Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In Defense of Jill Clark: Human Rights Defender

By Rashard Zanders, editor of Blacklogic and a member of the Jill Clark Defense Coalition

“Human rights defender” is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights. See A very large portion of the activities of human rights defenders can be characterized as action in support of victims of human rights violations. Investigating and reporting on violations can help end ongoing violations, prevent their repetition and assist victims in taking their cases to courts. Some human rights defenders provide professional legal advice and represent victims in the judicial process.

What should a lawyer do when she encounters apparent evidence of corruption and judicial misconduct? What should a lawyer do when she takes the proper steps to report the corruption, and finds her complaints ignored by the apparent proper channels? Then take into consideration that that lawyer has a reputation as a human rights defender with a record of success in that judiciary.

In the Hennepin County District Court, Attorney Jill Clark has spent nearly ten years defending, often times pro bono, mostly people of color and poor people who have been victims of police brutality – a recurring problem in Minneapolis. The have used incidents of police brutality as an affirmative defense for their client/victims. The City of Minneapolis has paid in excess of $14 million dollars settling cases of MPD brutality over the last 10 years, according to a February 8, 2006 article in the Pulse of the Twin Cities weekly newspaper. Many more cases pending or unsettled. The cases which Clark has won and for which they have fought are numerous and will be reviewed in a follow-up article. But they are cases by whose defense the attorney merit s recognition and respect as a defender of Human Rights.

Furthermore, Clark along with attorney Jill Waite, have been instrumental in holding police and courts accountable through their involvement in the federally mediated Police Community Relation Council, as well as pushing the Minneapolis City Council to recognize the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) as a legitimate authority in authorizing penalties for MPD brutality. Jill Waite is not Clark's law partner--they are each independent but sometimes co-council on certain cases together. These are some of the reasons why has joined the broad coalition of Minneapolis community members as a supportive member of the Jill Clark Defense Coalition.

According to the non-profit Council on Crime and Justice, Minnesota has the highest rate of over prosecution of Blacks in the nation. According to the Minneapolis based police watchdog group Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) Clark has encountered and exposed corruption and misconduct in the Hennepin County judiciary used specifically to “railroad police brutality victims and others,” corruption that contributes to such aforementioned disparity in prosecution.

Presently, the Hennepin County court system, and hence, the Minnesota criminal justice system, is undergoing serious, and possibly self inflicted wounds to its integrity.

As an attorney, Jill Clark has experienced first hand and heard directly from her clients about collusion between Hennepin County judges (including Chief Justice Lucy Weiland), the city attorney's office of Minneapolis, and prosecutors, including, but not exclusive to, annual social gatherings in Brainerd, MN at Maddens Bar – activities that in her judgment, violated the rights of her clients and further suggested to her that these problems were not isolated, but could in fact be affecting other people brought before the Hennepin County District Court.

Consequently, Clark has gathered an array of court documents and audiotapes to support the existence of those problems, and reported them in two separate complaints with the Judicial Standards Board, one complaint with the Lawyer's Board of Professional Responsibility, and one lawsuit in federal district court. The complaints allege activities on the Hennepin County District Court that violate the standards for judges established in the Code of Judicial Conduct, standards for attorney's in the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, and the Human Rights treaties.

In violation of Article 9(5) of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Jill Clark's complaints have not been investigated, nor have there been prompt reviews to date in a public hearing before an independent, impartial and competent authority as required by Article 9(5).


A retaliatory complaint filed on October 30, 2006 against Clark with the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board by Chief Justice Wieland, one of the judges whose conduct Clark had reported to the Judicial Standards Board, has been allowed to proceed to investigation, including the requirement that Clark submit a written response to the 28 allegations made by Justice Wieland against her.

According to Peter Brown, a local attorney, member of the MN chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild, and a Jill Clark Defense Coalition supporter, conducted his own independent study ahead of an NLG meeting in February about Clark's situation. His study suggests that “given the timing of the judge's complaint to the Judicial Standards Board (October 30, 2006) and the fact that it complains about statements Ms. Clark made in her [earlier] April 11, 2006 complaint to the Judicial Standards Board and federal lawsuit filed April 25, 2006, the appearance of retaliation is created.

“Until the issue of retaliation is forthrightly and thoroughly examined, the appearance is that a person who brought a complaint of human rights violations to appropriate authorities gets no hearing or investigation whatsoever, and a judge complained of subsequently files a counter-complaint and the wheels of investigation swing into action on her behalf. This, we believe, fits the profile of an impermissible retaliation against Jill Clark for complaining about human rights violations

“In terms of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the combined effect of the Judicial Standards Board's failure to act upon Ms. Clark's complaints and the Lawyer's Board of Professional Responsibility proceeding to process the judge's complaint against Ms. Clark, therefore, is an apparent failure to protect Ms. Clark from retaliation resulting from her legitimate exercise of her right to report activities that violate human rights, all in violation are Article 12(3).”

According to Clark, it was the “alarming conduct of Judge Wieland” that led her, in April '06, to file a complaint with the Judicial Standards Board on behalf of her two young African American clients.

Here are some examples from Clark's April '06 complaint letter:

Many of you know that I vigorously represent clients of color who were mistreated by police, and are standing up against fabricated criminal charges filed by those police.

Around Christmas 2005, Communities United Against Police Brutality called [the] Minneapolis police to ask that they preserve all video footage of an incident of reported police misconduct. As we often see in these cases, following the videotaped incident, both of the young Black men were faced with criminal charges.

One of them, Rasheed Abdullah, asked me to represent him. This is the kind of case that I take, this is the kind of case that I have been successful with. Ask yourself who would not want me to be successful with these cases.

