BREAKING: Magnolia Bar Calls for Danks Sanctions | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

BREAKING: Magnolia Bar Calls for Danks Sanctions

<i>Photo credit: Adam Lynch

Photo caption: Jaribu Hill of the Magnolia Bar Association called for sanctions against Dale Danks Wednesday.

This story will appear in print in the March 22 issue of the Jackson Free Press.

Just a week after the Mississippi Supreme Court removed Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green from supervising Mayor Frank Melton's probation, Green has renewed her call for sanctions against former Mayor Dale Danks, who represents the mayor. Now, the Magnolia Bar Association has voiced its support for those sanctions.

In a motion to the Supreme Court dated March 14, Green acknowledged the high court's decision to remove her from supervising Melton's probation. The Supreme Court made that decision unanimously March 8, though Justices Oliver Diaz and James Graves Jr. dissented from the court's decision to void Melton's arrest warrant. When all other Hinds County circuit judges recused themselves from the case, the high court assigned Melton's probation to retired Coahoma County Judge Joe Webster, who promptly dismissed Melton's alleged violations as "technical" and unworthy of further jail time.

The Supreme Court made its decision without issuing any explanation, leaving myriad procedural questions raised by Danks' motions unresolved. However, it was the court's failure to address Danks' criminal accusations that elicited another pleading from Green.

"The court failed to address (my) request for sanctions for (Danks) falsely alleging that (I) had committed a crime by tampering, stealing/larceny or fraudulently withdrawing my order from the circuit clerk's file," Green wrote. "(Danks) violated … Rules of Professional Conduct and even submitted the pleading to the commission on Judicial Performance without just cause."

Now, the Magnolia Bar Association has weighed in on Green's behalf. District Director Jaribu Hill said Danks' assertion that Green broke the law was a slight of black female judges. "Danks has been a lawyer for a long time, and I don't recall him ever making such an accusation (against DeLaughter)," Hill told the Jackson Free Press. "This is unacceptable behavior for any of us. It's unacceptable behavior by (Danks). There is a protocol and a courtroom ethic that we have to abide by. We're not permitted to simply categorically dismiss the authority of a judge."

Hill said the court's slow reaction to Danks smelled of a double standard. "To bash the character of a judge has not been allowed. When (African-American attorney) Chokwe Lumumba was accused of making out-of-court statements to Judge Mark Gordon, he was sanctioned six months. We must challenge such double standards," Hill said.

Danks' accusation came amid a flurry of four motions he filed in three days with the high court, specifically a motion he filed March 6. In that motion, Danks described how Green filed an order the previous evening and then withdrew it due to an error. Green later explained that the afternoon she filed and then withdrew her order, she was filling in on jury selection for another judge who was sick. She also presided over two criminal cases that afternoon. When her clerk presented a draft of her order, she signed it and had her clerk file it with the circuit clerk's office. Shortly thereafter, she realized she had signed the wrong draft and that her clerk had forgotten to attach exhibits to the order, so she withdrew the order.

The following morning she filed a substitute order that was substantively the same as the original. Green has maintained that she followed Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn's instructions in filing her substitute order and that it was Dunn who removed the original order. This might undermine any accusation of larceny, which Green characterized as "outlandish." She also argued that the Supreme Court frequently makes similar substitutions.

In his motion, however, Danks said that Green's actions were "a clear violation of Mississippi law." He asserted that Green had committed larceny, a felony, by "tampering with records" and that she could face five years in prison as punishment. "Judge Green had no authority whatsoever to remover her appealable Order from the Court file," Danks wrote, "and it appears she did so once she learned of this Court's opinion of March 5, 2007, in an attempt to deprive this Court of jurisdiction."

In her original response, Green asked the high court to strike Danks' criminal allegations as defamatory and derogatory. "I have never given either the Defendant or either of his attorneys reason to publicly make such harsh claims or criminal charges against the court, with complete disregard for the truth," Green wrote March 7.

In her new motion, Green notes that Danks never asked her or the circuit clerk why her order was withdrawn before accusing her of committing a felony. She asserts that she never tried to thwart the Supreme Court's jurisdiction and that she did not act in bad faith toward Melton. "(Danks) had already filed criminal charges with the Supreme Court knowing well that (his) criminal claims would be broadcast statewide by the media," Green wrote. She went on to suggest that Danks might be receiving special privileges and asked the high court to clear her name. "If the court fails to address this issue, it will leave the public, and members of the bar with the belief that the trial court's recusal may have some how been based on the criminal acts as alleged by Defendant's attorneys," Green wrote.

