“The first thing we do,” a character in Shakespeare’s Henry IV said, is let’s “kill all the lawyers.” Even in Shakespeare’s day, attorneys were seen as necessary at preserving the rule of law. It was only when all lawyers were dead could their villainy reign unhindered. Lawyers were important 500 years ago and they are vital today.
There are stories throughout history of lawyers who stood up for what was right, who pursued justice at the cost of their own futures, their fortunes, and even their own lives. Men and women lawyers of impeccable character have been portrayed in both fact and fiction. Imagine Atticus Finch from “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
This isn’t a story about a lawyer who spoke truth to power. This isn’t a tale of a lawyer who chose to do what was right for the greater good as opposed to what would benefit her.
This is a tale about City of Miami City Attorney Victoria Mendez who conspired with the meager minions in her office to thwart an effort to recall Revoltin’ Joe Carollo before it had even begun.
Keep in mind that Ms. Mendez isn’t Carollo’s lawyer. I know Joe keeps Ben Kuehne on speed dial for that. Her job is to represent the City of Miami and, in turn, its citizens and taxpayers. A lawyer who can’t keep straight who her real client is doesn’t deserve to practice law. She doesn’t deserve to call herself a lawyer.
Before the recall began Mendez and the lawyers under her were exploring ways to derail the recall effort. They not only plotted and planned how to stop the recall; they were stupid enough to put it in writing using the City of Miami’s email system. It appears that all the lawyers involved have offices on the same floor at the Miami administration building on the Miami River.
Instead, they traded emails on how to monkey with the deadline for turning the petitions in just to screw with the recall committee and its volunteers. They speculated how far they could take things, confident that the recall backers had no money to challenge the unreasonable tactic they decided to follow. They talked endlessly about “mandamus”, which is a legal route the recall proponents would have to follow when the City turned down the petitions. They postulated how to get the advocates to come and get the petitions after they were turned down, hoping that the transfer back from the Clerk’s Office would give them the argument that the proponents voluntarily gave up, saving Joe Carollo from having to face a recall.
How do we know this?
Elaine De Valle, writing under the pen name “Ladra” on the website www.politicalcortadito.com, made a public records request for emails from the City Attorney’s Office which discussed the recall effort brought against Revoltin’ Joe Carollo. So far, she’s been given just a handful of the emails between Mendez and her puppy lawyers. But that small smattering is enough to show that Victoria Mendez isn’t the City Attorney.
She’s all in as Joe Carollo’s shyster, shill, ambulance chaser, mouthpiece, pettifogger, and scammer. At the very least, this small subset of emails produced so far shows that she has a conflict of interest between representing the people of Miami and toadying for Joe. That conflict should have required her to recuse herself.
Mendez sits in a precarious position. If she were to upset Carollo, Diaz de la Portilla, and Reyes, she could find herself on the wrong end of one of Revoltin’ Joe’s vendettas. She could lose her cushy job on the cusp of vesting. My response to that prospect?
I don’t care. A lawyer is given special authority in our society. To paraphrase the late Senator Ted Kennedy or Spider-Man (I don’t remember who said it first), with great power comes great responsibility.
If a lawyer allows herself to be placed in position where she has dueling loyalties or is tempted to give advice or take action that will harm her client, but benefit herself, she has the duty to stop dead in her tracks. Just as a physician takes an oath to first “do no harm”, a lawyer’s first loyalty is to her real client, even before herself.
At best, Mendez was confused and should withdraw from this matter and hand it over to an outside lawyer because her fingerprints and those of her acolytes means they have all been compromised. At the very worst, her actively participating in such a conflict of interest should result in a complaint to the Florida Bar. It could be signed by Mayor Francis Suarez or maybe by one of the City’s residents. The Bar should conduct a thorough investigation and, if the facts bear out what the emails already show, she should be suspended or disbarred.
When Shakespeare had one of his characters suggest they kill all the lawyers in England it was understood by even the poorest and least educated in attendance that it would ruin society. However, killing the legal career of a practitioner who can’t understand the difference between right and wrong may be a necessary to ensure that justice is always done.