Originally published 6.1.09
(Blogger’s Note: Attorney Warren Muhammad is a member of the Nation of Islam at Muhammad Mosque No. 45 with over 30 years of legal experience. I recently went one on one with him.)
Brother Jesse: Tell me a little background about yourself.
Warren Muhammad (WM): I have been a practicing attorney for thirty years and my office is in the Acres Homes community where I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I was molded by the character of the community and my parents, independent, self reliant and proud. I have fond memories of riding the buses that were locally owned in the community, riding in cabs that were locally owned, eating at my grandmothers restaurant, or in my mother and fathers cafÃ©, or getting ice cream from my grandfathers grocery store. My mother made it very clear to me that I had a purpose in life and mediocrity would not be accepted. My father was my hero, I admired his strength and personality and for all of my life he was my best friend. I graduated from M.C. Williams High School, went on to get my degree from University of Houston and my Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.
Brother Jesse: Growing up, what aspirations did you have?
WM: As a child, I was always curious about life, its purpose, about the nature of God and our relationship to him, so I tended to think deeply. I mother taught me to read at an early age and I fell in love with books. I am an avid reader to this day. While in elementary school I would read out of a different volume of my sisterâ€™s encyclopedias every night and imagine traveling to distant lands and meeting the different people I would read about. I developed a desire for service and initially wanted to be a brain surgeon, although that would later pass. I was also quite certain at that time that I would someday become the first black quarterback to play in the NFL. Of course that dream fell short.
Brother Jesse: Why did you decide to become an attorney?
WM: Being a child of the sixties, I was keenly aware of the civil rights movement and the struggle for equal rights and justice at the time. I still have vivid memories of being with my mother in a pharmacy and being told by a White man that I could not sit at the counter while my mother shopped. I was very young and did not know what it meant at the time, but I knew that I was offended by it and later came to realize that it was the discrimination.
My junior year of high school was very pivotal. I had become disillusioned with church and stopped going. One of my friend’s older brother, Ester King, returned from Vietnam and had become very conscious. He is one of the pioneers of activism in Houston. He played two records for us. One was a some lectures by Malcolm X, â€œMessage to the Grass Roots, and â€œThe Ballot or the Bulletâ€. The other was by a man who had a very strange way of talking. His voice captivated me and I never forgot it. He said he had met with God. His name was Elijah Muhammad. Shortly after that I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. My life would never be the same. The light within my Black soul had been turned on. Now being conscious, even radical minded, aware of the historical plight of our people and beginning to believe that my purpose in life was somehow connected to the message I heard on that record by Mr. Muhammad, I began to ponder how to combine my desires with this sense of purpose.
I recalled a visit to my high school by a group of professionals, one of whom was an attorney. I reasoned that by being an attorney, I could be independent and self reliant, like my parents and many others in my community, and I could engage in the struggle by helping people and fighting for their rights. My decision to become an attorney was thus formed, a decision from which I have never deviated nor of which I have ever had any regrets.
Brother Jesse: What type of law have you focused on and why?
WM: I donâ€™t know if focus is even a proper word for my career. I set as my goal, to become an entertainment lawyer at a time when to my knowledge there were only two other attorneys in Houston associated with Entertainment Law. I joined a national professional organization, Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, and through that affiliation, I learned and found mentors and established an entertainment law practice, which I continue to this day. I also established a practice in the criminal courts handling both misdemeanors and felonies, in both State and Federal court. For a good period of time I also practiced Personal Injury and Civil Litigation. Additionally, I have handled various business and transactional matters, and have traveled to both England and South America in the representation of clients in business and financial matters.
Brother Jesse: What has been some of the most powerful cases you have handled and won?
WM: After thirty years it gets hard to remember, however a few do stand out in my mind. One was a lady who worked at a clothing store and fell while at work. She reported the injury but did not immediately take off work. Eventually she realized that her back was badly injured (although she never had surgery) and was taken off work by her doctor. The Workers Compensation Insurance Company denied her claim. I took her case to trial and won a verdict awarding her total permanent disability, maximum compensation under the workers compensation statute and life time medical benefits. I then turned around and sued the insurance company for bad faith and forced them to settle for a substantial amount of money on top of the jury verdict.
