Thursday, October 10, 2013

If You Are A Lawyer, Dont Start A Blog

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Attorney on Trial for Exercising First Amendment Rights

Dees Illustration
Janet C. Phelan
Activist Post

JoAnne Denison has made a very big mistake, it appears. Denison, who has been a licensed attorney in the State of Illinois for twenty seven years, has been writing about corruption in the courts.

That appears to be a career-killing No-No.

Denison first became concerned as to the hanky panky going on in State Probate courts via her involvement in the adult guardianship of Mary G. Sykes. Sykes was put under an adult guardianship, without apparent legal jurisdiction by the Cook County Court. Neither Mary Sykes nor her adult daughter, Gloria, were served with notice of the proceedings. The court-appointed guardians have subsequently isolated the elderly woman from family and friends for roughly four years.

This is sadly not unusual in guardianship/conservatorship cases. When a concerned family member or friend attempts to intervene in what is often abuse of the “protected person” by the court-appointed guardian, the protesting party often gets treated most severely by the court. Restraining orders are passed out in these cases like salt water taffy, and more often than not there is a lack of due process involved in the restraining order hearings.

Meaning, in lay terms, that the restrained person does not get a hearing.

There also appears to be questionable financial actions taken by the guardians, Adam Stern and Cynthia Farenga, in the Mary Sykes matter. Over a million dollars in gold coins have been unaccounted for by the guardians. Once again, this is -- unfortunately -- business as usual in probate court. While one of the primary functions of a guardian is to conserve the estate, many guardians tend to look at OPM -- Other People's Money as a free pass to whoopee it up on someone else's dime. Guardians “forget” to do inventories, “lose” valuable artwork and antiques and in some cases “misplace” entire bank accounts.

Denison, however, found all this abuse and embezzlement to be . . . inappropriate. She began a blog, marygsykes.com, which has featured articles by attorneys, award-winning journalists and bloggers as well as her own commentary on what is happening on a widespread basis in probate courts across the country. She has faithfully posted the legal documents relevant to the Sykes case.

And for this public service, Denison may lose her license to practice law.

Going into the complaint, which was filed by Jerome Larkin of the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission (IARDC), one finds that Denison is being tried for exercising her right to informed free speech. Larkin cites a number of quotes from Denison on her blog as evidence of the following:

a) Making a statement which a lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge . . . .

b) conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation . . . .

c) conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice . . . .

d) presenting, participating in presenting, or threatening to present criminal charges to obtain an advantage in a civil matter....

e) conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

I happen to think that Mr. Larkin over extended himself when he constructed this list. I have personally been reading the marygsykes blog for some time and am unaware of JoAnne Denison making any false statements. I am aware, however, that her criticisms of the malfunction of justice in these proceedings could well be considered in the category of someone declaring that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes....

In other words, JoAnne Denison speaks politically inconvenient truths.

The complaint details some of the posts by Ms. Denison concerning the failures of the court to honor Mary Sykes' constitutional rights as well as concerns about the dispensation of her funds. Here are a couple of the posts which Larkin found objectionable:
A July 28,2012 blog entry entitled "My fax to Diane Saltoun, Executive Director at the Illinois Atty General," stating:
While the above case has a long, long history, much of which is documented on a blog to be found at www.marygsykes.com. the reality of the situation is that this probate proceeding boils down to garden variety theft, embezzlement, malpractice and mal feasance by attorneys and the court. .. 
Please look at the attached and all the information I will fax you shortly. This is a case that could be bigger than Greylord - what is being done to deprive grandma and grandpa of their civil rights and how the Probate court (routinely) operates.
Yep, them is fighting words, you can bet your booty on that. The fact that Ms. Denison's post references concerns that have been brought to the attention of the court -- a million missing dollars in gold coins, for starters -- must have gotten Mr. Larkin all worked up. Because look at what else he has found objectionable in Ms. Denison's blog:
An April 19, 2012 blog entry entitled "Ken Ditkowsky's answer to the complaint filed against him by the ARDC via Cynthia Farenga," wherein Respondent suggests that the GALs and the Guardian ad Litem stole Mary Sykes' money by stating: Kend (sic) Ditkowsky and I have been caught up in all of this because we have been working tirelessly on this blog and to inform others of this situation--and those attorneys who will churn fees at hundreds of dollars per hour-want us silenced. They apparently have a lot of clout in Probate and even with the ARDC ...
Jumping Jehosophat!! You mean an attorney can now be cited for misconduct for reporting that a guardian and attorneys have committed embezzlement and are exercising what is commonly called "undue influence"? Isn't that what courts and the media are supposed to do? Provide a forum (a public one, to remind the reading audience) wherein acts of criminal misconduct and corruption can be ferreted out?