Evidence shows that Judge Wieland took overt steps to keep me from being able to represent this young Black man, including:

My January 10 appearance form notified Judge Wieland's chambers that I was coming onto the case of the loitering ticket for this young man if necessary, I was prepared to defend him by pointing up the misconduct of certain Minneapolis police officers.

I gave the ticket number on that filing and faxed it to Judge Wieland's chambers.
It turns out the City of Minneapolis hadn't filed formal charges on that ticket. It appears that after [italics Clark's] receiving notice that I was trying to come onto the loiter case, Judge Wieland's chambers contacted the prosecutor from the City of Minneapolis, on my case, to tell her to enter the ticket into the system. That would allow Judge Wieland to act on it. No one told me, the lawyer for this young man, that this was happening. No one sent me a copy of the email.

Court was set for January 12.

Someone from Judge Wieland's chambers told the Minneapolis prosecutor to come 15 minutes before I was due to arrive. (What was said or transpired in those 15 minutes).

On January 12, even though Judge Wieland knew that I was representing the young man on this loiter case, she had conversations in her chambers with the City prosecutor, without me present.

I arrived early to review the court file (which by the way I got from Judge Wieland's chambers), and I was sitting in the courtroom know knowing they were in the chambers. During that time, government lawyers were talking about my case in Judge Wieland's chamber's, just down the hall, and no one came to get me in the courtroom.

By the time I learned those lawyers were there, it was clear that they had already met with Judge Wieland about the case(s).

When I went back to chambers and questioned what was going on, rather than including me in the chambers discussion, Judge Wieland tried to physically close her chambers door on me, to prevent me from going into chambers, where there had been discussions about my case. She resorted to physical conduct against me, instead of legal process, in order to keep me from coming into her chambers to discuss my case.

When it became clear that Judge Wieland would not allow me into her chambers, I was unwilling to resort to physical force to push my way into her chambers. But I demanded that if they talked without me, that I wanted a record. Judge Wieland told everyone to return to the courtroom, which I did. But once I got there, no one else came.

When I went into the back hall to see what had happened, attorneys were walking down the hall toward the courtroom and Judge Wieland was bringing up the rear. Judge Wieland told those attorneys that she wanted to “talk to Ms. Clark on a different matter.” Then alone in the back of the hall, just her and me, she got physically close to me and she threatened me about the case of Ali Dunham v. the Wayzata Country Club. That interaction was memorialized in my March 27, 2006 letter to Judge Wieland. [Copy provided with attachments A (my contemporaneous notes) and B]. In my opinion she was trying to intimidate me, under threat of filing an ethics charge on me, from doing my job.

Because of these and similar events, Clark believes Judge Wieland was trying to prevent her from representing Rasheed Abdullah on a case that she already knew involved allegations of videotaped police misconduct.

The aforementioned facts were put into a complaint to the Judicial Standards Board in April 2006, with an clear statement, Clark says, that I had more evidence and transcripts in my office.

“What was I supposed to do, stay silent,” Clark asked at a press conference held December 12, 2006 at the Hennepin County Government Center, shouting distance from Judge Wieland's chambers.


According to Clark, no one from the Judicial Standards Board ever contacted her about that additional evidence; rather, she got a letter dated May 23, 2006, that stated that there was “insufficient evidence to sustain your complaint or proceed to a public hearing.”

She wrote back a letter dated May 25, 2006, questioning how that conclusion could have been made, since she was never contacted to obtain the evidence that she already had in her office.

In a letter dated July 18, 2006, David Paull of the Judicial Standards Board told Clark that the Board had reviewed “a number of witness statements” and other documents. However, Clark says that when she talked to Paul on December 4, he said he doesn't take “statements,” he takes notes, and then writes paragraphs. Clark claims she was told the Board's review of complaints is “as loose as can be,” and it decides whether or not it “wants” to pursue the case further.

Neither Clark nor the other complainants believe they really know what happened to their April '06 complaint What is certain is that Judge Wieland is using the inaction of the Judicial Standards Board against Clark.

Prior to learning of Judge Wieland's October 26 complaint, in September and October 2006 Clark filed another complaint with the Judicial Standards Board, complaining about Judge Wieland's involvement in what Clark believed was a matter of pubic concern.

Clark filed a parallel copy with the Office of Lawyer's Professional Responsibility, asking that they investigate whether a lawyer was involved in that situation involving Judge Wieland.

About a month later, on October 26, Judge Wieland filed a complaint letter against Clark with that same legal office, claiming, apparently, that Clark violated her ethical rules by complaining against her.

It is at this point that Clark had her Eureka moment, and believes without a doubt that Judge Wieland filed her October 26 complaint to retaliate against her, in hopes of intimidating her into silence.

A copy of Judge Wieland's complaint against Clark is unavailable because in contains confidential information about a juvenile client of hers, without his permission.

Ironically, the Office of Lawyer's Professional Standards decided not to investigate the lawyer's conduct that would have implicated Judge Wieland, but has decided to investigate her. Hence the appearance that the lawyer who questioned the judge is getting investigated, but the judge is not.

“I am glad that Judge Wieland filed this complaint against me, because it gives the community the opportunity to discuss these important issues,” Clark said.

As advocates for Human Rights Blacklogic.blogspot will continue to update our readers and report as the situation develops. If you would like to become a part of the Jill Clark Defense Coalition contact Michelle Gross at 612-703-1612 or Pauline Thomas at 612-827-4158.
Communties United Against Police Brutality can be reached at 612-874-7867, or visit

Rashard Zanders can be reached at 612-812-5261 or via email at

1 comment:

UR said...

Here's the updated link to the Human Rights Defender page: