Day: April 21, 2019

Ex-Juror With PTSD Lauds MPs For Uniting On Bill To Ease Secrecy Rule

Mark Farrant poses for a photo in Toronto on Feb. 25, 2017. 

Mark Farrant asked himself a natural question after he was summoned for jury duty.

How am I going to get out of this?

It’s the same thought that dogged him long after the 2014 trial wrapped with a guilty verdict in the murder of a young woman, when the darkness of that experience followed him home.

The heinous things he’d seen rented such space in his mind that Farrant soon found himself keeping a vigil at the feet of his sleeping children. He started slipping a knife in his pocket when he took them to play at a park, just in case. He pulled away from the people who most loved him and knew something was terribly wrong.

Farrant was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. In another of life’s strange twists, he has become a champion for former jurors who, like him, were parachuted into circumstances they couldn’t have imagined.

His advocacy helped spark a private member’s bill that will allow ex-jurors suffering as a result of their service to discuss all aspects of a gruelling criminal trial with a mental health professional. The bill cleared the House of Commons last week with unanimous support.

‘All I could see in front of me were those images’

Farrant, 46, lives in Toronto and works in market research. He served more than four months as the jury foreman at the trial of Farshad Badakhshan, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2010 death of 23-year-old Ryerson University student Carina Petrache. Badakhshan later died by suicide behind bars while awaiting sentencing.

Jurors learned how Petrache was stabbed multiple times and had her throat slashed, how her body was burned in the rooming house apartment she shared with Badakhshan. They saw dozens of autopsy photos and listened intently to in-depth descriptions of wounds and the testimony of first responders.

Unable to turn away, Farrant says he became an emotional zombie. In time, the warm man his wife and three-year-old daughter knew slipped away.

“All I could see in front of me were those images,” he said. “And they weren’t going away.”

Farrant thought those feelings would subside after he left the courthouse on the April day the verdict was delivered. Instead, they intensified.

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The birth of his second child, a boy who arrived about a month after the trial concluded, was joyless for him. A red finger painting from his little girl sent his thoughts back to a crime scene.

“I was so twisted by what was happening to me in my mind,” he said. “I’m getting better and I’m slowly repairing those relationships.”

Farrant was stunned to learn that, at the time, mental health supports were not routinely available in Ontario for former jurors struggling to cope after a trial.

He successfully pushed the province to bring about changes that give ex-jurors up to eight free counselling sessions, something he says still doesn’t go far enough. Farrant is suing the federal and Ontario governments for $100,000, arguing they violated a duty of care owed to him.

Before receiving treatment for PTSD, Farrant found that many clinicians refused to take him on precisely because of his jury service.

Section 649 of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it a summary offence for a juror to discuss any aspect of closed-door jury deliberations to anyone, even a mental health professional.

Former Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi (right) listens as Mark Farrant speaks at the announcement of a juror support program in Hamilton, Ont. of the  on Jan. 31, 2017.

The so-called jury secrecy rule protects the sanctity of frank discussions in the jury room. It also ensures jurors can’t capitalize on their experiences with the kinds of tell-all books sometimes hawked in the United States after a big trial.

The time jurors spend deliberating over evidence and deciding the fate of an accused is often the most stressful part of a criminal trial, Farrant says. Though he was only sequestered for five days, others spend weeks with 11 strangers, poring over evidence.

“Jurors feel an enormous sense of ownership, obviously, because the entire trial experience is leading up to that moment. And they also feel an enormous sense of guilt (when) their belief or sense of justice is not being served.”

In 2017, Farrant led a campaign to push the federal government to develop a national standard of post-trial mental health supports for jurors, instead of a patchwork of systems from province to province. It helped get the attention of the House justice committee, which undertook a study on supporting jurors at the urging of NDP MP Alistair MacGregor.

Farrant and others later testified before MPs about the lasting scars of a gruesome trial.

