Saturday, May 24, 2014


PRC candidates Merrie Lee Soules and Sandy Jones present a sharp contrast.

Personally, I like them both.

I met Jones, a “good-old-boy” sort, while he was working for Sierra County. I was trying to solve a land problem there. He was cooperative, helpful, and quite knowledgeable.

I've heard Merrie Lee Soules speak several times, and have been impressed with what she said and how she said it. She appears thoughtful and knowledgeable.

Jones is “a New Mexico native” and Soules “grew up in Las Cruces.” 
But their qualifications, priorities, and reputations differ.

Jones has experience on the PRC. (He left in 2010 to run unsuccessfully for State Land Commissioner.) He's also run his own construction company in T or C for many years. While Soules spent much of her career elsewhere, Jones has remained in New Mexico continually.

Soules has extensive business experience, including 20 years as an executive with a division of General Motors. She also has an Electrical Engineering degree from Cleveland State and a Harvard MBA. Her background is an interesting mix of practical and theoretical. Soules has viewed the business and technical world from a variety of viewpoints, and likely has a broad perspective on issues.

Their priorities are clearly different.

Soules is a strong proponent of renewable energy, without short-changing the importance of oil and gas to New Mexico's economy. Her decades at GM suggest she's not some wide-eyed neophyte lacking practical business sense.

Jones is viewed as more of an “oil and gas man.” He's endorsed strongly by industry lobbyist Carla Sonntag. Folks whose top priority is maximizing utilities' profits and minimizing pesky environmental concerns apparently prefer Jones.

On the other side, former State Senator Steve Fischmann says he's consistently seen Jones “putting oil and gas interests over consumer welfare. He consistently voted to limit consumer access to cost-saving solar energy and threw up road blocks to energy efficiency proposals that would have resulted in a cleaner, less expensive electrical grid.” Not surprisingly, Fischmann backs Soules.

Former Commissioner Jason Marks recalls that he and Jones differed philosophically on whether the PRC's duty was merely “to keep industry within legal bounds” or “to promote policies in the public interest that the utilities might not be ready to adopt on their own.”

Jones “didn't support pushing utilities faster than they wanted to go.” Marks believed that solar “would be a huge part of New Mexico's future energy supply.” He and others sought to push the utilities to increase their involvement with renewable energy. Jones opposed them, and supported El Paso Electric. “He thought industry with its expertise should be permitted to make the decision. I believed we had a responsibility to look at the facts and come up with the public policies that were best,” commented Marks.

Marks notes that in 2007 New Mexico provided solar energy to about 60-100 homes. By the end of 2012, that number was more like 65,000 homes. Had Jones's position prevailed, the increase would have been a fraction of that.

Meanwhile, local Tea Partyists back Jones, perhaps because of his preference that the PRC defer more to the utilities.

Unfortunately, Jones is associated with a time when the PRC was so rife with scandal (and Commissioners so short on real qualifications) that in 2012 New Mexico voters enacted three reform measures.

Jerome Block committed crimes. David King (nephew of Bruce King) cost us $84,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim. Carol Sloan was convicted of felony assault but refused to leave office until the New Mexico Supreme Court ordered her to.

Jones was convicted of nothing.

Jones was criticized for hiring an assistant, Elizabeth Martin, who'd been convicted twice of embezzlement. He knew of the convictions, but praised “her work ethic.” (She must have had political connections most felons don't. Governor King pardoned her first conviction – and hired her as an administrative assistant. Ten years later she pled guilty to embezzlement again. Jones hired her two years after she was sentenced to months in prison and three years of supervised release. After complaints, Jones suspended her while the matter was referred to AG Gary King, but then reinstated her soon afterward, saying an AG ruling could take months.)

The hiring apparently wasn't illegal, although it didn't help repair the old PRC's reputation.

Folks who claim Jones was corrupt seem not to have first-hand knowledge or readily available evidence. Marks, who disagreed with Jones on some key issues, portrays Jones as “principled” and “caring about the State,” and says he believes Jones acted on his view of what would be best for the state. I discount the statements by unknown persons we can't cross-examine concerning Mr. Jones, as well as those suggesting we blame Ms. Soules for the fact that GM is recalling a lot of automobiles.

These two candidates who represent two very different points-of-view and backgrounds. Each may appeal strongly to one group or another.

