Judicial Accountability is the Topic of Discussion at Texas Conference
The National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc and Zena Crenshaw pursue accountability for the violation of laws that provide the basis for democracy in America. Judicial reform starts with the fact that judges are doing whatever they want, and must be stopped.
* Full disclosure: The E-Accountability Foundation, and Parentadvocates.org, are members of The 3.5.7 Commission, and support Zena Crenshaw in her efforts to restore the Rule of Law.
Good Government Advocates Press To Place Judicial Accountability On The Agenda Of 2008 Presidential Candidates
Summary: Rice University of Houston, Texas was the site of what may turn out to be one of the most important civil rights and constitutional liberties conferences in recent history. On August 11, 2007, National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc. (NJCDLP) hosted a free conference at the prestigious university campus to solidify a national grassroots movement for important judicial reforms.
Crown Point, IN (PRWEB) August 20, 2007 -- Rice University of Houston, Texas was the site of what may turn out to be one of the most important civil rights and constitutional liberties conferences in recent history. On August 11, 2007, National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc. (NJCDLP) hosted a free conference at the prestigious university campus to solidify a national grassroots movement for important judicial reforms. The conference title asks the rhetorical question "Silencing of the Lambs?", prompting consideration of whether average Americans truly have a say about the quality of justice dispensed by American courts. Zena Crenshaw, NJCDLP Executive Director, explained that "we begin our analysis with a consideration of how effective average Americans seem to be in holding the gatekeepers of justice accountable for their conduct."
Attending the NJCDLP conference were many good government advocates representing more than a dozen states - Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, California, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Virginia, District of Columbia, Florida, New Mexico, and Georgia. The gathering summoned the spirit of Washington Whistleblower Week (WWW) which brought scores of activists to Washington, D. C. to protest government waste, fraud, and abuse in May 2007. While strengthening and expanding federal legislation was a key focus of WWW, its participants largely understood that law breakers essentially act with impunity when legal processes and courts are not affordable, reasonably prompt, and fair.
Sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges tacitly aligned to deny the civil and constitutional rights of Blacks among others, even at the height of America's civil rights movement. Attending the NJCDLP conference in Houston were Louisiana's infamous "Jena 6" as well as poor and minority residents of Abilene, Texas who could relate to that problem and saw through conference presentations its potential link to inadequate judicial accountability. Crenshaw reminded the audience that "the halls of justice are supposed to be open in America", noting the "large number of dollars and supporters it (otherwise) takes to access justice when your name is not Scooter Libby." Marcel Reid, a NJCDLP conference presenter and President of the D. C. chapter for ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) added "if there is no justice for the least of us, then there is no justice for the rest of us - Without Justice for All there will be Justice for None." ACORN is the nation 's largest community organization of low and moderate income families with over 350,000 member families.
The appointments of Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito and recent controversial High Court decisions assure that America's judiciary will be on the agenda of 2008 Presidential candidates. NJCDLP and most who convened with the organization in Houston seek to ensure that appropriate judicial reform and accountability are part of the Presidential debate. Attorney Michael R. McCray, chairman of "The 3.5.7 Commission", confirmed that "an unaccountable and unassailable judiciary is a serious threat to democracy and can literally destroy the American way of life." His newly formed private commission will examine the propriety of summary judgments entered against federal employees under Title VII, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and certain employees seeking relief under the False Claims Act.
Matthew F. Fogg, a high profile government whistleblower presenting at the NJCDLP conference, lauded the event and WWW for uniting patriots who fearlessly combat government corruption. Fogg referenced impending federal legislation, initiated by the D. C. based No FEAR Coalition which he co-chairs. No FEAR II would amend the Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 and is presently co-sponsored by U. S. Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx), Albert Wynn (D -Md ), and John Lewis (D-Ga). According to Fogg, "No FEAR II closes loopholes hindering enforcement of various antidiscrimination and government whistleblower protection laws." It also harkens to a concern expressed by famed civil rights activist Thomas N. Todd at the NJCDLP conference.
