This Wednesday, May 21, will be the 18th year that New York has prevented me from providing pro bono legal representation to the Black community. Malcolm X’s birthday is May 19. In 1990, Malcolm X’s birthday was on a Saturday. The Brooklyn Appeals Court had to wait until Monday, May 21, 1990, to suspend me illegally.
Since the 1850s, every Black lawyer in New York who has fought police terrorism and racial injustice has been shown the exit door. The list is legion and includes Thomas McCants Stewart, John T. Atkins, Rufus Perry, Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., Paul Zuber and Clarence Jones.
In a republican form of government, a free people must be able to secure effective assistance of counsel as guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment. The operative word is a “free people.” They are, unconditionally, entitled to court access and due process. See also the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
Effective representation of Blacks is still foreign to the criminal justice system and risky for an attorney. In the Central Park jogger case, for example, every Black lawyer, who appeared to defend a Black defendant for allegedly raping a white woman, was disciplined.
Three of those lawyers were disbarred. The other lawyer was suspended and he has since been reinstated to the practice of law. His appearance in the case was brief. New York’s judicial philosophy on interracial rape mirrors the philosophy in Georgia. All bets are off.
Will Anthony Ricco and Paul Martin be disbarred for representing the police assassins in Sean Bell et al? Not a chance! Instead, they will be serenaded by bar associations and police groups for defending white supremacy. This is the new paradigm for Black lawyers.
To be sure, these police officers had a right to counsel but these Black attorneys had no obligation to provide it under the Sixth Amendment. Otherwise, the Thirteenth Amendment would be threatened. Black lawyers must honor Charles Hamilton Houston. He said they will either be “social engineers” or “social parasites.”
Since 1842 and until the present time, Black attorneys have refused to be used by white supremacists. Robert Morris, Sr. was the first civil rights lawyer in the United States. He initiated the landmark case, Robert v. City of Boston, decided in 1848. The result in Brown v. Board of Education was sought in Roberts v. City of Boston.
Morris also agreed to represent Shadrack, a fugitive, under the Fugitive Slave Law. During his pro bono representation of Shadrack, Morris planned Shadrack’s successful escape from the federal courthouse. Shadrack’s next stop was Canada.
Pres. Millard Fillmore ordered the federal government to prosecute Morris for treason and conspiracy. After two trials, Morris was acquitted. He vowed to continue aiding Blacks who were victimized by the Fugitive Slave Law.
History has been unkind to Black attorneys. Many sacrificial efforts can be attributed to them. The rape case of Ed Johnson, in Chattanooga, Tenn., is an example. With white representation, Johnson was convicted of raping a white woman in 1906. The local judge and the prosecutor orchestrated the kangaroo trial.
Johnson’s father contacted a reluctant Noah Parden to represent Johnson pro bono on appeal. Styles Hutchins, his senior law partner, actually consummated the pro bono representation of Johnson amid a lynch mob atmosphere.
In 1875, Hutchins was one of the first Black lawyers to graduate from the University of South Carolina Law School. Hutchins, an admirer of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and also an ordained minister, was a paradigm for Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He used the bully pulpit to vigorously attack white supremacy. He had also been a state representative in Tennessee.
When Hutchins moved back to Georgia and opened a law office, as its first Black attorney, the Georgia Legislature passed an ex post facto law requiring attorneys with law degrees from other states to take a bar examination. He passed the bar examination and, afterwards, moved to Chattanooga.
By shouldering the appeal, these Black attorneys became outcasts in both the Black and white communities. Tennessee opposed an appeal. Even DuBois insisted that only a white attorney should represent Johnson before the U.S. Supreme Court. Both attorneys were puzzled over DuBois equating white skin with competency.
Arsonists attempted to burn down their law office. A few days later, Parden convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in a state court proceeding to save an innocent Black man. This argument had never succeeded before in the High Court.
Advocates of states’ rights in Chattanooga became irate after hearing of the stay of execution. They believed that no federal court had jurisdiction to review a state court action. This issue was supposed to have been resolved by the Tilden-Hayes Compromise.
The KKK assembled a lynch mob. Sheriff Joseph Shipp, a former Confederate officer, agreed to leave the jail virtually unguarded. Johnson was hanged but an impatient mob, seeking an instant death, became a firing squad like in Sean Bell et al.
Like the police in Bell’s assassination, the vigilantes were sure that no one would punish them upon the local judge’s advice. He basically lectured them on Dred Scott and cited a case in Georgia: An Indian had been lynched in defiance of a court order with impunity.
Blacks boycotted. White leaders blamed the Supreme Court for the lynching. A curfew was imposed only on Blacks. Only Black taverns were closed. A local, white minister condemned the lynching using Galatians 6:7 as his text. The Supreme Court felt disrespected and it promised to get even.
