Ignorance is Strength

Prosecutor AHCL contributes to a vast sea of inanity — inanity almost beyond belief; a sort of naive inanity that could only ooze from the keyboard of (dare I say it?) a prosecutor — when she writes about Why I’m Concerned About Writing. After the Cliff’s Notes version of George Orwell’s 1984 (which she admits never having read), AHCL writes:

Well, Big Brother is watching now, and the effects are being felt even by non-lawyers.

Excuse me? Is this something new? What rock have you been hiding under for the last six years, four months, twelve days? Ever hear of the “USA PATRIOT” Act? And are you somehow under the impression that lawyers were more susceptible to being spied on by the government than non-lawyers?

She continues:

In PeggyO’Hare’s article this afternoon, she wrote the following statement:

In court papers filed Monday, (Lloyd) Kelley gave a list of people he plans to call to the witness stand, including Rosenthal; prosecutor and Republican DA candidate Kelly Siegler; Siegler’shusband, Dr. Sam Siegler; Rosenthal’s executive assistant Kerry Stevens; his chief investigator John Ray Harrison; his political consultant Allen Blakemore; and prosecutor Mike Trent.

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t this lawsuit start over an issue with the Sheriff’s Office? Now, I’ve got absolutely nothing to do with this law suit, and God knows I’m glad for that. I don’t pretend to have the inner-understanding that the parties involved do (LOOSELY TRANSLATED: “Please nobody subpoena me.”), but I’m having a hard time seeing how all these folks are getting roped into a case involving the Sheriff’s Office, when none of them seem to work for the HCSO. Chuck subpoenaed? Maybe. But the rest? And can somebody explain to me how in HELL SamSiegler got involved in this mess?

I just don’t get it. I don’t understand what the criteria is before your private matters become public.

The elected District Attorney of Harris County, Texas was ordered to produce a number of emails in discovery in the lawsuit; instead of turning them over he deleted some 2,500 of them. The hearing to which Mr. Kelley intends to subpoena Mrs. and Dr. Kelly Siegler, Ms. Stevens, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Blakemore, and Mr. Trent is a contempt hearing.

Mr. Rosenthal could be fined and jailed for doing something other than the law allowed. An analogous proceeding with which AHCL is familiar is, naturally, a criminal prosecution. If Mr. Rosenthal’s close friends and associates have relevant testimony — if, for example (and this is just the first thing to pop into my head), they are able to shed some light on what might have been in the deleted emails — Judge Hoyt will let Mr. Kelley question them about it. (If they are called to the stand and don’t have anything to contribute to the court’s understanding of Mr. Rosenthal’s alleged contempt, he’ll shut them down and shoo them off the stand. United States District Judge Kenneth Hoyt is not likely to let Mr. Kelley put on a political dog-and-pony show in his courtroom.)

Anyway, that’s a roundabout way of showing that one circumstance in which your private matters may well become public is if you or your associates are accused of breaking the law.

Incidentally, does AHCL think that subpoenaing people to a hearing in federal court is such a great invasion of their privacy? Has she never requested that a judge sign a search warrant for a person’s home? Called a reluctant member of an accused’s family to testify? Issued a grand jury subpoena for someone’s medical records? If AHCL stops thinking of her boss as just a witness in a lawsuit filed against the Sheriff’s Office, and starts thinking of him as a witness who is accused of tampering with evidence, then Mr. Kelley’s subpoenas might make more sense to her.

AHCL says that scares her. Well it should. It should even though the power being wielded by Mr. Kelley is tiny compared to that wielded by every felony prosecutor down at the courthouse. Our private lives are not private. They haven’t been for years.

How many of you think your medical records are private? When I argued that Texans’ expectation of privacy in their medical records (there is little more private than medical records) was reasonable, the Harris County DA’s Office sent someone down to argue that it was not, and won that argument on reasoning that would make Thomas Jefferson weep.

There are people who fight, at the expense of safety, for the individual’s right to be left alone, and there are people who fight for safety at the expense of that right. The Harris County DA’s Office (that’d be the Office that AHCL works for) is decidedly on the “safety” side of that fight. The thing about government interference in our privacy is that it seems like a reasonable price to pay for safety, until you see that it might affect you. Harris County prosecutors whingeing about the invasion of the privacy of their boss’s inner circle might do well to reflect upon the times that they have successfully argued that the need to enforce the law trumps the individual’s right to be left alone.

AHCL goes on: “I’m hearing horror stories about more and more open records requests hitting the D.A.’s Office every day.” Horror stories? Open records requests should serve as a healthy reminder to government employees that the ultimate boss is the citizen, and that the boss is generally entitled to find out what his employees are doing with their time.

If I send you an email, it’s no longer my private matter. It’s between you and me. If someone then gets some reason to look into your emails or if you decide that you don’t care and pass it on, there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. If I didn’t want to risk someone else reading it, I shouldn’t have sent it. And if the employees don’t want the boss to read their emails, they’d better not send them using company computers, or the company email server, or even the company internet connection.

If the boss asking more questions about his employees’ behavior is a “horror story”, there’s something wrong with the way the company is being run. But we knew that.

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0 responses to “Ignorance is Strength”

  1. Mark Dearest,
    Seriously, I adore you to death, sweetie, but are we a bit hostile today? Now, I myself have never utilized the Patriot Act, but are YOU really naive enough to believe that subpoenaing Sam Siegler has got anything to do with the initial lawsuit against HCSO? Lloyd Kelley is clearly trying to help his friend, Clarence Bradford win the D.A.’s Office. Clearly this is personal for him.
    And you left out the part that I mentioned about what happened to Mr. Durfee. Doens’t that tug even a little bit at your heart? THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!
    And I’m asking this question legitimately, because I know nothing of Federal or Civil Law. But in a Federal contempt hearing, does Lloyd Kelley present evidence? If so, that would at least get a little closer to understanding the mass subpoenas.
    And my understanding is that a subpoena duces tecum was dropped on Dr. Siegler’s personal e-mail account. Call me crazy, but that seems like over-reaching to me.

  2. Clearly, this is personal and political for Lloyd Kelley. Politics suck. Like you, I’ll never run for public office.

    I thought publishing Scott’s email sucked. I felt dirty reading it (and not in a good way). But Scott responds to PIA requests, and he knows how private emails on HCDA computers are. Besides, it was Chuck’s lawyers who put it into the record. (Oopsie!)

    How would Kelley prove that Chuck was in contempt without presenting evidence? Of course he presents evidence. So he gets to subpoena people to the hearing. And he gets to ask them questions. And if the questions seek information irrelevant to the issue of contempt, Judge Hoyt will sustain objections.

    It seems to me that subpoenas for Chuck’s email correspondents’ personal email accounts would be a pretty good way to find some of the emails that Chuck deleted.

  3. The promises of safety in exchange for liberty are always premised on the (unspoken) condition that only the rights of THOSE PEOPLE will be violated. You know, THEM. Not US, of course not US, just THEM. I am always amazed at how indignant those who made that Faustian bargain are when they discovered that they aren’t really US after all.

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