Attorneys Mark and Patricia McCloskey—arrested and charged after they pointed weapons toward Black Lives Matter demonstrators near their home in St. Louis in June 2020—are struggling to fulfill their probation requirements.
They have to work 200 hours of service probation and wanted to do so by representing Project Veritas, a conservative activist group. But the state’s highest court issued an order denying that request.
“Respondent is required to provide pro bono legal services at or through organizations that provide legal services without charge to or on behalf of poor or indigent Missouri residents,” wrote Missouri Supreme Court Chief Judge Paul Wilson in the March 18 order.
So, the McCloskeys applied to Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) where low-income families reportedly receive free legal help.
The couple was rejected even though the spouses are both trial attorneys who founded the McCloskey Law Center some 25 years ago.
“I got a call from Jim Guest, the director of volunteers at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and he said that he didn’t know when or if there might be time for us to undergo training to handle the rigors of pro bono work and, even if there was, there is no guarantee that they would have anything for us to do,” Mark McCloskey said.
“That was a week ago, and no word since.”
McCloskey has also contacted the Missouri Attorney General’s Office to work pro bono for the Defenders Program, which addresses legal issues that cannot be resolved by military defense attorneys.
“I’d like to provide pro bono work for that organization and that program has been approved by the Bar but I’m not sure that program actually exists,” he told The Epoch Times.
“I got a call back from a gentleman in the AG’s Office, told him we’d love to help veterans for free and he said he’d get back to me, but he never has.”
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.
“It may be that we have an obligation for which there is no solution and that is designed to keep us from being able to go back to an unfettered law practice,” McCloskey said.
The McCloskeys had risen to national prominence two years ago for brandishing guns in front of their St. Louis home while Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched towards former Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home nearby.
The couple were arrested and charged with misdemeanors, defined as crimes of moral turpitude, and on Feb. 8, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order indefinitely suspending their law permits.
“We were originally offered a diversion program as part of our plea agreement, but we were told by our lawyer that a diversion program is problematic because it never ends so that’s one of the reasons we chose not to do that,” McCloskey said.
“But I’m a little afraid that the terms of our probation under the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel may be a similar event where we can never get the rock to the top of the hill.”
Chief Disciplinary Counsel Alan Pratzel did not respond to requests for comment and Beth Riggert, a spokesperson for the Missouri Supreme Court, declined to comment.
“If no organization will accept them for pro bono legal services, it seems to me their recourse is to go back to the court, say that, and seek an alternative community service, such as working in a food pantry,” said Laurence Mass, a legal malpractice attorney in Clayton, Missouri.
Evita Tolu, a St. Louis immigration attorney, was surprised to hear that LSEM rejected the free legal assistance the McCloskeys offered since two minor immigrants she referred to LSEM were allegedly turned away.
“They spent hours calling LSEM and waiting on a phone to be connected to a human being to learn that, at the moment, no legal help was available due to a shortage,” Tolu told The Epoch Times.
“The minors were asked to call again the following week, which they did, and spent a significant amount of time on the phone to learn that they need to wait again.”
LSEM did not respond to requests for comment.
“It indicates that LSEM has unreasonable policies which take precedence over the dire legal needs of the clients they are supposed to serve,” Tolu alleges.
In June, it was announced that LSEM was to receive a windfall of $36.5 million to help low-income residents access legal services through the court victims compensation fund as part of $2 billion in punitive damages awarded in the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder litigation.
“I’m a little concerned that when our year of probation is up, we may not have been able to find anybody that the Bar finds acceptable for us to work with or on the reverse, that the charitable organizations won’t find us acceptable to work with them, and that we’re never going to be allowed to practice law again because we can’t complete that aspect of our punishment,” McCloskey said.