Nigerian lawyer suspended for accusing U.S judges of corruption
For several months, a Nigerian lawyer in Chicago, Illinois, United States, Mr Lanre Amu, tried to get the attention of the American media but no one was willing to tell his story or help him get his law licence back.
Amu moved to the U.S in 1982 with the hope of living the American dream. At the beginning, he enjoyed this dream, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Civil Engineering with distinction. He worked as an engineer in Illinois.
Later, he attended the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and became a popular lawyer, representing minority immigrants, especially those not educated in America. After 16 years of practice, his American dream became a nightmare in August 2013. Amu got a phone call that his licence had been suspended for three years until an order of the court.
“I got a phone call that I was suspended from the practice of law immediately. I couldn’t believe it. They said I defamed four judges because of the complaints I filed against them over nine years,” he said.
The call came after his long battle with four judges he accused of corruption. Between 2004 and 2011, Amu filed complaints about four Cook County Circuit Court judges he alleged had compromised in their verdicts against his clients but in favour of rich insurance companies.
The judges are: Lynn M. Egan, Irwin S. Solganick, Francis J. Dolan, and Thomas R. Chiola.
His first complaint in 2004 was against Judge Dolan, who barred witnesses from testifying against a company Amu’s clients had sued.
Amu also accused Judge Egan of racial discrimination and corruption after she vacated a default judgment against his client in a personal injury case against a food store.
The lawyer insisted that the case was fixed, alleging that the judge’s brother worked at a law firm hired by the store’s insurance company to defend it against the suit.
In 2011, Amu’s accusations were ruled as “false”, “unfounded”, “baseless,” and in violation of Illinois Supreme Court rules by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), an agency of the Illinois Supreme Court.
A hearing followed and the ARDC administrator advised the Hearing Board to recommend that Amu be disbarred from law practice. But the panel recommended a three-year suspension.
The case proceeded to the Supreme Court and, after several months, Amu was officially suspended in 2013 for three years until further order of the court.
The lawyer said none of the judges testified against him while the battle was going on. Yet, he was suspended. He believes as an African immigrant and a minority black lawyer, he is a victim of racial discrimination.
When The Nation contacted the ARDC about his story, we received an email from their media representative, who said the ARDC does not comment on past or pending cases, except to give background information.
“The Court declined to take Mr. Amu’s exceptions (an appeal) from an earlier board’s recommendation that he be suspended for three years and until further order of the court,” said James J. Grogan, the media representative for the ARDC.
“The provision of a suspension ‘until further order of the court’ is significant because, at the end of the suspension period, the lawyer suspended must file a petition for reinstatement and establish rehabilitation after a hearing.”
Also, Amu, who once represented hundreds of minority clients, said he was left to find other means of survival.
“Things have been difficult financially, as you would expect once a person’s means of livelihood is interrupted,” he said.
One of his clients, Koami Agbezouhlon from Togo, told The Nation that Amu is the top black lawyer he knows that defends minorities in Chicago area. He said the lawyer’s suspension also affected a lot of minority immigrants.
“This is injustice. They knew that Amu was defending the innocent people like me. But now, judges are lying, and it’s not fair. The system is corrupted; something must be done.
“This is a sensitive issue because it involves judges. But somebody must hear his side of the story and do proper investigation. He feels completely cheated, and something should be done,” said another client of the lawyer from Ghana, who spoke in confidence.
In a YouTube video, titled: Judicial Corruption in IL., Amu was granted his first interview by a cable station. There, he details the events leading to his suspension.
He hoped thousands would watch it and know there is corruption even in the American judicial system.
Amu continues to hope for justice.
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