is Montgomery Blair Sibley?
My Mother was born to a notable Washington D.C. family – her Father was the last owner of the Blair House across from the White House – and, after raising four children, went on to become North East Regional Director for Planned Parenthood, the first executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and, hearing a call from God, was ordained one of the first official woman priests in the Episcopal Church in 1979.
The Blair family was a significant family in 19th century American Politics. Francis Preston Blair in 1830, became an ardent follower of Andrew Jackson and was a member of Jackson's "Kitchen Cabinet," and later, with President Lincoln's consent, went unofficially to Richmond and induced President Jefferson Davis to appoint commissioners to confer with representatives of the United States in the ultimately futile Hampton Roads Conference of February 3, 1865.
Francis Preston Blair's sons were no less illustrious. Frank Blair, believing that the southern leaders were planning to carry neutral Missouri into the secession movement, began active efforts to prevent it and personally organized and equipped a secret body of 1,000 men to be ready for the emergency. When hostilities became inevitable, in 1860 he suddenly transferred the arms in the Federal arsenal at St Louis to Alton, Illinois, thereby preventing the arming of Southern sympathizers. Subsequently, Frank Blair was promoted to Major General in the U.S. Army and was one of William T. Sherman's corps commanders in the final campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas known to every Southern school student as the March to the Sea. The March to the Sea was devastating to Georgia and the Confederacy. Sherman himself estimated that the campaign had inflicted $100 million in destruction. The Army wrecked 300 miles of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, and 13,000 head of cattle. It confiscated 9.5 million pounds of corn and 10.5 million pounds of fodder, and destroyed uncounted cotton gins and mills. David J. Eicher wrote that "Sherman had accomplished an amazing task. He had defied military principles by operating deep within enemy territory and without lines of supply or communication. He destroyed much of the South's potential and psychology to wage war."
His brother, Montgomery Blair, after whom I was named, was even more accomplished. Montgomery Blair graduated from West Point in 1835 and later saw action in the Seminole War in Florida. A successful lawyer, he moved to Washington, D.C. where he was the first U.S. solicitor in the Court of Claims and made many appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court, including one as counsel for Dred Scott in the famous Dred Scott Case. An opponent of slavery, Montgomery Blair joined the Republican Party and in 1861 Abraham Lincoln appointed him as his Postmaster General. Montgomery Blair was an efficient Postmaster General and was responsible for establishing military post offices, appointing stamp agents for the armies, securing passage of a bill abolishing postmasters' franking privileges, and improving the international mail system.
I am also a descendant of George Mason who ranks of high stature in American history as a patriot, statesman, and delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention and was known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights" and thus properly considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. George Mason authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which detailed specific rights of citizens. With anti-federalist Patrick Henry, Mason was later a leader of those who pressed for the addition of explicitly stated individual rights as part of the U.S. Constitution, and did not sign the document in part because it lacked such a statement. His efforts eventually succeeded in convincing the Federalists to modify the Constitution and add the Bill of Rights which was based directly upon Mason's earlier Virginia Declaration of Rights in which he stated in May, 1776: "All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural rights ... among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." Two months later, Thomas Jefferson cribbed from Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights while writing the Declaration of Independence. Blair family doctrine held that Jefferson's version wasn't an improvement.
My Father's side is also impressive. My Father, Harper Sibley, Jr. was a successful businessman and was part owner of the Miami Dolphins football team in 1972 when, with me as a water boy, the team had the "perfect season." Of much greater impression on me were the race riots of 1966 in Rochester, New York, when my father accepted the position as Public Safety Commissioner, which put him in the center of the volatile race atmosphere in Rochester. After hiring Lapolis Ashford, an American of African descent, as his assistant, my father's four children had to be escorted to school by body guards due to the number of death threats against us. Courage, as Coach Bobby Bowden has been quoted as saying, is doing what you must knowing you are likely to get hurt. Those words saw action in the Sibley household in 1966 and helped cement the standard of behavior that I would necessarily have to emulate.
Upon this "nature," I was brought into this world in October 1956, not with a silver spoon in my mouth, but the entire silver service. I was a child of privilege and private education.
After skipping through the University of Miami, Florida and law school at Albany Law, New York, I went to work at the Monroe County District Attorney's office where I learned the ropes of criminal law prosecution, starting with traffic infractions and ending with homicides, child abuse, and economic crimes. During that time, I was married, had two daughters and lived the bucolic life on a 25-acre farm south of Rochester.
At the end of 5 years and having hit the ceiling at the District Attorney's office, I began to look for other challenges. A chance conversation at a church social with the mother of my first girl-friend changed my life. Mrs. Zartman, at the time, was the chairwoman of the Republican Party for Monroe County and had a problem. There was no one who wanted to run in the fall 1987 election against the Democratic incumbent—my soon-to-be ex-boss. Although there was little chance of success, the election would be an excellent opportunity to introduce myself to the electorate as a nice guy—a homegrown candidate, and would pave the way for the following year's election to the State Senate, where a seat was to be vacated and up for grabs.
