Sensenbrenner's Questionable Ethics

by TChris

Jim Sensenbrenner is one of the most arrogant members of Congress, as demonstrated by his continuing belief that he knows more about the appropriate sentence to impose in drug cases than the judges who make those decisions. His attempts to impose mandatory minimum sentences on judges are bad enough, but when can't get his way legislatively, he tries to interfere with judicial decisions. Sensenbrenner must have been absent from his Constitutional Law class they day his professor explained the concept of separation of powers.

Sensenbrenner sent a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals "demanding the court overturn a decision affirming a 97-month prison term for Lissett Rivera and impose a 120-month term." His antics provoked a complaint to the Office of Lawyer Regulation. The complaint alleges that Sensenbrenner communicated with a judge about a pending case without sharing the communication with all parties in the case.

Sensenbrenner's letter was sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, which prosecuted the case, but was not sent to Steve Shobat, the drug courier's attorney.

Sensenbrenner's Wisconsin law license is in "inactive" status -- a designation that allows him to avoid continuing legal education requirements so long as he doesn't practice law. It's doubtful that the Office of Lawyer Regulation will do more than issue a private caution to Sensenbrenner, and just as unlikely that the House ethics committee will take serious action on a similar complaint. Still, it's good to see that Sensenbrenner's arrogant stunt hasn't escaped notice.

< Death by Taser | Dan Bartlett and Presidential Privilege >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Sensenbrenner's Questionable Ethics (none / 0) (#1)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:45 PM EST
    Well considering that the ethics committee hasn't even met for over a year--not even for the cash-and-carry shenanigans of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham--I doubt they will have anything at all to say about Sensenbrenner.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Questionable Ethics (none / 0) (#3)
    by Peter G on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:47 PM EST
    I'm in complete agreement, TChris, with your sentiments on separation of powers and on the Gentleman from Wisconsin as well. But I can't get my mind wrapped around the "ethics" issue. I understand that it is unethical for an attorney who is acting as the advocate for a party in litigation to communicate ex parte with the court. RPC 3.5(b). I had not thought it was a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct (although perhaps "unethical" in some other sense) for a person with a law license to write to a judge to express his or her opinion about a decision, just like any other ignorant member of the public might do. The court, of course, is duty bound to ignore the communication, because the courts are duty bound to ignore public opinion and public pressure (and in order to preserve the appearance of propriety ought promptly to disclose the communication (and any response) to the parties, as the Seventh Circuit apparently did in this case), but I can't see a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct (assuming that's the lawyers' ethics code which applies in Wisconsin) -- it's a violation of practically everything else that applies, yes, but not of the Rules. Perhaps TalkLeft's resident ethics expert, JWH a/k/a LNILR, would care to respond.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Questionable Ethics (none / 0) (#4)
    by jackl2400 on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:48 PM EST
    It was Sensenbrenner's Judiciary Committee counsel and hatchet man Jay Apperson who wrote the letter to the Judge. And yes, it was unethical, not only because it was ex-parte (not sent to the criminal defendant involved) but because it was a blatant attempt for Congress to seek to intervene or intimidate an independent federal judge in a particular matter because of the general "oversight" function of Congress over the federal courts. And it's also a violation of House Ethics Rules independently. (And yes IAAL). Apperson was forced to walk the plank and resign to take the bullet for Senselessbrenner (who is a lawyer himself who should know better and is also heir to the Kotex(tm) sanitary napkin fortune, make of that want you will). Apperson was a pretty evil piece of work from what's been blogged about him...an architect of many of the recent mandatory minimum and drug law racheting initiatives Sens-e's fond of.

    Re: Sensenbrenner's Questionable Ethics (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:49 PM EST
    well trhanks for the FYI on his fortune, Jackl. it will be a dark day in hell before Kotex or Kimberly Clark see another penny form this household. I know it's a fruitless endeavor, but it makes me feel a little better!

    SENSENBRENNER'S 18 U.S.C. 203 VIOLATIONS (none / 0) (#6)
    by bvongrabe on Sat Aug 25, 2007 at 04:14:11 PM EST
    I am the plaintiff in a derivative shareholder suit against three former Board members of Sprint Nextel and try to recover $15 million for the benefit of Sprint. I am also the plaintiff in a suit against Citigroup.
    I have clear and convicing evidence that James Sensenbrenner solicited, was offered, and received bribes from Sprint Nextel PAC within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 203, for acting as agents of Sprint - or better its attorneys - by engaging in ex parte contacts to judges for the purpose to intimidate them to dismiss the case.
    He tried it with hon judge Schlesinger of the Middle District of Florida, but failed, Schlesinger was straight; he then tried it with hon. judge Covington, a former FTC litigator, but failed, she too was straight. He tried it again with the judge in the Citi Corp case and succeeded. Between Sprint Nextel PAC, Citigroup PAC, and American Banker's Association PAC he received some $10,000 for his work as agent for Sprint and Citigroup.
    In predecessor litigation he intimidated judge William Alsup in the Northern District of California (March 2004) and persuaded him to overrule his own decision in Quickturn v. Aptix, where he had the DOJ investigate perjury of a witness, now holding that the plaintiff's request to instruct the DOJ to investigate massive perjurious conduct was "all that is wrong with the Amercian judicial system" (Gee! I thought perjury was wrong!).
    Needless to say that Sensenbrenner never informed all parties to  the litigation of his obstruction of justice schemes within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 1503. I consider litigation against him.
    Details on these cases will be disclosed in Marc Dahlberg's book "Liars' Den - The Math of Corruption".