Five short years ago, Andy Ostrowski had a civil law practice, shortly clipped trim hair, no beard and political ambitions to run for congress. He was ambitious as an attorney and had gained some notoriety, partnering eventually with Don Bailey (another very interesting and disbarred civil rights attorney). Flash forward to the present and Andy has long hair, a rugged looking beard, and has traded his tailored suits for T-Shirts. He looks haggard, as if he has aged disproportionately in the few short years that have passed. He has been disbarred, evicted, institutionalized on several occasions and has faced criminal charges relating to a protection from abuse order stemming from soured relations from his former girlfriend.
He still owns his website Pennsylvania Civil Rights network, and he still remains outspoken. I first spoke to Andy roughly three and a half years ago. He had been suspended from practicing law by that point in time, and I was curious as to what happened to him. A long conversation with Andy left me still with questions, vascillating as to whether the trials of Andy Ostrowski were the result of his own folly or the result of a crooked court system. There seems to be an area of gray in this arena.
Undoubtedly Andy filing a pleading referring to a physicians offhand and off the record mention to Andy remarking on the size of Judge Brann’s penis did not help Andy’s issues with the disciplinary board. To put that sort of information in a pleading and file it publicly would of course upset any Judge. Whether there is any merit to that information on Judge Brann’s penis size is a not something I really prefer to delve into or consider too much in depth. What I do know is that Brann did treat with the physician as a patient, and that Andy and the physicians did have a patient-relationship, and possible friendship too. Either way, if the information about the Judge’s genitals is true, I’m wondering why nobody went after the Doctor over the flagrant HIPAA violation; like I said there is a lot of gray matter here.
There are two very polarized sides to this story:
- Andy’s Side: “I was suspended because I am a civil rights lawyer who became a target of a corrupt attorney disciplinary system because of the nature of the cases I handled, and the people I represented and worked with.”
- Position of Pennsylvania Supreme Court: The Susquehanna Township lawyer was suspended for failing to provide an accounting to an abandoned client and to stay current with continuing legal education fees.
Let’s start with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Disciplinary Board prosecutor argued that the latest 2014 infractions were not the only infractions in Andy’s disciplinary board record, noting that Respondent has a record of prior discipline. HE recieved an informal admoniation in 2004 for failing to pursue the claims of his client, failing to communicate with his client and failing to keep his client advised as to the status of his matter. He also failed to send his client her file after she terminated representation. Respondent received an Informal Admonition in 2006 for failing to take action on a matter and failing to keep his client advised of the status of his matter and communicate with the client.
That history was absolutely taken into consideration when the Supreme Court looked at what I would qualify as pretty minor issues in the case that resulted in Andy’s disbarment. Essentially the Supreme Court’s case centered around Andy’s former client Harry Chambers who brought a retaliation/employee workplace civil suit: Purportedly as a result of incidents occurring in August 2002, by letter dated September 10, 2002, Mr. Chambers was notified that he was suspended for five days without pay and demoted to Refrigerator Mechanic. Mr. Chambers believed the sanctions were in retaliation for his activities as an outspoken union steward.
From there things went downhill. The disciplinary board notes that the retainer agreement was deficient, as it did not specifically state the $3,000 retainer fee paid by Chambers was non-refundable. The board also notes that Ostrowski deposited this fee into his own account, as opposed to an IOLTA account. Ostrowski filed a civil Complaint in federal court on behalf of his client, but then a couple more failures occurred during litigation, including At various times, Mr. Chambers provided witness names to Respondent that he wanted interviewed in preparation for the case, and Respondent did not disclose those witnesses to the defendants. And in addition to this, the disciplinary petition points out that Andy Ostrowski did not show up at Defendant depositions of witnesses, but also notes that Ostrowski did pay another attorney to appear on his behalf. The first instance of not disclosing witnesses during discovery would have a fatal impact on the case, as Defendant counsel would later file a Motion in Limine prior to trial excluding all of Plaintiff’s witnesses: In May 7, 2007, the defendants filed a motion in limine seeking to preclude Mr. Chambers from presenting his newly disclosed witness testimony based upon the alleged failure of Respondent to timely identify those witnesses under the applicable federal rule.
