In the past, I have dealt with toxic messages by hitting delete. I was really tempted to do hat again when I got the message below. However, I have been told that that is not the best way to deal with aggressive and covert aggressive people.
I am a blogger, and my job is to shine the purifying light of day on all parts of genetic genealogy. It is not all sunshine. I get plenty of hate mail. My life gets threatened. People run smear campaigns against me.
That mostly serves to show that I am getting things done. To be 100% unoffensive, I would have to be 100% ineffectual.
The time has come then to shine cleansing light on the messages to my inboxes. Here is one such message.
I was just about to email [redacted] to say that one of my Surname Project Group members who has real interests in Ulster / Northern Ireland had real concerns about all this, as she had given her personal assurances on confidentiality, etc. She is also an excellent genealogist / genetic genealogist and folk with real expertise on Ireland are not that thick on the ground. She felt she had no option but to delete Kits and results if any of the folk she had recruited wished to withdraw. Probably no more sensitive place in Europe at least – than DNA, law enforcement issues and catching criminals than in Northern Ireland.
At least one person though is supposed to have complained already to the Information Commissioner in Ireland. Whether that can be withdrawn in the light of this, is a separate question. You had better consult with the Legal Genealogist.Source: a message that reached my inbox.
Now, I am going to look at the message as a genealogist. By “the Legal Genealogist” I take it that the author means Judy G. Russell who writes “The Legal Genealogist” blog.
Let me pause here to say something. As a friend and as a genealogist, I hold Judy G. Russell in the highest esteem. Her blog is a fine resource that I highly recommend. Understanding historic law helps us be better genealogists.
That is not the question though when I am told that I need to consult her for her opinion. There is a thinly disguised implication that I need to consult her for legal advice in the message above. After all, the message is not about my genealogy or a genealogy post on my site.
So, should I consult Judy G. Russell for legal advice?
In the United States of America, to offer legal advice as a lawyer, you need two things. First, you need a law degree. Second, you need a license to practice law. Licenses are generally on a state by state basis.
Judy G. Russell lives in New Jersey where I have read they take unauthorized legal advising seriously.
I am a genealogist, so I consult the source. There is a publicly accessible databases of lawyers and law licences online for New Jersey. It is here on the New Jersey Courts website.
What is Disability Inactive?
The New Jersey Courts website has this:
Disability Inactive – The attorney has been determined to lack the physical or mental capacity to practice law and has been transferred by Order of the Supreme Court to this status until the attorney regains the capacity to practice law. An attorney with this status is not allowed to practice law until restored to Active status by Order of the Supreme Court.Source: Definitions and Explanations for Attorney Status – New Jersey Courts website, 2019
How did that happen?
Google’s news archives offers potential answers.
Here, I will again pause to make it very clear that I am not a lawyer. I do not presume to know exactly what happened. I don’t judge.
Between 1988 and 1989 there are three news articles. They are not the only ones, but they are from the most credible sources I could find.
Prosecutor accused of faking Sikh death threats – UPI – 21 Mar 1988
NEWARK, N.J. — A federal prosecutor whose report of death threats led to extraordinary security for the extradition hearing of two alleged Sikh terrorists has now been accused of manufacturing the letters herself.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Judy Russell also produced an anonymous and threatening-looking message sent to the U.S. magistrate hearing the case, U.S. Attorney Samuel Alito said…Source: Prosecutor accused of faking Sikh death threats by Frances Ann Burns, 21 March 1988 UPI Archives
Prosecutor found insane in obstruction case – UPI – 10 Mar 1989
NEWARK, N.J. — A former prosecutor who faked death threats against herself in an attempt to guarantee victory in the extradition of two suspected terrorists was acquitted of obstruction of justice charges Friday by reason of insanity.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Judy G. Russell was cleared of criminal liability in a brief non-jury trial. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Politan determined she was incapable of understanding what she was doing or knowing it was wrong.
Dr. Richard Kluft of Philadelphia diagnosed her as suffering from a multiple personality disorder. He found evidence of two to four separate personalities and concluded that one of them, based on her ‘father’s cruel and hurtful nature,’ had ‘sabotaged her by planting the threat letters.’…Source: Prosecutor found insane in obstruction case by Frances Ann Burns, 10 March 1989
Ex-Prosecutor Found Insane In Case of Faked Threats – Washington Post – 11 Mar 1989
…Judge Nicholas Politan delivered the verdict against Judy G. Russell, 38, after Justice Department lawyers presented psychiatric reports stating that she is severely disturbed and a possible schizophrenic with as many as four distinct personalities. The verdict capped a case that has stunned the legal community in northern New Jersey. Russell was among the state’s most prominent young attorneys and had prosecuted some of New Jersey’s most celebrated narcotics cases before being accused of the crime last March.
In February 1988, Russell secretly told a federal magistrate overseeing the extradition hearings that she had received three death threats related to the case. According to documents submitted by the Justice Department today, FBI agents began to suspect that Russell had fabricated the threats when she said a fourth note warning “Federal Court Death for you” was slipped under her hotel door. U.S. marshals reported that nobody had approached her room. Agents matched the typewritten letters on her 1983 federal job application to lettering on envelopes in which the threats had been mailed. Agents searched her home and found three unmailed threats and glue, scissors and plastic gloves with ink smudges that matched ink on the threats. Russell insists that she does not remember mailing the threats or know how the other notes appeared in her home, claims that government psychiatrists said are consistent with her mental state, according to court records. Friends and colleagues describe Russell as an ingenious, driven attorney who, throughout her life, has had a knack for impressing the right people at the right time…Source: Ex-Prosecutor Found Insane In Case of Faked Threats by Ethan Schwartz, 11 March 1989
Without knowing more, I cannot say more. It is enough information that I can soundly reply though.
My answer then to the person who wrote that I “had better consult with the Legal Genealogist” is no. No, I am not consulting Judy G. Russell on legal issues. No, I am not relying on Judy G. Russell to be my moral compass.
When I feel the need for legal counsel, I seek out lawyers who are licenced to practice here in Texas.
I have God for my moral compass. That is a personal relationship. I continue speaking truth to power –one day at a time and one foot in front of the other.