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2007 News & Commentaries

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September 2007


Judge 'vindictive,' judicial panel says

Rene Stutzman | Sentinel Staff Writer

9-6-07 -- When a janitor stood before Seminole County Judge Ralph Eriksson last year, unable to hear what was going on and confused about why his attorney hadn't filed some paperwork, the judge ordered him to jail. . . . A year later, when a 22-year-old waiter asked the same judge to recuse himself, Eriksson sent him to jail, too. . . . On Thursday, the state agency that disciplines judges formally charged Eriksson with official misconduct. . . . In those two cases, the judge was "punitive and vindictive," abusing his power to hurt men who were only trying to exercise legitimate legal rights, according to the charges leveled by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. . . . Eriksson, of Longwood, a judge for 12 years, would not comment. . . . He must now decide whether to admit to wrongdoing or fight the charges. If he fights, he would stand trial before a different panel of the same agency.


Judge Coffey put on leave

Committee on Judicial Conduct sets hearing

By Staff and wire reports

9-6-07 -- The state Supreme Court has placed Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Patricia Coffey on paid leave after allegations that she fraudulently shielded her husband's assets from creditors. . . . The court put Coffey on leave as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29. . . . Coffey, who weathered accusations of sleeping in court, has been accused of compromising the integrity of the judiciary by creating a trust to put the assets of her husband, lawyer John Coffey, out of reach of creditors when disbarment proceedings were pending against him. . . . Judge Coffey told the committee reviewing her case that the timing may have created the perception that she was aiding her husband in protecting his assets, but she contended that was not her intention. She said the trust was created for the "avoidance of probate based upon the experiences that Mr. Coffey had pertaining to his mother's estate and for related family reasons." . . . Instead, it allegedly hindered efforts by the Professional Conduct Committee to seek reimbursement for the fees and costs associated with the disbarment case.


Will Americans Rise Up Against The Corrupt Justice System?

By Bill O'Reilly, Fox News

9-6-07 -- On August 4, three young college students were murdered in New Jersey by a gang of thugs, which included two criminal illegal immigrants. Now, the young woman was nearly killed, her face slashed in that attack. . . . Reports say Peruvian Jose Carranza, who was out on bail after being charged with child molestation and assault was the shooter. The judge who allowed Carranza out on the street is Thomas Vena who actually cut Carranza's bail in half, allowing the man to walk out of jail and into the murder zone. Well, the State of New Jersey investigated Vena and has released this report. . . . Quote, "Judge Vena's bail determination was made with knowledge of Carranza's criminal history and the nature of the charges. And an awareness that the prosecutor had previously consented to bail of $150,000 with knowledge that the victim's allegations, included a history of sexual abuse extending over time and occurring in two municipalities." . . . Nevertheless, the State of New Jersey has concluded that Judge Vena's bail cut for Carranza wasn't wrong. But, of course, it was wrong, and so is New Jersey. Number one, the state ordered the investigating officer in the case not to take Carranza's illegal status into account. That is insane. . . . Number two, Vena should have known Carranza was here illegally and was a chronic criminal. We're sure the judge did know that. Why would any judge, then, take the chance of putting a guy like that back on the street? Doesn't make any sense.


Commission faults Ziegler, asks for only reprimand

Wisconsin State Journal

9-6-07 -- Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler committed misconduct by presiding over cases in which she had a conflict of interest, the Wisonsin Judicial Commission said in a complaint filed Thursday. . . . But the commission, along with a contrite Ziegler, said the state's newest justice should receive no more than a public reprimand from her colleagues on the Supreme Court. . . . In documents released Thursday, Ziegler acknowledged she failed to disclose her conflict of interest when she presided as a Washington County Circuit judge over 11 cases involving West Bend Savings Bank, where her husband, J.J. Ziegler, sits on the board of directors. . . . The Wisconsin State Journal reported in March that Ziegler handled 46 lawsuits, mostly small-claims matters, involving the bank since 2001 while her husband was on the board. In none of those cases did Ziegler recuse herself or notify the parties of her conflict as required under the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct, the State Journal found.


Failed polygraph exams on sex-harassment allegations haunt judge at hearing

Jim Leusner | Sentinel Staff Writer

9-2-07 -- After allegations surfaced in November that Orange Circuit Judge James C. Hauser exposed himself at a law student's apartment months earlier, he passed a lie-detector test and supplied it to deputy sheriffs and a state judicial panel investigating the matter. . . . On Friday, a lawyer for Florida's Judicial Qualifications Commission disclosed that Hauser failed two earlier polygraph exams and did not report the findings to authorities -- raising questions about this truthfulness. . . . JQC special counsel Lauri Waldman Ross, acting as a prosecutor on the probe, produced the test results subpoenaed from Richard Keifer, an Apopka polygraph examiner and retired FBI agent. . . . "You wanted people to believe you passed a polygraph," Ross asked the judge. "And that included the sheriff's department, the JQC and the public at large?" . . . "That is correct," Hauser said, adding that Keifer told him that the earlier results were "inconclusive." Hauser said he never saw the earlier results.

August 2007


Riverside County jurist defends his actions

By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

8-31-07 -- Judge Robert Spitzer, the hopelessly messy jurist who faces possible removal from the bench over allegations that he let cases languish and improperly contacted witnesses, told a skeptical state judicial panel Wednesday that he should be censured but allowed to keep his job. . . . In a hearing before the state's Commission on Judicial Performance, the Riverside County Superior Court judge was accused of repeatedly lying and undermining public trust in the judiciary. . . . Trial examiner Andrew Blum said the commission had brought Spitzer up for questioning in 2003 after receiving complaints about his failure to rule in a timely manner. The judge promised to take care of delayed decisions and escaped discipline, but didn't change, he said. . . . "This was not one period of bad behavior," Blum said. "Judge Spitzer's misconduct has gone on for years. . . . "Given Judge Spitzer's extensive history of misconduct and failure to reform, it seems very likely he will re-offend," Blum said. "To protect the public, Judge Spitzer should be removed from office."

Good Government Advocates Press To Place Judicial Accountability On The Agenda Of 2008 Presidential Candidates

8-17-07 -- (PRWEB) Rice University of Houston, Texas was the site of what may turn out to be one of the most important civil rights and constitutional liberties conferences in recent history. On August 11, 2007, National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc. (NJCDLP) hosted a free conference at the prestigious university campus to solidify a national grassroots movement for important judicial reforms. The conference title asks the rhetorical question "Silencing of the Lambs?", prompting consideration of whether average Americans truly have a say about the quality of justice dispensed by American courts. Zena Crenshaw, NJCDLP Executive Director, explained that "we begin our analysis with a consideration of how effective average Americans seem to be in holding the gatekeepers of justice accountable for their conduct." . . . Attending the NJCDLP conference were many good government advocates representing more than a dozen states - Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, California, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Virginia, District of Columbia, Florida, New Mexico, and Georgia. The gathering summoned the spirit of Washington Whistleblower Week (WWW) which brought scores of activists to Washington, D. C. to protest government waste, fraud, and abuse in May 2007.

Also See:


O’Reilly And Judges

Daily News Reporter Opinion

8-17-07 -- Fox Broadcaster Bill O’Reilly has been taking it on the chin – and neck and shoulders – for criticizing judges who give lenient sentences to violent offenders. . . . A fearless O’Reilly staffer will jam a microphone in a judge’s face and demand, "Why did you let that defendant off with probation? He went out and raped another child." . . . There is, of course, no reasonable answer to such a question. Which is why the targeted judges have slinked away, slid under a door and hid in their homes or chambers. . . . Ironically, as Mr. O’Reilly has noted, the media outrage seems to have been directed against him, not the irresponsible black-robed justices. . . . In fact, the mainsteam media seems to bend over backward not to hold judges accountable. . . . In a New York Times story Wednesday on the Newark murders, the reporter writes, "Despite felony charges against both men, (accused defendants Jose Carranza and Rudulgo Godinez) both had been released on bail or probation." . . . So, doesn’t the reader want to know why they were released and who the judges were who released them? The NYT never asked that question so, of course, it never gave readers the answer.


CLE-You-Later: Judge Accused of Fudging Expense Report

New York Lawyer, By Cheryl Miller, The Recorder

8-17-07 -- An Orange County, California judge who allegedly submitted a false expense report for reimbursement will face charges of willful misconduct, the Commission on Judicial Performance announced Wednesday. . . . Judge Kelly MacEachern asked the Superior Court travel coordinator to reimburse her for three nights spent at a San Diego hotel for a continuing judicial education conference held there in July and August of 2006, commission investigators said. When MacEachern was confronted in September by the court's supervising judge, however, she admitted that she had lied to the travel coordinator about attending two classes at the event and therefore didn't qualify for reimbursed expenses, investigators said. MacEachern then withdrew her claim. . . . MacEachern's attorney, Ed George Jr. of Long Beach, was out of the office on Wednesday and did not return a phone message.


Improving Judicial Accountability in Hawaii's Highest Court
By Randall Roth

8-17-07 -- This is a summary of Randy Roth’s Comments to AJS Committee on Judicial Independence and Accountability (March 13, 2007)  . . . Something is wrong with the system of judicial accountability when serious questions can be raised about the conduct of a state’s entire Supreme Court without an official body either coming to the defense of those justices or taking steps to hold those justices accountable. . . . Given the seriousness and specificity of the allegations in the Broken Trust essay and book, one would expect some kind of response. Thus far, the silence has been deafening: / Commission on Judicial Conduct / Judicial Selection Commission / The Judiciary—Rule 19 Judicial Evaluations / Hawaii State Bar Association / American Judicature Society—Hawaii Chapter / AJS Committee on Judicial Independence and Accountability . . . Nearly 10 years have passed since publication of the Broken Trust essay. Why has none of these organizations done anything? Are they assuming that the allegations have no merit? Or, are they assuming the existence of meritorious explanations for what appears to be unethical behavior? Why assume anything?