That motion was granted.
Meanwhile during all of this, Andy’s law license fell into inactive status due to his failure to complete continuing education courses. This occurred between the continuance of the trial, and rescheduling of the new trial. Andy resolved this by paying fines and enrolling in continuing education. From that point on, Andy did appear to be preparing for trial (despite the Motion in Limine being granted, precluding Plaintiff’s witnesses), and as such he asked his client for $500 more dollars which would go towards trial costs and which he deposited (this time) in his IOLTA account. This last part indicates to me that Andy was in a habit of pocketing non-refundable retainers as a matter of practice, and may have acted in good conscious depositing the $3,000 retainer fee in his own checking account (assuming it was understood) that this was a non-refundable payment. While his retainer fee may have been unclear, it shouldn’t be understated that this matter of depositing “non-refundable” retainer fees into his own account was not unusual to this case, but a matter of habit or routine. The only thing that makes this action of not depositing retainer fees into an escrow account, according to the disciplinary board, is that the retainer fee does not contain the proper language. The complaint also notes, however, that Andy and Chambers both testify that this practice was explained to Chambers orally on several occasions.
But the behavior of Ostrowski grows more bizarre from there: On July 30, 2007, Respondent notified Mr. Chambers that they would be precluded from presenting the witnesses’ testimony. After not receiving any return calls from Respondent, Mr. Chambers went to Respondent’s office and learned that Respondent had “disappeared.”
But Andy went further than the bizarre act of “disappearing,” he enclosed a handwritten confession within the client’s file, which acknowledged his awareness of the massive screw up: Respondent left a hand-written note in Mr. Chambers’ file , which read: “I have committed extreme neglect in the handling of Aaron Chambers’ case. He should be permitted full and adequate relief with all his witnesses – who I neglected to identify because I knew this was going to happen to me. He should prevail. Judge Kane should know of this. AJO.”
The opinions in my small circle of friends in the legal community are polarized as to Andy Ostrowski, in the same way that my thoughts and understanding of his situation are also polarized. In some respects, if you look at what Ostrowski was charged with (vs. what does not get charged and what gets overlooked by that same body), these are comparatively minor infractions. I’ve gone around and around this case. Oftentimes my spread out conversations with Ostrowski offer little relief. Over time he has been worn down, beaten down and beat up by the court system. He is less aware, less groomed, less slick and more manic with each call. Still all of that aside, this once barred attorney’s plight intrigues me, in that I can’t escape the idea that there was some level of retaliation that occurred due to the controversial and challenging nature of the civil cases he took on.
Still one cannot escape the fact, and even Ostrowski will not deny it, that there were some personal problems in the mix. The problems with blaming any medical or substance abuse issues that may have plagued Andy, is that the Pennsylvania legal community is sensitive and aware of these issues. Organizations like “Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers” and other supportive entitities exist. There can be no denial that lawyers and people in the legal community undergo abnormal levels of stress. Just 7 years ago the American Bar Association addressed these unspoken issues, issuing several profound press releases which articulated ideas that were in the past left unsaid. The statistics of attorneys vs. non-lawyer “civillians” in terms of drug abuse, alcohol and suicide were astronomical – in fact – almost double than what we would see in the regular population.
