The Florida Bar is not above the law

Filed under BUSINESS, COLUMNISTS

ROGER CALDWELL
GUEST COMMENTARY

The law license of Marie Henry, a Black female attorney, was suspended on March 31, 2015.  The evidence used to prosecute and convict her resulted from her actions in filing an ethics complaint against a prosecutor, filing a motion to disqualify a circuit judge, filing a complaint of discrimination against the Florida Bar, and filing a citizen’s complaint against the local police for misconduct.  

Four years ago, I learned about Ms. Henry’s fight for justice against the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Lake County state attorney’s office, the local police, and the Florida Bar. In May 2015, I wrote an article entitled “From the American Dream

to the American Nightmare” which chronicled Ms. Henry’s struggles to obtain justice in the face of abuse of power.

Bar takes issue
Ms. Henry’s mistreatment started with the unlawful arrest and criminal prosecution of her daughter, and escalated to a system of harassment, retaliation, and unlawful conduct because she complained.  She expected a high level of integrity in investigating her complaints, but it became apparent that the Florida Bar had a problem with the ethics complaint she filed on February 23, 2012 and on December 30, 2013. The Bar also took issue with the citizen’s complaint she filed against the local police. These complaints together with a motion to disqualify a circuit judge were registered as evidence of egregious professional misconduct.

In 2015, Ms. Henry sued the Florida Bar in federal court for violating her civil rights. She also filed an administrative complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations for unlawful discrimination. 

On June 23, 2016, the Florida Commission on Human Relations ruled in her favor that the Bar is subject to the jurisdiction of the Florida Civil Rights Act and is prohibited from disciplining the license of an attorney in a discriminatory manner.

Recently, I caught up with her for an update. Ms. Henry told me that the complaint she filed against the Florida Bar for unlawful discrimination and retaliation was set for a final hearing this week. But like everything else, her fight for justice remains clouded by power.

Still fighting
The state is fighting her efforts to have government witnesses testify at the upcoming hearing.

They have told the hearing officer to ignore the ruling she won in 2016. This new development supports the claims of an ongoing violation of the public trust and abuse of power.

The issues are serious because the Florida Bar’s purpose is to protect the public. The public is not protected when a victim complains and then faces retaliation and harassment for complaining.

Confidential juvenile records should not be accessible on the Internet to discredit a mother and falsely accuse her of misrepresentation of facts. 

Ms. Henry said, “The latest filings to attempt to deny me access to justice is almost unbearable and is unconstitutional. The public needs to become engaged in what is really going on.”

As Americans, we cannot and should not be silent in the face of injustice. At this critical point in history, the gains made by a Black mom like Ms. Henry, cannot be discarded. The media has a responsibility to keep a watchful eye on our government, and to serve as a check against the government’s abuse of power.

For more information about Marie Henry’s fight for justice, contact me at jet38@bellsouth.net, or call 407-421-5453.

Roger Caldwell, a community activist, author, journalist, radio host and CEO of On Point Media Group, lives in Orlando.

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