Charles Dickens wrote “the Law is a ass” but is it possible to make an ass of ourselves before the law?
Ordinarily, the courts are a place for serious matters and serious faces. Sometimes however, even the Courts can become a source of unintended amusement as the following recent cases illustrate.
The Disbarment of Dennis Hawver
Dennis Hawver was previously an attorney in Kansas. He was disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court for what was described as “inexplicable incompetence”.
So, what exactly does “inexplicable incompetence” looks like in the legal profession?
Well, in a murder trial, Hawver described his client (the defendant) to the jury as a “professional drug dealer” and a “shooter of people”. Hawver’s unconventional defence was to tell the jury that if the defendant had already killed 2 women, he wouldn’t have left a third victim alive to identify him to police.
Hawver also left out evidence which might have exonerated his client. He later said “he had no idea that cell phones had GPS capabilities at that time.” He also told the jurors that they should “execute the real killer”. Somewhat unsurprisingly, his client was convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. Having regard to Hawver’s performance, the court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial.
As if Hawver’s conduct in that trial wasn’t enough, he attended the disciplinary proceedings which resulted from it dressed as Thomas Jefferson, complete with white powdered wig, a dark 18th century suit and long white stockings.
Representing himself, Hawver ultimately told the Court “I am incompetent!” The Kansas Supreme Court agreed, unanimously ruling to disbar. Hawver, a failed political candidate, subsequently told local media that he was planning on leaving the legal profession in any event to “devote his time to growing vegetables in an aquaponics garden”.
A bit closer to home
A man in Queensland has instituted multiple proceedings and appeals against the Bar Association of Queensland, the Legal Services Commission of Queensland and the CMC (as it was then known) and the Queensland Police Services (QPS). The man also made applications seeking to have Justices of the Supreme Court recuse themselves from deciding his matters alleging that they were biased (having been barristers in the past).
Some of his more colourful pleadings in these various proceedings included:-
• an allegation that the Bar Association of Queensland was an “arrogant Mafia organisation operating to subvert the Government and community institutions,” among others.
• an allegation that Queensland barristers enjoyed being “abused, cursed and swore at because they get sexual gratification from it.” He went on to say “Although it sounded to me weird, kinky and depraved, I kept it to myself because you do not say such things to clients.”
• seeking orders that every person associated with the Bar Association of Queensland “be sent to re-education facilities where they all be subjected to hard physical labour to instil in them the respect to other people in the community.”
• an allegation that the Queensland Police Service failed to act on complaints made by him about his other Court proceedings, namely an allegation that three Judges of the Court of Appeal division of the Supreme Court of Queensland were impersonating judicial officers and had engaged in abuse of human, civil and political rights.
• seeking orders that “people associated with the Queensland Police Service be sent to re-education facilities where they will be subjected to hard physical labour.”
• seeking damages in excess of $10,000,000 for invoices sent by the man to various entities (including the Bar Association of Queensland).
Unsurprisingly his various claims have all been struck out and, the Court has found the allegations to be scandalous. In 2014, he was declared a vexatious litigant by the Supreme Court of Queensland.