Judge named to review bail of Newark slaying suspect

by Claire Heininger

A retired Superior Court judge will conduct an independent investigation into how a8-17-07 -- n illegal immigrant charged in the Newark schoolyard slayings was free on bail at the time of the shootings, New Jersey's chief justice announced today. . . . Judge Arthur N. D'Italia will review the court procedures followed in consolidating and setting bail in the prior criminal cases against Jose Lachira Carranza, whose arrest record - for attacking patrons during a bar fight and for child rape - sparked outrage following the Aug. 4 killings. . . . The results of D'Italia's probe will be made public, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said. . . . "In the aftermath of this tragedy, concerns have been raised about the setting of bail in this matter. It is important that we address these questions openly, swiftly and fairly for the sake of all involved," Rabner said. "I am grateful to Judge D'Italia for agreeing to conduct this review. His credentials are impeccable, and his depth of knowledge of bail statutes, criminal court rules, constitutional issues, and day-to-day court processes make him the right person to assess how these issues were resolved."


Northeastern Wisconsin judges vary on following judicial code

Review finds 50 cases where judges had connection to participants

By Keegan Kyle, Post-Crescent Madison bureau

8-17-07 -- Nine county judges in northeastern Wisconsin have heard 50 cases in the past four years involving family employers or companies in which they own stock, court records show. . . . The cases found in a Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers review of court records were civil actions — none included criminal cases — and most were foreclosure of mortgage settlements with banks or small claims cases. Other cases were classified money judgments or personal injury. . . . According to the analysis, some judges followed standards of ethical conduct and disclosed their financial interests to litigants. Most said hearing the cases was not a problem but some said they regret not disqualifying themselves from cases. . . . Government and judicial watchdog groups said the analysis shows there may be a larger problem across the court system with judicial disqualification. . . . "There's no fast and easy answer on something like that," said Geoffrey Lyon, investigative counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch. "But I think it's (these findings are) of tremendous concern."


Right To Criticize Judiciary Focus Of Baumgartner Contempt Appeal

North Country Gazette

8-13-07 --Does a citizen have the constitutional right to criticize a judge or other public official without fear of retaliation by arrest and jail? . . . That question may soon be answered by the Sixth District Court of Appeals in the case of Elsebeth Baumgartner of Oak Harbor, former attorney, pharmacist and judicial whistleblower, as she has filed her appeal for her conviction last year by Judge David Faulkner on contempt charges.

Baumgartner served 120 days in Ottawa County Jail beginning late last year into this year after retired visiting judge Richard Markus filed contempt charges against her claiming that Baumgartner had insulted him during a defamation trial that he was adjudicating against her in December 2004, a civil action brought against Baumgartner by former Benton-Carroll-Salem school board member Kellen Smith. Markus decided the case in Smith’s favor

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Bad precedent and wayward judges
Judge Roy Moore

8-8-07 -- "They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." When Jesus spoke those words, He warned of the danger of following leaders who taught false doctrine. But Jesus did not say that we should reject the instruction and example of those who adhere to sound principle. . . . In our court system, judges must base their decisions on sound legal principles. High regard for following prior judicial decisions, known as precedent, has always been an important concept in our law, but such precedents are only valid if based on the United States Constitution, which all judges are sworn to uphold. Lately, there has been a great deal of criticism of the new "conservative majority" on the United States Supreme Court for disregarding "long-standing precedents" and "running roughshod over the Constitution." I submit that such criticism is wrong. . . . In her dissent in Gonzales v. Carhart involving partial-birth abortion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a former ACLU lawyer, complained that for the majority of the justices "moral concerns are at work, concerns that could yield prohibitions on any abortion. ... By allowing such concerns to carry the day and case, overriding fundamental rights, the Court dishonors our precedent." In another Supreme Court case involving the use of race in public school assignments, another liberal justice, Steven Breyer, echoed this theme when he remarked from the bench, "It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much." . . . Court rulings must be consistent for the fairness and impartiality of our justice system. In the words of that eminent jurist Sir William Blackstone, author of the "Commentaries on the Laws of England" in 1765: "It is an established rule to abide by former precedents, when the same points come again in litigation ... to keep the scale of justice even and steady, and not liable to waiver with every new judge's opinion." However, to maintain consistency, judges must not rule by their feelings, but "according to the known laws and customs of the land; not delegated to pronounce a new law but to maintain and expound the old one." When a judge substitutes feelings for the law, his or her decision deserves no weight or authority and properly should be discarded. Precedents that are not based upon law are not precedents at all.


A Hire Calling

On their honor, it's politics as usual in Brooklyn

by Tom Robbins

8-8-07 -- Politicians often speak of answering "the call to public service." Usually, this is invoked to suggest enormous sacrifice, as in, "If I wasn't running for this crummy elective office, I could be making megabucks at a big law firm." . . . Like certain dog whistles, this call is not audible to most people. If it were, a lot of us might stop yapping like obnoxious little border collies, come to heel, and do some good in the world. Alas, it is out of our hearing range. But there is no denying the call's powerful pull on those who are tuned in to that wavelength. Here now, from the streets of Brooklyn, comes the latest example: a selfless young woman named Shawn Dya Simpson who is currently campaigning for a powerful city judicial post, even though it means forced separation from her loved ones. . . . Simpson, 41, is a former Brooklyn prosecutor who is already doing public service as a judge, having been elected to the bench in 2003. She is now running in a fierce election to see who will become the next judge of Surrogate's Court in Brooklyn (very complicated, it handles estates, details below). The problem is that Simpson's opponents have claimed that she doesn't live in Brooklyn, or even the city at all; hence she is ineligible to hold office. Another judge has been asked to consider these allegations, which he will certainly do later this month.

Probe of Garson wife gets a push

By Nancie L. Katz, Daily News Staff Writer

8-8-07 -- She's the last Garson on the Brooklyn bench, and NOW wants her off. . . . Four months after filing a complaint against Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Robin Garson, the National Organization of Women wants to know why the state's judicial watchdog hasn't moved. . . . In a letter last week, NOW's state president, Marcia Pappas, asked the Commission on Judicial Conduct to take action to remove the wife of convicted divorce Judge Gerald Garson. . . . "Several individuals have questioned why Robin Garson is still a sitting judge, and if any taxpayer money was spent for [her] during her husband's lengthy trial," Pappas wrote. "We wonder how much taxpayers' money will be saved if this commission had done any investigation of prior improprieties with the Garson family." . . . The commission began probing Robin Garson four years ago after she told a grand jury that Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Michael Garson - her husband's cousin - confessed to improperly taking $100,000 from his elderly aunt. . . . Michael Garson, who resigned in December, has been indicted on grand larceny charges for allegedly looting the nearly $1 million fortune his Aunt Sarah Gershenoff saved over 50 years as a legal secretary. . . . His trial is expected in October.


Editorial: Judge Gray's poison pen


8-8-07 -- Surely 10th Court of Appeals Chief Justice Tom Gray has enough on his plate without having to explain his notoriously hyperbolic opinions to a state judicial commission. . . . Surely Gray’s points could be stated without sophomoric digs at fellow jurists and the tone of a fan razzing an ump. He’s the ump, after all. . . . This week former assistant Waco police chief Larry Kelley filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct over the tone of Gray’s opinions in the case over Kelley’s dismissal following a DWI conviction. . . . Kelley said Gray’s comments reflected bias in the city’s favor, rather than the even-handedness expected of judges. . . . It’s hard to say how the commission would react to this claim. The word “opinion” means bias. But no one is served by over-the-top rhetoric and sniping from the bench. We vote for the Officer Joe Friday method: Just the facts, man — and the law.


A Judicial Setback for the Rule of Law

by Kris W. Kobach

8-6-07 -- What do you get when you combine unchecked illegal immigration with judicial activism?  A perfect storm for the rule of law.  Unfortunately, that storm recently arrived in Pennsylvania. . . . On July 26, 2007, federal Judge James Munley of the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an opinion striking down the efforts of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to address the consequences of illegal immigration within its jurisdiction. . . . Hazleton -- a small town in the Pocono Mountains with just over 30,000 residents -- had enacted ordinances that prohibited landlords from knowingly renting apartments to illegal aliens and prohibited local businesses from knowingly employing illegal aliens. In Hazleton, the impact of illegal immigration has been severe.  Illegal aliens have committed several murders in the past two years in a town that previously saw murder occur only once about every seven years.  Drug-trafficking and gun-running gangs comprised mostly of illegal aliens, MS-13 included, moved to this sleepy town.  Drug crimes increased, with illegal aliens representing 30 percent of those arrested. . . . At the same time, the City’s budget became stretched to the breaking point.  Illegal aliens working off the books were consuming city services without contributing anything to the City’s income tax base.  . . . Predictably, as soon as Hazleton passed its ordinance, the ACLU, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), and liberal allies at the silk-stocking Philadelphia law firm of Cozen O’Connor took Hazleton to court.

The Departed

July 2007


Jury trial rejected for Davis

Commission head says rules are clear

By Craig Kapitan, Eagle Staff Writer

7-20-07 -- Embattled District Judge Rick Davis may want a jury to hear the charges state prosecutors have levied against him, but it's not going to happen, a representative of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct said Thursday. . . . Davis - who was formally accused last month of abusing his office to carry out vendettas - made the demand in court documents he released to the media Wednesday evening, after the state agency had closed for the day. . . . "Should the commission ultimately seek to remove [Davis] from office, pursuant to his rights under the Texas Constitution and the Texas Government Code, [Davis] demands a trial by jury," the document states. . . . Representatives of the agency could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. On Thursday, however, Executive Director Seana Willing said the process would continue despite Davis' demand. . . . "The rules are very clear," she said. "They specifically state there's no right to a jury trial."


