LIGHTING RELEASES — June 5, 2014 ─ According to a coalition of good government advocates, Tennessee’s executive branch through state prosecutors, and the state’s judicial branch pulled off a sleight of hand trick on the state’s legislature. The reform activists suggest as much in duplicate letters to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Stacey Campfield, Representatives Dale Carr and Andrew Farmer, as well as Tennessee Chief Justice Gary Wade. The letters call into question the sincerity of both Tennessee’s aggressive crack down on drunk drivers and fervent support of good faith government misconduct disclosures.
In response to a constitutional challenge of the state’s law authorizing warrantless, involuntary blood tests of suspected drunk drivers, the Tennessee Association of District Attorneys reportedly affirmed that it “worked hard to have (the) legislation enacted” and is “totally confident that the forced blood withdrawal violates no constitutional safeguards.” Also, in 2013 a government watchdog organization determined that “Tennessee has one of the strongest state whistleblower laws: Scoring 75 out of a possible 100; Ranking 3rd out of 51 (50 states and the District of Columbia)”. Yet, supporters of Sevierville resident Mark P. Lipton, a former deputy sheriff, claim he “was prosecuted based on laughable assault charges, only months after he attempted to secure a federal investigation of his former boss, a popular Tennessee sheriff, for obstructing a DUI arrest.”
Lipton’s supporters are described as some of his friends and family members including church family; the Plea for Justice Program, a grassroots initiative to reform plea bargaining in America; the National Police Defense Foundation which touts more than 200,000 members and supporters committed to “Protect & Support” the efforts of law enforcement; Golden Badge, an international union of current and former criminal law enforcement as well as correctional officers and public officials subjected to work-related retaliation; and the Tennessee State Community Council ─ Sevier County Division, a regional good government advocacy group. Their referenced letters to Governor Haslam and other Tennessee officials include a Fact Sheet summarizing what they describe as “The State of Tennessee’s Judicial Compromise of DUI Enforcement and Whistleblower Protection”.
In addition to background information, the Fact Sheet circulated by Lipton’s supporters provides that his “. . . prosecutors were obliged and failed to reasonably determine when an arguable need to deter alleged criminal activity through conviction and corresponding punishment is outweighed by a patent state and/or federal government interest in encouraging good faith attempts to disclose serious public and/or private sector misconduct, as well as in reasonable whistleblower/political participation/witness protection”. Those prosecutors are Tennessee District Attorney General James Dunn and his Assistant District Attorneys George Ioannides as well as Ashley McDermott.
According to Lipton’s supporters, “(v)eteran attorney Beverly P. Sharpe, Director of the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) of Tennessee’s Board of Professional Responsibility (TBPR) concluded essentially that a failure ‘to reasonably determine’ as has been alleged, constitutes a serious violation of lawyer disciplinary rules. However, Sandy Garrett, TBPR’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel, subsequently reported that the agency’s ‘inquiry has not revealed sufficient evidence to proceed against (Lipton’s) prosecutors for violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct’.”
Governor Haslam, Senator Campfield, Representatives Carr and Farmer, as well as Chief Justice Wade have been asked to inquire “(1). if the TBPR conducted an investigation beyond a review of . . . (the relevant) disciplinary complaints; (2). if yes, what did that investigation entail; and (3). if no, why the matter was not investigated in light of (the complainants’) allegations with supporting exhibits.”
The Fact Sheet of Lipton’s supporters poses and answers the question, “What are the implications of the TBPR stonewalling our disciplinary complaints attributing Lipton’s legal difficulties in part to prosecutor misconduct and a corresponding derision of whistleblower protection?” The sixth listed implication states that “(t)hrough its regulation of prosecutors, the TBPR has apparently opted to undermine the state’s interest in good faith disclosures of serious public and/or private sector misconduct as well as in reasonable whistleblower, political participation, and witness protection.” A protest of that action is being planned for July says Zena Crenshaw-Logal, an attorney before the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals and official spokesperson for the coalition supporting Lipton. She will recruit support for related reform efforts in Washington, D.C. at the 2014 summit being held by the prestigious Center for Prosecutor Integrity, and subsequent Whistleblower Summit, historically attended by some of America’s most prominent whistleblowers and whistleblower advocates.
To learn more, visit the Campaign Newsroom at http://www.njcdlp.org/#!prosecutors–whistleblowers/c1ngw
Mr. Lance Voorhees, Media Coordinator
219.865.6774 Ext. 1