Lawyers are typically held to the highest standards when it comes to behavior in a public court of law. Nonetheless, Encino-based immigration law attorney Wayne Spindler submitted a public speaking card filled with incendiary drawings, including a burning cross and a man hung from a tree, during a city counsel meeting on May 11, 2016. The counsel is headed City Counsel President Herb Wesson, who is African-American.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Spindler was arrested soon after it occurred on suspicion of making threats against Wesson. A judge also issued a restraining order against Spindler, keeping him at least 100 feet away from Wesson except in council meetings — Spindler regularly appears at the meetings and speaks in manner akin to the card he submitted, often tying it to his theories about corruption in local government. Spindler has also openly and repeatedly worn a Ku Klux Klan hood with a swastika to council meetings.
The question remains: How can a lawyer remain in good legal standing after using threatening words and images?
According to a ruling in December of 2016, prosecutors for Los Angeles district attorney announced that they have declined to file charges. District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office released a memo stating that Spindler was within his first amendment rights to express his opinion even if what he said was “deeply offensive, morally wrong and socially reprehensible.” She added that it didn’t cross the line from freedom of speech to a real threat against Wesson. Wesson himself disagrees, believing that the actions are a potential threat against him, his family and the city.
Complaints were also sent the state bar and duly investigated. But it too choose not to take any action – the rationale here being that Spindler was not charged with a crime.
The bar “does not agree with the racist implications of Mr. Spindler’s drawing,” deputy trial counsel Ross Viselman wrote in a letter, “but we cannot bring disciplinary charges against him for exercising his right to free speech.”
Spindler files suit
Spindler has filed suits in the past, and on Jan. 11, 2017, did so again by fighting back against the 2016 arrest and restraining order by saying that his arrest was “malicious and illegal.” Spindler wrote in his new suit that he was oppressed as a white American by Jewish and black city officials, adding that the restraining order was a form of prosecution.
This is not the last to be heard from Wayne Spindler. But one thing is already clear, it’s advisable for attorneys to avoid this kind of behavior. At this point, Spindler still within his rights as an individual, but he could go further, which could get him disbarred.