In Humorous Dissent, 2nd Circuit Chief
Calls Students' Speech Suit a 'Silly Thing'

Tom Perrotta, New York Law Journal 

7-18-07 -- Three judges of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, their law clerks and several attorneys spent a good many hours arguing a free speech case, debating its outcome and producing a 48-page opinion. One panelist, Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, clearly thinks this great effort was a waste of time. . . . In an unusual and humorous dissent released Friday, the judge ridiculed a lawsuit involving the student newspaper at the College of Staten Island and scoffed at the prospect of a jury trial, ordered by the majority, in the 10-year-old case, which the judge said was "about nothing" and "should not occupy the mind of a person who has anything consequential to do." . . . "I concede that this short opinion of mine does not consider or take into account the majority opinion," the judge wrote in Husain v. Springer, 04-CV-5250. "So I should disclose at the outset that I have not read it." . . . The suit was brought in federal court a decade ago, after the college's president decided to re-run an election after finding that the editors of the school-funded newspaper had used the paper as a campaign flyer to promote the "Student Union" party. . . . In a mere four pages, Jacobs took numerous swipes at the suit, describing it as a "silly thing" and saying that the majority's 44-page opinion would only "feed the plaintiffs' fantasy of oppression; that plutocrats are trying to stifle an upsurge of Pol-Potism on Staten Island."


South Texas judge returning to bench after guilty plea

Associated Press

7-18-07 -- A judge from Eagle Pass who was indicted but never convicted of felony charges related to alleged improper campaign contributions will return to the bench after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. . . . State District Judge Amado Abascal III pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor charge of tampering with a government record. . . . Abascal, who spent more than 20 months under indictment, is the only judge in the 365th District covering Maverick, Dimmit and Zavala counties. He was elected to a fifth term last year while suspended. . . . "The judge made a finding that he did not act with intent to defraud, harm or injure another," said Jack Paul Leon, one of Abascal's lawyers. . . . With the case resolved, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct lifted a suspension it imposed in October 2005. . . . "Had he pleaded guilty to a crime of moral turpitude, it would have been automatic removal," said Seana Willing, director of the commission. . . . She said the commission will review the entire case to determine whether the judge faces more discipline.


Judges on trial: Does public influence courts?

By Amanda Newton, Special to The Times
7-16-07 -- The recent resentencing of a driver convicted of vehicular homicide in 2005 perhaps marks the end of what has been a controversial case. . . . The case received a great deal of attention both in the media and from the public. More complex than the average DWI case, it can still serve as a springboard to examine the possibility that public opinion might sometimes sway court decisions, especially in a state where judges are elected, not appointed. . . . In 2004, William Gourdine was involved in the accident that killed 17-year-old Amanda Laurenson. Gourdine was legally drunk and speeding at the time of the accident. Laurenson pulled into the right of way of Gourdine's vehicle and was on her cell phone. So, the case wasn't cut and dried. . . . The original 2005 sentence took into consideration the judge's opinion that Gourdine was not totally at fault. Caddo District Judge Leon Emanuel sentenced him to eight years in prison, seven suspended. . . . The sentence upset Laurenson's family, prosecutors and many in the general public. . . . The prosecution asked for an appellate court review, and that court ordered Emanuel to re-examine his sentencing decision. On July 9, Emanuel resentenced Gourdine, 43, to 10 years in prison at hard labor and ordered that he must serve the first four years.


Judicial Clerkships From Hell:

7-13-07 -- University of San Diego law professor Michael Rappaport describes his "clerkship from hell" with Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Dolores Sloviter. The apparently hellish experience of clerking for Judge Sloviter is also the subject of a new thinly veiled novel by recent Columbia Law School grad Saira Rao, who also clerked for Sloviter. I don't know Judge Sloviter, but I do know Michael Rappaport, and can therefore testify that he's not the kind of person to be easily offended by minor instances of mistreatment by a boss. . . . Unfortunately, Judge Sloviter is not the only federal judge who apparently abuses her clerks and other staff. Federal judges have weaker incentives to treat their employees well than most other employers do. They, of course, have life tenure and therefore won't lose income or their jobs if they alienate their clerks. It's possible that a reputation for mistreating clerks will reduce the quality of future clerks; however, there will still be enough applicants for the judge to get at least minimally competent help, and that is sufficient for the judge to be able to get the clerks to handle whatever work she wants to transfer to them. Judges with low-quality clerks will, on average, write worse opinions than judges with good ones. But an abusive judge may not care much about that.


Disorder in the court

The 9th Circuit is overturned more than any other appeals court.
Its size may be a factor.

By Brian T. Fitzpatrick,  a professor at Vanderbilt Law School, was a clerk on the
9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

7-11-07 -- ANOTHER Supreme Court term has come to a close, and, while many things changed in the law, one thing stayed the same: The justices spent much of their time reversing the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. . . . The 9th Circuit, which hears appeals in federal cases in the Western United States, is the largest of the 13 such courts, with 28 active judges and more than 20 part-time senior judges. The 9th Circuit is almost three times the size of an average court of appeals, and its jurisdiction stretches from Alaska to Arizona, an area comprising nearly one-fifth of the American population. . . . The 9th Circuit also has a long-running streak as the most overturned, which went unbroken this year. The Supreme Court reviewed 22 cases from the 9th Circuit last term, and it reversed or vacated 19 times. By comparison, the Supreme Court reviewed only five cases, vacating or reversing four, from the next-busiest court of appeals, the 5th Circuit based in New Orleans.


FBI Raids Judge's Chambers

Federal grand jury subpoenas issued to Georgia county officials

R. Robin McDonald, Fulton County Daily Report

7-11-07 --Eight carloads of FBI agents recently executed a warrant and searched the Clinch County chambers of the chief judge of Georgia's Alapaha Judicial Circuit, a Clinch County commissioner said. . . . Fifteen FBI agents spent at least nine hours searching the chambers of Brooks E. Blitch III, chief judge of the south Georgia circuit, said Barry Hart, the Clinch Commission's vice chairman. Blitch is married to former Georgia legislator Peg Blitch, who retired from the Georgia General Assembly in 2005. His chambers are in the Clinch County Courthouse in Homerville, the county seat. . . . The Clinch County Commission office is next door to the judge's chambers, Hart said. On June 26, when the commission clerk arrived for work at 7:30 a.m., FBI agents were already searching Blitch's chambers, he said. . . . When Blitch arrived for work later that morning, agents presented him with a copy of the search warrant but refused to let him in, Hart recalled. . . . The agents did not leave until 4:30 p.m., he said. "They got anything, everything," said Hart.


Shouldn't pay to be connected

Northwest Herald Editorial

7-11-07 --McHenry County Circuit Court Judge Michael Chmiel made a bad decision when he held a special Saturday afternoon bond hearing so a politically connected Cary man didn’t have to spend the weekend in jail. . . . Chmiel called the special court hearing June 16 for David Miller, brother of Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Bob Miller. . . . David Miller was charged the morning of June 16, a Saturday, with felony obstruction of justice after he allegedly tried to flee a Cary police officer who pulled him over on Route 14 to weigh the load in his dump truck. . . . Because of the timing of his arrest, Miller missed the last scheduled bond hearing for that weekend. The next bond hearing wasn’t scheduled until Monday morning. Under normal procedure, Miller would have spent the rest of the weekend at the McHenry County Jail. . . . But Chmiel called the hearing, and set Miller’s bond at $10,000. Miller was the only defendant who participated in the second bond hearing. He posted $1,000, or 10 percent, and was released.


Mass. Panel Files Ethics Charges Against Judge Who Won $2M Libel Award

Denise Lavoie, The Associated Press

7-11-07 --A Massachusetts state commission filed ethics charges Tuesday against a judge who won a $2 million libel award from the Boston Herald, accusing him of misconduct for writing threatening and intimidating letters to the newspaper's publisher. . . . In the charges filed with the Massachusetts' highest court, the Commission on Judicial Conduct alleged that Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy engaged in "willful misconduct" that was unbecoming of a judicial officer and cast the judicial system in a bad light. . . . A jury in 2005 found that the Herald had libeled Murphy in articles that portrayed him as lenient toward defendants and quoted him as saying a 14-year-old rape victim should "get over it." . . . Murphy denied making the remark and said he expressed concern for the victim and asked that counseling be made available to her. . . . In the first handwritten note, dated just two days after the jury awarded him $2 million, Murphy asked for a private meeting with the Herald's publisher, Patrick J. Purcell. . . . "You will bring to that meeting a cashiers check, payable to me, in the sum of $3,260,000," the letter said. "No check, no meeting."


N.Y. Chief Judge Explains Her Deferral of Pay Hike Suit

Kaye calls continuing pay drought the most trying issue in her 14 years as chief judge

Joel Stashenko and Daniel Wise, New York Law Journal

7-11-07 --It can be a sign of strength to defer filing a lawsuit if doing so would weaken the position of judges who are advocating for a pay raise, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye has told the state's judges in an e-mail communiqué. . . . "I have no doubt that a lawsuit by me on behalf of the Unified Court System would not have helped us one whit had it already actually been brought," she wrote in the memo. "Indeed, given these players, it would have damaged our cause." . . . The commencement of a lawsuit trying to force the New York Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer to grant the state judiciary its first pay raise since 1999 "chills our dealing with our partners in government, including -- most pointedly -- further informal communications regarding pay increases," the chief judge wrote in an e-mail dated Friday. . . . "As lawyers and judges, we have all spent our lives dealing with litigation, and know that -- rather than a sign of weakness -- sometimes real strength lies in deferring potentially counterproductive action," Kaye said.

See the full text of Chief Judge Kaye's memo.


