Kansas story - Calvert not really "legal counsel" for the ID Minority

I was interested in the breaking news in Kansas this Thursday (August 11, 2005) that John Calvert, purported legal counsel for the Intelligent Design Minority of the Kansas science standards writing committee, is not actually licensed to practice law in Kansas, and never has been. This was revealed Tuesday at a press conference held by my friends Pedro Irigonegaray, the lawyer (legally licensed) representing mainstream science at the science hearings, and Steve Case, chair of the writing committee. See this story in the Lawrence Journal World.

As Irigonegaray points out in the Lawrence Journal World article, “there are criminal statutes that sanction against false impersonation,” and my understanding is that these statutes apply to any occupation which require a license to practice in the Kansas. Later in the week, Case filed complaints about Calvert’s behavior with the appropriate bodies in both Kansas and Missouri (where Calvert is licensed), and these bodies will make the ultimate determination as to whether Calvert is guilty of ethical or legal misbehavior. See this story in the Lawrence Journal World.

And now this morning, Red State Rabble (Pat Hayes) reports that Calvert says he has done nothing wrong by practicing without a license. RSR writes,

Red State Rabble has obtained a transcript of the KANU segment [Thursday, August 11, the Morning Edition of NPR News on KANU Radio in Lawrence, Kansas] in which Calvert makes an astonishing assertion. Here’s the transcript:

“Pedro Irigonegaray (counsel for the mainstream science at the state science hearings): Not only is the practice of law without a license a violation of ethical guidelines, it is also a crime.

Peter Hancock, for NPR: Calvert admits he’s not licensed in Kansas but says he did nothing wrong by accepting clients in this state and acting as their attorney.

John Calvert: Just because I don’t hold a Kansas bar license does not mean that I can’t come into Kansas and practice law.”

Oh, really?

Now one’s first reaction might be, as Calvert’s was, “so what” – the science hearings weren’t a real trial. But Calvert has been passing himself off as “legal counsel” for the Minority since December, when the state Board and the writing committee were informed by email that the Minority had “appointed John Calvert, Esq. as counsel and as a spokesman for the group.” As a member of the writing committee and as Irigonegaray’s assistant during the hearings, I can certainly say that in both settings I believed that Calvert was actually legal counsel for the Minority. Given that Calvert often made remarks about Constitutional issues on behalf of the Minority, and that many of us believe this issue will ultimately wind up in court, Calvert’s purported status as legal counsel added an air of legitimacy and stature to his position that we now see that he shouldn’t have had.

Calvert has had multiple opportunities, if he had so desired, to correct the impression that he was in fact legally representing the Minority. I believe the evidence will show that he deliberately cultivated the appearance of being legal counsel for the Minority.

It seems to me this is another example of the ID movement having an excessive infatuation with credentials, believing degrees give their movement credibility that it doesn’t necessarily have based on substance. Calvert has continuously made a big deal out of the fact that 23 out of 25 witnesses at the Kansas “science hearings” had Ph.D’s, even though many of those witnesses testified on topics removed from their area of expertise. In fact, one of the objections raised by Steve Case early in the discussions about the hearings last March was that Calvert’s proposal for the format of the hearings had no provisions for assuring the credibility of either the witnesses or the claims and evidence they might bring to the stand. For Calvert (John H. Calvert, Esq.), the appearance of legitimacy and credibility is paramount, even if the substance behind it is lacking.

I realize that a lawyer licensed in one state doesn’t lose his free speech right nor his right to speak about legal issues when he crosses a state boundary. But Calvert has done more than that – it appears that he has encouraged (perhaps deliberately, perhaps through neglect) the Kansas state Board of Education (a governmental agency) and its representatives to believe that he was legal counsel for the Minority. In my opinion, such behavior has been deceptive and unethical. I leave it to others to consider all the evidence and judge whether it has been illegal.