In a March 7 filing, Special Assistant Attorney General Harold E. Pizzetta III also took exception to Danks' language. "(Danks) has strayed beyond ardent advocacy by accusing the trial court judge of committing a crime," Pizzetta wrote. "This Court has previously cautioned attorneys that theatrical comments alleging judicial corruption for the purpose of securing a procedural advantage are inappropriate."

Pizzetta also argued that granting Danks' motions would undermine the regular appeals process by encouraging attorneys to make motions directly to the Supreme Court. Pizzetta argued that the high court would throw lower courts into confusion because his original motion was largely based upon Green's alleged direct involvement in Melton's plea bargain negotiations in November 2006. Green has denied that her participation was out of bounds. Regardless, there is a 30-day limit on seeking recusal, and Danks did not object to Green's involvement at the time.

"The time and diligence requirements … are designed to prohibit the strategy employed by (Danks)," Pizzetta wrote. "Knowing of potential grounds for recusal, a party may not delay seeking recusal until such time as an adverse ruling is entered."

In other words, an attorney cannot wait to file motions for recusal until a decision breaks against him and his client.

Jackson business owner Clay Edwards said that the courts' treatment of Melton's probation violations demonstrates the benefits of being wealthy and powerful. Edwards is currently on one year of probation for misdemeanors he committed in August 2006.

"If I broke the law, if I'd violated my probation, I'd be sitting in jail right now. They would have come and got me out of the hospital," Edwards said. "I wouldn't even get the luxury of turning myself in without Melton's money and lawyers. They would come and arrest me. You and I would not get Melton's royal treatment."

Hill said as much herself: "This happens to be a case involving a public official, but would it have been the same if it had been an average citizen? They have to abide by the law, or they're prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But in this case, there appears to be a double standard."

Previous Comments

ID
126702
Comment

Nice! Glad to see other attorneys stepping up to the plate!

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-03-21T10:03:23-06:00
ID
126703
Comment

Please watch this video from Chicago. Afterwards, I would like a Meltonite to come on here and explain why it isn't important for public figures, who break the law, to have their cases moved to the front of the judicial line. In the video they point out this cop was originally charged with a misdemeanor. A week later they raised it to a felony. Thank God! Also, notice they don't hand-cuff the cop in the video. Remind you of anyone? It must be nice to get special treatment when you are arrested - like Melton, Recio and Wright. If it was me or you, we'd have our arms torqued back, cold steel tightened on our wrist, and (if we are lucky) the officer won't "bump" your head while putting you in the back of the car. It'd be hard for me not to "bump" the head of a drunk guy who just beat a woman half his size if given the chance! As the lawyer points out, this is horrible behavior for someone who walks the street with a gun and badge! Sound familiar? Darn good thing this is on video! You are darn right Melton's case is given special treatment, Meltonites! You cannot have public officials on the street breaking the law, ignoring legal advice, and using City resources to commit crimes! Please Meltonites, I would love to hear your excuses! If you are going to dismiss Melton's actions, then you should be lending your support to this officer in Chicago. At least this officer did the deed himself. He didn't just direct some wayward youths and minion bodyguards to do his dirty work!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-21T10:32:22-06:00
ID
126704
Comment

I support this action from the Magnolia Bar. The Supreme Court appears to be playing favorites in a negative way. This cannot be "swept under the rug." Someone has to stand up to this.

Author
Izzy
Date
2007-03-21T10:47:33-06:00
ID
126705
Comment

Laws in Mississippi will continue to mean nothing as long as the dead can vote and criminals run our capital city.

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2007-03-21T11:22:56-06:00
ID
126706
Comment

I've said it before, Pike: Only an utter fool would argue that you shouldn't move fast when a public official is accusing of wrongdoing -- both for the public's good and that of the public official. The public official has their hands on purse strings and other resources (police officers? equipment?) that they might keep abusing, and if they are innocent, the public's interest is served in getting that proved quickly. This is common horse sense. Of course, not everyone's a common horse. Some are utter a$$es.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-03-21T11:36:27-06:00
ID
126707
Comment

Amen, Donna. Glad to see the Magnolia Bar doing its thing.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-03-21T13:32:35-06:00
ID
126708
Comment

Hey ya'll, Quick food for thought. IF Danks is sanctioned like Lumumba (6 month suspension), would that mean that he would be dropped from Melton's defense team for the April trials? It seems to me that he would be. So, this leaves us with a few alternatives. 1. Melton feigns chest pains and gets a continuance (6 months?!). 2. Melton lets Danks go and keeps the rest of Danks team (Cory, etc...). 3. Melton flees the jurisdiction of the courts. 4. Melton cops a(nother) plea and resigns, etc... 5. The Sup.Ct. finds in Danks' favor... and "all's well that ends well" What say you?