Editorial Commentary:
Some U.S. jurists judged unfit for bench

The Economist Commentary

7-9-07 -- A $54 million lawsuit over a pair of pinstriped trousers that went missing from a Washington, D.C., cleaners was thrown out by a judge recently. It had attracted worldwide ridicule. . . . The fact the case was brought, not by a random loony, but by a former judge has added to the sense that something is wrong not just with U.S. litigation laws, but with the kind of men and women Americans choose to sit in judgment over them. . . . A whole series of judicial misdemeanors, ranging from the titillating to the outrageous, has emerged over the past year. Take the Florida state judge, John Sloop, who was ousted after complaints about his "rude and abusive" behavior. This included an order to strip-search and jail 11 defendants for arriving late in traffic court after being misdirected. . . . Or the Californian judge, Jose Velasquez, sacked in April for a plethora of misconduct, including extending the sentences of defendants who dared question his rulings. . . . Then there was the Albany city judge, William Carter, in New York, censored for his "utterly inexcusable" conduct after jumping down from the bench during a trial, shedding his robes and apparently challenging a defendant to a fistfight. Another time, he suggested that the police "thump the shit out" of an allegedly disrespectful defendant. Carter wasn't carrying a gun; many judges now do. . . . In Florida, Charles Greene, chief criminal judge in Broward County, had to step down after describing a trial for attempted murder involving minority defendants and witnesses as "NHI" (No Humans Involved). . . . Then there are the sexual peccadilloes. In Colorado, a (male) judge resigned after admitting having sex with a (female) prosecutor in his chambers. In California, a former judge was jailed for 27 months for downloading child pornography. And in Oklahoma, Donald Thompson, a judge for more than 20 years, was jailed for four years for indecent exposure and using a "penis pump" to masturbate during trials. . . . More serious are the cases of corruption. On June 5, Gerald Garson, a former judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., was jailed for taking bribes to rig divorce cases. Another judge was convicted of accepting money to refer clients to a particular lawyer. . . . Rumors of buying and selling of judgeships in the district abound. At one time, one in 10 Brooklyn judges were said to be under investigation for sleaze. . . . "To distrust the judiciary," said Honore de Balzac, "marks the beginning of the end of society." In Britain, judges are one of the most respected groups. But in the U.S., they tend to be held in low esteem, particularly at state level.

HALT Announces Top Judicial Disability Web Sites


When a judge abuses her authority on the bench, legal consumers rely on judicial disability systems to investigate the misconduct and impose sanctions.  As research for HALT's upcoming Judicial Accountability Report Card recently uncovered, public access to information about these systems and the judicial complaint process is surprisingly limited. 

"In an era in which more and more Americans obtain resources online, we're alarmed that so many judicial disability systems are still stuck in the Dark Ages without Web sites," stated HALT Senior Counsel Suzanne M. Blonder.  "Even those that do host sites typically provide shamefully scant information." 

Half a dozen states, however, offer Web sites that serve as valuable tools for filing a complaint against an unethical judge and understanding the judicial disability process.  Web sites for judicial conduct commissions in six states-Indiana, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin-stand at the top of the heap.

Taking top honors in HALT's national survey, the Web site hosted by Indiana's Judicial Qualifications Commission provides judicial disciplinary opinions dating back to 1986 (including cases that led to private reprimands), a downloadable complaint form, explicit assurances that complainants may speak publicly about their complaints and the disciplinary process, a detailed explanation of the process, and examples of complaints that would lead to dismissal, private reprimand, public censure and removal.

Refreshingly, Pennsylvania's Judicial Conduct Board provides well-organized online information in an unusually consumer-friendly tone.  The Board's Web site, which assures the public that they have a right to expect the highest standard of ethics from judges, features a FAQ page that addresses everything from the kinds of allegations that the Board will consider to the complainant's role in disability proceedings.

Texas' Commission on Judicial Conduct offers one of the nation's most sophisticated Web sites and includes a section dedicated to the state's growing Spanish-speaking population.  In addition to providing bi-lingual information about the discipline process, the site offers a downloadable complaint form in Spanish.

Unlike the state's ineffective lawyer discipline counterpart, Utah's judicial discipline Web site provides a goldmine of useful information.  While online resources in other states characteristically lack clear explanations of the disciplinary process, the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission site offers a color-coded, plain language flow chart guiding consumers from the preliminary screening stage through the Utah Supreme Court's sanction recommendation phase. 

The Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia  is unique in that it provides a comprehensive synopsis of advisory opinions dating back 25 years and divides them by topics, such as mistreatment of litigants in the courtroom and misconduct stemming from financial conflicts of interest.  This extensive database allows the public to review the Commission's ruling in different kinds of misconduct cases.

While most judicial disability bodies conceal data, Wisconsin's Judicial Commission includes detailed case disposition data on its Web site, which allows the public to hold the system accountable for its rate of discipline. 

In the next eJournal, we will reveal the Dirty Half-Dozen of the nation's worst judicial disability Web sites - stay tuned.


Defense lawyer who has accused two Broward County judges of improprieties leaves town with bitter taste of justice

Michael Mayo

7-9-07 -- A "For Sale" sign hangs outside Lawrence "Chris" Roberts' waterfront home in Fort Lauderdale. After 38 years in South Florida, he intends to move to the Jacksonville area with his wife and 7-year-old son. . . . Roberts, a defense attorney and former judge, is not leaving quietly. . . . In the last month, he's taken a figurative torch to the Broward County Courthouse where he spent much of his professional life. . . . First he leveled allegations of impropriety against Larry Seidlin, the recently retired judge and ringleader of the Anna Nicole Smith circus who's gone on to pursue a television career. . . . Roberts said the judge prompted him to buy a $1,000 Louis Vuitton purse for Seidlin's wife about five years ago. At the time, Seidlin gave Roberts lucrative special public defender appointments in juvenile court.

On Mayo, Roberts, Kent, and JAABloggees

The Daily Pulp, Bob Norman’s Blog

7-9-07 -- Sun-Sentinel columnist Micheal Mayo weighs in on the Seidlin story this morning with a piece focused on Lawrence "Chris" Roberts, the man who blew the whistle on Judges Larry Seidlin and Robert Zack. The piece has its merits, including being the first to report that Roberts was planning to move out of the area (I only learned that Friday afternoon myself) and squarely looking at the ethical quagmire involved. But Mayo, in the midst of the column, takes flight from reality: . . . "It's hard to say whether Roberts should be lauded for his 11th-hour integrity or lambasted for his self-serving timing. . . . After all, it's pretty easy to set the town ablaze on the way out. True virtue would have meant refusing the gift and loan requests and immediately reporting the judges." . . . True virtue at the Broward County Courthouse? . . . Pardon me while I laugh my ass off. The courthouse has been so deeply corrupt for so long that finding "true virtue" there is like finding true peace in Iraq. It's just not there. That place is packed with stories about prosecutors cavorting with judges, of undisclosed gifts and illicit favors, of justice subverted, of, in fact, every sin imaginable. But those stories will never be told. I know a few ditties myself that would take the Seidlin matter to another level and make for a new scandal or two. . . . But the people at the heart of them, namely lawyers, know what will happen if they snitch (and Roberts' use of the word "rat" in Mayo column is telling). They'll be blackballed. They'll be smeared. They'll be destroyed, plain and simple. They can't tell the story, and if they do it's off the record. And if it's repeated, they'll deny it.


FBI Raids Judge's Chambers, Questions Arise Over "Self-Funding" Court

New York Lawyer, By R. Robin McDonald, Daily Report

7-9-07 -- Eight carloads of FBI agents recently executed a warrant and searched the Clinch County chambers of the chief judge of Georgia’s Alapaha Judicial Circuit, a Clinch County commissioner said. . . . Fifteen FBI agents spent at least nine hours searching the chambers of Brooks E. Blitch III, chief judge of the south Georgia circuit, said Barry Hart, the Clinch commission’s vice chairman. Blitch is married to former Georgia legislator Peg Blitch, who retired from the Georgia General Assembly in 2005. His chambers are in the Clinch County Courthouse in Homerville, the county seat.


State's Citizens Should Demand Scrutiny
Of Judicial Branch

By Morgan McGinley

7-3-07 -- The lawyers' and judges' lobby had its way at the legislature and democracy in Connecticut will continue to suffer. The state's judges have protected their own self-interests from state law by reinforcing the notion that the Judicial Branch is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act that applies to the legislative and executive branches. . . . The lawyers and judges met secretly with the legislature's Judiciary Committee co-chairmen to block the move for more open courts. . . . The General Assembly's Judiciary Committee rejected the idea of a state constitutional amendment that would have made the courts subject to the same public-disclosure rules that apply to everybody else. The committee could not even summon the votes to make rules by which the Judicial Branch will operate, or, at the very least, to have the power to review and revise the judges' creation of rules.

June 2007


A Judge at the Plaintiff’s Table Tips the Scales


By Adam Liptak

6-25-07 -- Chief Justice Robert R. Thomas of the Illinois Supreme Court has lately been disqualifying himself from hearing libel cases. That is probably because he is a libel plaintiff himself, one who not long ago won a $7 million verdict against a little newspaper in the Chicago suburbs, The Kane County Chronicle, circulation 14,000. . . . Chief Justice Thomas will not be hearing the paper’s appeal either, of course, and neither will his court, because four of his colleagues testified on his behalf at trial. All but two of the current justices are disqualified from hearing the case, and the Illinois Constitution says you need four votes for a decision to count. . . . With no way to appeal to the state’s highest court, The Chronicle opened a novel counterattack a couple weeks ago, suing Chief Justice Thomas in federal court in Chicago. Having to litigate a libel case against the state’s top judicial officer in the court system he supervises, the suit says, is simply not a fair fight. . . . The suit is colorful and creative, and it points to an authentic problem. Libel lawsuits by judges, which have spiked in recent years, put an unusual strain on the justice system. . . . In 1998, according to the Media Law Resource Center, four judicial officers sued media companies, representing fewer than 1 percent of such lawsuits that year. In 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, the number had shot up to 25, or 6 percent.


Press Frets as More Judges Sue for Libel

Tony Mauro, Legal Times 

6-22-07 -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said judges should adopt a "rope-a-dope" posture when criticized, taking the hits passively until their adversaries wear themselves out. . . . But with 25 judges suing for libel in 2005 alone -- nearly 10 percent of all libel suits filed nationwide -- that form of judicial restraint is fading, raising questions about the role, and the ethics, of judges and whether they have a right to be as litigious as everyone else. . . . Last week the news media began to push back, questioning when and whether judges should be able to use their own court systems as a tool to retaliate against the media. . . . "It's time for us to ask, 'When should judges sue for libel, and when shouldn't they?' " says Bruce Sanford, a leading libel lawyer for news organizations and authors, and a partner in Baker & Hostetler's D.C. office. "If these suits lead the public to feel that judges are taking care of their own, it will only add to cynicism about the judicial process." . . . Sanford's Connecticut Avenue offices are turning into something of a war room in the growing battle against judicial libel suits.