The main points are that the PRC matters, and your vote matters.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, Sunday, May 25th -- and treats Mr. Jones far more kindly than it would if I wrote it today.]
[Update 27May2014: the Albuquerque Journal and the Las Cruces Sun-News have now endorsed Ms. Soules in this important but often overlooked race.]
[Early Saturday evening our neighbor dropped by with a leaflet from Merrie Lee Soules.  Our neighbor had read it, thought Ms. Soules looked like a potential breath of fresh air on the PRC, and wondered what we thought.
Moments later I went out to the mailbox.  It contained a flyer from Sandy Jones.  The difference between the two flyers would tell any knowledgeable person all we need to know about why it's terribly important to vote for Ms. Soules, and keep Mr. Jones away from the PRC.
The Soules flyer is primarily about why she's a good bet for us.  She does truthfully state (as does my column, more or less) that "At one time four out of the five commissioners, including  current candidate Sandy Jones, were facing criminal charges or engaged in other questionable behavior."
The Jones flyer not only makes a stupid and misleading attack on Ms. Soules but says things about himself that are comically misleading to anyone with any knowledge.
On one side, he says Ms. Soules spent ten years managing a GM plant in Mexico and implies that (a) she did so to avoid worker-protection and U.S. wages and (b) somehow had the power to make that decision for G.M.
Among his howlers about himself, e writes that while on the PRC he "wrote the most aggressive renewable energy standards in the nation."  Even if he can show some tenuous connection to literal truth, this claim regarding renewable energy is a cynical joke when he knows he had his foot on the brakes as hard as he could.   
Meanwhile his suggestion that Ms. Soules is against worker protection and reasonable wages is thoroughly misleading.]

Some important aspects of Jones's record at the PRC

When Ms. Soules refers to the “old” PRC it's not necessary to any defined corruption, but to a way of doing business that needed to change.

If you read articles from back when Jones and the others were on the board, the PRC didn't operate in the way we'd want to – so much so that there was one proposed amendment to abolish it.

Four years ago, the PRC either violated the open-meetings law or used a loophole to evade it's purposes in a just-barely-legal way. The members met, sequentially, one at a time, with the Insurance Commissioner. There's no question they discussed public business. There's no question that having each discuss something in turn with one of their number, or another person, is legally as impermissible as having a joint discussion. There's no question that they supervised the Insurance Commissioner.

They claimed, though, that because the subject of discussion wasn't directly within their jurisdiction, they didn't violate the law. This was never legally tested, as far as I know. But Jason Marks, even then, said they were doing wrong. “My position on this is that even if we meet the legal requirements of [the Open Meetings Act] and IPRA [Inspection of Public Records Act], that shouldn't be our standard. Our standard should be to be as open as possible,” he was quoted as saying in 2010.

Sandy Jones said no such thing.

Jones did apparently take the lead in the PRC's effort to muzzle whistleblowers who leaded information embarrassing to the PRC but of public interest.

In September 2010, Jones pursued efforts to identify and fire the employee he believed had leaked an audit report published by the Santa Fe Independent. New Mexico Foundation for Open Government called his actions illegal. “Retaliation against such a person would be extremely unwise – if they win in court, they are entitled to double back pay, among other things,” NM FOG director Sarah Welsh said at the time. (The “other things” include the wrongly-fired-employee's attorney fees, which can mount up.)

In fact, the audit hadn't even been leaked. It had been procured through an IPRA Request, which legally mandated showing the document to the newspaper.

Jones, though, pursued trying to fire the person, showing questionable judgment, arguable disrespect for law, and a spirit far from the spirit of openness Ms. Soules says she wants to bring to the PRC. He wasn't alone. The PRC's attorney said it the document hadn't been cleared for dissemination but was in “mid-process.” But my own impression is that the document had to be produced under IPRA; and again, whatever the legal requirements, Jones's conduct didn't show a desire to maximize openness in government.

The PRC then argued the issue, and, according to a contemporary report, “During the meeting, Commissioner Sandy Jones demanded that Division officials 'name names' of employees who had access to what Jones described as a 'leaked' document.”

“'Who gave him the letter?' Jones demanded, referring to the audit report. 'Who has access to the letter? Name who has access to that letter. Who? Who? Who? What are the names? I want to know who gave the letter to the press.'”

Jones called for the employee to be identified and fired.

Not only was he arguably demanding that the PRC violate the law, a union official said Jones was coming very close to trespassing in personnel issues.

