FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

He Practiced Law Without a License, Now He’s a Federal Appeals Court Judge

One of the first things Thomas B. Griffith will want to do is convince his colleagues of the importance of changing their Rule 49. It shouldn’t be that hard since he’s now a member of that court and can tell his colleagues from personal experience what a useless rule it is. And it only makes sense that he work to get it changed since it was a rule he flaunted during the time he practiced in that jurisdiction and he must be thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t get caught.

Mr. Griffith serves to remind us that if you are sufficiently conservative, a lack of integrity or respect for the law is no hindrance to advancement in the Bush administration. That is the lesson taught by Thomas B. Griffith’s confirmation to serve on the federal court of appeals for the District of Columbia. The fact that he was Mr. Bush’s second choice does not make the lesson less painful.

The first choice was Miguel Estrada. Mr. Estrada’s confirmation was filibustered and in 2003 he dropped out of contention. He wasn’t filibustered because he lacked the ethical qualities that the legal profession expects of its members even when they are as important as Thomas B. Griffith. His confirmation was filibustered because his views were unknown but believed to be out of the legal mainstream. Instead of proving his critics wrong he stonewalled them. He refused to discuss his views or provide samples of his legal writing that might have demonstrated his legal philosophy and proved his critics wrong. As a result his nomination stalled and, ultimately, he withdrew his name.

Whether or not the country and the federal bench were well served by his withdrawal is impossible to know. What is known is that the man who has been elevated in his place is a man who, had the facts about his career been known by appropriate authorities before he was nominated, might have faced severe discipline for his flagrant disregard of the professional rules that govern the conduct of lawyers in the District of Columbia and Utah.

Rule 49, of which Mr. Griffith was contemptuous, is a rule of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia. It says:

“No person shall engage in the practice of law in the District of Columbia or in any manner hold out as authorized or competent to practice law in the District of Columbia unless enrolled as an active member of the District of Columbia Bar, except as otherwise permitted by these rules.”

None of the exceptions applies to Mr. Griffith. Mr. Griffith found the rule quaint and chose to ignore it. He practiced law for three years in that jurisdiction without the required license. Had the licensing authorities known of his transgression he would have faced discipline. Happily for him, he left the jurisdiction before anyone noticed that he didn’t find the court’s rules to his liking.

Furthermore he blamed his staff–saying in effect that he was much too important to attend to such trivia and his staff should have insured his compliance with applicable rules.

Having successfully flaunted the rules of the court on which he now serves he moved to Utah to became chief legal counsel for the University of Utah. He served in that capacity for four years. Acting as legal counsel for the university of Utah is considered practicing law in Utah.

Utah, like the District of Columbia has a rule against practicing law without a license. Rule 1.0 of Chapter 13a of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State of Utah provides:

“Except as set forth in subsection (c) of the Rule, only persons who are active, licensed members of the Utah State Bar in good standing may engage in the practice of law in Utah.”

It did not include the phrase “unless you are really important or are called Thomas B. Griffith.” That would probably have surprised Mr. Griffith.

It didn’t matter. No one noticed that he was again ignoring the rules imposed by the court and no disciplinary proceedings were commenced.

The one thing we have learned from Mr. Griffith’s conduct is that rules don’t apply to him. As a federal judge he will be beholden to no one. He will like that.

Notwithstanding Mr. Griffith’s example, if any of my readers were contemplating practicing law in the District of Columbia the reader would be well advised to follow the rules even though one of the sitting judges thought himself above them. Lady Luck might not smile on all who thus transgress.

Promotion to a federal court is even less likely to follow unless, of course, George W. Bush is making the appointment. In the Bush White House conservative philosophy trumps morality and ethics every time.

Mr. Griffith is just the most recent example of that.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer and writer living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: 56@post.harvard.edu

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail