SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
CASE NO. 07-60770-CIV-ALTONAGA/Turnoff
IN RE: BARON’S STORES, INC.
September 11, 2007
Good morning, Your Honor.
I requested that I be heard in this Court as a matter of public importance. I want to thank you for signing the Order which has now allowed me the opportunity to do so. I want the record to reflect that the request to address the Court was also made and granted in the Evidentiary Trial that took place in January, 2007. In reliance upon that Court’s Order, I prepared a statement which was never read because the Court said it did not have to hear opening statements. With the utmost respect for this Court, I thank you for fulfilling your judicial responsibility by adhering to the Order which you signed.
Attorneys Kopplow, Cooper and Salkin’s scheme compelled them to violate Rule 2014. These attorneys, officers of the court, each filed an Affidavit, under the penalty of perjury, whereby they each denied having any connection with any party in interest in the bankruptcy of Baron’s when, in fact, more than fifty connections were present. More than fifty connections that needed to be explored by the Court. The evidence was and remains overwhelming that many of the connections rose to the level of a conflict of interest, whether potential or actual. Such disclosure would have prevented Kopplow, Cooper and Salkin from being appointed in the bankruptcy of Baron’s. Kopplow, Cooper and Salkin must have known that mandated disclosure under Rule 2014 would have caused their disqualification. Thus, their intention was not to comply with the rules in order to achieve their desired result. A result obtained by defrauding the bankruptcy court and preventing interested parties their right to be heard. An unjust result that placed them in a position to negotiate a settlement and fees that inured to their benefit, other professionals, and the Chairman of the Creditors Committee, another undisclosed connection. Such an unconscionable scheme is what ultimately caused damage to the unsecured creditors, the debtor, the destruction of a fifty-year old company, the loss of two hundred jobs, and the loss to the community who benefitted by the philanthropy of Baron’s and its owners.
You cannot imagine what these almost fourteen years have been like in our pursuit for justice. My wonderful husband, Norman, at almost seventy-six, has been deprived of what should have been his golden years reaping the fruits of his labor. Our beautiful son, Trace, is now sixteen years old. He has been denied financial security that his grandparents and parents worked so hard to bequeath and provide for him. He has been denied my undivided devotion as a mother since he was two. I have been denied a normal life forced to understand why and how things like this happen, and then working towards getting back what was taken from us so cruelly and inhumanely.
Your Honor, I now want to move from the issues in my case to the core of the process that is dictating the dynamics of my case which is a matter of great public importance. The behavior of Kopplow, Cooper and Salkin is glaring in its contempt for the rights of the citizens who must use the courts to maintain a civilized problems-solving process in society. It is glaring in its contempt for the intent and purpose of the rules and laws governing the professional behavior of lawyers who practice in our courts. But worse, is the use of such tactics that drive the pertinent issues of a case into a realm of irrationality, and disorientation, that is not accidental or “just legal game playing.” It is intentionally denying justice to the citizens for the warped benefit of a few who have grabbed power over our courts at any price. Tactics that use misinformation to distort the reality of a situation and deny the responsibility where it falls, are the interrogator’s tools for breaking the psyche of terrorists and others who may threaten our civilized society. Your Honor, I know that might sound like quite a radical leap. However, consider that I have walked into court with an apple. It was grown from an apple seed, produced by an apple tree; tastes like an apple, cuts like an apple and meets all known scientific criteria for being an apple. Kopplow, Cooper and Salkin tell me and the Court it is an orange. Regardless of the evidence and sound scientific proof I can supply and have supplied that it is an apple, these attorneys stand firm that it is an orange and cause the Court to concur through falsehoods, manipulations, and a host of unsavory, unprofessional, unethical and criminal machinations.
By the time the trier of fact has agreed that the pure apple may be an orange, my entire orientation to life, rational belief system based on a balance of truth and principles is shattered. My psyche is assaulted. Many who cannot verbalize, or who are not educated simply collapse at this point of clandestine attack on the foundation of citizens’ trust that they have an avenue to pursue justice through our courts.