When the disciplinary board wrote Andy’s petition and opinion, it’s clear that they were cognizant and aware of these numbers. They acknowledged he would undergo some financial hardship with the loss of his license, however they also recognized that Andy’s well being was not the only factor they were taking into consideration. Still I am not ignorant, and I read the news (particularly legal news). I follow PA politics obsessively and extremely closely. What I noticed when I was reading Ostrowski’s case is that the charges were minor, almost trivial, especially put in contrast to some of the other cases. A good example is Karl Rominger. Rominger is most notably one of the defense attorneys in the Sandusky case. Right now he is serving a federal prison sentence and is also disbarred. But what I saw was a gambling addiction, and a disciplinary board that was seemingly unconcerned and failed to act until there was a criminal conviction in place. To me this signals favoritism, or worse, some type of retaliation – a retaliation possibly stemming for something silly like filing a pleading which relayed physician comments on the dick size of a federal judge. As in, Ostrowski’s case has never set well with me, and I’ve always had the instinct there has been something unusual about it.
Every civil lawyer takes on cases that challenge big government entities or powerful insurance companies, but the marked difference I noticed when scrolling through and looking at Ostrowski’s cases were that there were a plethora of cases that were challenging the Pennsylvania judiciary directly. As in, the message seemed to be it’s okay if you want to go after big government or corporate America, but don’t you dare touch the judiciary. I realize having this perspective when considering Ostrowski is challenging in mostly part due to who Ostrowski is or you think he is. For those reasons, I bolster my findings by pointing out his disbarred law partner Don Bailey.
Don Bailey, (attorney for former PA treasurer who committed suicide during live television on a press conference, and was accused of some pretty nasty financial fraud allegation), caught my attention due to the cases that he was known for. Activists like Molly Biancovo or Mike Ferrence are active in promoting this idea that the Pa court Judges in Superior Court are Italian placed and part of some sort of some type of mob organization. I laughed at this idea initially, it’s like hearing someone claim that the moon landing was fake. But when you start to draw the lines that connect the relations, to the people sitting on the Superior and Supreme Courts, there is also something unsettling about the nepotism. Molly specifically first drew my attention to the Zapalla crime family out of Pittsburgh. One Zapalla brother is the Allegheny County District Attorney, but if you look a little deeper, most (almost all) of these judges have some sort of ties to the Zapalla family. Like I said, it’s one of those ideas that is so hard to wrap your head around, I resisted the inference from the beginning. Difference is, I was curious and skeptical enough to look and see what she was ranting and raving about. I wasn’t expecting there to be any merit to what Biancovo was claiming, yet the close ties are shocking.
Rewind, and we go back to things like the “Porn Report.” While Molly believes this was some sort of conspiratory of a cover up, I approached the topic differently. Sure, I was pissed off the porn report was not released. It was a report that Pennsylvania tax payers paid millions for. While Molly says Kane was framed due to her actions with the porn report, I beg to differ. It is my understanding that Kane committed her criminal acts and through my close following of her administration and subsequent criminal case, I see her using “PORN” as a distraction for covering her own criminal acts. Evidence supports this. However what really baffles me is the actions of Josh Shapiro (who had no dog in the fight and no pending charges). He took to the campaign trail podium stumps in small rural communities in Pennsylvania. He asserted he thought that the porn report should be released, and promised his first move in office would be to release the report if he should have the priviledge of being elected. To this day, the porn report, which involves multiple Judges has yet to be released.
Still that’s not the only red flag. I took the time ( like the nosey nerdy person I am) to study Don Bailey. Bailey is a great deal older than Ostrowski, in his late 70s or 80s. He got a five year suspension and was once in the upper eschelons of Pennsylvania government. I was curious how this career went so far south as to result in a 5 year disciplinary board suspision, and further curious as to why he would ever partner with known live wire Andy Ostrowski. I did my homework. I read his cases (those that were available) on Lexus. I read his work, and tried to figure it out. I went so far as to pull his disciplinary board hearing transcripts (wherein he represented himself). My basic endeavor was to prove that the moon landing DID occur. The results of my in depth investigation were mixed. I can not definatively tell you that I believe the metaphorical “moon landing” did occur in this case. In short, I dug into Bailey after being unable to come to conclusions with Ostrowski, and the matters were polluted and clouded further. What I can say for certain is that Pennsylvania does have a long colluted history of corruption, and that I can’t come up with a definitive conclusion the Bailey disbarrment either.
