DeKalb Solicitor Sought to Disqualify Occupy our Homes Attorney
(APN) DECATUR — On Monday, March 31, 2014 at the DeKalb County Courthouse, DeKalb Judge Dax Lopez heard a motion brought by DeKalb County Solicitor General Sherry Boston, to disqualify attorney Mawuli Davis with the Davis/Bozeman Law Firm from representing Mark Harris, who was evicted from his home; as well as three Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA) members who were arrested at the same time.
Solicitor Boston cited was Rule 1.7, conflict of interest with multiple clients. The motion claimed that Attorney Davis could not represent the interests of Mr. Harris and also the interests of the other three OOHC members – Mariam Asad, Daniel Hanley, and Tim Franzen.
“As I stated on the record, I was in constant contact with the Solicitor General’s office before the cases were ever accused. I asked that one of them be allowed–who did not intend on getting arrested–to get a pretrial diversion,” Davis said.
At the time of the arrests, one young woman who was trying to leave the property was mistakenly arrested by a police officer, who appears to have been caught up in his own Adrenaline rush to understand that the person was not part of the home defense team. She accepted the pretrial diversion and now lives in another state.
This case seems to be the reason Solicitor Boston used to file the motion to disqualify Davis.
But Davis sees it differently, as harassment and bad faith on the County’s part. Former Atlanta City Councilman Derrick Boazman (District 12) called it “persecution disguised as prosecution.”
Judge Lopez ruled that Davis would remain on the case of one of the activists, while three other attorneys will represent Mr. Harris and the other two activists, respectively.
“The rule [1.7] only contemplated a potential conflict of interest might arise at some point making the representation difficult. Who is to say that, at some point, one of the other four might try to get pretrial diversion, that’s the point of the rule. I don’t think there has been any bad faith on the State’s part,” Judge Lopez said.
The defendants were charged in a previous hearing, with criminal trespass, which carries twelve months in jail.
Two of the defendants are also charged with obstruction, because they were locked together in a cement barrel. That charge carries an additional twelve months.
They all pleaded not guilty and are hoping for a jury trial.
Davis will represent Tim Franzen, who has been charged under his legal name, Timothy McCabe; Joshua Davis will represent Mark Harris; Shawn McCullers will represent Daniel Hanley; and Dionne McGee will represent Mariam Asad.
“In the Occupy Movement we represented up to thirty defendants. Never has there been an attempt to disqualify an attorney. Our position was that this was a tactical harassment, that they did not expect we would be able secure additional legal counsel pro bono, but we have. Their move has backfired in that instead of having one legal mind and one law firm, they now have to contend with four,” Davis said.
“Now we will continue to fight on May 14 with a Stand Your Ground motion. One that has never been heard before in the state of Georgia. We are saying that Mark Harris and the activists who accompanied him had a right to stand their ground,” Davis said.
Foreclosures that continue to plague working class people like Mark Harris in Metro Atlanta and across the U.S. Harris has worked for over twenty years and is an Army veteran.
The mortgage ordeal started for Harris back in 2009 after the U.S. economy crashed and he was laid off from his job. While applying for unemployment, he found out he was eligible for Home Safe Georgia.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Home Safe Georgia is part of a federal program to help homeowners by providing a mortgage payment bridge, while the homeowners are trying to find employment and refinance their loan.
Harris is a Desert Storm veteran, and eventually he started to receive his service-connected disability Veterans Administration benefits, and was able to make payments on his home again.
As his financial situation was getting better and he was catching up on his loan while working with Home Safe Georgia, Fannie Mae foreclosed.
On Friday, August 9, 2013 Mark Harris was evicted at gunpoint and arrested for not getting out of his home that he has lived in for eighteen years.
Three Occupy Our Homes Atlanta members were also arrested with Harris while trying to protect his home and belongings.
“Our interest is fighting Fannie Mae and all those mortgage companies that have been taking people’s homes; they get bailed out, but the people don’t get bailed out. You can give them millions of dollars; and a man who has worked his whole life and is trying to work something out… there is no relief for him,” Davis said.