Nigerian Lawyer Suspended for Practicing Law While Black

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Posted By:  Adeola Oladele-Fayehunon: July 29, 2014In:  Featured News 5 Comments
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For several months, a Nigerian lawyer in Chicago, Illinois, United States, Mr Lanre Amu, tried to get the attention of the American media but no one was willing to tell his story or help him get his law licence back.
Amu moved to the U.S in 1982 with the hope of living the American dream. At the beginning, he enjoyed this dream, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Civil Engineering with distinction. He worked as an engineer in Illinois.
Later, he attended the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and became a popular lawyer, representing minority immigrants, especially those not educated in America. After 16 years of practice, his American dream became a nightmare in August 2013. Amu got a phone call that his licence had been suspended for three years until an order of the court.
“I got a phone call that I was suspended from the practice of law immediately. I couldn’t believe it. They said I defamed four judges because of the complaints I filed against them over nine years,” he said.
The call came after his long battle with four judges he accused of corruption. Between 2004 and 2011, Amu filed complaints about four Cook County Circuit Court judges he alleged had compromised in their verdicts against his clients but in favour of rich insurance companies.
The judges are: Lynn M. Egan, Irwin S. Solganick, Francis J. Dolan, and Thomas R. Chiola.
His first complaint in 2004 was against Judge Dolan, who barred witnesses from testifying against a company Amu’s clients had sued.
Amu also accused Judge Egan of racial discrimination and corruption after she vacated a default judgment against his client in a personal injury case against a food store.
The lawyer insisted that the case was fixed, alleging that the judge’s brother worked at a law firm hired by the store’s insurance company to defend it against the suit.
In 2011, Amu’s accusations were ruled as “false”, “unfounded”, “baseless,” and in violation of Illinois Supreme Court rules by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), an agency of the Illinois Supreme Court.
A hearing followed and the ARDC administrator advised the Hearing Board to recommend that Amu be disbarred from law practice. But the panel recommended a three-year suspension.
The case proceeded to the Supreme Court and, after several months, Amu was officially suspended in 2013 for three years until further order of the court.
The lawyer said none of the judges testified against him while the battle was going on. Yet, he was suspended. He believes as an African immigrant and a minority black lawyer, he is a victim of racial discrimination.
When The Nation contacted the ARDC about his story, we received an email from their media representative, who said the ARDC does not comment on past or pending cases, except to give background information.
“The Court declined to take Mr. Amu’s exceptions (an appeal) from an earlier board’s recommendation that he be suspended for three years and until further order of the court,” said James J. Grogan, the media representative for the ARDC.
“The provision of a suspension ‘until further order of the court’ is significant because, at the end of the suspension period, the lawyer suspended must file a petition for reinstatement and establish rehabilitation after a hearing.”
Also, Amu, who once represented hundreds of minority clients, said he was left to find other means of survival.
“Things have been difficult financially, as you would expect once a person’s means of livelihood is interrupted,” he said.
One of his clients, Koami Agbezouhlon from Togo, told The Nation that Amu is the top black lawyer he knows that defends minorities in Chicago area. He said the lawyer’s suspension also affected a lot of minority immigrants.
“This is injustice. They knew that Amu was defending the innocent people like me. But now, judges are lying, and it’s not fair. The system is corrupted; something must be done.
“This is a sensitive issue because it involves judges. But somebody must hear his side of the story and do proper investigation. He feels completely cheated, and something should be done,” said another client of the lawyer from Ghana, who spoke in confidence.
In a YouTube to hope for, titled: Judicial Corruption in IL., Amu was granted his first interview by a cable station. There, he details the events leading to his suspension.
He hoped thousands would watch it and know there is corruption even in the American judicial system.
Amu continues
See Lanre’s Video here:
And From Ken Ditkowsky:
What was was interesting to note, that while Jerome Larkin was wrongfully and in an ethically challenged manner claiming to the Supreme Court of Illinois that Mr. Amu was lying, not telling the truth, defaming judges etc  Crain’s Chicago Business was making the same averments against one of the protected judges.   In fact Crain’s pointed out that this paragon of judicial integrity was so corrupt as to even be a board member of the defendant corporation and her bother was the attorney for the defendant corporation.
Practicing law while Black is not a new crime in Illinois, but it certainly warrants the attention of our political leaders who claim to be champions of Civil Rights!   How does any candidate claim to be a champion of Civil Rights and ignore this patently outrageous conduct by public officials?    It is submitted that many of our champions of Civil and Human rights are nothing more than garden variety champions of hyprocracy and slight of hand!    
We the great unwashed realize that we are the flotsam of America and we count only when the political elite and judicial elite need the facade of an election to justify their unjust enrichment at our expense; however, to keep us happy the government has to give us something to rationalize the fact that we are fast losing our heritage and the core values of democracy – most of us would be happy to see the enforcement of 18 USCA 371 (conspiracy) and the criminals who are promulgating the cover up of ‘elder cleansing’ at least paying the taxes, interest, and penalties on their booty.
It is too much to hope for an HONEST INVESTIGATION and the subsequent prosecution of the miscreants – but, as Illinois is on the verge of Bankruptcy seeing the ‘little guys’ get paid would be most gratifying.    Indeed, the taxes, interest and penalties that are due from the miscreants and their co-conspirator Jerome larkin is substantial.   Three million dollars is unaccounted for in the Sykes case 09 P 4585, One Million five hundred is unaccounted for the Gore case *****.    It is calculated that over a billion dollars has disappeared and little effort has been made to collect the taxes from those who are actively working at ‘covering up’ the criminal tax evasion.  Civil collection activities place the burden of proof on the taxpayer.  [Larkin knew or should have known that his charges against Amu were false, yet he persists in his punishment of Amu for practicing law while Black — whatever benefits Larkin obtained as the result of his wrongful conduct is taxable income!  – we are no naive as to believe he acted without a pecuniary rationale}
Ken Ditkowsky
from yet another article:

Bethany Krajelis Feb. 24, 2014, 4:32pm

The First District Appellate Court has upheld the dismissal of a defamation suit that a since-suspended attorney brought against Cook County Associate Judge James E. Snyder in 2012.

In an unpublished order handed down Friday, the appeals panel affirmed Circuit Judge James N. O’Hara’s decision to dismiss ‘Lanre O. Amu’s suit that accused the judge of “maliciously” calling him “a flim flam attorney” at a court hearing.

Interestingly enough, the Kids for Cash 3rd circuit case granting NO immunity to Ciavarella or Conaghan in their roles for “finder’s fees” or “placement fees” for putting all kids–even if no crime occurred in to a for-profit juvenile detention center.  They rules such activities to be administrative in nature for which no judicial immunity  attaches.  I submit calling an attorney that serves the poor and minorities “flam flam” and other derogatory terms is the same thing–not at all within the job description of a judge and purely administrative and not subject to any sort of immunity.  If a judge wants immunity, s/he should act like a judge and not name call in the courtroom.

“[W]e conclude the circuit court properly found it lacked jurisdiction to hear this suit based on sovereign immunity principles and affirm the dismissal,” the panel held. “Moreover, even if the circuit court did have jurisdiction, we would find the circuit court also properly concluded defendant was protected by judicial immunity.”

Justice Mary K. Rochford delivered the court’s 11-page order, in which Justices Bertina E. Lampkin and Jesse Reyes concurred.

In his suit against Snyder, Amu claimed the judge, in allegedly making the statement he was a “flim flam attorney,” intended to mean he was “a fraudulent attorney, a swindler — an attorney who takes money from people by fraud or deceit, and a criminal.”

Amu –who the Illinois Supreme Court suspended on an interim basis in August pending the outcome of his disciplinary proceedings–accused Snyder of making the purported statement at a January 2012 hearing in the case of Allen Henderson v. World Hyundai Motors of Matteson, et al.

He was not involved in any proceeding before the judge at the time he allegedly made the statement, according to the panel’s order that notes Amu claimed Snyder made the “flim flam” statement to or in front of at least three people, including one lawyer.

In his suit, Amu asserted Snyder’s alleged defamation was “part and parcel of a well-orchestrated scheme by the defendant and his company, motivated solely by personal animosity and personal vendetta.”

The scheme, he claimed, was based, in part, on a disagreement he had with Snyder’s friends, one of whom was retired Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas Chiola, as well his alleged desire to “oppress …rubbish… bankrupt … and totally destroy” him.

Representing Snyder in the defamation suit, the office of the Illinois Attorney General moved for dismissal, arguing that the court didn’t have jurisdiction to hear Amu’s suit based on sovereign immunity and that Snyder was further protected by judicial immunity.

In an affidavit, Snyder asserted that any statements he may have made in the Henderson case “were made during court proceedings,” and that he never acted outside his official capacity as an associate judge, according to the panel’s order.

O’Hara, the circuit judge, granted Snyder’s motion to dismiss after finding he did not have jurisdiction to hear that case. In his three-page dismissal order, he went on to say that even if he had jurisdiction, judicial immunity fully protected Snyder from the suit.