Watch:

Tina Daenzer, who sat on the jury that convicted serial killer Paul Bernardo in 1995, asked the committee to imagine having to watch young girls being raped and tortured on video each day.

“You couldn’t close your eyes and you couldn’t look away because your duty was to watch the evidence,” she told the group, adding that she went home most days in a fog and still has an extreme distrust of strangers.

Feelings of remorse surface even when the decision might seem obvious, she said.

“You’ve seen the evidence and you’ve decided that the person is guilty, but… you are still sending that person to federal prison for the rest of their life,” she said. “You shouldn’t feel guilty, but somewhere deep down you still do.”

Scott Glew, who served on a murder trial involving a two-and-a-half year-old boy, said he worries to this day that someone, somewhere will hurt his children.

“I am super vigilant and accused of being way too overprotective, but knowing what I know, I cannot be too careful with who looks after my kids,” he told the committee.

In May 2018, the committee released an unanimous report with 11 recommendations, including that the federal government push provinces and territories to offer all jurors psychological support and counselling after their service ends.

The MPs also said the Criminal Code should be amended to allow jurors to discuss deliberations for therapeutic reasons in a strictly confidential setting. Canada should follow the lead of the Australian state of Victoria, the report noted, where making that allowance has not disrupted the confidential nature of deliberations.

Tory MP says his bill is a ‘no-brainer’

Conservative MP Michael Cooper picked up the ball and ran with it, drafting a straightforward bill, C-417, to carve out a narrow exception to the jury secrecy rule in the Criminal Code.

Private member’s bills don’t often become law, but are generally considered free votes. It falls to the MP behind the proposed legislation to lobby colleagues across the aisle, something that might have seemed at the outset to be a tough sell for Cooper.

An Alberta lawyer who was first elected in 2015, Cooper is an enthusiastically partisan MP. On any given question period, you might hear House Speaker Geoff Regan admonish the “member for St. Albert-Edmonton” for heckling Liberals. On this issue, he has the full support of the government.

Cooper says he thought long and hard about what the possible counterargument to his bill might be. He couldn’t think of a single one.

The change is a “no-brainer,” he says, that will clear up confusion over what jurors can say to a mental health professional and encourage more to seek help if they need it.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper rises during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 6, 2016.

Cooper credits NDP MP Murray Rankin for seconding his bill and Grit MP Anthony Housefather, the chair of the justice committee, for convincing Justice Minister David Lametti to get on board.

It might feel like the way politics is supposed to work. An issue is raised, a study is done, a meticulous report is released and, rather than allowing it to collect dust, an MP moves to bring about changes that are widely accepted.

But the bill has moved through Parliament during a particularly partisan time, in large part due to the SNC-Lavalin affair that has rocked the Liberal government.

At a closely-watched emergency meeting of the justice committee in February, when opposition MPs first pushed to have former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould testify, Cooper threw down the gauntlet.

Anyone who voted against the opposition demands, he said at the time, was “voting for a coverup.”

“That statement is unbecoming of you, Mr. Cooper,” Housefather shot back.

Housefather told HuffPost that the intensity of the SNC-Lavalin hearings was atypical for a committee that has quietly worked well together for more than three years. All of the group’s reports, exploring topics ranging from human trafficking to legal aid, have been unanimous.

Anthony Housefather, chair of the House of Commons justice cimmittee, waits to start a committee meeting in Ottawa on March 13, 2019.

“The SNC-Lavalin thing was an exceptional time, but mostly the way we’ve worked together has been collegially,” Housefather said.

Cooper has done a “very good thing” with his bill, Housefather said, adding that C-417 is on pace to pass into law before Parliament breaks for the summer and the fall election campaign begins in earnest.

“When we speak to one another, we’re able to find consensus,” he said. “Canadian politics should be more like that, if it were possible.”

Cooper says sharp differences over the SNC-Lavalin issue haven’t impeded the justice committee’s ability to get things done.

“I think it speaks to the fact that we, as a committee, have been able to work together to find common ground on some practical things that can make a difference in people’s lives,” Cooper said. “And I think this is a perfect example of that.”

The multi-party support for Cooper’s bill — “even in the climate that we’re sitting in” — is something to be applauded, Farrant says.

In his mind, jury service is the most important civic duty remaining in Canada.

“We don’t conscript for the military anymore, but we conscript for jury duty.”

Farrant was in Ottawa last week for a national conference on PTSD. He watched from the House gallery as C-417 cleared third reading. It’s now off to the Senate for further study and debate.

Farrant celebrated that day by taking to social media, posting photos with MPs of different partisan stripes, including Cooper and Housefather.

Another shot shows him standing alone on green floor of the Commons, the bright lights of the place illuminating a subtle smile on his face.

“This has been an incredible journey,” he later wrote.

Are you in a crisis? If you need help, contact Crisis Services Canada at their website or by calling 1-833-456-4566. If you know someone who may be having thoughts of suicide, visit CAMH’s resource to learn how to talk about suicide with the person you’re worried about.

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By The Wall of Law April 21, 2019 Off

AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Columbine honours 13 lost with community service, ceremony

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — Community members in suburban Denver marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting Saturday with a remembrance ceremony that celebrated the school’s survival and by volunteering at shelters, doing neighbourhood cleanup projects and laying flowers and cards at a memorial to the 13 people killed.

“We’re changed,” Dawn Anna, whose daughter Lauren Townsend was among the students killed in the school’s library, said before a crowd of more than 2,000 gathered in a park near the high school. “We’re weaker in some places, but hopefully we’re stronger in most of them. Our hearts have giant holes in them. But our hearts are bigger than they were 20 years ago.”

The events ended a three-day slate of sombre gatherings honouring the victims and lending support to their families, survivors of the April 20, 1999, attack and the school’s students and staff. The decades since have brought similar violence at schools in America, and some survivors and victims’ families have found themselves acting as a support system for those affected by other tragedies.

Speakers on Saturday portrayed healing and recovery as the result of daily work — not a destination to be arrived at in a set amount of days, weeks or years.

Forgiveness, though, is achievable, said Patrick Ireland, a student who became known as “the boy in the window” when cameras captured him dangling from a second-story window before falling during the 1999 school shooting. He re-learned to walk and talk with months of physical and cognitive therapy.

___

Trump’s legal team breathes a sigh, takes a victory lap

WASHINGTON (AP) — First they co-operated. Then they stonewalled. Their television interviews were scattershot and ridiculed, their client mercurial and unreliable.

But President Donald Trump’s legal team, through a combination of bluster, legal precedent and shifting tactics, managed to protect their client from a potentially perilous in-person interview during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation . His lawyers are taking a victory lap after a redacted version of Mueller’s findings revealed politically damaging conduct by the president but drew no conclusions of criminal behaviour.

“Our strategy came to be that when we weren’t talking, we were losing,” Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, told The Associated Press in a recent interview. Given that Mueller could not indict a sitting president, Giuliani said, the team kept its focus on Mueller’s “capacity to report, so we had to play in the media as well as legally.”

The aftershocks from the Mueller report released Thursday will help shape the next two years of Trump’s administration. But while the report may cause some Democrats to take a renewed look at impeachment despite long odds of success in Congress, the legal threat to Trump that seemed so dangerous upon Mueller’s appointment in May 2017 has waned.

At the outset, that appointment led Trump to predict “the end of my presidency.” The White House struggled to recruit top Washington attorneys, many of whom were reluctant to work for a temperamental, scandal-prone president who repeatedly claimed he would be his own best legal mind.

___

Pope during Easter vigil: reject the ‘glitter of wealth’

VATICAN CITY (AP) — At an Easter vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged people to resist cynicism or pursuing the “glitter of wealth,” and to avoid seeking life’s meaning in “things that pass away.”

