85th Installment. California State Bar gives prosecutors free pass: From Philip Cline to Melanie J. Lawrence
kanBARoo court differs from most other judicial-system criticisms in declining to demand more prosecutions. Often critics respond to inequities in justice's administration by demanding prosecutions of the truly guilty, not just relief for the unjustly prosecuted. No doubt, one might derive satisfaction from reporting judges or gloating over their comeuppance, but this satisfaction comes at the expense of consistency and principle: advocacy of prosecution by a corrupt, oppressive, or incompetent agency contradicts the intended defense of due process. Only perpetration of crimes so great they overshadow the State Bar's defects—John Yoo is the only example that comes to mind—justifies supporting (never advocating!) state-bar prosecutions. kanBARoo court doesn't advocate prosecution even in the extreme case of Ronald N. Gottschalk or Melanie J. Lawrence. Nor did I report Lawrence's criminal misconduct to the State Bar as some advised; I refused even to report Kim and company to the police, as the state's prosecutorial authority differs from that of the state bar in its greater competence, not greater inclination to justice. Principled opponents of authoritarian oppression don't beseech the oppressive authorities!
"Government lawyers" is a misleading abstraction. I haven't seen figures on prosecutions of other "government attorneys;" the record concerning public defenders would be particularly interesting. But even if the prosecution rates are low across the board for lawyers working for government, this 1) still doesn't explain active resistance to prosecution of prosecutors; and 2) doesn't explain why common sense and the obvious need for discipline for misconduct of the sort Philip Cline perpetrated doesn't compel making an exception to any rule exempting "government lawyers," since the imperatives that apply to prosecutors don't apply to other classes of "government lawyers." An unethical monster like Philip Cline is a moral threat whether or not he leaves government service. No client should trust such a creature; none should have to risk association with him.
Prosecutorial solidarity is the only tenable explanation I find for the State Bar's avid refusal to prosecute prosecutors. The State Bar, after all, effectively is composed of prosecutors, and the boundary between prosecutors in general criminal practice and State Bar "trial counsel" is porous, the State Bar the refuge of the most incompetent of the lot, not necessarily the most vile. The prosecutors in the State Bar have a stake in not seeing other prosecutors prosecuted because, in general, prosecutors often engage in misconduct, particularly State Bar prosecutors. While the State Bar has no shortage of hypocrisy, it knows its self-interest. Once prosecution of prosecutors becomes common, why wouldn't a public outcry demand prosecution of "trial counsel"? By all indications, serious misconduct by these bar prosecutors is a common occurrence, even the norm. Every prosecutor has an interest in such misconduct getting a free pass.
The evidence of State Bar misconduct is rife throughout its cases, but the most rigorously proven instance happens to have occurred in my State Bar case, where "deputy trial counsel" Melanie J. Lawrence actually destroyed documents to obtain dismissal of my petition for review. Precisely because the evidence is circumstantial, hence not dependent on testimony, the proof of her misconduct is airtight. Without reviewing that evidence, readers can verify this tolerance for misconduct by bar counsel all the way from the nefarious Judge Honn to an indifferent California Supreme Court. Lawrence and the attorneys representing the state bar consistently refused to address the charges of misconduct; with proof so clear, they determined to stonewall. While my briefs pounded away on the subject, the State Bar's briefs ignored my allegations. They needed to craft no arguments; they simply pretended my claims were absent. Subsequently, no investigation was opened, despite the proof I briefed.
While Philip Cline is district attorney of Tulare County, Melanie J. Lawrence continues in employment by the State Bar. The State Bar doesn't prosecute prosecutors for misconduct because, out of self-interest and empathy, it favors such misconduct.