Judicial Elections Turn 'Bitter, Nasty' and Pricey

Attack Ads and Special Interests Cash Are Poisoning Judicial Campaigns, Critics Say

By Scott Michels

6-22-07 -- When Linda Trout was appointed to the Idaho Supreme Court in 1992, she became the state's first female Supreme Court justice and one of the youngest members of the court in state history. . . . Now, after 15 years on the high court, Trout plans to step down in August — in large part because she does not want to endure what she fears will be an expensive and divisive election. . . . "Judicial elections have turned into bitter, nasty fights, which I don't think is seemly for the judiciary," said Trout, who was the target of an attack ad campaign when she last ran for office in 2002. . . . "I'm looking nationally at the trend toward more and more costly and contentious judicial elections," she told ABC News. "I don't want to go through that."


What to do when 'Your Honor' is being less than honorable

By John Sopuch

6-22-07 -- Many years ago when I was a freshly-minted lawyer with much more hair, I was given a case by the senior partner to handle. I was to represent a young woman against a famous basketball player. According to my client, the famous basketball player had done her wrong. I was out to get justice. . . . I remember that I showed up early to the first hearing. I wanted to make sure I was on time so that justice could get rolling. I had all of my papers organized, tabbed, highlighted, cross-referenced and alphabetized. I figured justice would move with much more alacrity if my papers were in order. I also had extra pencils in case one broke while I was taking notes. Justice would not be delayed because of faulty writing instruments. . . . Several hours later, the judge arrived as did the rest of the court's personnel. His Honor called the case and I, as well as counsel for the enemy, approached the bench. The judge asked me what I wanted and I explained to the court that I needed to take the deposition of the famous basketball player, that I had been asking for a date to do that for weeks, but that counsel for the devil was ignoring me. I said that justice should not permit this, for if it did, civilization as we knew it would crumble before our very eyes. Or something along those lines.


Why Judge Pearson's Lawsuit Matters

Posted by Carter Wood

6-20-07 -- Judge Roy Pearson's lawsuit against his drycleaners for losing his pants induces an equal amount of outrage and mockery, but it's important to remember that this kind of legal excess is not that unusual. U.S. businesses and citizens are constantly bedeviled by litigious cranks and cranky litigators. Small business owners are especially vulnerable to frivolous but destructive lawsuits. . . . Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington state's chamber of commerce, addresses that sad fact and its consequences in an excellent op-ed in The Daily Columbian: . . . There is a mistaken assumption that a small proprietor slapped with a lawsuit simply lets his insurance company handle it. Wrong. Many business owners shoulder the costs themselves out of fear of higher premiums or the risk that their insurance company will cancel their coverage. Some start-up businesses simply cannot afford liability insurance. In fact, the [Institute for Legal Reform] study shows that, in 2005, small business owners paid $20 billion out of their own pockets for court costs and out-of-court settlements. . . . Finally, the smallest businesses, those with revenues of less than $1 million, paid $31 billion in lawsuit-related costs. Let's put that in perspective. These businesses, which represent just 6 percent of total business revenues, paid more than 20 percent of the national tort tab. These lawsuits really do hit the "little guy" who struggles to make ends meet.

Judges Behaving Badly: Their Ill-Considered Suits Against a Dry Cleaner, and Against the Yale Club
By Anthony J. Sebok

6-19-07 -- Recently, the news has been filled recently with stories about two judges who are pursuing dubious lawsuits. About a month ago, ABC News and the Washington Post started covering the "$54 million pants suit" filed by Administrative Judge Roy L. Pearson, Jr. against three members of a family that owns a dry-cleaning business. Then, last week, the New York City media reported that Robert H. Bork, the former federal judge and disappointed Supreme Court nominee, had filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Yale Club in New York. . . . Of the two, Pearson's suit has earned the greater scorn. The suit brought by Bork has been treated a little more gingerly, as if it were a "man bites dog" story, since it involves a respected conservative invoking the tort system. Yet both share a common theme: Both illustrate how difficult it is for the legal system to distinguish between legitimate and bogus claims in a quick and efficient manner.

The Pearson Case: Highly Dubious Claims, But It's Difficult for the Court to Quickly Dismiss Them

The Pearson case illustrates this problem perfectly. Pearson was at the relevant time a former Legal Aid lawyer who was about to begin his career as an administrative law judge in the District of Columbia. In May 2005, he brought a pair of pants into Custom Cleaners, a dry-cleaning store owned by Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung, and Ki Y Chung. Pearson requested that they be altered and was told that they would be ready two days later. When Pearson came to pick up his pants, however, the Chungs told him the pants were missing. He returned the next day and the next day, and still the pants could not be found. Finally the Chungs asked Pearson to bring the matching jacket in, so they could try to locate the pants by sight, since the claim ticket held by Pearson was obviously not helping.

The Best Judges Business Can Buy

New York Times Editorial

6-18-07 -- The problem of wealthy interests’ trying to influence court decisions by pouring money into state judicial elections continues to escalate, according to a newly released report. So does the threat to the impartiality, independence and integrity of the nation’s courts. If the courts are going to pursue justice rather than advance special-interest agendas, states must either adopt public financing and strict fund-raising rules for judicial elections or switch to a nonelective merit selection system. . . . Thirty-nine states elect at least some of their judges. The report — released by the Justice at Stake Campaign, the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics — found that by 2004, the amount raised by candidates for states’ highest courts had reached nearly $47 million nationwide, up from $29 million in 2002. In 2006, total fund-raising decreased to $34.4 million, largely owing to a decrease in the number of contested races. But the median amount raised by individual candidates in 2006 soared to nearly $244,000 — from the 2004 median of about $202,000.

Click to read The "Robed Robber"
Former Judge, Gerald P. Garson

sentenced to 3 to 10 years

News & Views related to Garson's trial & sentence


2 courts apply same experience-and-logic test,
get different results

By Douglas Lee -- Special to the First Amendment Center Online 

6-11-07 -- Experience and logic, it appears, also are in the eyes of the beholder.

No other explanation exists for the diametrically opposed holdings in Pennsylvania v. Long and U.S. v. Black, in which one court recognized a First Amendment right of access to jurors’ names and another did not. While both courts applied the “experience and logic” test required by the U.S. Supreme Court, their applications could not have been more different. . . . The right to know jurors’ names is the latest battle in the fight to maintain open courts. That right — once presumed except in cases in which jurors reasonably feared for their safety — is now under attack from judges who seek to exercise as much control as possible over news coverage of high-profile trials. The risk of this attack is twofold. First, the additional secrecy eats away at the culture of openness that long has been a hallmark of the court system. Second, the justifications for this secrecy — which apply equally well (if not better) to witnesses and other trial participants — threaten to infect the entire system.

Websites Launch Voting for the
Nation's Worst Judges of 2006 and have added a new feature that allows the public and attorneys to anonymously vote for the worst judges of 2006. The websites list over 27,000 of the nation's judges.

(PRWeb) and have launched a new feature that allows visitors to vote for the worst judges of 2006. Each website has a directory of over 27,000 of the nation's judges, including judges in all 50 states and the federal courts. The websites are free, and no registration or log in is required so that voting may be anonymous.

The voting totals are being combined from both websites and are instantly displayed for each judge. Voting will end on February 28, 2007. After voting ends, overall results and rankings will be displayed nationally, and by jurisdiction, venue and court.

In addition to voting for the worst judges, visitors may anonymously complete judicial evaluation surveys for rating the performance of judges, and post comments in the forums about judges, courts and cases. Voters may also choose to use the forums or surveys to give their reasons for voting for a particular judge. There are specific forums and surveys for each judge listed in the directory. and are the nation's most comprehensive websites for rating the nation's courts and judges and discussing courthouse activity. and are owned and operated by Government Forums, Inc.

May 2007


Injustice System

A Phoenix Municipal Court judge quits — and, finally, the truth comes out

By Sarah Fenske 

5-31-07 -- This month, Phoenix Municipal Court Judge Karyn Klausner did something that no one in her position had done for decades. . . . She quit. . . . Didn't retire. Didn't get pushed out by the city council, and didn't leave for an appointment to another court. . . . Nope, Klausner just decided to walk. And with that decision, the 45-year-old left a job that pays $140,000 a year, plus benefits. A job that rarely requires even a 40-hour week. A job, she tells me, that she loved. . . . You hear something like that, and you might think Karyn Klausner is a little bit crazy. But after I sat down with Klausner for coffee last week, I had an entirely different opinion. . . . Fact is, Superior Court, with its juicy murder trials, gets all the ink. But most of us are far more likely to end up in municipal court. It's court for screw-ups: drunken drivers, shoplifters, bar brawlers. . . . If your kid gets charged with underage drinking, it's a municipal court judge who handles the case. If the city tells you to move that broken-down Chevy from your front yard, and you don't get around to it, it's the municipal court that could send you to jail. . . . To hear Klausner tell it, though, Phoenix Municipal Court is no better than a kangaroo court when it comes to its judges. And after looking at the evidence, I'm inclined to agree.


Forum asks: Does money sway judges?

By Emilie Lounsberry, Inquirer Staff Writer

5-31-07 -- With two seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court up for grabs in November, judicial campaigns are gearing up for an expensive fall race. . . . There will be TV commercials, consultants, lawn signs, billboards and leaflets - all necessary to mount a statewide race. . . . But does the need to raise money come with too high a price tag? What happens when a litigant or lawyer who has contributed to a campaign becomes a party in a case before a newly elected jurist? . . . That dilemma was the focus of a forum on judicial independence at the National Constitution Center - an event that drew judges and lawyers to ponder the realities of what it means when Pennsylvania, like more than 30 other states, elects judges. . . . Miami lawyer Neal R. Sonnett, a panelist, noted that a national poll concluded that 81 percent of Americans believe judges are influenced by campaign contributions.


