Monday, July 28, 2014

Lawyers Who Criticize Judges Are Being Punished

Andy Ostrowski points to the Pennsylvania kids-for-cash scandal, where two county judges were convicted of charges involving millions of alleged kickbacks to send children to private juvenile detention facilities, as an example where lawyers failed to do the right thing.  --M.C. Moewe

Will Complaint About Judge’s Evidence Tampering Lead to Criminal Indictment? It Should
July 10, 2014

...The Marin Courts have engaged in questionable behavior for as long as anyone can  remember. The
2006 arrest of Marin’s top court official John  Montgomery on felony conflict of interest charges barely raised an eyebrow. A 2009 shredding party orchestrated by current Marin Court Executive Kim Turner, which delayed an official state audit of the Marin Family Court by more than six months, was justified in a report from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC)...

[Maura Larkins' comment: We can search the archives of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and ancient civilizations, but we destroy the records of the United States' justice system?  This is hard for me to believe.  Are the documents really destroyed?  Or are they sent to the archives in Sacramento?]

Marin Judge Evidence Tampering
 June 19, 2014
Kathleen Russell


Turner’s 2009 destruction of child custody mediation working files, which were frequently subpoenaed when parents wanted to challenge a mediator’s recommendation to the court about child custody, took place while she was serving as a member of the Judicial Council of California.

The evidence destruction sparked a local public protest and a call for criminal investigation. However, the Marin Court stated that the destruction took place with the knowledge and approval of the California Administrative Office of the Courts (the staff agency of the Judicial Council), and both
the AOC and the Marin Court argued that the destroyed documents were not “official court records.” Read the 2010 local Marin news article about this here...

 ...Ironically, [Kim] Turner was the recipient of the California Judicial Council’s 2013 “William C. Vickrey Leadership in Judicial Administration Award.”  According to the Judicial Council, this award honors individuals in judicial administration for “significant contributions to and leadership in their profession.” In making the award to Turner, the Judicial Council noted that she “has been a very active member of a working group improving trial court records management.”...

Lawyers Who Criticize Judges Are Being Punished — Jonathan Turley
Daily Kos
Jul 28, 2014

One is a California family law attorney documenting alleged judicial crimes, the other a Pennsylvania civil rights attorney who has lost his law license for speaking out against judges. Both say they will continue to do what most lawyers won’t.

“They don’t speak up. The reason is you get targeted and you could lose your license,” said Barbara Kauffman of lawyers who witness judicial misconduct. Last month the California attorney contacted state officials alleging that a family court judge in Marin County tampered with court records.
Civil rights attorney Don Bailey had his law license suspended for five years in October by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. “The reason I lost my license is because I criticized judges,” said Bailey, a former Democratic Congressman and state auditor general, in a phone interview last week.
The pattern of attorneys losing their careers or facing hefty fines after speaking out against judges has legal experts worried.

The law professor and legal analyst Jonathan Turley wrote of Bailey’s license suspension, “While some would agree with the case, there is a worrisome line of cases targeting lawyers who criticize judges.”

[Maura Larkins' comment: notes: "Bailey's attitude is evident from his law firm's website, on which he says he is "well known for taking on the high-profile and controversial cases many attorneys fear..'He refuses to recognize...the harm that he is causing to his clients and to the judicial system,” members of a disciplinary review committee wrote.'" 
It seems that the disciplinary committee is saying that when Bailey criticizes judges, the judges can be expected to retaliate against his clients.  Shouldn't the judges--rather than Bailey--be called to account for such retaliation? 
A justice system that sends kids to private detention so that judges will get millions in kickbacks hardly needs any help from Mr. Bailey to get a bad reputation.  Why didn't someone disbar the lawyers who sat silently while the kickback scheme proceeded?
Many lawyers harm their clients, but as long as the lawyers don't criticize judges, they are in little danger of losing their licenses.]
America’s judicial system is extremely ineffective at removing bad judges, said Kathleen Russell, the founder of the Center for Judicial Excellence, a non-profit that is working to stop family court judges from giving child custody to domestic abusers and pedophiles. “Judges are judicially trafficking children to abusers by ignoring evidence of child abuse. Even when judges behave maliciously, there is no law that holds them accountable.”

Over the past 40 years, court rulings have given judges increasingly strong immunity from civil suits under the principle that judges shouldn’t be sued by anyone unhappy with their decisions in court. Most notable is the 1978 Supreme Court decision Stump v. Sparkman that rejected a suit filed against an Indiana judge who ordered a 15-year-old sterilized without her knowledge.

The Democratic nominee for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 11th District has made a focus of his campaign curbing judicial abuses and protecting lawyers who criticize judges. Andy Ostrowski points to the Pennsylvania kids-for-cash scandal, where two county judges were convicted of charges involving millions of alleged kickbacks to send children to private juvenile detention facilities, as an example where lawyers failed to do the right thing.