“I don't think the press has free and open access to everything done in government,” Jones insisted, arguing that because the document was marked “draft” it should not have been released. Commissioner Marks (and the law) disagreed. Marks said the “draft” stamp was no reason to avoid public discussion.

“This [audit] is not going to be changed,” Marks reportedly told the Commission. “We've been told to address it and the press has it already. Why are we trying to hunt down a leak and sweep this under the rug. What do you guys think your job is? Who do you think you work for?”

Reportedly, this discussion was mainly between Marks for open government and Jones against it, with the other three “remaining largely silent.”

Asked Marks, “Exactly why is this confidential, legally? And, as a policy issue, what are you guys trying to hide? The purpose of the Open Meetings Act is that the citizens to whom we're accountable know what their government is up to . . . The purpose of the law is not to protect us from being embarrassed.”

But Jones replied that the PRC needed “to protect the sanctity of the process.”

Does this sound like a guy we should be in a rush to put back on the PRC?

Not if we're proponents of open government. Not if we're proponents of strongly encouraging a shift to renewable and non-polluting energy resources. Not if we're interested in public servants who recognize the bounds of their power and are comfortable staying within those bounds. Or who place the public interest above their own convenience and avoiding embarrassment to the PRC.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fellow Republicans Point to Martinez-McLeskey Corruption

Has anyone noticed how strongly the sweet scent of corruption permeates the New Mexico Governor's Office these days?

Maybe not. Newspapers, barely surviving economically, often don't report the facts in much detail; and as our politics grow more polarized, folks no longer bother to read critically. If there's an unpleasant fact about someone in the opposing party, it's probably true. If it concerns someone in your party, it's been fabricated or exaggerated by the other side.

But many of the most troubling accusations against Ms. Martinez and Governor Jay McLeskey come from credible Republicans appointed by Mart-lesky.

The recently unsealed whistleblower complaint against the Martinez Administration should be the final straw for anyone who still believed Martinez was some sort of antidote to corruption in Santa Fe.
She's right in the middle of it. She and her people aren't even subtle. But they're consistent: if you're a generous friend, they'll pay you back with our money or softened regulations; but if you speak up, they'll try to bury you.

The 33-page complaint filed in February alleges that a company co-founded by Jon Barela, Mart-leskey's secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, secretly benefited from a state tax credit program. It also claims: aides to Martinez instructed a state employee to use his personal email for sensitive government work to evade public records requests; Barela and his deputy, Barbara Brazil, ignored waste and management at the state's Spaceport project; and that Brazil ran several Dairy Queen franchises she had an interest in “while simultaneously being paid by the State of New Mexico.” When other officials questioned the apparent misconduct, they were demoted, then fired.

Interestingly, the lawsuit echoes earlier complaints about evasion of IPRA requirements, and involves the same private lawyer who was right in the middle of the Albuquerque Downs mess.

There, Martinez stacked a board with folks who would ignore the facts and give a lucrative contract to a company owned by Martinez campaign contributors, despite that company's poor record.
The whistleblower plaintiffs are two Republicans, appointed to office by Martinez. The wife of one had worked as a scheduler during the 2010 election campaign.

Two of the most consistent voices discussing the Albuquerque Downs misconduct were Republicans Tom Tinnin, and Charlotte Rode. Both were Martinez appointees. Ms. Rode, a reform Republican and political neophyte, is a true soccer mom (and long-time basketball coach) and life-long Republican. Caught letting campaign contributions override prudent government, Mart-leskey immediately attacked the messengers. (Martinez even tried to threaten Tinnin, he says.)

To be fair: Mart-leskey's Albuquerque Downs misconduct resembles Governor Richardson's; and I can't prove in either case that laws were broken. Ethics were sure scarce.

Partial releases of the “audit” Mart-lesky used to destroy mental health outfits in southern New Mexico keep adding more evidence that supports charges that the disruption was purely political. It looked that way initially: with no semblance of due-process, small companies were “suspended” and effectively destroyed, supposedly based on an audit by an out-of-state firm that found massive alleged fraud. Previously, in another state, the same audit firm had found massive that state auditors reviewing the allegations found were only minimal amounts of problem bills. Nevertheless, Mart-leskey declined to let the companies keep operating pending an investigation – and lied to the public by claiming the Administration had no choice.