This prosecution of a lynch mob in the Supreme Court and the subsequent sentencing were unprecedented. The Supreme Court was not able to rely on the U.S. Justice Department which would have had to use a local grand jury to indict the defendants and a local petit jury to convict them of civil rights violations. This was an insurmountable barrier.
Nonetheless, only six of the 27 defendants–including Sheriff Shipp–were convicted in the Supreme Court for failing to protect a Black prisoner. The severest sentence was 90 days in a federal jail. Nevertheless, white judges and law enforcement agents would hastily attack the court for undermining states rights.
Once the Supreme Court had announced that it would prosecute the lynch mob, for contempt of court, Parden and Hutchins had to flee Chattanooga. Blacks turned their backs on these attorneys who had represented many of them without fee. They would never practice law again and they chose to live in the Oklahoma Territory.
History is so replete with examples of Black attorneys who sought, uncompromisingly, to represent Black people and had to become good Samaritans and sacrificial lambs. Only Black lawyers, who represented unpopular Blacks, while refusing to work for the government, would be disbarred. See the legal career of Thurgood Marshall.
For example, Aaron Bradley was the first Black lawyer who was disbarred in New York. George Vashon, the state’s first Black lawyer, was admitted to the New York bar in 1846. Bradley’s disbarment happened in the 1850s. He had demanded equal rights for Blacks in New York.
Later, Pres. Andrew Johnson had Bradley arrested in Georgia for demanding reparations for Blacks. He was subsequently imprisoned at Fort Pulaski. Afterwards, Bradley would be elected to the Georgia State Senate while practicing law without a license. Georgia refused to admit him.
Given the unheralded experiences of bold, Black lawyers, I was surprised when Councilman Charles Barron and Operation Power noted that Malcolm X and I would be honored this Saturday, May 17, at 2 p.m., at the historic House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn. No Black leader had ever made this gesture.
Since my “permanent” suspension from the practice of law, Black leaders and Black commercial radio have stayed away from me as though I had the Bubonic plague. My isolation is on the orders of white supremacists. In New York, you must be on the white payroll “or else.”
Former Governors Mario Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer, in addition to former State Attorney General Robert Abrams, have led the charge against me. Gov. David Paterson has picked up the baton. He is reportedly claiming that I must file an application for reinstatement to practice law. This is the same propaganda that was spewed by his predecessors.
I would suggest that Paterson read my brief and the record in Maddox v. Prudenti, et al. which is currently collecting dust in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He should simply disclose the Brawley file to the public.
The appellate record contains numerous irregularities including my summary disbarment which was made without any notice to me as is required by the Fourteenth Amendment. This constituted judicial retaliation for my suing state judges.
This is a historic and unprecedented award and I will be accepting it on May 17 on behalf of Malcolm X and all Black lawyers dating back to 1842 who stood up in courts of law for their people even though it may have meant death, imprisonment, disbarment or exile. They readily accepted the challenges out of their love for Black people.
I will be teaching an all-day seminar on international law, philosophy, military science, history, political science, economics, legal and political forecasting and police terrorism in June 2008. A knowledge of these subjects is necessary to combat police terrorism. Rosa parks received instructions on civil disobedience at the Highlander Folk School.
The seminar will be free but each admitted registrant must acquire course material which must be studied before the date of the seminar. Registration will be open every Wednesday evening at the Elks Plaza in Brooklyn on a first-come, first-serve basis.
May 17: Councilman Charles Barron and Operation Power will honor Malcolm X and Alton H. Maddox, Jr. at 2 p.m. at the historic House of the Lord Church, 415 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn. Take the A or C train to Hoyt & Schermerhorn or the 2 or 3 to Nevins & Bond.
May 21: UAM’s weekly forum at 7:30 p.m. at Elks Plaza, 1068 Harriet Tubman (Fulton Street) near Classon Ave. in Brooklyn. Admission is free. Take the C train to Franklin Ave.
May 28: Pam Africa will be the keynote speaker at UAM’s weekly forum at 7:30 p.m. at Elks Plaza, 1068 Harriet Tubman (Fulton Street) near Classon Ave, in Brooklyn. Admission is free. Take the C train to Franklin Ave.
July 6: Freedom Retreat for Boys and Girls, an overnight sleep-away experience in the Catskill Mountains, will start for boys on July 6 for two weeks, and for girls on July 20.
August 4: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has informed Alton Maddox that this is the proposed week for oral argument.
For further information call United African Movement at (718) 834-9034.
See www.reinstatealtonmaddox.net for “The Trial of Marcus Garvey,” “Reparations Threatened in South Carolina,” “The Value of Sean Bell’s Life,” “A Tribute to Alton Maddox,” “Sean Bell et al. is Repeating Amadou Diallo,” “The Right of Blacks to Bear Arms,” “Thirty Pieces of Silver in Sean Bell et al.,” “No One Seeks Martyrdom,” “Distorting Dr. King’s Legacy in 2008,” “Update on Maddox v. Prudenti et al.”