Amu appealed, arguing that O’Hara was wrong to dismiss the matter because Snyder was acting in a personal capacity when he made the purported statement, which took sovereign and judicial immunity off the table.

Like the lower court, the appeals panel rejected Amu’s argument and determined the immunity doctrines protected Snyder.

In the panel’s order, Rochford explained that she and her colleagues applied the three-factor test courts use to determine if actions against a state employee are actually against the state. She wrote no one disputes that as an associate judge, Snyder is a state employee.

The three factors, she notes, are whether the “1) whether the official allegedly acted beyond the scope of his authority; (2) whether the duty the official allegedly breached is owed solely by virtue of State employment; and (3) whether the action of the official allegedly took involved matter within his normal and official functions.”

Now how anyone in his or her right mind can possibly content this is a matter within his (or her) normal and official functions to name call anyone is beyond me.  That is more like kids on the playground rather than adults in court–adults with many years of college and doctorate degrees.

Rochford wrote that in his amended complaint, Amu claimed Snyder was acting in his personal capacity, but identified him as an associate judge. She also notes that Amu sought information about Snyder’s personal and professional relationships in his interrogatories.

“Despite plaintiff’s protestations that his suit deals with defendant in his personal capacity, the amended complaint is crafted to veil the fact plaintiff believed he was defamed by defendant in his capacity as an associate judge and defendant was acting as part of a broader court-based scheme against him,” Rochford wrote.

“Plaintiff,” she added, “cannot avoid sovereign immunity by merely identifying his suit as one brought against defendant in his personal capacity.”

The panel went on to determine that Snyder’s affidavit satisfied the first two criteria of the three-part test and in regards to the third factor, found that Amu did not allege Snyder “owed him a duty independent of his state employment.”

And even if the three-part test wasn’t met, the appeals panel held it still had to “consider whether a judgment for plaintiff would operate to control the actions of the State.”

“We find a judgment for plaintiff would have an adverse impact against the State,” Rochford wrote. “Such a judgment would invade the provinces of the judiciary and impede defendant’s ability, as an associate judge and an employee of the State’s judicial system, to control his docket and preside over his cases without fear of suit.”

She added, “Again, it is clear this suit is one which, under sovereign immunity principles, must be considered to have been brought against the State.”

In a footnote, Rochford noted that on appeal, Snyder asked the panel to take judicial notice that the Supreme Court suspended Amu’s law license pending the outcome of his disciplinary matter.

Amu, the footnote states, objected to the request, saying his interim suspension was irrelevant to his appeal. Rochford wrote the panel didn’t need to consider his interim suspension because it resolved the matter “on grounds wholly independent of the disciplinary proceedings.”

The disciplinary case the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) brought against Amu in 2011 remains pending.

In its four-count complaint, the ARDC accused Amu of misconduct for making statements that challenged “the integrity and fairness” of Chiola, as well as fellow Cook County judges Irwin S. Solganick, Francis J. Dolan and Lynn M. Egan.

The commission asserts in its complaint that Amu knew the statements he made about these judges were “false,” “unfounded” and “baseless” in violation of Supreme Court rules.

According to the ARDC complaint, the statements Amu allegedly made about the four judges stem from adverse rulings rendered against his clients in various cases between 2004 and 2011.

In 2004, for example, the commission alleges that Amu called Dolan “a very sophisticated scam artist judge” and “a henchman for the defendant insurance company” after she barred witnesses from testifying against a business that Amu’s clients were suing.

The ARDC further claims that in 2011, Amu posted a 23-page document on his law firm’s website titled “An Open Letter to the Illinois Appellate Court,” in which he accused Egan of racial bias and corruption.

The commission’s Hearing Board found these and other statements Amu is accused of making about the judges to be “so reckless as to be considered a knowing misrepresentation.”

Before the Hearing Board, Amu stood by his statements and argued they should be held to be true as none of the judges opted to testify in the matter. He argued his statements were constitutionally protected speech and maintained that he, as an African immigrant, was a victim of racial discrimination.

Although the ARDC administrator urged the Hearing Board to recommend Amu be disbarred from the practice of law, both the Hearing and Review boards have recommended a three-year suspension.

The Supreme Court, which has the final say in disciplining attorneys, has not issued an order in Amu’s ARDC matter.

Court records show Amu filed libel/slander lawsuits against the Chicago Tribune and the Law Office of Kevin Rogers earlier this month and one against Circuit Judge Mary Eileen Brewer in March 2013.

It appears he is representing himself in these three suits and that they remain pending.

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