By: Bharani Padmanabhan – Sept. 2018
Recently-retired Justice Kennedy once wrote: “Nineteen Eighty-Four has one of the most brilliant scenes in literature. The protagonist is being tortured by his communist or totalitarian interrogators, and they want him to say that “Two and two is five.” And finally he can’t stand the torture anymore, he says, “Okay, two and two is five.” But, the torture continues. He said, “Why are you continuing?” They say, “The torture continues not until you just say it, but until you believe it.” And, this is a powerful reminder that governments want to plan your destiny. They want to plan what you think, and this must never happen.”
I am frequently reminded of this, living as I do in progressive liberal Massachusetts, the nation’s conscience for social justice, economic equality, gender equality, rule of law, democracy, a free press, saving patients with substance use disorder from prison, relieving pain in patients, watching the watchmen, and a transparent approach to open records throughout government.
VP readers know about Dr. Michael Langan. Like me, Dr. Langan sought relief from the state Supreme Court. His case couldn’t be more slam-dunk. The medical board ordered a lab to switch sample numbers, used the switch to claim he tested positive for alcohol and charged him $600 per week for drug tests they knew were pointless. When he would not pay them anymore, they suspended his license. He became bankrupt and lost his home.
Chief Justice Ralph Gants asked the board’s lawyer who would pay for the additional year of weekly drug tests that the board demanded before considering giving Dr. Langan’s license back. The board will not pay said their lawyer. Oh OK, said Gants. Case dismissed. Sensible people concluded the fix was in.
I went before Gants too. That court had rendered a decision in a case called McGuiness v. DOC. That decision was textual, logical, unassailable and I said #MeToo. In my case Gants gave the board’s lawyer a big speech about seizure of liberty and due process violations. Then after the cameras were switched off and the audience had gone home he issued an unsigned opinion that was the exact opposite of the textual analysis in McGuiness. Sensible people concluded the fix was in.
Whenever I mention this to Massachusetts lawyers however, Orwell reappears. No no, they tell me, Gants is passionately committed to justice. The SJC is always correct. The SJC is simply waiting for the right vehicle to set the board right. If you thought Gants’ and the SJC’s opinion was incorrect, the error is in you and you need re-education.
Meaning I need to learn that “Two and two is five.” And that Gants is passionately committed to justice.
Federal courts in Massachusetts follow the same playbook.
In 2017 Judge Nathaniel Gorton turned a deaf ear to my patients and myself for seven weeks and never held a hearing. He allowed the defendants to suspend my medical license by blocking an emergency petition for seven weeks. At the same time he held hearings within 48 hours on emergency petitions in other cases. Sensible people concluded the fix was in.
Gorton then burst into a second lawsuit of mine, threw off the original judge and promptly dismissed it without a hearing. Sensible people concluded the fix was in.
My patients and I appealed the dismissal.
The 1st Circuit appeals court sat on it, and ignored for eight weeks my emergency motion to stay the license suspension pending appeal. So I filed an application with the U.S. Supreme Court to give me my license back while waiting for the appeal.
Immediately, at 9am on Monday morning the next week, Judges Thompson and Torruella dismissed our appeal. This way they invited the Supreme Court to dismiss my stay application as moot because no appeal is pending anymore. Sensible people concluded the fix was in.
Massachusetts lawyers however strive mightily to avoid that basic conclusion. No no, they tell me, it is an expression of the judges’ humility that they acknowledged they were powerless to grant us relief from Judge Gorton. Our judges are our last bulwark against tyranny. If you say anything bad about our judges, democracy itself will be in peril. If you do not recognize that, the error is in you and you need re-education.
Meaning my patients and I are to ignore the four fingers staring us in the face and truly believe that we see “Five.” And that our federal judges are passionately committed to justice and the nation’s founding principles. No thanks. We leave that to people with Massachusetts Bar Cards.