Casual Friday presents: Attorneys Behaving Badly

Sometimes it’s not so easy to find a theme for a Casual Friday entry. Other times, it’s obvious.

Like this week, when, for some reason, I found more stories of attorneys in need of attorneys.  Here are the top three, with the requisite mug shots:

Bronze Medal: An attorney should do everything she can to help her client. Unless that includes smuggling drugs into jail for him. Especially if she isn’t really his attorney.

image Nina Backon is a Farmington Hills attorney, but, likely, not for long [The Detroit News]:

A 35-year-old Farmington Hills attorney is facing smuggling and drug possession charges after allegedly smuggling drugs into the Oakland County Jail for her boyfriend.

The charges stem from a visit last week with her boyfriend, Eric Edward Wilamowski, 23, also of Farmington Hills, in the jail.

Wilamowski had recently been sentenced to 93 days in jail for possession of drug paraphernalia. On May 5, Backon represented herself as his attorney in order to visit him. At the conclusion of the visit, police say, Wilamowski let it slip to the deputies that Backon was actually his fiancé, and at the end of that visit she was blowing kisses to Wilamowski.

After deputies confirmed she was not his attorney of record, she was escorted out of the building and told she would no longer be allowed attorney visits.

On May 7, she returned with legal papers that she had filed as an attorney on his case, police said. Deputies were suspicious of Backon and, at the end of that visit, searched Wilamowski and found six Xanax pills and 10 pouches of chewing tobacco. Wilamowski admitted Backon had brought the items to him.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the police obtained a search warrant [Observer & Eccentric]:

A Farmington Hills attorney and her fiance, already jailed on drug-related charges, face additional charges after an apparent marijuana-growing operation was uncovered in their apartment.

“I would say it was highly unlikely it was just for themselves,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard of the “well-equipped” growing operation found in the pair’s Farmington Hills apartment.

Nina Marie Backon, 35, and her fiance, Eric Edward Wilamowski, 23, were arraigned on the new charges via video this week from Oakland County Jail where both are lodged.

Backon is active in the medical marijuana movement, posting on compassion club sites. But still, without the proper paperwork, it’s, you know, illegal.

And she finished third…

Silver Medal: There’s creepy guy, there’s sleazy guy, and there’s this guy [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]:


A Cobb County attorney has been arrested for allegedly putting a surveillance camera under a woman’s desk.

Cobb County Sheriff’s Office James Frederick Tenney, of Marietta, faces three charges of unlawful surveillance.

A female employee of Merritt & Tenney L.L.P. noticed the device earlier this week and called Cobb County police. The man, James Frederick Tenney of Marietta, turned himself in Friday afternoon, according to Sgt. Dana  Pierce.

Tenney faces three counts of unlawful surveillance for apparently recording the woman three different times, Pierce said.

HT: ABA Journal

Still, there was one better/worse…

Gold Medal: I don’t know how many strikes you get in Texas before you lose your law license, but it’s more than two.

Meet Carolyn Machalac Barnes, a 52-year old attorney from Leander, Texas, a barrister that personifies the idea of “Don’t Mess With Texas,” as well as “You don’t know crazy” (or, as they say in Texas “You ain’t seen crazy”) [Austin American-Statesman]:

Williamson County sheriff’s officials have charged an attorney with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, saying she fired five shots when a U.S. Census Bureau worker visited her home Saturday , court records show.

And this was no mistaken identity either.

After Gittel identified herself as a census worker, Foster said, Barnes came outside with a handgun and told Gittel to get off the property.

Gittel “was apparently not getting off of her property fast enough, and Ms. Barnes decided to shoot five rounds in her direction,” Foster said. He said Gittel was not injured.

She fired five shots after the lady as she was leaving.

This was not a first offense for Barnes. She has a long and disturbing history of striking out at police/governmental workers. Like earlier this year, for instance [MyFoxAustin]:

According to an affidavit, 52-year-old Carolyn Machalec Barnes passed her belongings through an x-ray machine when she entered the courthouse.

As the items passed through, a security officer noticed a multi-use tool with a knife blade in with her things. Barnes was asked to leave and take the tool out to her car.

Honestly, who hasn’t this happened to? (Well, maybe not with a knife blade, but a cell phone or a key chain, certainly). You’re annoyed, sure, but mainly because you know you have to walk back to your car. Not Barnes:

When the guard told Barnes she would have to go outside to place the call, she turned around and hit him in the chest. At that point, officers restrained her and placed her in handcuffs.

Sheriff Office [sic] says that’s when she started screaming like an animal and threatened the officer.

Unhappy with the news coverage, she fired back like a celebrity – with a litany of incoherent messages through Twitter:

According to Barnes twitter page, she says that she never had a knife in her purse and that it was an eyeglass repair toolkit.  Barnes also noted on her twitter page that she never threatened or cursed at the officers.  She said that she was the one that was attacked by officers as she was reporting them for abuse.

It was an EYEGLASS REPAIR KIT! “That’s not handgun in my bag, it’s just a brass cleaner.” She was charged with striking an officer.

Even before that, in 2002, she turned a traffic stop into a scene from “First Blood” [State of Texas v Barnes]:

Koenig approached appellant’s vehicle again and repeated requests for her cooperation. Several times he asked her to roll down her windows or to get out of the truck, but she ignored these requests. More than once, he also told her, “Don’t make this difficult. This is a speeding ticket.”

Approximately forty minutes after the stop, and after consulting by phone with a superior officer, Koenig advised appellant that she was under arrest for evading arrest and refusing to accept the speeding citation. He requested that she peacefully step out of the vehicle and explained that if she did not, he would have to break the window and forcibly remove her. He then said, “Please do not force us to do that.” … When she did not respond, he repeated pleas for her to put the vehicle into park and to step out. After appellant ignored these latest pleas, Koenig broke a window in appellant’s truck and opened the doors. Koenig restrained appellant while Fisher attempted to restrain appellant’s son. Appellant shouted for the boy to run and shouted, apparently to anyone passing by or looking on, “They will kill him.”

And that’s not all. [Austin American-Statesman]

In 2000 , Barnes, frustrated by difficulties in resolving a traffic ticket, wrote a letter to the Cedar Park Municipal Court clerk saying she would “fight to the death” with anyone who tried to arrest her.

“This is why people bomb governmental offices, kill cops, and kill judges because of all the lies and abuses!” she said in the letter.

[End of Attorneys Behaving Badly]

Watch out, Schwarzenegger: Virg Bernero appeared on Fox News a couple months ago and was pretty fired up:

The Skype camera and the green suit makes him look like The Hulk.



And the delivery somewhat reminds me of…


The End: Remember the lady that wanted everyone to pay for her legal education by soliciting donations through PayPal? She has abandoned her quest because of “mean spirited blog posts.”

And finally, because the City of Detroit hasn’t embarrassed itself enough []:

6/03 Year in which Detroit presented Saddam Hussein with a key to the city: 1980

Source: Office of the Mayor (Detroit)