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Supreme Court suspends disability rights attorney, rejects discrimination allegations

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An attorney who claims the Indiana Supreme Court is seeking retaliatory action against him because of his work as a disability rights advocate has been suspended from the practice of law.

In a Tuesday disciplinary order, the state’s highest court suspended Schaumburg, Illionis, attorney Andrew U.D. Straw for 180 days without automatic reinstatement after finding that he violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 3.1 on four different occasions. Straw’s disciplinary action began in 2016, when Judge James Ahler, the hearing officer in the case, found that Straw had violated Rule 3.1 by filing four “frivolous” lawsuits.

In each of the suits – Straw v. Kloecker, Straw v. American Bar Association, et al., Straw v. Sconiers and Rutherford v. Zalas  –  Straw contended that he was advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, including himself. The attorney said he contracted scoliosis and bipolar disorder from his time spent as a child at Camp LeJeune, where his father was stationed as a Marine during the Vietnam War.

Rule 3.1 prohibits an attorney from bringing a proceeding without a basis in law for doing so. Ahler recommended that Straw be suspended without automatic reinstatement for his violations of the rule, but Straw filed a federal lawsuit to bar the high court from imposing disciplinary sanctions against him, arguing that the disciplinary complaint was filed only because he spoke out against what he perceived as disability discrimination by the court. Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana dismissed without prejudice Straw’s case against the Supreme Court last month.

“Further, we categorically reject respondent’s arguments that he is being persecuted for his disability-related advocacy,” the Supreme Court order reads. “A necessary corollary of the frivolousness of Respondent’s lawsuits is that no relief benefitting the plaintiffs (whether a client or Respondent himself) possibly could have come from those actions.”

“Further, Respondent’s actions risked harm to himself and his client in the form of sanctions, and by Respondent’s own acknowledgment the relief he sought in Straw v. American Bar Association, et al., could have led to discrimination against disabled law school faculty,” the order continues. “In sum, Respondent does not face discipline for standing up for disabled persons’ rights, as he perceives, but rather for having done so incompetently.”

Straw will be eligible to petition for reinstatement after 180 days, and his petition can be granted if he proves his remorse, rehabilitation and fitness to practice law. The costs of the proceedings are assessed against him.

All justices concurred except Justice Steve David, who believes the sanction is insufficient.
 

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  • Disabilities Page
    I think it is important for everyone to see the level of injury I received physically from working at the Indiana Supreme Court as its statistical analyst and staff attorney. Their attacks on me just magnify the injuries I have already sustained serving all 400+ courts in the state of Indiana. www.andrewudstraw.com
  • Supreme Court Vacancy Preemptive Strike
    It may also be worthwhile telling your readers that I filed earlier this month to be a candidate for the Justice Rucker vacancy. Just a matter of days after my complete application was filed, the Indiana Supreme Court attacked me by suspending my license for 180 days. I have never had any discipline before, and no one outside that Court complained. ONLY the ADA Coordinator after my complaint about the Court. So, these justices are attacking and violating the ADA rights of a potential colleague. I think it's dirty pool, and they should all be removed for the ADA and Rule 8.4(g) violations.
  • Appeal
    The federal court has today dismissed my case against the Indiana Supreme Court, on two grounds. 1. Middlesex/Younger, which provides that a federal court MAY (not must) abstain from exercising jurisdiction when there is a parallel court case. But Middlesex also gave the attorney involved an evidentiary hearing to allow him to establish bad faith and harassment. I asked, but got no due process, no hearing, just the name of this Middlesex case slammed in my face. There is harassment and bad faith here, and any neutral person would be astounded how the actions of the state courts are being defended. 2. The other reason was res judicata for a 2015 case, but that case was decided based on inadequacy of service, and it is common knowledge that res judicata does not apply in such cases. So, the federal judge was wrong twice. But she was kind enough to let me know that I could appeal to the SCOTUS. Like that 3% chance of review was going to protect my ADA rights that she denied in HER COURT. I have appealed to the 7th Circuit.
  • IFP
    Like the judge in my case against 5 local governments in N. Illinois, Judge Magnus-Stinson granted my IFP motion. 28 USC 1915(e) provides that IFP may not be granted if a case is frivolous, malicious, or does not state a claim upon which relief could be granted. So, being granted that status means the Court thinks my case is not frivolous. It means the Court thinks my case is not malicious. It means I have stated claims upon which relief could be granted. So, under those circumstances, let's get to it! I have proven discrimination and retaliation under the ADA, Titles II & V. There has been bad faith on the other side to go along with the discrimination and retaliation. There have been dishonest distortions by the Indiana Supreme Court and its staff, and there has been a total lack of remorse for the 16 years of suffering inflicted on me by that court. I have an expert witness who evaluated the situation and he said there appears to be a sort of "group psychopathy" within the Indiana Supreme Court that is directed most painfully at me. Even after all of my service and sacrifices to the Indiana courts.
  • Disability Lawyer Punished for Speaking Up
    This is Andrew Straw. It is important for this newspaper to note that my case was never dismissed. Judge Magnus-Stinson refused to protect me with an injunction, but has not dismissed my case. She is deciding that question now. The whole defense revolves around the Younger and Middlesex cases, and whether she will abstain from exercising jurisdiction. However, that doctrine falls to pieces when there is bad faith and harassment. The Indiana Supreme Court has distorted my cases, saying it was impossible for me to win, but that's false. The judges were wrong in each case, and in any event, I have a right to ask for change. In my one case out of the four with a client, my client did not complain. And my work for him was 100% right. His parental rights were being denied, and now, in this very month, the ABA has come out with a resolution supporting what I was saying 100%. 2017 ABA Resolution 114. So, right there, the Supreme Court was lying and distorting. The National Council on Disability also agreed with me in 2012 with a 449-page report on the subject. In the Kloecker case, the Supreme Court distorted the facts again. They did not mention that this huge law firm threatened me with $1,000 per day fines from Medicare if I did not give my Medicare claims database access to its NEWSPAPER client, to use as they wanted to. How outrageous is that? And Medicare agreed with me, saying that I would never get such fines and the law firm was "misleading" in making that demand. LYING is a better word. And let's not forget that Locke Lord hired the law firm employer of the district judge for the appeal. THIS is why I got no sanction, and the Supreme Court distorted that result into being about my income and nothing more. The Supreme Court is packed with people who resent my sacrifices of both my legs and my pelvis, and they want to add more hurt to all of that pain. I still feel pain every day from that accident, even 16 years later. They have no right. No right to allow the ADA Coordinator to reveal my health information. No right for her to retaliate with a disciplinary complaint. And you know what? I contacted ADA Coordinators in all 92 Indiana counties, and not a single one would defend what Rodeheffer did. All of these justices and their dishonest staff need to go. They need to resign or be removed, because what they did to me this week is beyond the pale. They suspended my license just days after I applied to replace J Rucker. That was dirty pool. They failed to create a disability rights and fairness commission, just like the punished me when I wanted ABA stats to include disability. Race and gender are favored, while my demands for disabled people are punished. I hope the federal judge punishes them for violating the ADA and defying the federal court, which has not dismissed my case as of this date. andrew@andrewstraw.com

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