For those of you who have been around here for a while, or at least around the blawgosphere in the olden days when there were a bunch of criminal defense lawyers with blawgs, you probably remember Norm. Norm was there before me, hanging with Mike Cernovich at Crime and Federalism, and later on his own, until one day he decided to break ties with the blawgosphere, pretend we were all evil and he was the lone good lawyer who had enough of being tainted by his association with us mean, nasty lawyers.
But Cerno told me his practice was dead, so Norm decided to repackage himself. He built a new website, hired a publicist, and tried to become an important lawyer. That was more than a decade ago, and he’s had some success since then. He beat the case of Yale student Saifullah Khan, which was a great win.
But then he lost the case of Alex Jones. He lost big. Huge. $1.4 billion huge.
And he didn’t just lose the case, but made a monumental screw-up in the process.
In a sharply critical decision, a Superior Court judge has suspended Infowars broadcaster Alex Jones’ lawyer Norm Pattis from practicing law for six months for the “inexcusable” disclosure of thousands of protected medical and psychiatric records obtained from relatives of Sandy Hook shooting victims.
Even Alex Jones is entitled to a lawyer to represent him, and after shuffling through some who would have likely done a better job, he settled on Norm. He chose poorly.
Bellis said that Pattis’ “abject failure to safeguard the plaintiff’s sensitive records” violated a half dozen rules of professional conduct, including those having to do with misconduct and competence. What’s more, she said his misconduct in general was worsened by his decision to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination and refuse to answer questions about the improper disclosure during a hearing she convened in court last year.
As an aside, Norm was asked for comment by the Hartford Courant about the decision, but told them he hadn’t read it yet. He was busy.
Pattis, who said he had not read the decision, was in Washington, D.C., participating in the defense of five members of the far right Proud Boys organization charged in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. He said he will appear in U.S. District Court there Monday morning to ask for an order postponing imposition of the suspension at least for the duration of the Proud Boys trial.
Judge Bellis ordered Norm suspended for six months. She refused a stay of the suspension, and Norm will likely seek a stay from the appellate court. But even with all that going on, Norm found time to twit.
Liz Dye at ATL read this as an attempt to make himself the victim, that he’s been “canceled.”
Umm, sir, the correct term is “cancel culture.”
Andrew Fleischmann saw this as a product of “audience capture.”
Norm Pattis was at one time a capable attorney with a good reputation. But audience capture is a helluva thing. https://t.co/44jTqlOsyG
— Andrew Fleischman (@ASFleischman) January 7, 2023
It’s unclear to me what Norm is trying to do here, but what has long been clear is that his desperate need for prominence, for recognition, has not worked out as well as he hoped.
It’s not that I feel sorry for Norm. He earned his problems. As Judge Bellis said, it was inexcusable that someone with his experience would have been so reckless with privileged information.
Simply put, given his experience, there is no acceptable excuse for his misconduct,
There is no excuse. Maybe he was too busy putting together his stand up routine to pay attention to his representation of his clients. Maybe he was just that cavalier. Maybe when Norm dropped his trousers, karma bit him in the ass. I don’t know.
Norm has made a lot of enemies along the way, myself included. Still, it’s a shame to see a lawyer who was once well-regarded fall into a hole like this. I don’t have to like Norm to respect his abilities as a lawyer. Even an asshole can be a good lawyer. But this wasn’t about Norm being an asshole.
To call the entire sequence of events that led up to that moment a clusterfuck would be a major understatement.
No matter how desperately you need the attention, it’s no excuse for what happened here. Whether the six month suspension will stick, as it likely will, Norm will be back when it’s over. Whether he will have learned anything from this fiasco is another matter. Norm isn’t the kind of guy who seems to learn from his mistakes.