Rob:

Thanks for your insights on the twisted culture along the Gulf. Folks should keep in mind that this condo issue arose in Baldwin Co., same place where the GOP stole the 2002 governor's election. Also, Baldwin Co judge James Reid is heavily involved in real-estate development--it's almost like Mark Fuller being a defense contractor. My understanding is that powerful interests wanted to wipe out the little "mom and pop" condo that had been damaged and replace it with a mega condo that would cover both sides of the highway and include an overhead walkway from one side to the other. It seems that Ms. Clark was seen as "standing in the way of progress."

Robby Scott Hill said...

You're welcome Roger. Jennifer's case is just one of many in a long line of matters that the Alabama State Bar & Alabama Bureau of Investigation have gone into cover up mode on. Speaking of the Gulf Coast, Former Trooper Joe Duncan is about to be released from Holman Correctional Facility this weekend. He wasn't sentenced to death so much for killing his girlfriend as he was for running the biggest bootlegging operation in Northern Alabama under protection from the ABI. Duncan was able to name too many names. The State never counted on his defense attorneys getting the death sentence overturned in 1995. Now, Duncan will be a free man & a loose cannon. My old boss Leon Willis from the Faulkner University Security Department was with ABI back then & I assure you that Joe Duncan & Leon Willis know all kinds of good stuff if only they could be persuaded to tell it.

George E. Bourguignon, Jr. Attorney at Law said...

Legal conflict/troubles are a significant stress typically, even for those that are in the field, as this sad story shows.

George E. Bourguignon, Jr. Attorney at Law said...

Legal conflict/troubles are a significant stress typically, even for those that are in the field, as this sad story shows.

legalschnauzer said...

George:

That's a very good point. As a layperson, I tend to think of these issues int terms of the litigants. But they obviously can be hard on lawyers, especially when the profession itself seems to turn on you, as apparently happened with Ms. Clark.

Jaes Greek said...

Cobb County's and Georgia's government was stupid to file charges against my mom.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer represented my husband and I in a case of civil turned criminal I really respected her and was puzzled when after working so hard on our case she withdrew , said it was to much to take on again for an appeal. I know why now. I wish we could have paid our respects. God rest her soul