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One of the more high-profile issues the Supreme Court may soon add to its fall docket is a case asking whether the Illinois Bar violated the First Amendment when it denied self-avowed racist Matthew Hale a license to practice law. A recent, and rare, disciplinary action by the Supreme Court itself against a New York lawyer may give some early clues about how the justices will rule on Hale — or any other lawyer punished for holding against-the-grain views. Hale, the leader of a church that advocates deportation of blacks, Jews, and other “mud races,” claims he is being punished for his white supremacist views. But for using language far less inflammatory than Hale’s, the justices disbarred Flushing, N.Y., lawyer Teddy I. Moore last month in an extraordinary 5-4 vote. Moore’s offense was filing two petitions for writs of certiorari filled with invective against the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and its “chief injustice,” Ralph Winter. Moore was seeking Supreme Court review of 2nd Circuit rulings that dismissed employment cases brought by two of his clients — Carl Spencer and Gloria Brown — against New York City government agencies. But he asked the Court to answer some broader questions — namely, whether the 2nd Circuit could be declared a corrupt enterprise under RICO, and whether Winter could be brought to trial for racketeering. His final question for the Court: “Whether there is a better resolution for the people than to shut down COSS?” (COSS is the acronym Moore uses for the 2nd Circuit.) In one petition, Moore claimed that it is rumored at the 2nd Circuit that any court employee — including security guards — can dismiss an appeal and have the dismissal approved by Winter. These slurs on Winter and the 2nd Circuit, apparently, were enough to push the Supreme Court’s buttons. On April 17, the Court suspended Moore from practicing law at the Supreme Court and directed him to show cause why he should not be disbarred. Moore became a member of the Supreme Court Bar in 1997 — a prerequisite for filing most cases with the Supreme Court — but has not argued before the Court. It could not be determined how many petitions he has filed since becoming a member. Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Stephen Breyer, dissented, suggesting that instead, Moore should have been “reprimanded for his unprofessional conduct and also admonished that future misconduct of the same sort will be sanctioned more severely.” Even this show-cause order was unusual in Supreme Court annals. Normally, the Court disciplines lawyers who are members of the Supreme Court Bar only after being notified of some disciplinary action by a state-level agency. But the action against Moore was not preceded by state action. It was triggered solely by his provocative filings with the Supreme Court. In any event, neither the Court’s show-cause order nor Stevens’ cautionary warning had much effect on Moore’s rhetoric. In an April 28 letter to the Court, Moore said he was the victim of a “shoot to kill first ask questions later” attack by the Supreme Court, “without due process of notice and opportunity to respond first and without any reason given for the swift execution.” He then repeated his charges against the 2nd Circuit, asserting that “the miscarriage of justice by COSS is worse than any that I know. … When an entity is so dysfunctional for the people who finance it, is it not reasonable to request to shut down such an entity?” On May 22, the Supreme Court had the last word. It disbarred Moore. But interestingly, as the punishment went from suspension to disbarment, Moore picked up the votes of two more justices. Justices Anthony Kennedy and David Souter joined Stevens and Breyer in dissent, though none offered any written explanation. Asked for his reaction to the disbarment, Moore showed no remorse. “There was nothing wrong in my language,” Moore said in e-mailed responses to questions. “On the contrary, it was an understatement.” Moore also said, “The disbarment is not justified and even four justices of the Supreme Court dissented from the decision of disbarment. The legal system is in crisis and the main culprit of the problem is improper review of lower court decisions and incompetent judges and this is hard for the system to digest.” Moore’s offensive remarks, while aimed at a federal appeals court, don’t come close to those of Hale, who advocates the repeal of the 14th Amendment because the idea of equal protection is “idiotic.” His Web site is studded with racist rhetoric. And Moore’s punishment is mild compared to the denial of a law license to Hale. Membership in — or expulsion from — the Supreme Court bar has little impact on most lawyers’ livelihood; they can still practice in any other state or federal court, even if they can no longer file documents with the Supreme Court. The action of Illinois bar officials in the Hale case, on the other hand, means he cannot practice law at all. But the parallels are there. The Court has postponed action on the Hale petition for several weeks now and could be preparing to let the Illinois license denial stand. If the justices agree to consider the Hale case, the question is: If five justices were itchy to punish Teddy Moore with disbarment, will they be as willing to endorse the more severe penalty meted out to the more provocative Matthew Hale? And the four justices who wanted the Court to lay off Teddy Moore; will they be as sympathetic toward Matthew Hale? It may be 2001 before we find out. TOUGH LOVE One of the pieces of evidence often offered as proof that Justice John Paul Stevens is not likely to leave the Court anytime soon is his still-active tennis game. Recently, his game apparently got too active. Stevens, who recently turned 80, was on the bench this month sporting a black eye. Responding to inquiries about it, his chambers revealed that Stevens was playing singles tennis on May 28 when he took a spill and fell into a fence that left him with a blackened eye and some scratches on his head. Stevens joked about his black eye at the beginning of his talk at the Judicial Conference of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month. He assured the audience with a smile that his wife “had nothing to do with it,” and that it was not the result of any tussle with a colleague on the Court. “We use strong language at times, but we don’t get into fisticuffs,” Stevens said. Federal marshals charged with providing security for justices also could not be blamed, he added. So what was the reason? Stevens teased the audience by saying, “You’ll have to wait and find out,” but he never returned to the subject in his speech. STARR GAZING Former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has dutifully accepted the licking he took from the Supreme Court in United States v. Hubbell. By an 8-1 vote on June 5, the justices said that in prosecuting a tax charge against Hubbell, the IC could not use documents produced under a limited grant of immunity. Speaking in Reno, Nev., at a conference of judges and journalists a few days after the decision, Starr took note of the loss. In law, he said, “There are victories, and there are developments. This was a development with a capital D.” He accepted the Court’s judgment, but offered a small complaint in the “misery loves company” category. He indicated he would have liked it if press accounts did not portray the decision as a loss just for the independent counsel. He said the Justice Department was on his side in the legal arguments at every stage, so it should share in the negative reviews as well.

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