In March of this year GamePolitics serialized the courtroom transcripts of Jack Thompson’s Florida Bar trial. The response was overwhelming.
Based on that, we knew GP readers would be interested in reading the transcript of last Wednesday’s sanctions hearing before Judge Dava Tunis – the one that Thompson stormed out of and in which the Bar recommended that the 56-year-old Thompson be disbarred for a minimum of ten years.
So we broke open the GP piggy bank and purchased a copy from the court reporter.
To set the scene (in case you haven’t been following the Florida Bar vs. John B. Thompson saga): Judge Tunis, who was selected by the Florida Supreme Court to preside over the Bar trial and who recently recommended to the Court that Thompson be found guilty of 27 violations of professional misconduct, scheduled last week’s hearing to hear arguments from both Thompson and the Florida Bar concerning possible sanctions. Judge Tunis has until September 3rd to provide her final report to the Florida Supreme Court, which will make the final determination of Thompson’s fate.
(GP: The transcript that follows is abridged where noted)
JUDGE = Judge Dava Tunis
JT = Jack Thompson
TUMA = Florida Bar prosecutor Sheila Tuma
JUDGE: Good afternoon, everybody… I trust everyone has some water at their table?… so, for the record, we are here on the matter of the Florida Bar versus John Bruce Thompson… If all the lawyers would like to announce their presence for the record.
TUMA: Sheila Tuma, counsel for the Florida Bar
JT: Jack Thompson, presently a lawyer.
JUDGE: …Miss Tuma, my understanding would be that, pursuant to the rules, you would be going first?
JT: Your Honor, may I please–
JT: — so that I can state at the appropriate time, which would be now, my objections to this proceeding on the record?
JUDGE: And you have done so through writing —
JT: No. I have to do it here, Judge.
JUDGE: Go right ahead.
JT: May I move the podium?
JUDGE: No. Just everybody leave it in one spot. That’s the way we usually do it in the courtroom.
JT: Can we change that one spot? No?
JUDGE: I’d prefer that you leave it right there.
JT: Nice. Can I pivot it?
JUDGE: Is that what you’d like, sir?
JT: I’m asking you.
JUDGE: Okay. That’s fine.
JT: I was allowed to move it before. I object strenuously, as I have in the past, to the very notion that this proceeding can even occur on various grounds, any single one of which is fatal —
JUDGE: I’m going to interrupt you. Excuse me one moment. Mr. Thompson, this Court has been in receipt of many, many motions which this Court has already ruled on. So this would not be a time for you to simply make a statement.
JT: No, I’m not.
JUDGE: If you wish to state an objection, I will be more than happy to take from you any written motion and then rely upon it. But what I do not want is for you to be making a speech at the beginning of what is essentially a disciplinary hearing where I’m supposed to hear aggravating and mitigating factors. I have addressed numerous motions of your objection. If you have something in writing, I will gladly accept it from you now.
JT: First of all, Judge, so the record is clear — and I heard what you just said and I’m going to abide by it even though it’s in error — you don’t know what I’m going to say, number one. Number two, I have a right to make here today my objection to this proceeding on the record with the additional things I want to say.
JUDGE: And I will be giving you the opportunity —
JT: Excuse me Judge. Just to state my objection to your preventing me from doing what I have a right to do here today, note my objection to your ruling in that regard. Note my objection to the fact that you don’t want to hear my objection, which I have a right to put on the record orally and heaving heard yet another erroneous ruling from you which simply digs your hole deeper — with all respect for at least this Court — let me then give you what I have in writing. May I approach?
JUDGE: Absolutely. Miss Tuma, do you have a copy?
TUMA: No, I don’t.
JT: Let me give it to you. One for the court reporter (handing), one for Miss Tuma (handing), one for the Daily Business Review (handing). Ms. Roberts, try to get the story right this time [GP: Thompson made this remark to DBR reporter Alana Roberts]. Mr. Min, you’re not supposed to be here, but here’s your copy (handing)–
[GP: Barnaby Min is an attorney with the Florida Bar; Thompson has been highly critical of Min in the past.]
JUDGE: Let me just stop you right there. This is going to be a professionally conducted hearing. Whoever is in this courtroom has a right to be here because it’s a public courtroom. I saw you basically throw onto Mr. Min’s lap a motion —
JT: You saw me drop it on his lap because he wouldn’t take it.
JUDGE: Mr. Thompson, he has no requirement to take anything from you. He’s here as a person watching the proceedings… So I’d like us all to take a step back and to conduct ourselves professionally. Having said that, I have now received–
JT: Your Honor–
JUDGE: I have now received a motion entitled "Thompson’s Formal Objection to June 4th Sanctions Hearing" and–
JT: It’s not–
JUDGE: I will read it and when I receive a reply by the Bar, I will rule accordingly; but it’s not going to stop this hearing from going forward.
