Sometimes you read a column and wish you’d written it yourself. The way I look at things, he put down in writing. Thank you, Alex.
At the beginning of 1983 I had the world by the tail. A beautiful wife, three fine young sons, and at the age of 37 a seat in the Alaska State Senate. It was a seat designed specifically for me by the outgoing Governor, Jay Hammond, in return for services rendered in his 1978 primary victory over Wally Hickel.
I felt politically invulnerable, even though Senator Ted Stevens, former Governor and Interior Secretary Wally Hickel and incoming Governor Bill Sheffield all hated my guts. I had a friend in former Governor Hammond, and had been instrumental in Frank Murkowski’s campaign for the U. S. Senate in 1980. And my district was perfect. It was the most conservative and Republican a district as Hammond could make it, and I would represent these people well.
A few months later I lost my Senate seat in a gerrymander by Governor Bill Sheffield. Supreme Court Justice Rabinowitz had inititially ruled in favor of the Hammond plan. But he didn’t enter final judgement, and after the 1982 election he changed his mind. The Hammond plan was unconstitutional after all.
I got my revenge on Sheffield, by laying the groundwork for an impeachment resolution that was filed against him. He never recovered politically, and lost the Democratic primary in 1986.
The only shot I had at Rabinowitz was his retention election in 1988. There was no way I was going to beat him. Justices are routinely retained with 70% of the vote. I just wanted to bloody his nose, and I did. I ran a TV ad accusing him of several instances of misconduct, and his margin shrank from 70% to 60%. That’s the best I could do.
Jay Rabinowitz was some kind of hero to most lawyers in Alaska. Not to me. And that’s why all the lawyers up there hate me.
People my age develop short term memory loss. I can remember virtually everything I’ve seen, heard or read for my whole life. But I’m beginning to lose things.
This morning I went out on the deck to have a pipe, only to discover that my tobacco was missing. I had left it, in a clear plastic bag, on the deck railing. No wind had come to blow it away, but I searched the entire back yard, to no avail. I then went through every room of the house that I’d been in, my car, and all of my clothing. Not a clue.
I drove down to the convenience store and bought 1.4 ounces of pipe tobacco for $15, plus sales tax. The legislature of California is concerned for my well being, and has made the cost of my vice excessive. There’s some money in it for them but I’m sure that’s a secondary consideration.
Back on the deck, contemplating the mystery, a thought occurred to me. A bird did it! Some curious bird had poked around my bag and had seen the tobacco inside. It would be perfect for nest building, and the bird stole my pouch.
I like to think that my loss was someone’s gain, and that some newborn chick will be surrounded by my stolen tobacco.
Darrel Gardner, President, Alaska Bar Association
c/o Federal Defender Agency
601 W. 5th Ave. Suite 800
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
I have been notified that my license to practice law in Alaska will be suspended for failure to comply with Bar Rule 65(d). This letter is to advise you that if you proceed with this action I will bring suit against you and the Alaska Bar Association in the United States District Court for violation of my rights under the First and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
Within the penumbra of the constitutional right to free speech is the right not to be forced to listen. By requiring me to listen to a three hour lecture on legal ethics from some credentialed legal novice, you are forcing me to listen to legal gibberish from someone who has had very little practical experience.
For refusing to be lectured to on a subject I am quite familiar with, you would take away my ability to make a living and support my family. The punishment does not fit the offense, and thus violates my right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed in the Eighth Amendment.
To avoid litigation, let me suggest we arbitrate this matter. A lesser penalty, such as performing community service or performing pro bono legal work would be more reasonable. Alternatively, I could perform an educational function in teaching younger and less experienced lawyers some fundamental aspects of the bill of rights.
Very truly yours,
F. P. Pettyjohn. Member, Alaska Bar, admitted 1974
P. O. Box 100
Standard, California 95373
In layman’s terms, that’s the part of the Eighth Amendment which protects us from cruel and unusual punishment. It means we can’t be tortured, and the government can’t seize your car for a parking violation.
I doubt that I’ll get justice from the Alaska Bar Association, or its parent, the Alaska Court System. So I’m preparing my complaint in a suit to be filed in the federal district court of Alaska. I’m alleging a violation of my rights under the First and Eighth Amendments. Give me enough time, and I’ll add a count for violation of my right to due process. In law, it helps to have a vivid imagination.
My punishment is being deprived of my means of making a living, which I have used to support my family for 44 years. My crime is my refusal to listen to three hours of idle talk about legal ethics. Does that sound proportionate to you?
Maybe I should be required to do some pro bono legal work, or do some community service. Like going into Sonora High and explaining the bill of rights to the young skulls full of mush that I’ll find there.
When a man goes to law, he has a wolf by the ear. You have to know what you’re doing. I’ve made a nice living practicing law, and I think I do understand precisely what I’m doing.
Everybody’s got a different tool kit. I’m strong on imagination, and weak on discipline, judgement and a work ethic. One thing can help make up for others.