Sunday, October 23, 2016

All Lawyers live in glass houses by definition.

All Lawyers live in glass houses by definition.


kenneth ditkowsky

1:08 PM (18 hours ago)
A young lawyer who elects to ply his profession in Cook County, Illinois soon learns the lesson – it is not what you know, it is who you know that counts.     In this environment, I cut my teeth, opened my office and hung out my shingle.    As has been my history I was so ‘wet behind the ears’ that when I walked down (or up) LaSalle Street I left a trail of droplets.      Fortunately for me, I was not alone.   
I however had a big advantage.   My years at Jackson Realty and as an associate of Joe Ronsley were not a waste.   I learned the lesson that if I told everyone everything I knew everyone would be as smart as me – thus, I kept quiet and listened.    Fortuitously, my silence did several things, to wit: 1) my ignorance was not exposed, 2) I could stay in the background, 3) my mannerisms made me resemble my father’s oldest brother (my uncle) 4) when I did speak I had the knowledge as to what everyone else was thinking and had the opportunity to build on it and 5) I had contact with real live people, had negotiated successful contracts, and knew something.    All I lacked was knowledge of how things worked in real life.   (I also had the vigor and innocence of youth)
Thus, when in the middle of a trial I personally received a telephone call from the Judge presiding over the trial and heard the following: “the bid is 5” click, I did not know what all that meant, but I did know enough to call my father’s lawyer and ask him.    I was shocked when he told me.   I now knew that the case was fixed and unless I was going to prostitute myself I was going to lose the case.    (I did lose at the trial level, but, unplanned circumstances intervened and I was able extricate justice for my client out of the jaws of corruption.    I did this without paying a dime in bribes to any one.   (That is another story unrelated to this one).
The practice of law in Cook County, Illinois in the 1960s was for the most part an exercise by lawyers who were trying to earn a living resolving disputes promulgated by people who were business oriented and looking to make money for themselves in a growing economy with as little fuss as possible.    Yes, there were people who were litigious, but for the most part only a few of the clients who entered my office were ‘nasty’ and for the most part their opponents were ‘nice people.’     In fact, it was not usual that a person who was on the opponent’s side of litigation that I engaged in would subsequently inquire of me whether I was free to represent them in a matter unrelated to the matter that had previously been litigated.    As an example, it was the settlement of a litigation matter that got me the task of simplifying the Articles of Condominium.   
Referrals came rapidly after I opened my office.    Some of the referrals came from unlikely sources and some of the clients were very memorable.    Others were routine.    
  Donald Swift and his wife Julia were two of the nicest people I ever met and I will remember them forever.     They were hard working people who after world war 2 solved the housing crisis for themselves by over -extending themselves and purchasing what they thought to be a six-apartment building in “uptown.”      They borrowed the money to make the relevant purchase from the Commercial National Bank.     The Bank was a hands-on operation that monitored their customers’ accounts and knew every customer personally.      The President of the Bank heard rumblings that the person (Walter Dolan) who sold the aforesaid six flat building to the Swifts was desirous of acquiring it back, but, the Swifts were not interested in selling the property back at Mr. Dolan’s price.
Being Chicago, Dolan had a strong political tie and he also had a City job.     It was no trick for him to visit his ‘clout’ and arrange for “building inspectors” to visit the Swift building and write it up.    The Bank president anticipated this problem and recognized that when Dolan owned the building, he (Dolan) had converted a three flat into a six flat.    Such an activity was encouraged because of the WW2 housing shortage.    To accommodate the requirement of an exit and entrance for each apartment a stairwell was jerry-rigged on one side of the building.    The dimensions of the stairway were minimum and now in violation of the 1959 Chicago Building Code.    A deconversion of apartments would reduce the value of the building substantially and turn the First mortgage into a non-conforming loan.
The Chicago building department visited the dwelling and issued a deconversion order.     This was subsequently enforced by a complaint being filed by the City of Chicago which sought a fine and deconversion.     (Deconversion was only ordered in extreme circumstance) The Bank recommended that I be hired.    The Swift’s engaged me.
It took one telephone call to verify that but for Dolan’s clout there would have been no inspection, no complaint, and no harassment.     I was told not to mess with him as he could do me severe harm.     Of course, telling me something like that was akin to waiving a red flag in front of a bull.    I drafted a civil complaint against Dolan claiming that Dolan had violated the covenants of warranty in the deed by not providing Swift with a legal six flat building and that his not informing Swift of his conversion of the premises from a three flat to a six flat was a ‘fraud.’   