“Do not bury hope!” Francis exclaimed, after noting that when things go badly, “we lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life.”

“We become cynical, negative and despondent,” Francis added.

For Christians, Easter is a day of joy and hope, as they mark their belief that Jesus triumphed over death by resurrection following crucifixion.

“Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but leaves behind only solitude and death,” the pope said. “Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away.”

___

Democratic hopefuls demur on pursuing Trump post-White House

AMHERST, N.H. (AP) — Some Democratic contenders for president aren’t saying whether they would re-open investigations into President Donald Trump if they were to oust him from the White House in 2020.

Their reluctance comes as some liberals, including fellow 2020 challenger Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have increased the pressure on Democratic leaders to pursue impeachment following the release of a redacted version of the Mueller report.

During recent stops in early-voting states, two U.S. senators in the race and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg wouldn’t say whether they’d press the Justice Department to reopen investigations into Trump.

“Well, let’s see because when I’m elected president that will still be about two years from now, so ask me that question then,” Sen. Kamala Harris of California said Saturday while campaigning in South Carolina.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Buttigieg focused on existing investigations of the president. Campaigning in Nevada on Friday, Booker said it’s premature to say whether he would instruct his attorney general to reopen the Trump investigations if he’s elected president.

___

Trump brushes off Romney’s criticism, points to loss in 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Mitt Romney says he’s “sickened” by the dishonesty the Russia investigation found in the Trump White House, but the president fires back that Romney should have put the same energy into running for president in 2012 that the Utah Republican has tapped in criticizing him.

Romney also tweeted Friday that in reading the special counsel’s report he was “appalled” Americans working on the Trump campaign had welcomed help from Russia.

On Saturday, Trump responded via Twitter, saying if Romney “spent the same energy fighting Barack Obama as he does fighting Donald Trump, he could have won the race (maybe)!”

In 2012 Romney won a slightly greater percentage of the popular vote than Trump in 2016. He’s one of the few prominent Republicans to criticize Trump since Trump’s election.

___

Ex-Marine arrested in North Korea embassy attack in Madrid

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man suspected of involvement in a mysterious dissident group’s February raid on North Korea’s Embassy in Madrid was arrested in Los Angeles by U.S. authorities.

Christopher Ahn, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested and charged Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter. The specific charges against Ahn were not immediately clear.

The person could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Separately, on Thursday, federal agents raided the apartment of Adrian Hong, a leader of the Free Joseon group, the person said. Hong was not arrested.

Free Joseon, also known as the Cheollima Civil Defence group, styles itself as a government-in-exile dedicated to toppling the ruling Kim family dynasty in North Korea.

___

Yellow vest anger burns in France, fueled by Notre Dame fire

PARIS (AP) — French yellow vest protesters set fires Saturday along a march through Paris to drive home their message to a government they believe is ignoring the poor: that rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t the only problem France needs to solve.

Like the high-visibility vests the protesters wear, the scattered small fires in Paris appeared to be a collective plea to French President Emmanuel Macron’s government to “look at me — I need help too!”

Police fired water cannon and sprayed tear gas to try to control radical elements rampaging on the margins of the largely peaceful march, one of several actions around Paris and other French cities.

The protests marked the 23rd straight weekend of yellow vest actions against Macron’s centrist government, which they see as favouring the wealthy and big business. Protesters view themselves as standing up for beleaguered French workers , students and retirees who have been battered by high unemployment, high taxes and shrinking purchasing power.

But violence and divisions have marred the movement.

___

New attack on Ebola centre in Congo; 1 militia member killed

BUTEMBO, Congo (AP) — Militia members attacked an Ebola treatment centre hours after another attack killed a staffer with the World Health Organization, a Congolese official said Saturday.

Butembo city’s deputy mayor, Patrick Kambale Tsiko, told The Associated Press that the attackers armed with machetes tried to burn down the centre in Katwa district overnight. Military and police guarding the centre killed one militia member and detained five others, he said.