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-03-21T17:20:52-06:00
ID
126709
Comment

You talk like there's a chance Danks will suffer any consequences.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2007-03-21T17:32:37-06:00
ID
126710
Comment

"This is common horse sense. Of course, not everyone's a common horse. Some are utter a$$es." Ladd Great line Donna! My take is that Danks is at retirement age, charged a bunch for making this very public move, with more money to come if he gets sanctioned. Coxwell was brought in to take up the slack in the case if Danks has to quit. The client was well served by these legal maneuvers. Danks can leave the frey as a winner (in some people's eyes.) All of the parallel publicity was pro-Melton and evaded the gag-order. Judge Green was left looking like an incompetent person. Unless the Supreme Court really gets tough there is little hope of rehabilitating her reputation. Many of us believe that Judge Webster's dismissal of the warrant, with prejudice, heralds his passiveness in April. Let's all hope he has great strength of character and judgement as yet unseen.

Author
ChrisCavanaugh
Date
2007-03-21T17:53:48-06:00
ID
126711
Comment

Chris, you are my hero (for now ;)). I can't find a fault with your reasoning at all. Cynics, Unite!

Author
Ironghost
Date
2007-03-21T18:55:23-06:00
ID
126712
Comment

Anyone who compares Danks' actions with that of Lumumba is just a plain and simple ass bag. Danks argued about changing an order in a court file while Lumumba told Judge Gordon that he has "bought justice" and would do so again. Does any rationale person think this is the same type of behavior? The Mississippi Bar should be ashamed of itself for not revoking Lumumba's liscense for that display. It dishonors a profession that most of us lawyers hold dear to our hearts & I am personally disgusted that anyone(especially non-lawyers) would equate the behavior the same as Danks' motion. Absolutley ridicuolous, I guess we should burn the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct as well & burn the U.S. Constitution. Saying that you can buy judges is an afront to what the founders of this great nation stood for & fought & died for.

Author
snowjob
Date
2007-03-21T21:57:27-06:00
ID
126713
Comment

Anyone who compares Danks' actions with that of Lumumba is just a plain and simple ass bag. Danks argued about changing an order in a court file while Lumumba told Judge Gordon that he has "bought justice" and would do so again. Does any rational person think this is the same type of behavior? The Mississippi Bar should be ashamed of itself for not revoking Lumumba's liscense for that display. It dishonors a profession that most of us lawyers hold dear to our hearts & I am personally disgusted that anyone(especially non-lawyers) would equate the behavior the same as Danks' motion. Absolutley ridicuolous, I guess we should burn the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct as well & burn the U.S. Constitution. Saying that you can buy judges is an afront to what the founders of this great nation stood for & fought & died for.

Author
snowjob
Date
2007-03-21T21:59:31-06:00
ID
126714
Comment

Shaun, Some judges can be bought, which is why we have Judicial Bribery laws... in fact, isn't there a case going on about judicial bribery on the coast? The difference is Lumumba said it in open court. Danks filed his motion with the Supreme Court, knowing full well that it would be displayed on the news, and accused a judge of a felony.. with no proof! Oh well... we'll see how it goes tomorrow. I don't want the Constitution burned though.

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-03-21T22:10:52-06:00
ID
126715
Comment

Well, Shaun... Did she commit a larceny or not? Lawyers throw fundraisers for candidates running to be judges all the time! I'm sure it is "just" because they are so proud one of their own may have the chance to be a judge. And the judges "just" want their votes. And, anyone who believes those are the only reasons is... well... an a**bag. Whatever that is!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-22T00:30:37-06:00
ID
126716
Comment

Lumumba also pulled the same crap with Judge Yerger, but apparently "litterely" throwing money on a Judge's bench is appropriate behavior for a lawyer. And the SC apparently agreed with Danks & recused Green but they didn't agree with Lumumba, no one on the Court did.