Some of the most compelling things I examined were age old (decade or more) interviews by Bailey. They were grainy and hairstyles were outdated, the picture quality was unclear. A former elected Pennsylvania Auditor General (winning with 60% of the vote) he had more collective clout than Andy, and lacked the drug/alcohol addiction/mental history. In 1998 he ran for Governor, the voters of Pennsylvania adored him, but not enough to elect him to that position. After his gubernatorial defeat, it seemed that Bailey went “rogue.” As in there were a number of cases that he took on that challenged the general establishment, and he was fearless about making allegations of corruptions. Apparently he had some sort of foresight or premonition, because if you watch the grainy 1990s videos, many of the things he claimed would come to fruition in the 2000s. It’s actually pretty eerie.
Notably, Bailey referenced frequently the case of Bud Dwyer. It’s a morbid thing to even dig into, and it was known as the first televised suicides to ever occur on live television in US history. Mind you, this was back in the 1980’s when live television was REALLY actually very live. You can find that video on youtube.com. I’ve watched it several times for the content of his speech, but never actually have been able to bring myself to watch through the part where he pulls the gun out of a manilla envelope and does the deed. I admit the speech is emotional, but I can’t really tell if it’s genuine. What I do notice is that it’s emotional and focused on principle. As in, in most respects you can tell it’s a good-bye speech even if you don’t have the stomach to watch the end of it.
In the early 1980s, Pennsylvania discovered its state workers had overpaid federal taxes due to errors in state withholding. Many accounting firms competed for a multimillion-dollar contract to determine compensation to each employee. In 1986, Dwyer was convicted of receiving a bribe from the California firm that ultimately won the contract. He was scheduled to be sentenced on those charges on January 23, 1987, the day after his suicide.
Throughout Dwyer’s trial and after his conviction, he maintained that he was not guilty of the charges levied against him, and that he had been framed. Decades later, the prosecution’s primary witness, William Trickett Smith, whose testimony was largely used to obtain Dwyer’s conviction, stated in the documentary Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer, as he did at Dwyer’s trial, that he offered Dwyer a bribe and that Dwyer accepted the bribe. He expressed regret for the decision to offer Dwyer a bribe and for the role it played in Dwyer’s death. James J. West, the former acting United States Attorney who prosecuted Dwyer, affirmed Dwyer’s guilt in 2010.
While there isn’t much connection between Bailey and Dwyer other than his legal representation during Dwyer’s criminal trial, if you look at the resignation speech, and then look at the grainy Bailey interviews on youtube, and then look at some of Ostrowski’s interviews…. There is a very chilling running theme. As in all three of these men butted heads with authorities in judiciary and/or AOPC and suddenly ran into tragedy like some sort of sad greek heroes. And the arguments themselves are compelling. While Ostrowski said very little during his disciplinary proceedings, if you examine the transcripts of Bailey, his words are potent and almost patriotic. A great deal older than Ostrowski and on the verge of retirement, I suspect he was financially comfortable and feared not. HIs words are emblematic of some of the court reform activists we see operating in our media now. It’s a chilling read, as in he is clairavoyant to issues we face now, which were long before our time.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to defend myself to the extent that I can under the limitations that I have to endure. I’m going to assume that the members of the panel here are aware of what those are. The charges basically are that I wrote in a pleading that certain federal judges, this is what was quoted to me, were misbehaving. I confess that I did so because objectively speaking I believe they were. I also confess that I still believe every word that I said and that’s there significant evidence to support. The federal judicial system at least in the Middle District in Pennsylvania has been corrupted by certain errant and dishonest judges. There’ s no need to address what we have suffered as of late in our state judicial system. Currently underlying evidence includes judicial misconduct in a lawsuit filed by an American citizen regarding a judge in Lycoming County. It has been totally swept under the rug. That case was assigned to Christopher Conner. Even greater than the injustices that I am suffering right here. The vast majority of my practice incidentally as I go on with my statement which will be less than 15 minutes, Your Honor, are law enforcement people—state police officers I represent. If anyone would have the independent interest or concern to study those cases to see how those cases were treated, the judges they were referred 17 to, I think an objective analysis would indicate that an investigation into what’s happening within our judicial system, federal judicial system is necessary. Political and personal misconduct by judicial officers continues in our system. The evidence is overwhelming. Favoritism, selective law firm influence cronyism and political retribution are commonplace.