The Building court proceeding was a ‘joke.’    I noted that the Judge ran through his call deposing of cases like the wind.    A case would be called, and bingo the Judge fined the defendant $25.00.    Every case was the same.   
“John Doe”
“property located at xyz street, building violation, poor maintenance”
“fine defendant $25.00 _ next case”
I sat in the back of the courtroom and marveled.     The defendant did not need me.    In roughly 30 seconds he would out of the courtroom $25.00 poorer.    However, as I sat there the “prosecutor” sat down beside me and started a conversation.    He informed me that my client’s case was very serious as there was the element of a conversion of the property from a three flat to a six flat without a permit issued by the City of Chicago.    I listened politely.    He then informed me that by paying him $25.00 he would talk to the Judge and the Judge would fine my client only $25.00.    
To say that I was shocked was an understatement.    I was almost speechless; however, I managed to tell the Prosecutor that I intended to demand a jury trial, as I wanted to sue the prior owners.   With a look of pure contempt on his face the prosecutor got up and walked away.   
Finally, my client’s case was called.     The name was called, and it was followed by the Judge fining my client $25.00 and the telling the clerk to call the next case.     I interrupted:
“Judge is it not customary for prior to finding a person guilty and rendering fine for some evidence of wrongdoing be heard?”
You could cut the air in the courtroom with a knife.    Had I peed on the courtroom floor it would have caused less of a sensation.    However, the Judge looked at the prosecutor, and said to him: “do you have any evidence?”    Thereupon the prosecutor called to the bench an elderly man who looked more like a skid row resident than a city building inspector how testified that he had been to the building and noted that there was a conversion of the building from a three flat to a six flat without a permit.    My evidentiary objections were ignored as the demand for a jury trial that was filed with my appearance.  
Upon the completion of the testimony, the Judge found my client guilty and fined him $25.00.   I was young and naïve and therefore admonished the judge that I should be allowed to cross examine the witness.   Reluctantly and impatiently the Judge said: “OK”   On cross I elicited from the “inspector” that he could not tell me if the subject building was North of Madison Street or South of Madison Street.    He also had trouble remembering if the building was brick, stone, or wood.    Proudly I faced the Judge who said: “I find the defendant guilty and fine him $200.00).
Undaunted, I said the Judge:
“In America as I understand the system, the defendant has a right to defend the charges against them.”   
I then called my client to the stand and we produced the documents in the City of Chicago file that Mr. Dolan had obtained and filed in order to make the conversation from a three flat to a six flat during WW 2.      I then asked the court to take Judicial notice of the applicable statute and handed a copy to the judge and the prosecutor.
The judge looked at me as if I was insect and asked: “Are you finished?”   I realized that the game was over and said: “yes.”      The Judge then fined my client $200.00 and went on to the next case.
Unbeknown to the Judge, I ordered my own shorthand court reporter to be in the courtroom and take down word for word every utterance that heard by her uttered by the Judge, the Prosecutor, the witnesses and me.    She did.    An hour later, I filed with the Clerk a NOTICE OF APPEAL and a request for the record to be prepared.
A week later, the court reporter called me on the telephone to inform me that she was very sorry, but, persons unknown had broken into her vehicle last night as she was travelling home and stolen her notes of the Swift hearing.    She was extremely sorry and embarrassed, but, unless the police recovered her notes she could not write a transcript of the hearing.   
I called my court reporter (who had observed the proceedings from the front row of the courtroom) She delivered the next afternoon a copy of the transcript of proceeding.    I filed it and delivered a copy to the Judge to certify.     An hour later, I heard from the prosecutor that the Judge had sua sponde vacated his order finding my client guilty and vacated the fine.    He (the prosecutor) wanted to know if I still intended to appeal.     I said no, and then wondered why he asked me?
I had my answer shortly thereafter.    It appeared that the prosecutor was indeed hired by the City of Chicago as an attorney, but, it appeared that he had neglected to attend college, law school, or obtain a license to practice law.     I conveyed that information to the appropriate authority.
The case was far from over.    I was a pariah in the building court, and the building department was upset with me.    It seems that several young newspaper souls had discovered a ‘good story’    They were raising hell and *****.     Worse yet, one of the Judges in the building Court had to ride with me to a conference wherein we were both speaking.   As we rode, I informed the Judge that I had been in his courtroom and I noted that the prosecutor assigned to it by the City was talking prior to each pro se hearing with defendants.    I just happened to mention that I noted that in each pro se hearing he (the judge) had always fined the guilty pro-se the same $25.00.     I suggested that when Court opened tomorrow that he fine the first pro-se he found guilty $2,000.00.  