It quickly became public that Mart-leskey had actually signed up the Arizona replacement mental-health firm before the audit that allegedly sparked the concern. This was done without bidding. Mart-leskey doesn't care for public bidding, as demonstrated in the Albuquerque Downs case, where the bidding was open only a token length of time. Public bidding can be so inconvenient when you have a paying pal eager to do the job.

Then Mart-leskey's people allegedly gave the State Auditor a version of the report that omitted the conclusion that there was no “credible evidence of fraud.”

As the AG's Office looks into the alleged mental-health scandal, the “fraud” diminishes with each closer look. The audit work on two or three of the mental-health firms has now been checked, and the fraud seems as illusory as the “widespread voter fraud” Mart-leskey used to push for a Voter ID law that conveniently would tend to decrease turnout among poor folks and non-native-English speakers.
A week ago the AG reported some overbillings but “no actionable evidence of fraud” by one of the companies. The State is trying to recover $340,000 in alleged overpayments to another, while the company denies any overbilling and the AG found $19,000 in overbillings.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing that significant Republican donors with a taste for good government are finding Mart-leskey unpalatably arrogant.

Will any of this make much difference in November? New Mexico voters are traditionally a little slow in responding to corruption. And the Koch Brothers, oil and gas interests, and other deep pockets are sending Mart-leskey plenty of loot to flood the airwaves with misleading commercials.
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, Sunday, 18 May, 2014.]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

An Admirable Friend

Everything is in bloom, the Western Tanager returned this week, and violent winds have given way to a sun that hasn't grown as merciless as it soon will.

One recent evening we watched some kids dancing. Young kids, maybe eight years old. The boys wore dark vests, Mexican hats, and false black moustaches, the girls Mexican dresses. It was part of a fundraiser for the J. Paul Taylor Academy, and J. Paul Taylor sat watching them, clapping his hands, smiling, often pointing or waving at a particular kid. It was nearly sunset, the first wonderfully mild First Friday Art Ramble we've had this spring.

This morning, as the quail wander in to eat the seed we've tossed out and drink from the water bowls, that Friday evening scene wanders into my mind.

I have tremendous respect and affection for J. Paul.

This is a man who grew up on a farm in the southern part of our county. He started working and teaching at a time when his peers at work could visit his home in Mesilla and shake their heads over his choice to live out there restoring an old house. “You don't want to raise your children out here, in this culture!?” they clucked. “Why not? I was,” replied Taylor, whose ancestors include the Spanish explorer Robledo, who died here centuries ago, giving his name to the nearby mountain peak.

After retirement at 66, he got talked into running for the State Legislature, served 18 years, and retired from that gig as “the conscience of the Legislature.”

In Mexican dress
the children dance as they've learned.
The village elder
has only to smile and clap
with delight he seems to feel.

I have seen J. Paul in a receiving line, greeting hundreds of friends from a variety of generations, ethnic groups, and economic levels. Many he taught in school. In some cases he's taught two generations from the same family, perhaps even three. What amazes me is that he recognizes them all, knows their names, and usually knows which class they were in. (I can barely recognize people I've met during the past year or two.) I have watched and wondered what it must be like to occupy such a prominent spot in so many hearts.

He has seen seasons
come and go, fought many fights.
Now they honor him.
His body fails more and more,
as they learn to control theirs.

Paul mixes a boundless capacity for love with a strict sense of what's right and what isn't. Gentle as he is, he stands up strongly for education, tolerance, and economic equality. Stricken now by Parkinson's, he suffers its indignities with rare grace. He still attends community and political functions. He can still walk through his marvelous home for hours, explaining to a visitor what everything is, how he and his late wife, Mary Daniels Taylor, came by it, and mix in some historical detail or a funny anecdote. He and Mary made a warm, personal home for their seven kids of their place on the Mesilla Plaza, then donated it to the public to be a State Monument after Paul finishes living there. (The State currently has someone working part-time with Paul on which pieces from the collection will stay in the Monument.)

He waves as they pass.
He knows all the village kids,
taught their grandfathers.
When a great tree dies, it leaves
a huge hole where its roots were.

It's not something we've discussed, but I think he lives each day with gratitude, as all of us should. He mourns his wife, one of his sons, and who knows what and whom else; but while J. Paul is alive he will not only enjoy each day but bring some joy to others.