“That didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Ostrowski said. “There were lawyers who were in there watching as these children were led into the courtroom in shackles without representation and led out in shackles to prison. They all knew it was wrong. Why didn’t they speak up? Simple — because they were afraid.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has taken the law license of several lawyers for criticizing judges, as described in a table that follows this story.

Fearful lawyers combined with strong immunity laws keep bad judges on the bench. Even in the kids-for-cash scandal, where the judges were criminally convicted and are serving lengthy prison sentences, experts say that civil suits filed on behalf of the children will likely have a tough time piercing judicial immunity.

In a blog post published on Thursday, Turley described how judicial immunity was used to dismiss a civil suit against a Michigan judge who was having an affair with the wife of a man before him in a custody case. “By any measure, former Wayne County Circuit Judge Wade McCree was a disgrace to the bench,” Turley wrote. “His case unfortunately could embolden other judges who consider abandoning the most basic ethical demands of their office.”

Ostrowski is one of only two political candidates in the U.S. who has signed a pledge to eradicate judicial corruption started by the Campaign for Judicial Integrity, an effort founded by disbarred California attorney Richard Fine, who was jailed for 18 months by a judge who found him in contempt.

Fine’s 2009 disbarment stemmed from court filings he submitted against judges for taking $57,000 in side pay from the county to supplement their state salaries. “Fine has long contended that the charges against him are politically motivated,” the State Bar of California summary of Fine’s disbarment explained. “The cases he filed against judges were not retaliatory, he said, but instead were based on his belief that judges who accept money from a county fund to augment their compensation have a conflict of interest in any matter involving government municipalities. 

 Fine was jailed indefinitely in March on contempt of court charges — for refusing to answer a judge’s questions and practicing law without a license.”

Fine, 74, said he is still not sure why the judge finally set him free after 18 months.  

But Allan Parachini, who was the Los Angeles Superior Court spokesman while Fine was in jail, compared his incarceration to actions more common in authoritarian countries.

“Fine was effectively a political prisoner for a year and a half,” Parachini, who no longer works for the superior court, told Full Disclosure Network in 2012. “This wasn’t about contempt. This wasn’t about getting him to disclose whatever it was he was directed to disclose. It was about getting back at him.”

[Maura Larkins comment: Judges tend to be extremely subjective regarding which attorneys are forced to turn over documents.  I have been amazed at how judges let some attorneys get away with refusing requests for production of crucial documents.]

The California Bar has not opposed three successive motions in the state Supreme Court to set aside the disbarment, but the court has yet to reinstate his law license, said Fine, a former Department of Justice prosecutor. A case to force the justices to restore his license is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“I understand why lawyers are not speaking up when they witness corruption. They want to protect their income and they want to protect their families,” Fine said. “They took an oath to uphold the laws of the United States. If they did not intend to fulfill the oath and uphold the laws, they should have saved themselves and the public from their hypocrisy.”

Kauffman, the California attorney who notified officials last month of alleged criminal wrongdoing by a judge, said protecting the integrity of the U.S. justice system can be a lonely task. Last year, she filed a lawsuit against a retired Shasta County judge who had been appointed to preside over cases 208 times since 1994, never having to face election to hold the position. “I couldn’t get anyone to serve him. I had to go to his house and do it myself,” Kauffman said. The state barred the judge from serving shortly after she filed the lawsuit.

Losing her law license is not the 58-year-old attorney’s only worry. “I have concerns about safety,” Kauffman said. “For a while my office was getting broken into on a regular basis. For months, each night the alarm would go off. I had a strange man knock on my door and tell me he knew where my kids were playing.”

Being vocal is her best protection, Kauffman said...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that the only organization judges are accountable to in California is the Judicial Commission. These are judges protecting judges.
Right now in San Diego, there is a RICO violation case against the family law court. The attorney who is prosecuting the case has literally had to go into hiding.
Journalists are punished for publishing stories on court corruption with injunctions and fines. If they appeal them, the appeals court carefully words opinions to not be accused of not respecting first amendment rights and finds some way out of having to criticize the judge while not overturning a ruling they may know should be.After all, these are judges who may be someday be joined in their court by those they would have to criticize.
San Diego newspapers and magazines won't even touch judicial corruption as they are afraid of the consequences to the publication.
Heaven forbid if you are a pro per and try and speak out. I personally went to the FBI over RICO violations in the probate court where money is extorted from trusts by professional fiduciaries and their lawyers with the enabling of the probate court that violates its own statutes and rules in order to do so. THe FBI agent was appalled enough over my facts to contact the Federal Prosecutor who was too afraid to go up the courts himself. Rather than try and say that my allegations had no merit, which he knew was not true, he told the agent that I should file a civil suit.
Its too bad that those in the legal profession feel they have no alternative than to 'pass the buck'. Most in law enforcement won't either. However, when you consider the personal consequences, it is not surprising.