The next morning, Tim O’Hara (a friend and prosecutor in the building court) and I hurried to the Judge’s courtroom to watch.   Sure, enough we both observed the prosecutor assigned to the Courtroom make his rounds of the pro-se defendants.   The Judge entered the Courtroom, and called the first case.   It was a pro-se.   This judge listened to all the evidence, asked for arguments and then asked if both sides were ready for his ruling.   Both side nodded.    The Judge then found the pro-se guilty and fined in $2,000.00.  
The courtroom erupted!     The pro-se was stunned.   Every pro-se in the Courtroom was up on his feet and advancing toward the prosecutor.    The prosecutor looked like he had been hit over the head with a sledge-hammer.    The pro-se blurted out: “you *****, I paid you ****”    I was amused to note that sitting in the front row was my Court reporter taking down every word.    The long and short was that prosecutor was arrested by the Sheriff and disappeared.    (The Judge vacated the finding and set the case for a new trial).
Building court remained a cesspool, however, for the most part when I had to go there I received a fair shake.     Unfortunately, I did not remain ‘pure as the driven snow.’     One afternoon, I received a telephone from Tim informing me that Judge W**** want to see me and wondered if I could wait for him to arrive at my office.    I agreed. 
About 45 minutes later Tim and the Judge arrived.    The Judge was visibly shaken.    He handed me a note.    It was a death threat from persons who we believed were a nominal party to a serious business building violation case.      The deputy sheriff assigned to the Courtroom informed Tim that the note that he brought to his (Tim’s) attention was from people associated with the American Nazi Party.     I agreed to be in the Judge’s courtroom the next morning when the ‘case’ was heard.     I talked with a friend who was a Federal Law Enforcement officer who suggested that the fact that a threat was made was a good sign.    If the Nazis had any guts they would have killed the Judge already and if he followed the law he should be safe.
This was not very comforting to the Judge; however, he was feeling a little better, especially, with Tim and I both in his courtroom when he heard the case.      Having had a problem with the Nazis myself, my sympathy for them was zero and I suggested that we go on the offensive.    I told the Judge to order the immediate demolition of the premises.    The Judge looked at me with disbelief – I said, if you are uncomfortable with the order, you can vacate it sua sponde before it is carried out – BUT I need the leverage.
The next morning after a full hearing complete with experts etc., the Judge entered an order of demolition instanter.    The Attorney for the building owner went ballistic.    I approached him and invited him to coffee.     At coffee, he informed me that he had been trying to evict the Nazis and they were fighting him tooth and nail.    His client had was going to suffer a pecuniary loss, but at least he would get rid of the bastards.    I innocently suggested that he file a Motion to Reconsider and Motion for a Writ of Assistance to remove the Nazis from the building.    I thought that he was going to “kiss me.”     A half an hour later the building’s attorney filed the Motion and 30 seconds thereafter a couple deputy sheriffs were out on the street to exercise the Writ of Assistance.
The American Nazis moved out and opened their new facility in another building.    Tim arranged for an inspection and fortuitously a new building department case seeking demolition was filed the very next day.    This time, I approached the Attorney for the building and suggested that his client’s problem might be his tenant.      I did not have to draw any pictures.    Within 30 minutes the case was called and the attorney asked the judge assigned to the case for a Writ of Assistance.    It was granted and the America Nazis were again evicted.   
This time they got the picture and moved out of the County, and not threatening the life of judge again.    They did put Tim, the Judge, and myself on their mailing list.   We received their hate mail for years.      However, it was a bit expensive.    I purchased two gross of fishing weights and shared them with my two friends.    Each time we got a solicitation letter, we jammed the material back into the self-addressed return envelope and added a couple of the fishing weights.    
The Nazis stayed far from the Judge or Tim, but when they decided to March in Skokie I was drawn into conflict with them again.     This confrontation had the potential of being much more serious as many of my clients had be Holocaust victims and they desired to end the menace.     One of my real estate clients had tasted blood and want more.   (He was not Jewish, but had been circumcised) During the war years he was a young teenager and after incarceration had escaped from a detention center.   He joined the Polish resistance.      The thought of renewing his acquaintanceship with the Nazi supermen was like a dream come through.    He lusted after the opportunity to *****.      Several of my clients who had escaped to Israel and emigrated to the United States had purchased weapons and were taking courses on how to effectively use them.     Policemen from Skokie were rehearsing the roles in what was fast becoming an assassination.     I and other lawyers were preparing to mount legal defenses for any of the ruffians who felt aggrieved by the Nazi march –
Fortunately for everyone the Nazis did not have the ‘guts’ to confront the Holocaust survivors who lusted ******.   