Chilling…. Is really the only word for it. There was a seasoned trial attorney, former executive member of Pennsylvania government going toe-to-toe with a system he was labeling as “broken” decades before it was even trendy to do so.
He was a much older version of Ostrowski. The grainy aged interviews accompanying the proceeding are filled with more lucid accounts of “corruption” than Ostrowski had the mental capacity to articulate at the time of his own disciplinary proceedings. Bailey recounts government “stings” with cars registered to vacant Philadelphia lots, and cars following him. One might chalk this up to paranoia of an old man if you don’t study what exactly it was he was working on. And one might also say that he brought this hearing and his license suspension on himself if you didn’t know his past and his age. He was a man who held office right under the governor, and knew the inside workings of Pennsylvania Government, and court systems.
Further: Bailey’s Council for these hearings was none other than Sam Stretton. A renown ethics attorney in Pennsylvania, he is called to testify across the state on ethical issues as an expert. Nobody touches Stretton. When Stretton speaks, it might as well be a biblical order. Against the advice of Stretton, Bailey testified to a number of issues. Stretton’s advisement (per testimony) was to comply and be remorseful (be remorseful even if there was no remorse to be had. It’s profoundly interesting that the statewide “ethics expert” represented Bailey. I had the pleasure of meeting Stretton once, he is a very old man, with a pension for fighting and a love of courtroom warfare. I know from rumors that Stretton has been jailed on contempt proceedings, and he took it willingly finding it honorably to take a stand. In person, he is rather frail, very old. His face is weathered like he has seen a lot of fights. I know that he stepped in early on in Centre County, not as a lawyer or in any advisory capacity. He said, I am reading along with this and I am very deeply concerned for your county.
In that way, I respected Stretton, and when I met him I did not so much know much about his reputation. I didn’t know he frequented as an expert witness on ethical issues and as for Ostrowski and Bailey — back then I had no idea who those people were. So the fact that Sam Stretton’s name is on Don Bailey’s disbarrment case immediately changed my perspective. I can’t say enough good about Stretton. Without even being a lawyer, you can meet people and have that intuitive sense they are good and out for the right things.
Bottomline: I look at Ostrowski’s case with a level of skepticism, because he can be unsteady and bombastic. But something about it gives me pause. As in something doesn’t sit right with me, regardless of what he looks like now as a degenerate hippie who has been literally hit by a bus with his war with the judiciary, and his multiple encounters with the law. There is a saying that in every lie, there usually involves a grain of truth. Sure I think Ostrowski is dramatic and unsteady, but he (like Bailey and like Stretton, and even like Bud Dwyer) took on an entity whose power would easily supercede his. Did he make mistakes? Hell yes. Did he have problems? Hell yes.
Was there some grain of something to what he was trying to get at and he was following in the footsteps of people like Sam Stretton and Don Bailey?
I suspect that answer is yes.
Do I fully suspect some sort of hyper defensive and paranoid email from Andy when he views this blog? F#ck yes. Will I take it with a grain of salt? Yes, because I studied intensely and watched it closely for years, long before I put it in writing.
Will I still follow Ostrowski? Absolutely. It might be crazy, but there is a pulse there… Regardless of all the outside noise.