There is a pattern in America's ill treatment of those who have something to say, particularly those who are perceived as having "too much" to say. This pattern is made evident in America's treatment of activists ranging from politicians to attorneys, educators to unionists. Activists stand out and apart from the passive, the silent, the voiceless, the fearful because they are at once active demanding attention in the face of oppression. From divine resources, they draw energy and strength to push toward and forward in the name of freedom and justice.
Enter Jackson activist and attorney Chokwe Lumumba.
Recently the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down a decision that results in Lumumba's being suspended for six months from the Mississippi Bar, his re-taking the ethics portion of the bar exam, paying a $1,000 fine plus court costs. Given his 30-plus year record of advocating on behalf of Africans living in America, there might be a connection between his activism and the State's oftentimes harsh and unfair treatment of Lumumba.
While Lumumba's remarks directed to Leake County Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon may have seemed inappropriate or perhaps overzealous, the question arises as to the severity of the Court's punishment of Lumumba. Countless attorneys certified to practice law within the state have violated the Code on more than one occasion. Were they all or most of them suspended from the Bar briefly, or permanently disbarred? The Bar tends to publicly reprimand practicing attorneys for varying infractions and find this punishment sufficient.
I have read the Supreme Court's decision. I am unconvinced that their decision is fair and just. I sense that other reasons underlie the Court's decision. Those might include Lumumba's political beliefs, his work in the community throughout the nation on behalf of blacks, his outspokenness and his courage.
If this is the case, then courts of justice are improper forums. Mississippi citizens, elected and appointed officials should find a more appropriate venue to criticize and otherwise deal with Attorney Chokwe Lumumba. Judge Gordon drew the Mississippi Bar and the Mississippi Supreme Court into the conflict. Now, Lumumba will be unemployed—a blow below the belt to Lumumba. In other words, forced unemployment for any period of time hurts the victim, his/her family, community, etc. Furthermore, the ability of any entity to force unemployment of such a competent, over-qualified and certified attorney as Lumumba illuminates the far-reaching authority of supposed institutions of justice.
It's scary, people. Why, you might ask? I am compelled to compare the amount of power American systems possess with the amount of power possessed by the individual. The individual may be educated, under-educated, uneducated, employed, under-employed, unemployed, impoverished, wealthy, passive, active, law-abiding, hell-raising, of African descent, or European descent. Indeed, the individual is diverse and multi-faceted.
Yet, individuals possess the common thread of possibly being overpowered, abused, misused and violated by or by way of American institutions. Enter attorneys who advocate on behalf of individuals that comprise disadvantaged groups. Attorneys are charged to actively represent within reason their clients. This is true of activist attorneys as well as non-activist attorneys.
With that said, I ask what made Lumumba's actions, namely his words, so very criminal to warrant a suspension? To be sure, the suspension on its face seems harmless. Six months come and go so quickly these days. Yet, it is not the length of the suspension that troubles those who devoutly support Lumumba. It is the fact that the Bar presented suspension as an option to punish him and that the Supreme Court obliged the Bar. It is the fact that he passed all portions of the Bar years ago. It is the fact that Lumumba has been adequately punished already. A three-panel tribunal formed at the request of the Bar by the Supreme Court chief justice decided that to publicly reprimand was a sufficient punishment. The Bar decided otherwise.
Lumumba served three days in jail. He paid fines. Why suspension? Why Lumumba? Again, given his political convictions, given his audacity to speak truth loudly, given his self-sacrificial work for the community over the past 30 years, one might reasonably conclude that Judge Gordon, the Bar and the Supreme Court collectively have more of an issue with Chokwe Lumumba the activist rather than Chokwe Lumumba the attorney.
Either way, it is my hope that this drama compels youth to one day apply to, be admitted to and graduate from law school, then pass the bar and practice law in Mississippi. I pray that current law students aspire to walk in Lumumba's footsteps. I challenge current practitioners of law to support Lumumba as he considers appealing the Court's decision as well as support him upon his return to practicing law in the state.
I anticipate that Mississippians will rally around a man who exemplifies pure notions of equity, fearlessness and righteousness.
June Hardwick is a law student at Mississippi College.
I've also read the separate MS Supreme Court and Appellate Court decisions and, IMHO, must agree with them. The Appellate Court upheld Lumumba's contempt of court citation. The Supreme Court decision upholds the Mississippi Bar's suspension of Lumumba. Read exactly what was said on the record in the court room and I have to agree when the MS Court of Appeals stated: [quote]Lumumbaís behavior was done in the presence of the court and intended to embarrass or prevent orderly administration of justice. Further, it was both disrespectful to the judge and disruptive to court proceedings. We cannot fathom any situation that would warrant such behavior. This Court finds that the statements made toward the judge about how he can better get along with lawyers in the future, about the judgeís ì henchmen,î about being proud to be thrown out of the courtroom, and about paying the judge for justice were made to embarrass the court or impede the administration of justice. [/quote] In upholding the MS Barís suspension, the MS Supreme Court stated, [quote] When Judge Gordon asked to have Lumumba removed from the courtroom, Lumumba stated ì[t]hatís the way youíve handled it the whole Court. Iím proud to be thrown out of your Courtroom.î ( emphasis added). Then, when Judge Gordon advised Lumumba that he would immediately begin serving three days in the county jail for contempt of court, Lumumba tauntingly said, ì[n]o problem. Are you going to feed me? I canít get my bag?î While these comments are abusive and disruptive, they are also evidence the fact that Lumumba was purposefully attempting to exert influence over Judge Gordon through intimidation. Lumumba menacing, belligerent attitude was an unmistakable attempt to ì bullyî Judge Gordon into making decisions that were in accordance with Lumumba ultimate intentions. Further, when Lumumba remarked that he was ì proud to be thrown out of your courtroom,î this was an unambiguous, open admission of Lumumba lack of respect for Judge Gordon as well as the judiciary as a whole.[/quote] This was not zealous representation of oneís client. This is tantamount to a childish fit when a decision goes against you. This is one of the many problems caused by lawyers on both sides of the dais. Were the two decisions justified? IMHO, yes. Should Lumumba have been singled out? No, half the attorneys in this state deserve disciplinary action and remedial ethics training. Does the latter answer negate the former? Absolutely not!
BRASH! ARROGANT! OUTSPOKEN! LEADER! MOST OF ALL....REAL! Kenny Stokes and others can learn a lot from brother Chokwe Lumumba because they ain't no REAL leaders like he is.
- Black Man