Though he would likely demur, he has at every stage of his life been an example to his community. As a young man of mixed ethnicity in an unwise world, he got on with his work; was a loving husband and father, and a caring teacher; and (without a chip on his shoulder) said what needed to be said, probably in a way uniquely capable of being heard by those who needed to hear. Later, at an age when most are preoccupied with golf or bridge, he battled politically for what he believed. At an age most of us won't even reach, he continues to stand up for what he believes is right. Quietly, with an apparent humility that only makes his words more effective.

That's worth remembering and appreciating every so often. It's also a spirit worth emulating, if we can.

Thanks, Paul!

The Friends of the Taylor-Barela-Reynolds-Mesilla State Monument will hold a party at Josefina's in Mesilla to celebrate J. Paul's 94th birthday on Sunday, August 24 (which is his actual birthday).


[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, May 11th.]

[Meanwhile, life in local politics seems particularly interesting these days.   
Notably, Magistrate Judge Rick Wellborn's "disappearance" remains a bit of a mystery.  No one has disclosed the accusation(s) against him so serious as to warrant a New Mexico Supreme Court session on what to do with him; and no one will even admit officially that any such thing is on tap.  Among the questions, as I read the law, are how it remains non-public information and whether that's lawful.  As I read the rules, a Judicial Standards Committee allegation, investigation, hearing, or recommendation is confidential, but when the matter reaches the Supreme Court it loses its confidential character.  But since the Supreme Court is the body authorized to take action, and to suspend someone pending a hearing, there should be public information -- unless Wellborn, knowing the accusations against him, took a "voluntary" leave pending a Supreme Court hearing, which would have delayed the need to make anything public.  However, with a hearing said to be imminent, one might reasonably expect some public information this coming week.  And, again, whatever the charges, Mr. Wellborn isn't legally guilty of them unless and until the New Mexico Supreme Court says he is.
The primary races (including the one in which Norman Osborne may or may not face Wellborn) are interesting.  Imminent columns will touch on at least a few of them.  There are a couple in which I see a number of credible candidates and one I wouldn't consider voting for.]
And will Mr. Pofahl meet his pushed-back deadline to bring the City Council a deal with regard to the possible plaza downtown?  Mr. Pofahl is interesting.  He says all the right things when one speaks with him, but a lot of other folks have plenty of questions about him.  The City of Hatch, of course, bought some investment land it now doesn't want, under the belief that if it wanted out of the deal it could sell the land back to Mr. Pofahl, then found it couldn't; and neighbors and other citizens strongly opposed the Pofahl proposal for the old country club property, and ware watching with interest to see how that'll play out.  I'm agnostic for now.]

Sunday, May 4, 2014

NM Must Provide Indigents a Fair Defense

New Mexico faces a Constitutional/financial crisis, given pleadings filed in more than a dozen criminal cases.

Poor persons accused of crimes are treated unfairly. U.S. and N.M. Constitutions, court decisions, and statutes say the poor have a right to counsel. If someone can't afford a lawyer, the State must provide one. Courts define “assistance of counsel” as effective assistance of counsel. That should mean a defense as diligent and competent as a paying client would get.

D.A.'s offices get plenty of funding, often screaming “law-and-order” to voters and legislators. Public defenders and contract defense attorneys get paid at rates that would be comical if those rates didn't have tragic consequences for many defendants.

The New Mexico Constitutional amendment removing control of public defenders from the Governor's Office and creating a Public Defender Commission was a great step forward. Voters backed it strongly, and local defense attorney Michael Stout has been an able chairman.

But the work ain't over. Contract public defenders (who defend poor persons in rural areas or when the P.D. has a conflict of interest) get specified amounts for specific classes of cases. Low specified amounts.

How low? $180 for a misdemeanor. Ethical representation requires at least three or four hours for a defendant pleading guilty. Fifty or more hours would be above average, but not unheard of, if a paying defendant chose to fight a misdemeanor charge. (One lawyer told me of spending a week trying game charges against a rancher.) If the necessary work in a contested misdemeanor case took only 20 hours, the attorney would get paid like a McDonald's burger-flipper.

Try $700 for a 1st degree felony. You could talk the facts over with the client, review the charges and a little discovery, and either interview a few witnesses or do a little legal research, even write a short motion; but then you'd have spent the State's money and be well into spending your own, long before trial. Maybe you should talk the defendant into the plea bargain, even if it sucks.

In short, the defense attorney can fail to represent the client properly or spend a bunch of uncompensated time. Is that fair?