The Attack Ads Will Come to Order

By Ruth Marcus

5-30-07 -- Sue Bell Cobb's first campaign, in 1982, cost $5,000. Last year's price tag was $2.6 million -- and Cobb, a Democrat, wasn't the big spender. Her opponent, Republican Drayton Nabers, raised nearly $5 million for the primary and general elections. . . . The general election was equally slashing: Nabers's ads accused Cobb of being "bankrolled by liberal personal injury trial lawyers and casino interests." Cobb, who won, said that Nabers had been "caught taking tens of thousands from PACs controlled by Exxon's lobbyists." . . . Modern-day politics as usual? Sadly, yes -- except that the campaign was for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. And while the race was particularly noisy -- almost 18,000 television ads, more than in the three previous elections combined -- it wasn't particularly surprising. Judicial elections have taken on the trappings of ordinary political campaigns, complete with consultants, slick mailings and big media buys. A 2006 Georgia Supreme Court race featured robo-calls by

Judicial corruption undermining legal systems worldwide’

5-25-07 -- LONDON: Widespread bribery of judges around the world and inappropriate political interference in judicial systems are denying millions their right to a fair and impartial trial, a leading global anti-corruption group said on Thursday. . . . Transparency International asked nearly 60,000 people in 62 countries last summer what they thought about their country’s judicial systems. . . . In more than 25 countries, at least one in 10 households reported paying a bribe to get access to the court system. Of the roughly 8,300 people who said they were recently in personal contact with their judicial systems, more than one in 10 had paid a bribe. . . . At the top of the list, more than 80 per cent of those contacted in Paraguay, Peru, Cameroon, Macedonia and Bolivia perceived their legal systems to be corrupt. . . . At the other end, residents of Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Finland and Norway least often reported their judicial systems as corrupt. Most judicial corruption comes in the form of judges who are bribed to settle a case out of court or to rule in favour of a particular party. Court clerks also are bribed to direct cases to favourable judges. . . . In other instances, such as in Peru under former President Alberto Fujimori, leaders have forced out judges and replaced them with cronies. “They used the judiciary to pursue their opponents,’’ said Jose Ugaz, a Peruvian lawyer and former prosecutor in the Fujimori case. “They used the judiciary for extortion.’’ Fujimori fled Peru in 2000 after his 10-year rule crumbled amid corruption scandals. He now is in Chile, fighting extradition to his homeland on corruption and human rights charges. The report singled out as especially corrupt judicial systems in Africa and Latin America, where one in five residents contacted in the study reported they had paid a bribe to the court system.


A Judge Who's Candid on Cameras

The Blog of Legal Times

5-23-07 -- Even though they have life tenure, federal appeals court judges usually are reticent about criticizing the Supreme Court, or making suggestions about how the Court should operate. Which is why an article posted Wednesday by the University of Michigan Law Review is so remarkable. . . . In the piece Boyce Martin Jr., a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (right), takes the justices to task for their "Chicken Little" fear of allowing cameras to record and broadcast the Court's proceedings. Martin singles out concerns expressed by Justice Anthony Kennedy, reported here, which "make it sound as if the justices have forgotten that our nation's court system belongs to the public, not merely the nine justices who sit atop it," Martin writes. Televising high court proceedings, Martin insists, will yield "positive results." . . . Soundbite journalism and lawyer grandstanding are already problems, but not very big ones, Martin suggests. As for the impact on the court system, Martin says, "If placing cameras in courtrooms reveals flaws in our system or causes judges to behave differently, so be it."

American Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency
Click: Judge Anna Diggs Taylor


Report Shows Spread of Special Interest Pressure, Growing Clout of Business Groups in State
Supreme Court Elections

New Zogby Survey of Business Leaders Shows Unease with Growing Conflicts --Justice O'Connor Decries 'Political Prizefights'

5-21-07 -- PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Special interest pressure is metastasizing into a permanent national threat to the fairness and impartiality of America's courts, according to a major new report from the Justice at Stake Campaign and its partners, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the National Institute for Money in State Politics. At the same time, a new survey conducted by Zogby International for the Committee for Economic Development shows that four out of five business leaders worry that campaign contributions have a major influence on decisions rendered by judges. . . .     "Justice at Stake's report shows how in too many states, judicial elections are becoming political prizefights where partisans and special interests seek to install judges who will answer to them instead of the law and the constitution," said former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "I hope that every state that elects judges in partisan elections will consider reforms." . . .     "The 2006 election cycle was the most threatening year yet to the fairness and impartiality of America's courts," said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the Justice at Stake Campaign. "The good news is that a broad cross-section of American civic, legal and business leaders appear ready to say enough is enough, and to work for reforms that will protect our courts."


Other states' sealed-records flap prompts Maine
to review cases

By Mal Leary, Capitol News Service,  Bangor Daily News

5-21-07 -- Chief Justice Leigh Saufley is meeting with the top judges of the Superior and District courts to review cases whose records have been sealed by judges. . . . She said revelations in other states of widespread use of sealing the records of controversial cases and divorces of prominent individuals prompted the review. . . . "In the wake of some of the publicity recently in other states, where chief justices and people who manage the courts were unaware [of sealed cases], we will be talking with the trial courts’ chiefs and the trial judges to make sure that we do not have those kinds of issues here in Maine," she said last week. "But, I would be surprised if we did." . . . Saufley noted that some of her fellow chief justices have been surprised at the extent of case records that have been closed from public view. . . . Last month the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously that judges and clerks could no longer keep divorces or other civil lawsuits from the public. That was after press reports indicated several courts often were sealing divorce records of judges, politicians and other prominent citizens. . . . In Washington state, court officials were surprised by a newspaper review of court records that found hundreds of cases sealed in one county, from personal injury and wrongful death cases to malpractice and divorces.


Commentary: Shirley Strickland Saffold—
A Judge Gone Wild

North Country Gazette

5-21-07 -- A judge gone wild. . . . That’s how a former Cuyahoga County prosecutor, now a Lorain County prosecutor, has labeled Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge Shirley Strickland Safford. . . . You remember Saffold, she’s the one who sentenced former Oak Harbor attorney Elsebeth Baumgartner to eight years in prison for criticizing a judge, who agreed to release Baumgartner on appellate bond with such unconstitutional conditions as she couldn’t file any legal claims in any court, federal or state, without Saffold’s permission and she can’t comment publicity about her own case or any public officials without Saffold’s permission, conditions allegedly prepared by retired visiting judge Richard Markus, 76, the complainant in the Baumgartner case. How Saffold thinks she acquired jurisdiction in federal court is still puzzling. . . . Saffold said that she wasn’t sentencing Baumgartner for the content of her speech but rather for her act of exercising that speech.  Has Saffold read the First Amendment lately or did she forget to file her oath of office about upholding the Constitution of the United States? It’s known she didn’t file the requisite bond. . . . Saffold even issued an order that Baumgartner couldn’t review her own case file.


Judge wannabes refuse to endorse constitution

Questionnaire sought confirmation of support for state law of the land
By Bob Unruh, © 2007

5-16-07 -- None of the 19 candidates currently seeking appointment to fill a vacancy in the Idaho Supreme Court was willing to confirm support for a series of statements drawn directly from the state's constitution, according to the Idaho Values Alliance. . . . The pro-family organization sent the candidates for the important judicial post a routine questionnaire asking whether they agreed or disagreed with a list of statements. . . . For example, Question 1 asked whether the candidates would agree with the statement: "The Founders of the state of Idaho were grateful to God for our freedom." . . .Not one candidate would respond to the questionnaire, even though the preamble to the state constitution says: "We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare do establish this Constitution." . . . Likewise, none of the candidates responded to the following statement: "All men have an inalienable right to enjoy and defend both life and liberty." . . . The state constitution, in Article 1, Section 1, states: "All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty…" . . . The questionnaire was nothing more than requests for affirmation – or disagreement – for the existing state constitution, a document every judge in Idaho swears an oath to uphold upon taking office. . . . "One possibility is that the candidates didn't even recognize that these statements come word-for-word from the state constitution, which is pretty alarming," said Bryan Fischer, the executive director of the alliance. . . . "The second possibility is that they did recognize them as coming from the constitution, but weren't willing to let the public know whether they agreed with it. That's even worse," he said.


You're out, Judge

5-14-07 -- Few things are more humiliating to a judge than a rebuke from a respected superior for conduct that carries the taint of impropriety. . . . Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Peter Corrigan felt the sting last week, when Ohio Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moyer granted an affidavit of prejudice prohibiting him from making any further rulings in a case involving two employees of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Corrigan had sentenced the two to 18 months in prison for crimes related to a recount of the 2004 presidential race in Ohio. . . . Moyer rarely disqualifies judges. But this judge, he ruled, made a serious mistake when he allowed an assistant prosecutor with whom he had too close a professional relationship - the prosecutor had represented Corrigan in two previous matters - to argue a motion during the election workers' trial.

Judge making a 'mockery of justice,' colleague says

James Ewinger, Plain Dealer Reporter

5-14-07 -- Portage County Municipal Judge John Plough views himself as tough and independent. . . . Enough lawyers disagree that the county's top jurist has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to take a long, hard look at Plough. . . . Common Pleas Judge Laurie Pittman has sent a detailed letter - accompanied by affidavits, a transcript, and court records - to the high court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel asking for an investigation. . . . In the letter, she accuses Plough of intimidating defendants who act as their own lawyers, abusing their constitutional right to speedy trials, issuing inappropriate sentences, and keeping incomplete or inaccurate records of trials. . . . Plough is making a "mockery of justice," Pittman wrote. . . . Pittman is the administrative judge for Portage County Common Pleas Court, which makes her a kind of chief justice over the county's municipal judges on certain procedural matters. . . . If the Disciplinary Counsel were to find merit in her allegations, it could ultimately result in punishment ranging from reprimand to disbarment. . . . In an interview, Plough denied many of the allegations and refused to discuss others. . . . The judge agreed to an interview and conversation was cordial initially. But later, he became combative and ultimately asked a reporter to leave, saying, "I think it's improper that you're questioning me while there are people waiting [in the courtroom]." . . . Meanwhile, lawyers in the county's public defender's office say they are no longer confident Plough will be fair to defendants if he hears their cases. And lawyers complain it is difficult to get a trial transcript from Plough - a requirement for filing an appeal.

