Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I hope you're sitting down!
Because this is a real shock - Tim O'Brien from the New Jersey Law Journal reports Cuba Trips, Cigars Sink Bar Applicant:
A self-described liberal idealist who says his three visits to Cuba in violation of federal law were acts of civil disobedience has been denied admission to the New Jersey Bar by the state Supreme Court. Zachary Sanders, who passed the New Jersey bar exam in July 2001, first was given a thumbs down by the Committee on Character, which rejected his argument that he had a right to disobey what he called the "immoral and unjust" embargo on trade and travel to Cuba.

A three-lawyer committee said, "it was crystal clear ... that Mr. Sanders believes himself to be absolutely morally justified in breaking the law." The panel said it viewed him as one who "detaches himself from responsibility to obey the law by endeavoring to distinguish the morality of the law from its legality."
The usual suspects are funny that way. But who would have thought in this modern age that failures to obey the law would keep one from practicing it?
Sanders, 29, admitted traveling to Cuba three times through Mexico, Canada and the Bahamas; deceiving U.S. Customs officials about the visits on re-entry to the country; lying to customs agents about trying to smuggle Cuban cigars into the United States and blowing off a query by the U.S. Treasury Department seeking information about his first visit. That last move led to a $10,000 department fine for ignoring the query, a fine Sanders acknowledged he made no effort to pay.
But ole Zack put on a stirring defense:
He invoked Gandhi, Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr., and argued that if the committee's recommendation were to be followed, it would mean that "civil disobedience would be foreclosed."
How did civil disobedience come to mean doing whatever you want and not being held accountable? Must have happened about the same time free speech came to mean saying whatever you want and not letting anyone disagree with you.
But the smuggled cigars proved to be Sanders' undoing. The Committee on Character, the OAE brief and subsequent oral argument focused not so much on the trips and the cigars but on Sanders' lying about them. The committee said he offered no "good or political explanation" for trying to bring them back.
Ruh Oh! Contraband stogie alert!
Sanders said he committed an "error in judgment" by bringing boxes of cigars back for friends on his first and second trips. Apparently learning from his mistakes -- his bags were searched the first two times -- he brought no cigars back from his third trip, in August 2001, just after graduating from Benjamin Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

The committee report, written by Chairman Robert Ritter, said it was clear Sanders felt "morally justified in breaking the law and lying to Customs Officials not once, not twice, but three times."

Ritter, a partner with Hackensack, N.J.'s Schiffman, Berger, Abraham, Kaufman & Ritter, excoriated Sanders over his unremorseful and combative position. He wrote: "The explanation is not acceptable to the citizens of this country.

"Lawyers, in particular, cannot choose which laws they will violate because of political beliefs. Further, only after the committee expressed serious concern about his conduct did Mr. Sanders volunteer that he would only make future trips to Cuba with the appropriate government authorization. The testimony was self-serving as the committee believes that he would continue to violate the law with impunity but for the pending decision of this committee."
Ya think?

Much more wingnuttery in the article including a bio of the beamish boy subtitled "An Activist Comes East."