State Bar Association President Defends Judge Collier

Monday, March 24, 2008
Marcia Eason
Marcia Eason

The president of the Tennessee Bar Association has written the Knoxville News-Sentinel newspaper saying an article involving a case handled by Federal Judge Curtis Collier of Chattanooga contained "several factual inaccuracies."

The March 7 article dealt with a case in which Judge Collier summoned maverick Knoxville lawyer Herbert Moncier to show cause why he did not violate the Code of Professional Responsibility in an appearance before Federal Judge Judge Ronnie Greer of Greeneville.

Attorney Marcia Eason said she was writing under a TBA policy dealing with "unjust criticism of judges".

She said Judge Collier and Magistrate Susan Lee "cannot respond to the news articles, editorials or opinion columns, and cartoon items published by the Knoxville News-Sentinel."

She said she had not been contacted by either judge.

Ms. Eason said the article referred to "secret orders," "secret proceedings," and "kafka-esque goings-on". She said those references, "without discussion of the established rule relating to disciplinary proceedings and the ethical canons that govern judges in this court, is misleading."

Ms. Eason said, "Implying that one of the judges opened a hearing to the public only at the request of the reporter, rather than at the request of the party to the proceedings as required by the rules, is also inaccurate. Implying that the reporter's reliance on 'anonymous sources' prevented the reporter from being thrown in jail was also inaccurate.

"The editorial cartoon published by the Knoxville News-Sentinel portraying a robed judge, smoking and leaning on the scales of justice posed in front of a federal court in Chattanooga while the public wears a blindfold, in light of the rules governing the court's action and the docket entries in this case, was unjust."

Judge Collier said in a Jan. 8 show cause order that the attorney should be summoned to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him in connection with his behavior in a case before another federal judge, Ronnie Greer. In that case, attorney Moncier continued to talk after he was told to keep quiet, and he was ordered taken to jail.

Attorney Moncier was found guilty of criminal contempt in the incident Nov. 17, 2006. He was fined $5,000 and directed to undergo anger management counseling and ethics training. The attorney appealed the conviction.

Magistrate Lee held a hearing in the case, but has not yet issued a ruling. The case was at first under seal and was not listed on the daily court docket, but it was unsealed and listed on the docket after the hearing got underway. A Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter attended the last day of the hearing.

Meanwhile, a number of attorneys filed statements in behalf of attorney Moncier, saying they have read the transcript of the Greer hearing and do not believe that attorney Moncier violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.

They include Bethany Dumas, listed as an expert linguist; Ann Short, listed as an expert on the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct; Wade Davies, of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Henry Martin, federal public defender for the Middle District of Tennessee; Caryl Alpert, assistant federal public defender for the Middle District of Tennessee; Don Dawson, post-conviction capital case defender for the state; Randall Reagan and William Massey, former presidents of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Mark Stephens, district public defender in Knox County; Jim Owen, Julie Auer, Nathaniel Evans, John Halstead, Jhasta Moore and David Skidmore, assistant public defenders in Knox County; attorney Mike Whalen; David Wigler, of the Moncier law firm; Ursula Bailey, who formerly was a Moncier law associate; attorney Stephen Burroughs and attorney F.D. Gibson III.

Attorney Martin said the actions of attorney Moncier "were in the best interest of his clients" and within the rules.

Attorney Dawson said disciplining attorney Moncier "for having fought to defend the rights of his clients as he saw necessary sends a chill over the remainder of the criminal defense bar and damages the justice system."

Attorney Reagan said attorney Moncier "was zealously and in good faith trying to protect his client's right to assistance of conflict-free counsel."

Attorney Owen said, "It simply boggles my mind that his fitness to practice law is at issue. To say that Herb Moncier is not fit to practice law is akin to saying Billy Graham is not fit to preach the gospel."

Attorney Whalen said if sanctions are imposed against attorney Moncier "the chilling effect on criminal defense lawyers would be tremendous as we all would be forced to ask if being zealous will cost us our livelihood."


2 Hit While Walking On Birmingham Highway; James Ankrom, 63, Dies At The Hospital

Two pedestrians were struck by a single vehicle on Highway 11 (Birmingham Highway) in Lookout Valley on Tuesday night. One of those who was struck, 63-year-old James David Ankrom, died after being taken to a local hospital. Police said the other person who was hit was responsive. She was identified as Maria Martinez, 52. The incident happened shortly after 7 p.m. at ... (click for more)

Cleveland Police Officer Charged Again After Wife Catches Him At Their Home; TBI To Intervene

The Cleveland Police officer involved in a weekend incident in McMinn County that resulted in the demotion of brand-new Cleveland Police Chief Dennis Maddux has been arrested again. Bradley County Sheriff officials said Officer Jeffrey Griggs was taken into custody Tuesday evening for Violation of an Order of Protection issued after the McMinn County incident. Meanwhile, ... (click for more)

Women Don't Ask For Rape, They Ask For Justice

The stereotypical irrationality that women typically lie about rape has brought an enormous amount of social stigma to this population. Many like to think that rape is not a huge issue in the United States, and that the media blows it out of proportion. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that approximately 17.7 million females in America have been raped, with 108,612 ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Happy Birthday, Mr. Berg

This past Monday we should have closed the Post Office, let kids out of school, and lowered our flags to half-mast. March 2 is the anniversary of Moe Berg’s birthday and the legendary Casey Stengel once said Moe was “the strangest man ever to play baseball.” Moe played major league baseball for 16 years, finishing with the Boston Red Sox in 1939 and a lifetime batting average of ... (click for more)

Double Overtime Thriller: Central Boys Going To State

For all the folks who came to Chattanooga State Tuesday night for the Class AA sectional battle between Livingston Academy and Region 3-AA champ Central, they got their money's worth and more. And they even got some free basketball to boot. Needing a couple of overtimes, the Purple Pounders will be heading to Murfreesboro and MTSU's Murphy Center next week for the TSSAA State ... (click for more)

Blackman Blazes A Trail To State By Bashing Bradley, 55-35

(Story will be updated) MUFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Class AAA state champions are still alive and well. Blackman raced past outmanned Bradley Central, 55-35, Tuesday night in a Class AAA sectional victory that blazed a path right to the boys state tournament at nearby Middle Tennessee State University starting on March 11. The Blaze (24-5) will be making their fourth ... (click for more)