U.S. Attorney Scandal Diverting Attention
From Greater Issue

When a judge calls you a sack of jigaboos, you know justice isn't around the corner

by Monica Davis  

5-7-07 -- There is a lot of attention being directed to the White House and the U. S Attorney appointment system these days. Charges of political corruption, abuse of power, manipulation of appointments for political or financial gain and malfeasance are flying around faster than a herd of mosquitos can dive bomb a summer picnic. . . . As much as the question of whether the federal prosecutor appointments were based on a far reaching plot to taint the system, we need to look at the courts as a whole, including abusive judges who have far more impact than the handful of U. S. Attorneys currently being scrutinized. . . . Many Americans still believe in the sanitized, simplistic civics lessons that we learned in childhood. Everything was in black and white; justice was meted out evenhandedly, and the Constitution was the Law of the Land. . . . In that sanitized world, there was no such thing as Jim Crow and pocket book priviledge, when black citizens  and poor whites could not find justice in local, state, or even federal courts. In that world, judges weren't corrupt, criminal or incompetent. In that world, judges, prosecutors, sheriff's deputies and cops didn't cover their uniforms with sheets and hoods and join in lynching, arson and murder. In that sanitized world, one wonders just how it came to be that "blacks had no rights that a white man was bound to respect." . . . While that world is gone, from the statute books anyway, justice is not as easily obtained as many people think it is, for anyone–black, white or 'other'. Sometimes, you know you're going to get short end of the stick the moment the judge opens his mouth. . . . A woman goes to court to obtain a restraining order against her abusive husband. The judge refuses and suggests she obtain marriage counseling. Shortly after she was slapped upside the head with the judge's outrageous refusal to issue a restraining order, the victim's husband turns her into a human barbeque. He doused her with gasoline and set her afire. . . . A judge in a civil case bent over backwards in favor of a large software company, then switched channels and became one of the company's biggest critics–in court, no less. The company's attorney's appealed the judge's rulings, based on transcripts replete with trash talk and insults from the very judge who was once solidly in the company's court.


Hear ye, hear ye, the judge is on trial

Stu Bykofsky

5-7-07 -- THIS IS THE case of Philadelphia public opinion versus the Hon. Willis W. Berry Jr., judge in the Court of Common Pleas - and a candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. . . . Elected to the bench in 1995 and this year hoping to become a Supreme, Berry is facing a nasty accusation delivered last Sunday by the Inquirer's Nancy Phillips. . . . According to her reporting, including L&I records, interviews with neighbors and in-person visits, the judge is a slumlord. Not just with one dilapidated property, but with a fistful scattered around the city. . . . While Phillips reported the judge is a candidate for the state's highest court, she didn't mention the recommendation given him by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. . . . The PBA found Berry "not recommended." In a summary, the PBA cited his "lack of experience in areas of the law outside of criminal law, lack of administrative experience," adding that Berry "has not participated in bar-related functions, teaching, writing or his court's efforts to improve the justice system." . . . The PBA didn't even know he was an accused slumlord when it delivered its verdict. The voters get their chance on May 15.


W.Va. a `test ground’ of U.S. chamber’s anti-lawsuit efforts
By Lawrence Messina, Associated Press Writer

5-7-07 -- (AP) — In its ongoing, multimillion-dollar lobbying and advertising campaign decrying "frivolous" lawsuits and "jackpot" jury awards, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has anointed West Virginia the poster child of all that ails the nation's civil justice system. . . . Last week, the national group wrapped up its most recent television and newspaper ad salvo blasting the Mountain State as "closed" for business because of its courts. The ads play on the "Open for Business" slogan of Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin. . . . The chamber also continues to bankroll The Record, a weekly newspaper that focuses on the state's lawyers and lawsuits. Modeled on a newspaper it started in Illinois, the chamber recently exported the concept to southeast Texas under the same name. . . . And the group has honed tactics against its chief foes — the trial lawyers who file lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs — with a string of legislative victories in the state since 2002. The chamber has helped cap medical malpractice damage awards and bar non-policyholders from filing "bad faith" claims against insurers. . . . The chamber has applied its lessons in other states in the region, most recently in Tennessee where a debate over malpractice lawsuits continues among lawmakers. . . . Not new to the chamber's crosshairs, West Virginia's courts have been at or near the bottom of an annual, chamber-funded survey of corporate and insurance lawyers for six years running. But those dismal rankings, particularly considering the chamber's recent successes, has critics crying foul.


Lawful incest may be on its way

By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist

5-2-07 -- WHEN THE BBC invited me onto one of its talk shows recently to talk about the day's hot topic -- legalizing adult incest -- I thought of Rick Santorum. . . . Back in 2003, as the Supreme Court was preparing to rule in Lawrence v. Texas, a case challenging the constitutionality of laws criminalizing homosexual sodomy, then-Senator Santorum caught holy hell for warning out that if the law were struck down, there would be no avoiding the slippery slope. . . . "If the Supreme Court says you have the right to consensual sex within your home," he told a reporter, "then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything." . . . It was a common-sensical observation, though you wouldn't have known it from the nail-spitting it triggered in some quarters. When the justices, voting 6-3, did in fact declare it unconstitutional for any state to punish consensual gay sex, the dissenters echoed Santorum's point. "State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are . . . called into question by today's decision," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the minority. Now, Time magazine acknowledges: "It turns out the critics were right." . . . Time's attention, like the BBC's, has been caught by the legal battles underway to decriminalize incest between consenting adults. An article last month by Time reporter Michael Lindenberger titled "Should Incest Be Legal?" highlights the case of Paul Lowe, an Ohio man convicted of incest for having sex with his 22-year-old stepdaughter. Lowe has appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court, making Lawrence the basis of his argument. In Lawrence, the court had ruled that people "are entitled to respect for their private lives" and that under the 14th Amendment, "the state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." If that was true for the adult homosexual behavior in Lawrence, why not for the adult incestuous behavior in the Ohio case?

April 2007


Stopping judges from legislating

By Celeste Flint

4-27-07 -- One hundred fifty years ago, the Supreme Court passed a decision regarding a black slave named Dred Scott, declaring his suit for freedom invalid. The court ruled that because he was of black African descent, he was not allowed to be free, nor did he qualify for citizenship. . . . The decision not only violated the Missouri Compromise, a piece of legislation that ensured the freedom of slaves in the North, but it even cited the Fifth Amendment, saying that judges had no right to take property from its owner without “due process.” Scott was the property. . . . Today, Americans look at this court decision and ask themselves, “How did the courts get away with it?” It’s clear that the parts of the Constitution the justices were using didn’t really speak to the case, and the ruling invalidated an existing law. Not to mention it took the bloodiest war in American history — the U.S. Civil War, with more than 600,000 deaths, about 200 times worse than the Iraq war — to nullify the decision. . . . Although the heart of the Dred Scott case was the abolition of slavery, the crime of the court was its direct disregard for the legislature and its laws. This ruling was one of the first of many judicial tyrannies. However, few, if any, judges are prosecuted for their crimes. . . . Judicial tyranny is often defined by a judge’s abuse of power. Often this is seen in decisions either to enforce convictions without any support of the law or to write laws from the bench. . . . Today, interest groups who use corrupt judges to circumvent the legislature frequently cover up issues of judicial tyranny. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quickly learned that it’s difficult to persuade large governing bodies to support their bills, but with the court systems it only takes a few high-paid lawyers and a couple of biased judges to make a law. This approach completely undermines the balance of powers. . . . Constitutional framer Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist Paper No. 78, “The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever.” Hamilton, like the other framers, was greatly concerned with the power of judges. He says the courts have “neither force nor will,” which is to say they should exist as judges, not legislators or even executioners.


Justice advocates appointing judges

By John Tompkins, The Facts

“Most of those surveyed believed the judicial system was entirely corrupt,”

4-26-07 -- In order to remove the possibility of impropriety, state judges — from the district level and up — should be appointed instead of being elected like politicians, Texas Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Green said Wednesday in Angleton. . . . Speaking during the Brazoria County Bar Association’s annual Law Day luncheon with thunderstorms rumbling outside, Green said a survey conducted by the Office of Courts Administration, the Texas Bar and the Supreme Court revealed an erosion of public trust in the state’s judiciary. . . . The results of the survey showed 83 percent of the 1,215 Texas residents surveyed believed campaign contributions made to state judges have a “very significant” or “somewhat significant” influence on a judge’s decisions. . . . “Most of those surveyed believed the judicial system was entirely corrupt,” he said.

Meese at Mason
Contributing Editor Joseph Maltby

The George Mason University School of Law’s chapter of the Federalist Society invited former Attorney General Edwin Meese III to speak on originalism and constitutional interpretation.  Meese has served as a rector for the University, a member of Mason’s Board of Visitors and on the GMUSL board of advisors. . . . Meese explained that, to him, the doctrine of originalism, or using the intent of the Founding Fathers to help explain the words of the Constitution, is a way to ensure judicial restraint.  . . . “The problem is not whether the nation will have a conservative or liberal judiciary, but whether we will have a government of the people,” Meese said. . . . He quoted former Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter as saying that a judge’s greatest duty is to suppress their own beliefs to the will of the law.  In contrast, Meese argued that today’s judges look to their own views and personal convictions to inform their decisions, often leading to rulings that do not follow the letter or the spirit of the Constitution. 


The recipe for a good judge

By Jane Leslie Dalton

4-20-07 -- 'THE LAW makes a promise - neutrality," Justice Anthony Kennedy said. "If the promise gets broken, the law as we know it ceases to exist." . . . The law's promise of neutrality requires judges of outstanding character and integrity - mature, highly qualified public servants who bring knowledge, experience and good judgment to the bench. These are the qualities we need in judges to keep our promise to all who come to the legal system seeking justice. . . . What do we look for in a judge? . . . First, a judge must have sufficient legal ability to have earned the respect of lawyers and members of the bench: a high degree of knowledge of legal principles and procedures and the ability to apply them to specific situations. Judges must also show a willingness to learn the skills essential to their judicial duties and an interest in improving judicial procedure and administration. And a judge should have experience that ensures knowledge of the rules of evidence and courtroom procedures.