Such violence has deeply complicated efforts to contain what has become the second-deadliest Ebola virus outbreak in history, with the number of new cases jumping each time treatment and prevention work is disrupted.

An attack on Friday on a hospital in Butembo killed an epidemiologist from Cameroon who had been deployed to the outbreak in eastern Congo. Tsiko cited witnesses as saying the attackers wrongly blamed foreigners for bringing the deadly virus to the region.

This outbreak now has more than 1,300 confirmed and probable cases, including 855 deaths, since being declared last August. The number of new cases has risen alarmingly in recent weeks after other attacks, leading the WHO to convene an expert committee that decided the outbreak, while of “deep concern,” is not yet a global health emergency .

___

Zookeeper hospitalized after tiger attack at Topeka Zoo

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — City officials say a tiger mauled a zookeeper at the Topeka Zoo in northeastern Kansas.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the incident happened around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, when a Sumatran tiger named Sanjiv tackled the worker in an enclosed outdoor space.

Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley says the zookeeper suffered lacerations and puncture wounds to her head, neck and back. Wiley says she was awake and alert when she was taken by ambulance to a hospital and was in stable condition Saturday afternoon.

The zookeeper’s name has not been released. Wiley says the tiger will not be euthanized.

The zoo was open at the time of the attack and was witnessed by some people. It reopened about 45 minutes after the attack.

___

Frustration grows among migrants in Mexico as support fades

MAPASTEPEC, Mexico (AP) — Madison Mendoza, her feet aching and her face burned by the sun, wept as she said she had nothing to feed her 2-year-old son who she’d brought with her on the long trek toward the United States.

Mendoza, 22, said an aunt in Honduras had convinced her to join the migrant caravan, which she did two weeks ago in Tegucigalpa. The aunt said she’d have no problems, that people along the route in Mexico would help as they did for a large caravan in October.

But this time, the help did not come. The outpouring of aid that once greeted Central American migrants as they trekked in caravans through southern Mexico has been drying up. Hungrier and advancing slowly or not at all, frustration is growing among them.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law April 21, 2019 Off

Polygamist lawyers in Utah face bar investigation

SALT LAKE CITY — Seven Utah lawyers are violating rules of conduct because they are polygamists, according to a new complaint filed with the Utah Bar Association.

The complaint was filed by a woman named Melissa Ellis who used to belong to a northern Utah polygamous group. She believes Utah should take action against polygamists who hold public office or professional licenses, The Salt Lake Tribune reports .

University of Utah of law professor Linda F. Smith said it’s unlikely the complaint will lead to discipline.

“Lawyers have been polygamists in this state for a long time,” Smith said. “This isn’t that new.”

Billy Walker, chief disciplinary counsel with an office of professional conduct that handles bar complaints in Utah, told The Associated Press that the organization isn’t allowed to speak about any complaints.

One attorney listed in the complaint is Paul E. Kingston, also the leader of a polygamous group called the Davis County Cooperative Society. Kingston didn’t return a voicemail from the AP left at his law office.

The Tribune reports that all of the attorneys accused in the complaint declined comment.

Ellis’ complaint cites a rule that defines misconduct as when attorneys “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness.”

Another section of the Utah State Bar rule defines misconduct as “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Smith, the law professor who also sits on the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee at the Utah State Bar, said history shows that the bar doesn’t consider consensual relationships between adults to constitute “untrustworthiness.”

She said former President Bill Clinton had his Arkansas law license was suspended for five years because he lied in a deposition — not because he committed adultery.

“The focus is on honesty,” Smith said.

Ellis, 34, is involved in an ongoing custody dispute with an ex-husband with whom she has four children. Her ex-husband had been represented at different points by two of the lawyers in the complaint.

She said members of the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group, provide free legal services to other member or trade for the services. She thinks that incentivizes members to take other people to court.

“The state’s not taking any action on anything,” said Ellis, adding that polygamy is “illegal, and they know it.”