Taking out a second mortgage on my farm, I took the $50,000 and started my campaign by bringing in Doug Bailey who made his first mark on the political scene in 1967, co-founding Bailey, Deardorff and Associates, which was known for the race they turned down. In 1968 they turned down Nixon's race, asserting that "if we can't vote for him, we don't want to work for him." The firm's successes led to other opportunities such as media adviser to President Ford's 1976 campaign. In 1977, Doug was light on clients and agreed to come in an advise on a minor county-wide district attorney office race.
The plan was simple – knowing that I was to lose, run a "nice guy" campaign to lay the foundation for subsequent contests that could be won. The last thing anyone wanted was a campaign that left a bad taste in the voters' mouths, as first impressions are everything.
However, that was not to be. My former boss and opponent in the race for District Attorney, Howard Relin, had authored a memorandum to his 40 assistant district attorneys directing them to remove "women and minorities" from the jury whenever the defendant was of African descent. This appalling policy of Mr. Relin's office was not only morally repugnant, it had been unconstitutional since 1965 when the Supreme Court held in Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202 (1965) that: a "State's purposeful or deliberate denial to Negroes on account of race of participation as jurors in the administration of justice violates the Equal Protection Clause." After I publicly raised this issue in the campaign, no present or former assistant district attorneys would corroborate the existence of Relin's jury selection memo; I was branded as using unfair campaign tactics and lost the election by the largest margin in the history of Rochester, New York, elections.
However, 3 days after the election, the highest court in New York, in the case of People v. Knight, 134 A.D.2d 845 (1987) reversed a murder conviction obtained by Relin's office stating: "We find that defendant articulated facts sufficient to support the conclusion that the prosecutor exercised his peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory manner, thereby shifting the burden to the prosecutor to provide neutral explanations for his peremptory challenges." Subsequently, Relin's jury selection memo was introduced and its authenticity confirmed, resulting in a new trial from Mr. Knight. I was, belatedly, vindicated.
However, I had moved after the election to Miami to start a new law practice where I found work with an old Rochester friend, Peter Yanowitch, who had opened the Miami office of a New York firm. Shortly thereafter, I was introduced by his friend, Hector Botero, to eight Colombian companies that collectively had $7,000,000 in wire transfers seized by the U.S. Attorney's office in New York and needed New York counsel.
To make a long story short, I was retained by the eight companies and ultimately took the largest civil forfeiture case ever tried to trial in July 1992. The 8-week trial in Brooklyn was notable as (a) the John Gotti and a Chinese Tong trials were being held on the same floor, and (b) three of the attorneys representing other claimants in the civil forfeiture trial ultimately went to prison for their actions in representing their clients, the Cali cartel, during the trial. But perhaps of greatest significance was the association I formed with the only other attorney in that case not sent to jail, Isidoro Rodriguez.
A former Marine and White House appointee in both the Carter and Regan administrations, Rodriguez was not your typical lawyer. Raised in the Bronx and "too slow to run" as Isidoro often said, he had learned to survive with his fists. That schooling persisted in his legal practice, which he ran from Barranquilla, Columbia. The net effect on me was to infuse a "take no prisoners" approach to litigating against the United States. Ultimately, the verdict in the civil forfeiture case was only partially successful for my clients, but the experience made me one of the foremost experts on civil forfeiture; my focus thereafter was on representing claimants in these civil and criminal forfeiture proceedings nationwide.
My divorce in 1994 left me with custody of my three minor children. After remarriage in 1996, I obtained a court order permitting me to relocate to Washington D.C. with my minor children, along with my second wife the child of that second marriage. In the summer of 2000, I did relocate and expected my three children from my first marriage to join me at the conclusion of their summer vacations in time for school to start.
My ex-wife refused to deliver the children, which spawned 6 years of litigation over custody. The horrors of the family court system are not the subject of this campaign, but I was denied a hearing on custody for over 2 years and was adjudged in contempt of court for not paying over $175,000 in child support by a judge who simply rubber-stamped an order drafted by my ex-wife's attorney. As a result, I was incarcerated for 77 days in the Miami-Dade County jail, from which I was ultimately released when the judge belatedly realized I didn't have the ability to pay that amount.
As a result, the arms-length distance by which lawyers insulate themselves from the glaring injustices of the judicial system in the United States was stripped away from me. In jail, I was forced, by necessity, to punish or be punished in order to survive. As a result, I gained stature among my fellow inmates, which led them to tell me of the brutalizations caused by a criminal justice system that delivered justice in name only.
The net result was that by the fall of 2006, I had been forged into a lawyer who had no allegiance to the cartel of lawyers who profited off the legal misery of others, was a litigious critic of the judicial system that had insulated itself from any accountability, and was dangerously skilled in both criminal and civil law.
I was subsequently suspended from the practice of law in three state and thirteen federal courts as a result of my divorce proceedings. Though my suspensions have run, I have chosen not to return to the practice of law as I believe the system is so corrupt and I will not be muzzled by it as a result of being a member of the bar.