Attorney Thomas N. Todd, widely known for his dynamic oratorical skills as TNT, personally called on House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich) to move towards federalizing the regulation of speech among lawyers. In an explosive pre-recorded interview, Todd calls for a complete overhaul of professional disciplinary rules purporting to preserve the sanctity of America's judiciary. He projects that in some communities, lawyers are likely unwilling to accept cases that may place them in "bad standing with the judiciary". This "chilling effect" on a right as fundamental and critical as free speech, particularly troubles Todd when lawyers are called in 2007 to represent "very, very unpopular clients, just as they did in the South". Noting the "consistent" concern about equity and justice of Chairman John Conyers, Todd envisions that relevant hearings before the House Judiciary Committee may lead to a "national (lawyers') commission with one standard" for free speech.
Others riveting the NJCDLP audience at Rice University included attorney Mark A. Adams of Florida; attorney Dale Nathan of Minnesota; Dr. LeRoy Gillam, national president of Southeastern Christian Association; school reform activist Peyton Wolcott; NJCDLP director Thomas Saunders; and attorney Caroline Douglas. Keynote remarks were made by the stately, 2006 congressional candidate Byron De Lear. "Coming from all walks of life and from a diverse set of political affiliations, we all see and feel the urgent necessity for a more representative and fair justice system supporting the principles of equal protection under the law and equality for all" says De Lear.
Participants left the NJCDLP conference, committed to pursue their lofty ideals through practical, effective action. Rodney Logal, a NJCDLP board member and primary benefactor, emphasized that "meaningful government reform will likely come on a grassroots basis through the small financial contributions of many if it is to be afforded at all." Echoing that sentiment and other tenets of grassroots activism, NJCDLP Project Coordinator Andrew D. Jackson announced the formation of "You Can Count On Me". This new commercial venture of NJCDLP is a professionally administered network of organizations and individuals, pledged to provide each other a manageable level of simple, but vital support.
YEARNING FOR GREENER GRASSROOTS: Fledgling Good Government Advocates Unduly Rely on Mainstream Media and Celebrity Support
News Type: Other — Tue Jul 17, 2007 2:34 PM EDTpolitics, media, government, corruption, activism, grassroots, advocacyZena Crenshaw
There are a number of Americans who are direct victims of substantial waste, fraud, and abuse by their local, state, and/or federal government. The population is undoubtedly small in comparison to all Americans inhabiting the United States. However, the quality of liberty in America is defined by the rigors of vindicating that beleaguered group. When a relatively few experience, but find it virtually impossible to overcome their government’s oppression, the majority of their countrymen enjoy a freedom too tenuous to be more than illusory. As Americans, their quality of life may be high nonetheless. Many reason that the country is accordingly gripped by apathy to even the most compelling need for government reform. Actually such efforts falter because Americans unduly rely on major or mainstream media to disclose and combat government malfeasance and misfeasance.
On multiple occasions, Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court have noted in regard to publicity that without it ". . . all other checks are insufficient: in comparison of publicity, all other checks are of small account." Yet "publicity" can resound as effectively (or ineffectively) as that proverbial tree falling in the midst of a dense forest. Pundits question whether that tree makes a sound as it topples when no one is around to hear. Perhaps they should also consider whether publicity is publicity when it generates little or no discernible response.
Obviously profound movements have been ignited and stoked by media coverage. Societal norms are often shifted for the better or worse as a result. However, contending with deeply entrenched government corruption in America presents different dynamics. As the plague does not immediately impact most Americans, a persistent challenge is to convey why they should find it intolerable. That effort is complicated by the somber reality that Americans are inundated with news of atrocities, competing for their attention and concern. Moreover, should the targeted corruption be truly systemic, at least initially its redress pits American reformers against vast segments of their own government. Such a foe is typically recalcitrant to the point of seeming relentless. Usually the will and stamina to resist it must be nurtured.
To spark righteous indignation, lawful protest, and escalating demands for appropriate relief in America, good government advocates must do more than "publicize" a corresponding need for reform. They must enlighten and inspire an ever increasing base of support on the subject. Major or mainstream media can be a critical and integral part of, but cannot supplant that continual process. It should be an intense, multifaceted, and coordinated promotional effort, using a variety of communication mechanisms. Adequate momentum for the underlying cause will never erupt from a single news item or event or somewhat haphazard series of either.