Recently Lincoln County defense attorney Gary Mitchell filed motions demanding that the State and its court system put our money where our mouths are.

His motion requests that the court stay prosecution until the State “makes adequate funds available for the defense.” Since Defendant is entitled to effective assistance of counsel at state expense, the State should fund that assistance or stop the prosecution. Further, he suggests that each case should be dismissed if the State doesn't fund a defense within 30 days. (We also have a U.S. Constitutional right to a speedy trial.)

Sound far-fetched? Courts have “inherent supervisory authority” to do such things. New Mexico courts have already done so with regard to capital crimes. A long term of imprisonment could be worse for some of us than a quick death.

If it happens, D.A.'s around the state will have to let a lot of folks go free in borderline prosecutions – and come up with unbudgeted cash for a proper defense in cases that really should be prosecuted.

Mitchell says he may file such motions in up to 200 cases. Contract public defenders from around New Mexico have asked him for copies, presumably to file similar papers.

None of his motions have yet gone to hearing, but Mitchell sounds guardedly optimistic. “There are numerous courageous district judges in our state who are fully aware of the problem,” he says. So is the Supreme Court.

Stout says, “Many contract public defenders like Gary Mitchell give their all to protect clients. They shouldn't also have to give the shirts off their backs to provide a constitutionally-mandated service.”

While the Commission takes no position on Mitchell's motions, Stout said, “It agrees that the present system for paying contract counsel to represent indigents accused of serious crimes is unsustainable.” The Commission “has learned that the indigent defense system is severely underfunded, even more so than it imagined. The PDC is striving vigorously to improve the system and its funding.” However, it has no budget.

Local D.A. Mark D'Antonio could not be reached for comment.

I'd guess the New Mexico Supreme Court will look favorably on the motions.

Many legislators also understand the problem, but it's not politically convenient to deal with it.

Constitutions and statutory requirements? Criminally accused indigents ain't major campaign contributors. Let's kick the can down the road, until there's a crisis. Then we can stand around on a desert road kicking ourselves for ignoring the oil warning light.

We'll pay more than we should have – and/or release a lot of folks our district attorneys wanted in jail.

And speaking of jail, here's another column update: allegations concerning Detention Center head Chris Barela are finally going before a grand jury, possibly this week.

[The foregoing column appeared in this morning's Las Cruces Sun-News, under the slightly unfortunate title, "NM Faces Public Defender Problem."  I don't share what may be a widespread sentiment, that the public defenders are the problem.  As is so often true, we are the problem.]
[Fact is, it was a strange week.  For awhile I thought I was going to write a column updating three issues, each of which deserved a whole column: the situation with legal representation of indigents, discussed above; the revived Barela investigation; and the mysterious disappearance of a judge I'd written about; but since there wasn't a lot to say about the Barela situation and I couldn't quite figure out the situation on the judge, I decided to write the column I wrote, await developments, and keep on investigating the situation involving the judge for a probable column.  (Both  my column on why we needed an independent Public Defender Commission and my earlier column on Barela are available on this blog.)]
[The magistrate judge situation seems kind of wacky right now.  The judge ain't there, other judges are "doing double dockets because he isn't there," lawyers are getting notices that their cases before him are now before other judges, and one source says "he's moved out, lock, stock, and barrel."  A memo went around saying he'd been removed by the NM Supreme Court; but both the NM Supreme Court and the memo's author say there's been no order removing him, and I haven't learned what the memo's author saw that indicated otherwise.  Meanwhile, we don't know; and as one source put it, "I'm pissed off that we don't know.  The public has a right to know."   Wherever he's holed up, the judge, who had been pretty diligent about returning my calls, hasn't responded to several messages during the past ten days.  Something's going on; likely it involves serious allegations and a "confidential" suspension pending determination of them; but for now, we can only wait and hope the authorities will deign to inform us eventually.]
[With regard to the issues discussed in the above column, I'll add an update on the blog when I hear about some judge's reaction to one of Mr. Mitchell's motions to stay.  In my view (and probably his) Mr. Mitchell would also have had standing to bring a suit against the state for declaratory and injunctive relief, based on the impact of the State's misconduct on his own professional work, forcing him to act unprofessionally or volunteer a whole bunch of time taxpayers ought to be paying for.  However, what he did is probably more direct, and protecting his clients more urgent than protecting himself.]