John M. Regan, Jr.’s Bad Beat

He called for lawyers to take concerted action, going on strike against bad judges, while he remained anonymous because "I see no reason to take even small risks with the interests of others when the potential for accomplishing anything good is as speculative as this is right now."

So we, criminal-defense lawyers of the world, were expected to risk the interests of our own clients while he hid in the shadows somewhere in Canada. In other words, Atticus seemed a coward.

Today we know who Atticus Ignavus really is: New York lawyer John M. Regan, Jr., driven to (try to) resign as a lawyer in New York and seek refuge in Canada. Driven by what? By the system's abuse of his client:

On the surface, the hearing in Toronto on September 29th is about whether I will be able to remain in Canada as a refugee.  But it is also the trial of the judges and other officials involved in the…matter, at which they will have the opportunity to appear and defend themselves if they so choose.  Not that they will have any success if they do:  their guilt is a matter of official record and documentary proof.  If the facts matter, the hearing can have only one outcome.

Regan, representing the woman on criminal charges, believed that she had been raped at knifepoint and framed:

You see, [her] rapist was an agent of the state – a police informant who, along with his police officer sponsor, falsely implicated her in his own crime – an armed robbery he and two accomplices committed shortly after the rape. By that time [she] had been drugged and was passed out in the car. That has also never been disputed and is also a matter of public record.

If the Appellate Division can be believed, Regan withdrew from the case and she, while represented by another lawyer, entered an Alford plea to robbery and kidnapping. Regan then raged against the machine, pursuing relief for his client even to the United States Supreme Court, and losing. Three months after the U.S. Supreme Court denied rehearing on habeas, Regan started blogging as Atticus.

There is no mention of a civil suit. Regan's concern was not with money justice, but with freedom for a woman who had been raped twice—once by an individual, and once by the system.

This was not Regan's first exposure to injustice:

The motion also says that a lawyer who once represented key state witness Gregory Coleman told a state prosecutor in 1998 that Coleman was an "incorrigible drug addict who would routinely lie in order to get money for drugs."

The prosecutor in that case used Coleman as a witness, and convicted Michael Skakel. (Regan hadn't heard this good-citizenship tip.)

I admire people with the courage of they convictions. And I agree with Regan that America's justice system is broken. Still, I have a few questions for him:

  • How will it help your client if you get refuge in Canada?
  • How will it help anyone if you get refuge in Canada?
  • How will it improve America's broken justice system if you get refuge in Canada?
  • Is this a symbolic protest?
  • Are things that much better in Canada's justice system than in New York's?
  • Would your client have received a fair shake if she had been raped by a police informant in Ontario instead of New York?
  • Does Canada have the best justice system in the world?
  • If Canada does not have the best justice system in the world, why don't you seek refuge in the nation that does?

No matter how much we start out believing in the system (Regan, it appears, is the son of a lawyer), at some point we realize that the system is broken; one case is the last straw. The best criminal-defense lawyers take their losses to heart. A bad loss can be enough to make one chuck it away, or sometimes even to drive one mad.

When faced with that loss, we can always make a grand gesture or toil a little longer in hopes that we can make things better. Neither choice is superior; both are equally in the best tradition of the criminal-defense bar. If we toil a little longer, we can always go the grand-gesture route later. (Some day I may make the grand gesture myself.) And if the grand gesture isn't too grand (self-immolation on the steps of the courthouse, successful resignation from the bar) and doesn't succeed, we may be able to come back and return to our toils, chucking our starfish parabolically into the surf.

No, John, I don't think you're a coward. Cowards don't make grand gestures; cowards slink away and hide. Confronted with blatant and heartbreaking injustice, you made the grand gesture. You tried to resign from the bar and, finding that ineffective, you sought refuge abroad where you hoped to be able to tell your story in court.

If Canada grants you refuge, then I don't know if it will have improved things for anyone, but wow, what a story.

If Canada rejects your petition, though, don't slink away and hide. Come back to the fight.

You can't fix the system, but you can make a difference to the next human being who needs your help, and by doing so stop the tyranny—for at least a little while—from getting that much worse.

More: Gamso, Greenfield, who says that Regan is his anonymous commenter, "John R."; it might be better for the criminal-justice system if he stays in Canada.

11 responses to “John M. Regan, Jr.’s Bad Beat”

  1. Mark, taking the questions in order:

    How will it help Ms. Davis if you get refuge in Canada?

    Granting my refugee application would necessarily entail a finding that she was the victim of a human rights abuse or crime against humanity. Government endorsed rape qualifies. It would impugn her conviction, and facilitate an asylum application for her to Canada or elsewhere if she was interested. It may do more than that. We’ll see.

    How will it improve America’s broken justice system if you get refuge in Canada?

    One of the reasons this kind of thing happens is that judges pay no price for it. They might pay a price here, so it’s a deterrent. Like the death penalty. Not like the death penalty. Just kidding.

    Is this a symbolic protest?