Author
snowjob
Date
2007-03-22T08:49:12-06:00
ID
126717
Comment

Lumumba was wrong for throwing money at a judge but he's not wrong on his assessment of how justice has been and is often conferred toward blacks, especially black men, in Mississippi and elsewhere.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-03-22T08:58:07-06:00
ID
126718
Comment

They agreed to recuse her, but we don't know why. They have yet to rule on Danks conduct, so maybe they will agree that it is out of line. We have to wait and see, but I can see a parallel between the behaviors of both attorneys. They both crossed the lines in my opinion. But, I'm not the one ruling on this, so I guess we'll see what they decide.

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-03-22T09:07:22-06:00
ID
126719
Comment

Ray I am not even attempting to argue with your point about justice and race. It is very true. History, statistics, current events and even common knowledge among attorneys holds your point up. However, Lumumba crossed a HUGE line. He should have gotten smacked worse than he did for his actions. As should any attorney that states a judge is "for sale or unethical" I have not read all of Dank's appeal to the Supreme's, but if he alleges the misconduct that I have read snippets of, Danks needs a HARSH suspension as well. We sign oaths to be lawyers, and swear to uphold profesional ethical obligations, one of which I hold dear. To paraphrase "Never, without proof, allege ethical or criminal misconduct " As lawyers we should be above those tactics. Baseless accusations against others in the legal profession does nothing more than to advance all the negative stereotypes about us.

Author
AGamm627
Date
2007-03-22T22:08:47-06:00
ID
126720
Comment

AGamm627 I was just messing with Shaun.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-03-23T08:40:45-06:00
ID
126721
Comment

Agamm627 makes the case for Judge Green, so I wil be waiting to see Danks "smacked" across the Courts for his charge of unethical and also criminal charges against Judge Green. "Ethical obligations" is not a one way street (for lawyers only). Think about it!

Author
justjess
Date
2007-03-23T11:42:13-06:00
ID
126722
Comment

You know if I didn't know better, I'd say "Tan Man" was used today by Ramsey as a bit of a "see this" to the JFP. Which I thought was cool, not spiteful.

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-23T11:50:04-06:00
ID
126723
Comment

I'll be waiting too, Justjess. It seems judge Green's good intentions backfired on her. We had better see some consistency in treatment.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-03-23T12:26:45-06:00
ID
126724
Comment

I hear Judge Green had surgery herself and might be the reference to the stitches...her own and not any of the Mayors. What I find interesting is the defense of the Mayor's attorneys being about recusal, when she wasn't fighting that, but was asking for sanctions related to the larceny charge. I haven't read the Mayor's attorneys response - what did it say related to the larceny accusation that they filed?

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-03-23T13:21:50-06:00
ID
126725
Comment

Okay...I just read it. So, the Mayor's attorneys say because they called the Circuit Clerk who reported that the order was removed that they had every right to claim larceny. That they were "zealous protectors" of the Mayor and that the rules of professional conduct don't require that an accusation of larceny be fully substantiated with facts prior to making the claim in writing. So, how does this equate to libel? I mean, if the MSSC rules in favor of the Mayor's attorney's, does this mean they are telling the MS Bar that attorney's can have one conversation with a person and then claim all sorts of criminal behavior against the presiding judge? Thoughts from the attorneys out there?

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-03-23T13:53:22-06:00
ID
126726
Comment

Did they really say that? (I haven't read it, either.) It sounds like they dancing around with very weak arguments. Of course, with the sitting Supreme Court, maybe that's all it will take for them. It seems clear to me where the bias lies; if the Court felt like it was standing on solid reasoning, I believe strongly that would have explained their ruling in this case in which Green was accused of so many different things. But she's a black, woman judge; I'm sure the folks on the court don't feel like they have to do such a thing. I mean: Who's going to care?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-03-23T13:59:40-06:00
ID
126727
Comment

Exactly, Donna. As a man said to me about all of this - "Unfortunately the MSSC sees this as 'black folks mess' and let it continue....." and I guess the Mayor's attorneys know this and play it.

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-03-23T14:07:52-06:00
ID
126728
Comment

Lots of folks in town care. She's popular too in her area and among certain lawyers. I don't think she's had an opponent the last couple of times. I wonder how the Melton thing has impacted on that. I hope they're not deceived in thinking that she has no appeal or friends left.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-03-23T14:08:59-06:00

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