f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

January 2, 2004

That’s Just Southern Chutzpahtality, Honey

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 10:25 am

mouse lawyer

Even on New Year’s Day, and despite sundry resolutions, it can be difficult for an old cynic to see the glass as half full.   Nonetheless, I tried very hard yesterday to put a good face on this legal discipline story out of Nashville, TN, which was discussed by Consigliere (01-01-04). 

The New Me wants to say “Hooray, the disciplinary system works, and even retired appellate judges will be sanctioned for misconduct.”   But, skepticalEsq rolls his jaundiced eyes and mutters that “The Old Boys Club has slapped one of its members on the wrist again — and taken years to do it.”

It seems that Charles F. Galbreath, a former Tennessee Court of Appeals judge, who has practiced law since 1947, was displeased with the trial judge in a contract case in which Galbreath and his wife were defendants in 1997.   When the judge refused to recuse himself, Galbreath decided to seek assistance from other members of the judiciary.  Among other things he did, according to the decision in this case:

Galbreath wrote a letter to then Chief Justice E. Riley Anderson and sent copies to counsel for the Court of the Judiciary and to Kilcrease. In addition to requesting the Chief Justice’s permission to bypass Kilcrease in any future suits he may file, Galbreath admonished the Chief Justice and threatened him in the following specifics:

1. After chiding the Chief Justice for the Supreme Court’s failure to designate him to preside in cases, Galbreath threatened to file a complaint in the Court of the Judiciary against the Chief Justice should the Supreme Court continue to exclude him from designation;

2. Galbreath threatened to publish his grievances against the Chief Justice on his radio program7 should the Chief Justice fail to respond with a “fair approach” to the demand; and

3. Galbreath attempted to pressure the Chief Justice to procure Kilcrease’s recusal.

Lawyer Galbreath was also cited for referring to a female judge as “Honey,” during a regular court proceeding.   After a short recess, he apologized, explaining that “it was his custom to address ‘nice looking women’ as ‘honey.'”   By the way, Galbreath had been sanctioned for misconduct on three prior occasions. 

Galbreath admitted all of the facts, but refused to ackowledge that any of the conduct was wrongful, and he appealed the Board’s decision to suspend him from practicing for 30 days as excessive.  According to the Nashville Tennessean, Galbreath said “he was surprised and disappointed by the state high court’s decision.”

In its opinion [Charles F. Galbreath v. Bd. of Prof. Responsibility (12-29-03)], the Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that Galbreath “clearly attempted to subvert the legal process to his will,” showed a “lack of respect for the judicial office and its processes,” and “inflicted grievous injury upon the judicial process and upon the office of the Chief Justice.”   Finding that aggravating factors also existed, the Court concluded that the thirty-day suspension of Galbreath’s privilege to practice law “is appropriate.”

umpire  Appropriate?   Was the Court acting like Blind Justice or the Blind Umpire?  Santa or Grinch?   Or, was lawyer Galbreath another one of those persecuted solo practitioners that my friend Carolyn Elefant worries about in every season?

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