JT: Nobody wanted to stop the hearing from going forward. Secondly, it’s not a motion, It’s an objection.
JT: Thirdly, I’m entitled to give this to Mr. Min, if I feel like it. He wouldn’t take it, so I gently dropped it on his lap. You can mischaracterize what I did if you want to, as you have before. Having stated my objection, Judge, which I wanted to do on the record orally, which I have a right to do, I want to wish you a very good day because I’m done here. Because I want you to understand that I cannot, Judge — Referee, whatever — object to the legitimacy of these proceedings and at the same time participate in them. I understand that. Others understand that. I don’t know whether you understand it or not, but I’m done. I’ll see you.
JUDGE: Are you choosing to walk out of the courtroom?
JT: Absolutely, Judge, because that’s what I should do. If you will read the objections, you’ll see why. You may not understand it, you may never understand it, but that’s what I have to do because of the fact that you don’t even have the authority to sit there. Thank you, Judge.
JUDGE: Have a pleasant day… Alright. Let the record reflect that Mr. Thompson has chosen to voluntarily absent himself from these proceedings and, according to the case law, they are going forward. Miss Tuma, go right ahead…
TUMA: What I have done is, I have an aggravation memo — I also have a copy for Mr. Thompson — which sets forth the testimony of the witnesses and the aggravation that was presented at the hearing.
TUMA: I also have an affidavit for you of Mr. Thompson’s prior discipline… [GP: Tuma goes on to name additional documents which she plans to present]…
JUDGE: Okay. Well, obviously, I can certainly simply — and, in fact, will read all of this. Having said that, is there something here that you would like to outline right now to give me an overview?…
[GP: There was a brief discussion of a letter sent in support of Thompson, of which the Judge directed her bailiff to make copies for the Bar]
TUMA: …The aggravation memo, what it sets forth is each of our witnesses who testified here in November and December had testified to the effect on them of Mr. Thompson’s continuing bombarding of e-mails, correspondences, also the effect on their law offices for our lawyers and for the judges, the effect on the tribunal themselves and their chambers, and what he was sending them… He continued to contact them even after the Bar complaint… it really did affect them, which we think is important. It goes through an aggravator of showing the harm to the people that were involved in this matter.
[GP: There was some discussion of a 1992 reprimand Thompson received from the Bar. Ms. Tuma said that it could be an aggravating circumstance in that it was a prior offense, but that Thompson could also have argued it as a mitigating circumstance because it had been so long ago. Ms. Tuma then raised the issue of an affidavit submitted by Florida attorney Lawrence Kellogg, one of the complainants against Thompon in a non-video game case.]
TUMA: [Mr. Kellogg] has indicated that since they have been here to testify, they have received more than 100 e-mails, most of them which contain attacks upon the Florida Bar officers, employees, the Florida Supreme Court, including himself and [law partner] Mr. Cardenas… that’s to show you that Mr. Thompson has continued to engage in the same conduct even after we have had our hearing in this matter. What I would like to do now is just briefly outline for you some of the things regarding out position of discipline in this matter… and why we’re asking for enhanced disbarment…
[GP: a discussion of timelines ensued.]
TUMA: [Thompson’s] conduct or misconduct in this case and throughout these proceedings clearly prove he’s unable to conform and conduct himself in a manner that’s consistent with the rules regulating the Florida Bar. As an attorney and as an individual, Mr. Thompson has a right to his religious belief and his moral belief. What he does not have a right to as an attorney and an officer of this Court is to accuse, disparage, humiliate, harass, burden, threaten opposing counsel or Judges, as he did in this case.
It is a privelege to practice law in the state of Florida. It’s not a right; and with that privlege, you have certain rules you have to follow. Mr. Thompson refuses to follow those rules. Mr. Thompson has made it very clear that the conduct he engaged in, he will continue to engage in whether he’s disbarred or not. He, in fact, testified to that when he was at the trial here in November of 2007. The case law that we’ve presented to you makes it very clear that Mr. Thompson’s conduct deserves no less than an enhanced disbarment, with at least 10 years before he can reapply for readmission.
This is very necessary in this case and the case law will support that Mr. Thompson will continue in this conduct if we do not disbar Mr. Thompson from the practice of law.
[GP: Tuma wrapped up and offered that the Bar would provide suggested language for Judge Tunis’s report on her findings to the Florida Supreme Court. The Judge declined the offer and the hearing ended just 25 minutes after it had begun.]