Music, sermons, talk shows, billboards, bumper stickers, editorials, speeches, commentaries, advertisements, articles, webpages, theaters, and stages should all clamor for good government in America from different perspectives. Activists, bewildered upon trying to launch this hailstorm, often yearn for a renowned, preferably wealthy benefactor to do the job. Of course it is a buyers’ market for rich and famous champions of justice. They can do tremendously good work without tackling complicated, irretractable controversies precipitated by official misconduct.
Some celebrity advocates are funded in whole or part by interests inimical to vital populist movements. In any event, the obligation to pursue justice hinges on more than the pursuit’s affordability. Also, the resolve to pursue justice is hardly evident from casting primary responsibility for the task on those who could undertake it with relative ease. In fact that strategy fosters tolerance for government oppression as America waits for the most privileged to magnanimously uplift its downtrodden. Wishful thinking attendant to that methodology leaves grassroots advocacy grossly underutilized as a tool for enhanced self-help and mutual support.
Victims of government oppression, like wise prophets, probably find it easier to garner support outside of their family and friends. However, seemingly invincible malefactors are unlikely to face defeat through simply the kindness of strangers. Some of that goodwill should be used to recruit the family and friends of those most affected for the front lines of battle against government corruption in America. Their roles need not be high profile or large. Purchasing a stamp and/or sealing an envelope can help spread reform messages as much as speaking into a bullhorn.
What should be clear is that government reform in America needs to be as systematic as the malfeasance and misfeasance making it necessary. Amazingly the idea of systematically combating official misconduct tends to overwhelm people, even after they spend years, sometimes decades fighting the fight on a random or ad hoc basis with limited if any success. A systematic approach to the situation entails building the capacity as well as exploiting the current capabilities of one or more advocates involved. Few accurately assess the value of both endeavors.
Too many measure the viability of an advocate, strictly in terms of self-sufficiency when the worth of an advocate relates to what he, she, or it can and will do. Hence the apparent, but unrealized potential of an ally, should trump the historical successes of elusive comrades. In asking what you can do for a fledgling advocate, more options are created as to what could be done for you.
A national community of grassroots, good government activists emerged in America this millennium via internet. Oppressed people turned to its members for relief, not realizing or accepting for the most part that it comes with empowering related campaigns and movements. The pro rata demands may be small, but rarely spawn reliable support. Leaders abound on the scene, but not followers. Vacillating between the two groups while maintaining a distinct identity of their own are masses of avid observers, advisors, and critics. Though engaged by the cause, this wide audience seems determined for sweeping government reform to spontaneously combust in America. Those among them striving more deliberately for relevant change, at great personal sacrifice, may be well be castigated more often than praised for their work.
The undeniable truth is that collective strength harnessed through grassroots advocacy is the best hope for vindicating America from government corruption. That hope fades in direct proportion to the country’s fanciful desire for appropriate change primarily through spectacular acts of chivalry by the most conscientious of its ruling class. It has less privileged, but far from destitute Americans substantially abdicating their stewardship of the country in droves. Generally with regard to grassroots activism, "fee" is a four letter word and "volunteer" is a synonym for unreliable. Hopefully the table will turn as people confirm the old adage that you get back what you put in.
Zena D. Crenshaw is Executive Director of National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc. (NJCDLP). NJCDLP is a nonprofit legal reform organization combating abuses of the American legal system that are facilitated by judicial misconduct. Ms. Crenshaw is part of a speakers' panel that will discuss "The Realities and Essentialness of Grass Roots Advocacy" at a national judicial reform conference hosted by NJCDLP in August, 2007 at Rice University of Houston, Texas
The case of Murphy v IRS
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Whistle-blower accepts fallout of opposing contract
When I set off on my trip across the United States 4½ weeks ago, I hoped to find people willing to stand up for their convictions, whatever those convictions may be, and to figure out what gave them their courage.