Your Honor, my case was reopened on April 7, 2005 for fraud on the court for failure to disclose under bankruptcy rule 2014. That remains the issue and the violation of that plain and simple rule by attorneys Kopplow, Cooper and Salkin could not be any clearer. In the legal process, I can think of nothing more heinous, and I pray the Court concur, than the deprivation of ones due process rights by officers of the court. Kopplow, Cooper and Salkin impaired my right to due process by ignoring the rules, failing to adhere to the court’s orders, failing to provide honest representation, failing to carry out the duties of their contracts, and failing to make honest and complete disclosure to the court. The court, thus far, has failed to protect my due process rights by allowing the rules to be manipulated, allowing its orders to be ignored, and allowing officers of the court to place their interests ahead of those they are duty bound to protect by not only giving Kopplow, Cooper and Salkin a pass for perpetrating a fraud on the court but allowing them to profit by their scheme.
What I have come to learn, as a Pro-Se advocate, is that precedent is supposed to be set by previous rulings and that those rulings are the Court’s interpretation as to how to apply the law. I also have come to learn that “fraud on the court” is a particular species of fraud that is extremely difficult to prosecute because of cronyism, fraternalism, and protectionism, that the legal community affords its members.
On January 29, 30 and 31st of this year, I participated in the Court’s evidentiary trial. I thought the Court would diligently explore the facts presented in light of its pre-trial order and its order would turn thereon. I firmly believed, upon completion of the trial, that justice would finally be served. What I did not recognize and could not comprehend was the effect that a “fraud on the court” determination would have on the bankruptcy bar in South Florida, and also the unraveling of all of the final rulings made as a result of that “fraud on the court.” Please note that Judge Hyman, who made all the rulings in the 1997 bankruptcy of Baron’s, is the same Judge who reopened the case, denied Summary Judgments and presided over the evidentiary trial. And so the same Judge who was defrauded now faced the huge burden that would be created by a “fraud on the court” ruling. In addition to that burden, I believe that because of the close knit relationships developed in the bankruptcy bar, it becomes very difficult to effect the prosecution of people who appear before you on a regular basis. Whether this is difficult is not the issue - what is just and right is! Judges must have the courage to correct wrongs that are against public policy in spite of relationships.
Perhaps, in reopening the bankruptcy, Judge Hyman opened Pandora’s Box, realized what lay inside at the evidentiary trial, and then chose to close the box rather than release the secrets. Judge Hyman was able to close the box by “re-interpreting” the disclosure rules and making his own judgment of the intentions of the parties. “Fraud on the court” should not be left to interpretation by anyone. The actions of the officers of the court must speak for themselves. Re-interpreting the rules to protect officers of the court to the detriment of the public destroys the entire judicial system.
What happened in our case is rampant in bankruptcy cases around the country. The Courts rely on attorneys to act with honor and trustworthiness. To tell the truth, know the law, and protect the sanctity of the process is the responsibility of these officers of the court. To allow violations of any of these tenets to obstruct justice cannot and must not be tolerated.
The very protection the court has from appointing professionals in bankruptcy cases are the Rules of Disclosure enacted by Congress to protect honest debtors and creditors from professionals who choose to play fast and loose with the court. Examining the history of Congress reveals that it knew the problem existed, especially in the bankruptcy courts, and thus stated its concern in the Matter of Arkansas Co., (3d Cir. 1986)).
“It is significant that Congress chose to place the requirement of court approval for the employment of an attorney, accountant, or other professional directly in the Bankruptcy Code in 1978. 11 U.S.C. 1103(a). The legislative history makesclear that the 1978 Code was designed to eliminate the abuses and detrimentalpractices that had been found to prevail. Among such practices was the cronyismof the “bankruptcy ring” and attorney control of bankruptcy cases. In fact, the House Report noted that “in practice...the bankruptcy system operates more forthe benefit of attorneys than for the benefit of creditors.”
When such Rules are intentionally violated in spite of numerous opportunities to comply nothing less than the harshest of punishments should be imposed. The fact that there is no statute of limitation for fraud on the court is somewhat of a comfort to the public as to their right to redress and the vitiation of all judgments and orders procured by such an act.
In closing, Your Honor, I refer to a 1944 United States Supreme Court case, Hazel Atlas. “Furthermore, tampering with the administration of justice in the manner indisputably shown here involves far more than an injury to a single litigant. It is a wrong against the institutions set up to protect and safeguard the public, institutions in which fraud cannot complacently be tolerated consistently with the good order of society. Surely, it cannot be that preservation of the integrity of the judicial process must always wait upon the diligence of litigants. The public welfare demands that the agencies of public justice be not so impotent that they must always be mute and helpless victims of deception and fraud.”
Your Honor, apples cannot be oranges. Only a fair hearing will allow that truth.
Meryl M. Lanson, Pro Se