Minnesota Bill Aims to Curb Judicial Tyranny

4-13-07 -- Under a bill introduced by two Republican lawmakers, oversight of Minnesota’s judiciary would be handed over to a board dominated by citizen volunteers. . . . "Judicial tyranny is eroding the rights of the citizens," Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, told the Star Tribune. "We need to give the power back to the Legislature and the people." . . . The bill, introduced by Severson and Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, would reconfigure the Board on Judicial Standards with eight citizen applicants chosen at random who would then appoint two legislators. . . . Neither chamber is expected to take up the bill before next year. . . . “Clearly citizens are searching for something that will be effective while protecting the independence of the judiciary,” said Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action. “This latest attempt by concerned citizens in Minnesota may or may not be the right answer for that state, but clearly the death knell has been sounded for judicial activism in this country.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION / To learn more about what you can do to stop unaccountable judges from imposing a liberal agenda on America, read “What can we do about judicial activism?

Collusion Between Lawyers and Judges Rampant In U.S. Court System

The Fraternity: Lawyers And Judges In Collusion

Reader will find this book to be a fascinating expose of our court systems and the law profession. After reading the book, readers will be better able to deal with the many personal problems that plague us all.

  A recent publication, Paragon House's The Fraternity, written by an experienced trial and appellate judge, John Fitzgerald Molloy, explains and illustrates the tremendous power of these nine personages. It explains how lawyers, appointed to the bench, have taken over the law-making of this country in order to create a legal system in which the best lawyer wins.

Molloy's book, The Fraternity, gives the reader fascinating insights into how our legal system developed in order to make lawyers more powerful. The book traces this metamorphosis through the life of Judge Molloy, going all the way back to his own father’s law career. It also follows Molloy’s own career, as a trial and appellate judge, and as the head of a money-making law firm.

Judge Molloy's book illustrates how the courts used to fairly operate, before the “Fraternity” – the lawyers and judges of this country – changed the laws, tipping the power scale toward the lawyers. The story is told by presenting the facts in several different cases.

Republican Senator John McCain calls Molloy's observations "beneficial and illuminating", while retired Senator Dennis DeConcini says they "tread on sacred ground.” DeConcini praises the integrity of Molloy's whistle-blowing and endorses the book as giving an insightful and scholarly analysis of the way that lawyers and judges have turned our judicial system into a financially lucrative "business" that no longer serves the best interests of the American public.

March 2007


Judicial Office Does Turnaround Following Pressure on Judges' Participation in Seminars

Tony Mauro, Legal Times

3-28-07 -- The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the federal judiciary's bureaucracy, has never been known to turn on a dime. But it did last week, after the Community Rights Counsel criticized the office for "slow-walking" efforts by the Judicial Conference to make the funding of judges' participation in privately funded seminars more transparent. . . . Within hours, the administrative office confessed that its procedure thus far "does not appear to be consistent with the Conference's policy." It said information about host organizations will soon be online before judges take trips. . . . The Community Rights Counsel, a nonprofit public-interest law firm in Washington, D.C., also targeted George Mason University's Law & Economics Center, describing it as an "ExxonMobil-funded junketing organization" that gives judges a corporate slant on punitive damages and other issues.

Judicial Tyranny

by Larry Pratt

3-7-07 -- Judges increasingly act as if the rule of law means people must obey whatever drools down the lips of any social engineer who is cloaked in a black robe. Judges believe that whatever they say is the rule of law, which is a notion they probably picked up during their law school instruction. . . . There is an open secret that an oath to uphold the Constitution does not mean upholding the non-smudge letters stored at the National Archives. Rather, the oath that judges (and all other politicians) take means, they think, upholding whatever they say the Constitution means. . . . This prerogative, of course, is not something to be accorded to mere mortals, aka taxpayers and voters. The rest of the population cannot be trusted, they seem to believe, with this sacred process of daily modifying the Constitution. . . . More and more Americans are seeing behind the curtain, much as in the Wizard of Oz. The Delphic voice of the gods behind the judicial curtain is actually a bunch of guys and gals who have fooled us. Once we look behind the curtain we find out that their wisdom is really a crock of politically correct rubbish which almost always assaults the Constitution rather than upholds it.

The purpose of this website is to help the public become better informed about the judges who may be presiding over their case. This site puts a mirror to those public servants who make-up our courts. Judges can also become better informed about how others (particularly, lawyers) view them. Robeprobe serves as a report card that lawyers and litigants can use to grade the best performing judges and the worst performing judges.

The Imperial Judiciary

by Larry Pratt

Does the Constitution provide for judicial supremacy through the process of judicial review? Attorney Edwin Vieira, J.D. answers with an emphatic “No!” in his book Imperial Judiciary. . . . Vieira makes a convincing argument that the Supreme Court (and other courts as well) have pulled off the equivalent of a coup d’etat. They believe, and too many Americans believe with them, that an opinion of the Supreme Court is a part of the Constitution. If the opinion contradicts the Constitution, then the Constitution, according to this view, has been amended. Overlooked is the simple fact that an unconstitutional decision of the Supreme Court is not worthy of respect and should be ignored by all other officials who have taken the same oath of office taken by the judges. . . . If there are competing interpretations of the Constitution among officials in different branches of government, “We the People” are to decide the issue at the ballot box.

By what authority are the judges to be raised
above the law and above the Constitution?

Judicial Immunity vs. Due Process:
When Should A Judge Be Subject To Suit?

Robert Craig Waters

Cato Journal, Vol.7, No.2 (Fall1987). Copyright © Cato Institute. All rights reserved.


In the American judicial system, few more serious threats to individual liberty can be imagined than a corrupt judge. Clothed with the power of the state and authorized to pass judgment on the most basic aspects of everyday life, a judge can deprive citizens of liberty and property in complete disregard of the Constitution. The injuries inflicted may be severe and enduring. Yet the recent expansion of a judge-made exception to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1871, chief vehicle for redress of civil rights violations, has rendered state judges immune from suit even for the most bizarre, corrupt, or abusive of judicial acts.’ In the last decade this “doctrine of judicial immunity” has led to a disturbing series of legal precedents that effectively deny citizens any redress for injuries, embarrassment, and unjust imprisonment caused by errant judges. . . . The author is Judicial Clerk to Justice Rosemary Barkett of the Florida Supreme Court. . . . ‘The doctrine of judicial immunity from federal civil rights suits dates only from the 1967 Supreme Court decision in Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967), which found a Mississippi justice of the peace immune from a civil rights suit when he tried to enforce illegal segregation laws. Until this time, several courts had concluded that Congress never intended to immunize state-court judges from federal civil rights suits. See, for example, McShane v. Moldovan, 172 F.2d 1016 (6th Cir. 1949) 2435 U.S. 349 (1978).


By what authority are the judges to be raised
above the law and above the Constitution?

By: Judge and U. S. Rep. Joseph Hopper Nicholson (1770-1817)

Where is the charter which places the sovereignty of this country in their hands? Give them the powers and the independence now contended for and they will require nothing more, for your government becomes a despotism and they become your rulers. They are to decide upon the lives, the liberties, and the property of your citizens; they have an absolute veto upon your laws by declaring them null and void at pleasure; they are to introduce at will the laws of a foreign country, differing essentially with us upon the great principles of government; and after being clothed with this arbitrary power, they are beyond the control of the nation, as they are not to be affected by any laws which the people by their representatives can pass. If all this be true - if this doctrine be established in the extent which is now contended for - the Constitution is not worth the time we are now spending on it. It is, as its enemies have called it, mere parchment. For these judges, thus rendered omnipotent, may overleap the Constitution and trample on your laws; they may laugh the legislature to scorn and set the nation at defiance.

Debates In the Congress of the United States on the Bill for Repealing The Law For the More Convenient Organization of the Courts of the United States; During the First Session of the Seventh Congress (Albany: Collier and Stockwell, 1802), pp. 658-659.


Other Articles of Interest

Outrageous Federal Judicial Opinion

‘Judicial Activism Crisis’

The 'Least Dangerous Branch' Is Becoming the Most Vilified Branch.

U.S. State Judiciary is Far From Representative

NY: Blasts Judicial Cross-Endorsements in NY's 9th Judicial District as Illegal




Open Discussion

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The Imperial Judiciary

by Larry Pratt

Does the Constitution provide for judicial supremacy through the process of judicial review? Attorney Edwin Vieira, J.D. answers with an emphatic “No!” in his book Imperial Judiciary. . . . Vieira makes a convincing argument that the Supreme Court (and other courts as well) have pulled off the equivalent of a coup d’etat. They believe, and too many Americans believe with them, that an opinion of the Supreme Court is a part of the Constitution. If the opinion contradicts the Constitution, then the Constitution, according to this view, has been amended. Overlooked is the simple fact that an unconstitutional decision of the Supreme Court is not worthy of respect and should be ignored by all other officials who have taken the same oath of office taken by the judges. . . . If there are competing interpretations of the Constitution among officials in different branches of government, “We the People” are to decide the issue at the ballot box.

Men in Black' Blasts High Court

While news coverage tends to focus on developments in the White House and with Congress, most folks pay little or no attention to what happens on the Supreme Court. . . . That's a shame, says constitutional scholar and former Reagan Justice Department official Mark Levin, since the Court wields so much unchecked power affecting the everyday lives of Americans, often in ways detrimental to the nation.


On Second Thought

Judge YOUR Judge!
Send us your Grade for your judge, good or bad, brief reason why, the county and state of the judge, and years on the bench if you know it. Purpose here is to provide a layman's base of info before going before a judge who may have extreme bias one way or another.

Judicial Activism: USA

"The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed on the decisions of the Supreme Court . . . the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal." - Abraham Lincoln, from his first Inaugural Address

Recent Stories and Editorials about Judicial Activism



**what innumerable acts of injustice may be committed, and how fatally may the principles of liberty be sapped, by a succession of judges utterly independent of the people?

--Constitution signer John Dickinson--

Empire and Nation, Forrest McDonald, editor (Indianapolis, Liberty Fund, 1999), John Dickinson, Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania, Letter IX, p.53.



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