    Are things that much better in Canada’s justice system than in New York’s?

    I don’t know. I think the judges are better, in the sense of having more integrity, but that’s an off the cuff opinion.

    Would Ms. Davis have received a fair shake if she had been raped by a police informant in Ontario instead of New York?

    I don’t know. I think so. To be fair, I’m confident she would have received a fairer shake in most of the counties I practiced regularly in. But no county, and no jurisdiction can sink this low, and if it does higher ups are going to have to do their job. And if they don’t there will be no end to this as long as I draw breath.

    Does Canada have the best justice system in the world?

    I’m not sure it needs to in order to refrain from raping their own citizens and then imprisoning them and lying about it. It’s a low bar we’re talking about here.

    If Canada does not have the best justice system in the world, why don’t you seek refuge in the nation that does?

    I’m mindful that there are other nations out there. Canada’s my second home, and just across the lake. They’re giving me a hearing. That’s more than any court in the US would do.

      • I’m not sure what you mean. A civil suit against the rapist? He’d be judgment proof and no insurance would cover it. Venue in Livingston County. Couldn’t make the one year statute.

        Malicious prosecution would require overturning the conviction. Working on that still

        A civil rights action under 1983 would be barred by Heck v. Humphrey unless and until the conviction is overturned or somehow called into question. Would a favorable refugee determination for me qualify for the latter? Probably not, but I’m sure that hasn’t come up before.

        A lot of this is about one more shot at the SCOTUS. I have a record that shows that the prosecutor knew the evidence he was using was perjury and fabrication prior to there being any judgment of conviction. That is a very difficult record to make, I think. In any case it’s very unusual. Things like that aren’t usually found out until years later.

        The nation’s prosecutors are collectively of the opinion that knowingly prosecuting someone falsely, as opposed to using perjury at a trial, doesn’t violate a defendant’s rights. Pottawattamie (Supreme Court docket 08-1065) showed that. It’s appalling, but there it is. You can read it in their briefs in that case.

        I could bring a motion under Supreme Court rule 17.2 and F.R.Civ.P 60(b)(6) in that habeas petition. It is still viable as long as Sephora is on parole, which by law lasts til March of 2012.

        Everything up there is a long shot, of course, but it’s a different kind of court. It’s not so much about winning and losing as it is about giving them an issue they’re interested in and a record that supports it. Federal habeas law is a mess. They were basically reversing the 9th and 6th Circuits every other day last term. Pointedly.

        And being the court of last resort it is not unheard of for them to change their mind. Sometimes they grant certiorari and then change their mind and dismiss a petition saying that cert was “improvidently granted”. So you never know. They certainly won’t look at it if I don’t ask.

        I think the best thing I could do for everyone including me is just keep at this and see what happens.

        • Yes, a civil suit against the rapist. After all, you’re not looking for money but “a finding that she was the victim of a human rights abuse or crime against humanity.” A judicial determination that she was raped would seem to have been a step in the right direction.

          • We have a very short statute of limitations on intentional torts in NY – 1 year. I mean, it’s a good thought, I frankly don’t remember if I thought of it at the time it would have been relevant. Things were very hairy around then and Sephora was very difficult. I’m hoping to be able to detail some of that in following posts.

            In any case I had no idea where or how the rape had occurred until November 9th, 2004 and I saw very little of Sephora until some months later, though not for lack of trying.

  2. With regard to your old post…

    [Balance of comment deleted. Comments with regard to an old post should be left at that old post—or, if the comments are closed, on your own blog.

    We have, thanks to your apparent adulation of him, discussed Bugliosi here before; he’s ethically retarded and not one to be relied on or emulated. Anyone who thinks he’s any sort of model for criminal-defense lawyers is not welcome to share my counsel table.


    • You know damn well my reference to the old post was directly related to the brainless slam contained in the hyperlink to that old post in the post directly above. You also know that my reference to Bugliosi had nothing to do with his ethics but to a trial technique used by him that was obviously successful in defending his client from a murder charge, and that was directly related to the forementioned brainless slam. I am not welcome to share your counsel table?? That’s funny. Boo hoo. Screw you. Go ahead and make your half-witted and vicious and disingenuous attacks on a good person, a person whom you seemed to recognize as a good person until your good buddy Greenfield got a hold of you, and then delete the comments of people who defend him. And yes, please delete this comment too, and ban me from your stupid blog. Don’t forget to erase me from the blogroll. I will return the favor, and will erase you from my reader. I won’t be back.

  3. this is all a lie she was never raped she was much so awake that day i saw for my self sephora was driving she dropped adrian paige off home with me where he was living at the time.. she is a liar and because her family has money she almost got away with being as guilty as the other parties.. they all partied together so i guess drugs had them all make a bad choice.. but just for the record… sephora lead the investigation on a wild goose chase with her many stories.. i know the truth..i lived it.. it destroyed my family and my kids…. thats who suffered not sephora not adrian nor eric or should i say the informant… this is all wrong….

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