Utah law makes polygamous relationships a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and up to 15 years if it’s committed along with a crime such as fraud or physical abuse.

Being married to more than one person, or bigamy, is illegal across the United States. The law Utah is considered stricter because of a unique provision that bars married people from living with a second “spiritual spouse.”

Drew Briney, a former Utah attorney who appeared in a season of the TLC reality show “Seeking Sister Wife,” said the bar complaint illustrates how many people unfairly associate polygamy with fraud and dishonesty.

“I hope this will allow a test case to finally challenge the bigamy statute in a lasting way,” Briney said in an email.

Jonathan Turley, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represented the Brown family from the television show “Sister Wives,” in a case challenging Utah’s bigamy law said if the attorneys are disciplined that could lead to a compelling court case.

Turley said it could constitute the “actual harm” the Browns lacked when they challenged Utah’s polygamy laws and lost.

The Browns initially scored a key legal victory in 2013 when a federal judge in Utah ruled the law violated polygamists’ right to privacy and religious freedom. But an appeals court in Denver decided the Browns could not sue because they were not charged under the Utah law. The legal saga ended when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 declined to hear the case.

“These lawyers should challenge the effort and underlying law,” Turley wrote in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune. “They enjoy the same constitutional protections as their clients. An effort to disbar them based on their lifestyle would raise serious constitutional questions.”

___

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law April 21, 2019 Off

Polygamist lawyers in Utah face bar investigation

SALT LAKE CITY — Seven Utah lawyers are violating rules of conduct because they are polygamists, according to a new complaint filed with the Utah Bar Association.

The complaint was filed by a woman named Melissa Ellis who used to belong to a northern Utah polygamous group. She believes Utah should take action against polygamists who hold public office or professional licenses, The Salt Lake Tribune reports .

University of Utah of law professor Linda F. Smith said it’s unlikely the complaint will lead to discipline.

“Lawyers have been polygamists in this state for a long time,” Smith said. “This isn’t that new.”

Billy Walker, chief disciplinary counsel with an office of professional conduct that handles bar complaints in Utah, told The Associated Press that the organization isn’t allowed to speak about any complaints.

One attorney listed in the complaint is Paul E. Kingston, also the leader of a polygamous group called the Davis County Cooperative Society. Kingston didn’t return a voicemail from the AP left at his law office.

The Tribune reports that all of the attorneys accused in the complaint declined comment.

Ellis’ complaint cites a rule that defines misconduct as when attorneys “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness.”

Another section of the Utah State Bar rule defines misconduct as “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Smith, the law professor who also sits on the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee at the Utah State Bar, said history shows that the bar doesn’t consider consensual relationships between adults to constitute “untrustworthiness.”

She said former President Bill Clinton had his Arkansas law license was suspended for five years because he lied in a deposition — not because he committed adultery.

“The focus is on honesty,” Smith said.

Ellis, 34, is involved in an ongoing custody dispute with an ex-husband with whom she has four children. Her ex-husband had been represented at different points by two of the lawyers in the complaint.

She said members of the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group, provide free legal services to other member or trade for the services. She thinks that incentivizes members to take other people to court.

“The state’s not taking any action on anything,” said Ellis, adding that polygamy is “illegal, and they know it.”

Utah law makes polygamous relationships a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and up to 15 years if it’s committed along with a crime such as fraud or physical abuse.

Being married to more than one person, or bigamy, is illegal across the United States. The law Utah is considered stricter because of a unique provision that bars married people from living with a second “spiritual spouse.”

Drew Briney, a former Utah attorney who appeared in a season of the TLC reality show “Seeking Sister Wife,” said the bar complaint illustrates how many people unfairly associate polygamy with fraud and dishonesty.

“I hope this will allow a test case to finally challenge the bigamy statute in a lasting way,” Briney said in an email.

Jonathan Turley, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represented the Brown family from the television show “Sister Wives,” in a case challenging Utah’s bigamy law said if the attorneys are disciplined that could lead to a compelling court case.