There was a man who worked at a high school as a campus police and was accused of having sex on a number of occasions with a student. He was relieved from his job, his family was tearing apart and had lost all standing in the community. After a week long jury trial in Galveston County, the jury unanimously found him â€œNot Guiltyâ€. His job was restored, his family mended and he regained some of the respect he had lost.
I also recently handled a case where a man was charged with murder and two counts of aggravated robbery and there were three eye witnesses to the alleged crimes. However by obtaining the archived data from his cell phone, I was able to show that by triangulation of the calls for services from his phone made at the precise time that the crimes were committed, he was in another part of town at the time and could not have committed the crimes. It was a case of mistaken identity by all three of the eyewitnesses. The DA dismissed all charges one week prior to trial. This case stands out to me because it shows how easy it is to be convicted by faulty eyewitness testimony.
My most famous case is without a doubt the Destinyâ€™s Child litigation. I represented LetoyaLuckett and Latavia Roberson, two of the original members of Destinyâ€™s Child when they were wrongfully forced out of the group. The lawsuit involved Beyonce, her father/manager Mathew Knowles and Music World Entertainment and Sony Records. We were able to successfully negotiate a lucrative settlement for the two young ladies after more than eighteen months of intense litigation. However the most rewarding case to me was forcing the City of Houston to modify their public facilities agreement so that they would not collect a commission from the sale of the books tapes and lectures of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan when the Minister made his first public address in Houston.
Brother Jesse: Statistics and research have shown over and over the horrendous incarceration rate of young Black Males. What is truly needed to address this problem that has not been implemented in our neighborhoods?
WM: In my humble opinion, what is needed is the acceptance of the teachings and the Mission of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. These teaching bring us face to face with the reality of ourselves and our condition and give a simple but effective program for our resurrection. It is a sad fact that our community has rejected the message of salvation which has been delivered to us by Muhammad.
The condition of our community is a reflection of our thoughts and beliefs. We have tried Christianity, we have tried Civil Rights, we have tried politics, Communism, Pan Africanism, everything you can think of, and what we see is what this has produced. We should give Islam, as taught by Elijah Muhammad a try. Everything else has already failed.
Brother Jesse: In your studies of international law, how does America measure up? Are there other nations that execute laws better?
WM: Lately I have been studying other legal systems, primarily Islamic Jurisprudence and also the economic systems of the West as opposed to economic systems in Islam. Actually, nothing measures up to America. It has been the greatest nation in recorded history, an empire in every sense of the word. Therefore its legal and economic systems have shaped, formed or influenced most of the systems in the world to some extent. The counter to its reach has been those under the â€œCommunistâ€ system and those that seek to operate under the Sharia of Islam. Although its punishments may seem severe, the burden of proof in law administered under the Sharia is higher, especially with regard to capital punishment. So under that system which does not allow conviction for a capital offense on the basis of a sole eyewitness testimony, there is less likelihood of an innocent person being convicted and punished.
As we have now seen by the results of the â€œInnocense Projectâ€, this happens on a regular basis in America. Nevertheless, because of the pervasive influence of the West, led by America, its economic encroachment and militarism, I donâ€™t think that any country has been able to develop it systems in an unimpeded manner. Americaâ€™s foreign policies, most of which are unknown or not fully understood by the American public, has imposed the principle of injustice throughout the world based on racism and economic dominance. So even those places that desire a different legal and economic model must do so subject to the machinations of the West and in this environment the purity of lofty ideals often become compromised. A good example is the economic embargo on Cuba.
However we now see clearly the fall of America as foretold by Hon. Elijah Muhammad. Its economy is bankrupt. However it is dangerous because of its capacity for mass destruction and its willingness to kill. America must be transformed; it must submit to righteousness and the true application of the principle of Justice or it is doomed. It is now the time for us to seek better ways to create legal systems based on the principles of Justice, free of the racism and classismQurâ€™an and the Teachings of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad will afford us the best opportunity for the true dispensation of the justice we all deserve. We cannot adopt any of the current systems that we see, but we must produce a new paradigm. I believe that this is our Mission and is part of our assignment.
Brother Jesse: Thank you
(For more information of Attorney Warren Muhammad log on to:www.warrenmuhammad.com)