My search led me to the imposing home of Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse, who dared to challenge the $7 billion Iraq oil-repair contract awarded in 2003 to Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton.
Greenhouse, a tall, confident woman, paid dearly for speaking her mind.
Weeks after she testified to Congress that the no-bid KBR contract represented “the most blatant and improper contract abuse” she had seen in her career, she was demoted from her job as the top civilian procurement officer with the Army Corps of Engineers. These days, she reports to people who once worked for her. She is no longer allowed to monitor the war-related contracts the government continues to issue.
At Greenhouse's home in Reston, Va., sunshine pours in through the huge windows, illuminating photo albums filled with pictures of her children and grandchildren, her collection of ceramic bunnies, the immaculate white carpeting and beige furniture. It is a well-organized home, presided over by a well-organized woman with an unwavering sense of right and wrong.
“I didn't set out to be a whistle-blower; I set out to do my job,” said Greenhouse, who speaks with the confidence of someone who has earned three master's degrees, including one in engineering, and has managed hundreds of people in her long career.
She said she was simply acting as “a steward for the public trust” when she scrutinized the KBR contract and all the other contracts she has signed off on over the years. At the time of her demotion, the commander of the corps said she was removed “based on her performance and not in retaliation for any disclosures of alleged improprieties that she may have made.”
Greenhouse said she approached her job with three goals.
To make sure soldiers got the supplies they needed “so they could be on the battlefield and fight and win.”
To make sure all contractors were treated equally and that they understood the rules.
To make sure the public's money was well spent. (She was supervising contracts worth $23 billion when she was demoted.)
“When I was hired in 1997, I took an oath saying I would ensure that the conduct in our agency would be beyond reproach, at the highest level of integrity, impartial, with preferential treatment toward none,” Greenhouse said, her voice rising with anger as she talked about the demise of her career.
“I took that seriously. I took that as my gospel. I was going to live by that.” Two things bothered Greenhouse about the no-bid contract KBR received to restore Iraq's oil operations.
KBR officials had helped the Army Corps of Engineers draft the oil field restoration plan, she said – so they had an unfair advantage when it came time for government officials to determine which company was most qualified to handle the job.
She also believed the contract should have been limited to one year and then opened to competing bids. Over her objections, KBR got a two-year contract plus the option of a three-year extension.
Greenhouse, who will turn 63 next month, said she never considered softening her stance on the contract.
“My parents made us accountable to ourselves,” she said, leaning forward in her chair. “They gave us values I won't compromise.
“God does not choose the ones who are equipped. He equips the ones he challenges. Because I have that confidence and that belief, I don't face things like they're the end of the world.”
Greenhouse grew up on the poor side of Rayville, La. Although her father had only a first-grade education and her mother a sixth-grade education, they pushed their six children to succeed. Her older sister became one of the first African-American professors at Louisiana State University. An older brother taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge. Her brother Elvin Hayes is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame who played with the Washington Bullets.
“We were brought up to give every fiber to doing the best you can do and then don't look back,” Greenhouse said.
Before she was demoted, Greenhouse said she was given an opportunity to retire with all the benefits of her higher-level job. Her husband, Al, a retired Army colonel, thought she should accept the offer so she could avoid the pain he knew would come her way. Their three children agreed with him.
Instead, Greenhouse continues going to work each day. In fact, her eyes light up when she talks about a project she was allowed to carry over from her old job. It's a system she devised to reduce the cost of workers' compensation insurance for private contractors working in Iraq. Last year the program saved taxpayers $45 million, she said. This year she expects it to save even more.
“It's a thrill to get up in the morning and go to work and have this responsible thing to do,” she said. “Those of us who are privileged to work in government are the only voice the public has.”
Greenhouse also may have the satisfaction of knowing her personal saga helped change the government's contracting procedures. Partly as a result of her testimony before Congress, the House passed a bill in March to limit the length of no-bid contracts and to require agencies that issue such contracts to publicly justify their use.
The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, Greenhouse told me with a big smile.
by Susan White
The San Diego Union-Tribune
The 3.5.7. Commission