Or was Larkin's real concern that Denison discussed the clout that miscreant attorneys have with both the Court and his employer, the IARDC? Was Denison hitting too close to home for his comfort?

Attorney Ken Ditkowsky has also been subject to IARDC proceedings for his involvement in the Sykes case. Ditkowsky, who has been sending out emails to Attorney General Eric Holder and others, requesting an honest and complete investigation of the Sykes case, has been recommended for four years suspension from the practice of law. Ken Ditkowsky has been licensed to practice law since the early 1960s.

The IARDC complaint against Ditkowsky references the attorney's efforts to investigate the Sykes matter and also his efforts to represent Mary Sykes, as requested by Mary (the court had previously declined to appoint her counsel). In addition, the complaint also references statements Ditkowsky has made relating to the integrity and qualification of judicial officers.

Since the IARDC has recommended his suspension, Ditkowsky has continued to contact federal officials with his concerns about the Sykes case. If anything, he has become louder and more insistent concerning the deprivation of rights inflicted upon Mary Sykes and others.

Ditkowsky is now referring to these cases as “elder cleansing,” a clear reference to what happened in another genocide, the first launched under Hitler, which cleansed Germany of hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled ethnic Germans. Ditkowsky has also coined the phrase “ethics cleansing,” to refer to the removal from the Bar register attorneys who object to the abuses being administered via probate guardianships.

A letter from Guardian ad Litem Cynthia Farenga to the IARDC has since surfaced. In the letter, dated November 20, 2011, Farenga asks the IARDC for an investigation of Ditkowsky and Denison due to a blog post which appeared on Probate Sharks in 2011. In the blog post, Ditkowsky and Denison call for a State and Federal investigation of the Sykes case.

The Farenga letter confirms the very perception, memorialized on her blog, for which Denison is now under disciplinary proceedings. The fact that Farenga and others in the probate cabal do have torque with the ARDC should exonerate Denison from prosecution for saying so. But it has not.

It is of interest that the judge in the Sykes case, Judge Jane Louise Stuart, has deep financial ties to President Obama. (Source)

Given that Ditkowsky has repeatedly emailed officers in the Obama administration concerning this case, one must ask if favors were requested by Stuart, who appears to own Obama's mansion.

The website for the State of Illinois states that:
The Elder Abuse and Neglect Act provides that people – who in good faith report suspected abuse or cooperate with an investigation – are immune from criminal or civil liability or professional disciplinary action. It further provides that the identity of the reporter shall not be disclosed except with the written permission of the reporter or by order of a court.
This should exonerate both Denison and Ditkowsky from disciplinary action for the reasons stated by the IARDC. Possibly the law does not apply when the judge is a financial supporter of President Obama.

In any event, the word is getting out: Ethical lawyering has gone the way of the Stegosaurus.

And the First Amendment? It doesn't specify who has free speech and who does not. One more Constitutional protection is being thrown under the bus.

James Grogan, Deputy Director for the IARDC, declined to comment on whether the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act offered protection for Denison and Ditkowsky, stating he cannot comment on pending cases. When asked if, given the fact that the judge in question appears to own President Obama's home, there might have been some federal directives issued in these two cases, Grogan also declined to comment.

Other lawyers who have been under the gun due to their attempted defense of conservatees include Grant Goodman, AZ; Margie Mikels, California; Jim Reiss, California.

Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She currently resides abroad.  You may browse through her articles (and poetry) at janetphelan.com

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