As for me, my dedication to the First Amendment and the Rule of Law was temporarily diverted.     The hypocrisy that I exhibited and unfortunately still exhibit has not abated.     I cannot reconcile my feelings and conduct with the recent SCOTUS cases and make no excuses or effort to do so.    While I personally believe that the First Amendment is the core value of our Democracy I do not believe that I must be silent or complacent when others express their desire to eradicate Equal Protection of the Law, Freedom of Religion, Equal Rights, Human Rights, Civil Rights *****.       
During the distraction of the American Nazi Party, the Democratic Party of Cook County was operating for the benefit of Walter.     He was unhappy with the result in the building court and decided to have another go at it.     Again the building inspectors appeared and again a notice of violation was sent out.    This time, an administrative hearing was scheduled.   The beauty of an Administrative hearing was the fact that all the hearing officers were lawyers and all had busy schedules an no one took them seriously  - unless there was some sort of drive on.    Thus, the date for the hearing dragged on and dragged on and finally when the hearing was held  Dolan did not appear.    I waived the Court order dismissing the building violation order and the proceeding was dismissed.   
Once again Walter made the trip down to the building department and once again he was able to obtain an inspection.     When the case was assigned to a Courtroom and Judge, Dolan got a surprise.   My motion to dismiss on the basis of res judicata was granted and the case was over.    He had used up his favors and his clout was annoyed with him.    
However,  when this fiasco had first raised its ugly head I sued Walter Dolan.      To both our surprises we received notice that the case was on the trial call.   A clerking service answered the call and we were set for trial on a day certain.
On the day certain I appeared with my client, Julia Swift.     Dolan appeared with his attorney Max Pat.    Max had previously been one of the chiefs at the City of Chicago law department.     Pat could charm the birds out of the trees and knew everyone.    Both the Judge and I called him Max.    I was Mr. Ditkowsky and the Judge was Judge *****.    
As was our custom everything that we could agree to was stipulated in advance and the only real issue was whether or not Dolan had the scienter  necessary to commit fraud, and damages.    We had agreed that if there was a judgment for Swift, Dolan would pay for the costs of defending the building court cases and related matters.    This was a substantial sum.     My primary witness was my client.    I also intended on calling Walter as an adverse witness.
The trial commenced with opening statements.   With Max as my opponent it was a love fest.    Max was the perfect gentleman and pointed out that just because my client was an ignorant lout she could not have relied on anything that Dolan may or may not have said as he was one step about a laborer and *****.    He contended that there was no right to rely.
Mrs. Swift looked the part!    Central casting could not have produced for me a more perfect witness.    I walked up to the witness box and started with my first question:
                Ditkowsky:   “Ms. Witness was is your name!”
This was followed by dead silence.    You’d have thought that I asked to explain the formula E =mc2.    I tried again.   “Mrs. Swift, what is your name?”    ****”Mrs. Julia Swift what is your name?”     I was about to cry, and hit on the idea of asking her where she lived.    Again I was greeted with silence.   Finally the Judge turn to me and said:  “Mr. Ditkowsky, what are you going to do next – your client does not seem to remember her name or address?”
I then called Walter Dolan pursuant to Section 60 – which was the adverse witness authorization.    Dolan took the stand, smirked, and looked me square in the eye.     I asked his name, address and profession and he answered rapidly and as the voice of authority.     He stated that he was a builder.
Desperately, I asked him what he built.      For the next ten minutes Dolan bragged that he built the Board of Trade, Prudential Building, the Standard Oil building etc etc.     He told me that he was the principal developer of all these major Chicago landmarks.      I listened very respectfully, and made inquiry as to  his expertise and in particular I asked him if he was familiar with the City of Chicago building code.    To my utter dismay Walter told me (under oath) that he authored it!    
I could not resist.   Did you know that every major developer in the United States consulted with him as to the efficacy of their projects *****?     I looked over at Max.    He had slid out of his chair was not sitting under the counsel table.    The judge had mercy, and stopped the trial with the words:  Judgment for the plaintiff Julia and Donald Swift and against Walter Dolan in the amount of ***** dollars.    He then turned to me and said:  “you are not believing any of the horse feathers that this witness is testifying to?     I laughed and said – “Judge it  is all under oath!”    As Julia was no longer in the Courtroom, the Judge, Max and I all went out for coffee.     (Walter paid the judgment)
I never represented the Swift’s again.     Max and I had several cases together later on, but neither of us ever forgot Walter

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