Turley said it could constitute the “actual harm” the Browns lacked when they challenged Utah’s polygamy laws and lost.

The Browns initially scored a key legal victory in 2013 when a federal judge in Utah ruled the law violated polygamists’ right to privacy and religious freedom. But an appeals court in Denver decided the Browns could not sue because they were not charged under the Utah law. The legal saga ended when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 declined to hear the case.

“These lawyers should challenge the effort and underlying law,” Turley wrote in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune. “They enjoy the same constitutional protections as their clients. An effort to disbar them based on their lifestyle would raise serious constitutional questions.”

___

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law April 21, 2019 Off

Polygamist lawyers in Utah face bar investigation

SALT LAKE CITY — Seven Utah lawyers are violating rules of conduct because they are polygamists, according to a new complaint filed with the Utah Bar Association.

The complaint was filed by a woman named Melissa Ellis who used to belong to a northern Utah polygamous group. She believes Utah should take action against polygamists who hold public office or professional licenses, The Salt Lake Tribune reports .

University of Utah of law professor Linda F. Smith said it’s unlikely the complaint will lead to discipline.

“Lawyers have been polygamists in this state for a long time,” Smith said. “This isn’t that new.”

Billy Walker, chief disciplinary counsel with an office of professional conduct that handles bar complaints in Utah, told The Associated Press that the organization isn’t allowed to speak about any complaints.

One attorney listed in the complaint is Paul E. Kingston, also the leader of a polygamous group called the Davis County Cooperative Society. Kingston didn’t return a voicemail from the AP left at his law office.

The Tribune reports that all of the attorneys accused in the complaint declined comment.

Ellis’ complaint cites a rule that defines misconduct as when attorneys “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness.”

Another section of the Utah State Bar rule defines misconduct as “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Smith, the law professor who also sits on the Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee at the Utah State Bar, said history shows that the bar doesn’t consider consensual relationships between adults to constitute “untrustworthiness.”

She said former President Bill Clinton had his Arkansas law license was suspended for five years because he lied in a deposition — not because he committed adultery.

“The focus is on honesty,” Smith said.

Ellis, 34, is involved in an ongoing custody dispute with an ex-husband with whom she has four children. Her ex-husband had been represented at different points by two of the lawyers in the complaint.

She said members of the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group, provide free legal services to other member or trade for the services. She thinks that incentivizes members to take other people to court.

“The state’s not taking any action on anything,” said Ellis, adding that polygamy is “illegal, and they know it.”

Utah law makes polygamous relationships a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and up to 15 years if it’s committed along with a crime such as fraud or physical abuse.

Being married to more than one person, or bigamy, is illegal across the United States. The law Utah is considered stricter because of a unique provision that bars married people from living with a second “spiritual spouse.”

Drew Briney, a former Utah attorney who appeared in a season of the TLC reality show “Seeking Sister Wife,” said the bar complaint illustrates how many people unfairly associate polygamy with fraud and dishonesty.

“I hope this will allow a test case to finally challenge the bigamy statute in a lasting way,” Briney said in an email.

Jonathan Turley, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represented the Brown family from the television show “Sister Wives,” in a case challenging Utah’s bigamy law said if the attorneys are disciplined that could lead to a compelling court case.

Turley said it could constitute the “actual harm” the Browns lacked when they challenged Utah’s polygamy laws and lost.

The Browns initially scored a key legal victory in 2013 when a federal judge in Utah ruled the law violated polygamists’ right to privacy and religious freedom. But an appeals court in Denver decided the Browns could not sue because they were not charged under the Utah law. The legal saga ended when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 declined to hear the case.

“These lawyers should challenge the effort and underlying law,” Turley wrote in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune. “They enjoy the same constitutional protections as their clients. An effort to disbar them based on their lifestyle would raise serious constitutional questions.”

___

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law April 21, 2019 Off