This is the hardest post I’ve ever authored due to the subject matter of controversial lawyer and occasional Slabbed commenter Ashton O’Dwyer and his Katrina experience which is frankly incredible. Like Bellesouth before him Ashton has been judged harshly by the blogosphere. Unlike Belle, Ashton has brought a good bit cyber-ire on himself through the use of racially charged words to describe people of color such as US Judge Ivan Lemelle.
I’ve found that those not from the heart of the GO Zone (for the most part) do not completely appreciate the mental trauma inflicted by the sudden changes brought by Katrina. Everyone was impacted, including those that grew up and moved away as the familar was lost forever and the connection to the community completely shattered by the upheaval. In my own circle of friends including those from my childhood I’ve found the ability to cope with these stresses varied greatly and depended on a number of circumstances. And a few, like Wilford Asher of Waveland simply snapped.
And it is with that perspective that we need to backtrack in time to September 2005 when Ashton O’Dwyer’s loss was compounded and then some. Before I link the legal docs let’s visit with James Gill at the Times Picayune who wrote about this a few months back:
O’Dwyer blamed his maltreatment — as he does many of his woes — on a conspiracy of powerful public officials. This time, however, it did not require an overheated imagination to conclude that he had been singled out for some rough justice.
And it was pretty rough. O’Dwyer was sitting in his driveway around midnight shortly after Katrina drinking a glass of wine, when the cops materialized. He was, even by his own account, somewhat provocative and was hauled off to the temporary hoosegow at the Union Passenger Terminal.
There he was locked in a metal cage and repeatedly pepper sprayed and shot with beanbag rounds. Released after 16 hours, he was never charged with a crime. Photographs of his wounds support his brutality claims.
His arrest, according to his suit, came after state Supreme Court Justice Kitty Kimball declared, “Somebody has to shut that guy up; he’s giving us all a bad name.”
He sure was. O’Dwyer, having defied the mandatory evacuation order, had become the darling of out-of-town reporters covering the aftermath of the storm. He warned there would be gunfire if anyone tried to evict him from his mansion, where “the rich white men who built this city put their homes” on high ground. He announced his secession from New Orleans, Louisiana and the USA. He was “Lord of the Flies/Robinson Crusoe” and head of an independent nation named the Duchy of Kilnamanagh.
Opinions of O’Dwyer varied. Some thought he was a harmless nut; others weren’t so sure he was harmless. His experience at Camp Greyhound indicated that the latter view had prevailed.
In his suit, O’Dwyer alleged that Charles Plattsmier, head of the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel was at the meeting where Kimball made her remark. Plattsmier undertook to find out more about O’Dwyer’s former partners at a large law firm, which had let him go after the storm.
O’Dwyer claims that the president of the state bar association and a staffer from the state Justice Department then turned up at his house to advise that he was causing irritation “at the highest levels of government.” A couple of days later state troopers duly showed up and collared him.
Kimball, Plattsmier and the state police asked U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan to dismiss the suit, but she refused. The appeals court overruled her on grounds that O’Dwyer had failed to establish “a causal connection” between what was allegedly said at the meeting and the troopers’ invasion of Kilnamanagh.
That was no doubt fair enough as a matter of law. Still, if the facts are as O’Dwyer describes them, and they don’t prove a “causal connection,” his arrest was one hell of a coincidence.
Being overruled may never be a pleasant experience for a judge, but Berrigan may not be too upset on this occasion. The prospect of further dealings with O’Dwyer cannot have gladdened her heart, for he has pretty much driven her up the wall in previous appearances.
She warned him in 2007 that he would face sanctions if he continued to pepper his pleadings with derogatory and intemperate language. He responded with a memorandum that, among other compliments, called his opponents “human scum” and “vermin.” An assistant attorney general was labeled a “spear chucker,” and law enforcement a “goon squad.” Berrigan last year ordered him to deposit $10,000 in the court registry and promised that future “unprofessional” behavior would bring further penalties.
A couple of months later all the federal district judges in New Orleans disqualified O’Dwyer from representing clients before them for five years, not just because of his fondness for abuse but for filing frivolous and unsupported claims and misrepresenting the conduct of opposing attorneys.
This evidently confirmed O’Dwyer in the belief that the judiciary, the attorney general’s office and various other sinister forces were out to screw him and his clients. He sent out an e-mail characterizing U.S. Judge Stanwood Duval and his “rich and powerful friends” as “crooked.”
Such behavior may be reminiscent of a mad dog, but they were still wrong to treat him like one when Camp Greyhound was in business. It is a pity that nobody will be held to account.
For his part it is also clear Ashton is madder than hell and the manifestations of that anger continue to this day. He needed engineering help after Katrina and hired Ocean-Oil Expert Witnesses Inc to help out. Being a partner doing maritime law Lemle & Kelleher paid well but his partners de-partnered Ashton after Katrina and paying an expensive hourly rate in support of litigation requires deep pockets. There is a difference between wealth and partners pay.
After raking up over $90K in professional fees Ocean-Oil did what CPA professional liability carriers tell their insureds to never do…sue to collect unpaid fees. Judge Ivan Lemelle is evidently the new guy at the NOLA Federal District Court because he drew the case along with under publicized (on slabbed at least) Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan.
Ashton, the post Katrina civil disobedient that he is, completely disrespected the court and disrespected Judge Lemelle in acts that I opined offline gave him “balls bigger than grapefruits”. Judge Lemelle’s response was measured by contrast in tone but Ashton still lost his fee dispute.
I bang on pols, judges and highly paid corporate shills but I can’t bash either Ashton or Judges Lemelle and Duval. We’ve met the bad guy and he is us. Intolerance never defeats intolerance. Somehow all the Katrina warriors must be brought home, including Ashton O’Dwyer.