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Wake-Up America! It’s time to turn-up the heat on judicial corruption!!

News from the Bench, originally broadcast: Saturday, May 11, 2002 

The administration of law requires good moral character.  Judges failure to follow THE RULES fosters disrespect for the law and undermines justice.  Lawyers who could make complaints are not going to criticize judges—because it is professional SUICIDE.  So, most acts of misconduct from the bench are un-reported.  The Commission on Judicial Performance says:  “The fact that a judges conduct violates the canons does not necessarily mean that it constitutes judicial misconduct,” and complaints are mostly dismissed.  WHAT!  And many legislators are reluctant to tamper with the hallowed principle of judicial independence.  This is why HotSeat4Judges is NECESSARY…because the greatest of all oxymorons is JUDICIAL ETHICS.

San Joaquin Superior Court judge Michael Platt has ordered speeding tickets dropped for friends and court employees and interfered with a juvenile dependency hearing in a recent complaint filed by the Commission.  While taxpayer funds are being advanced in the investigation, and to pay judge Platt’s salary and perks, a simple motion to have him removed from his job has NOT been filed.  Vehicle Code section 1805 states:  “The failure, refusal or neglect of any judicial officer to comply with the requirements of this code IS MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE AND GROUND FOR REMOVAL FROM OFFICE.”

Former Superior Court judges James Malkus and G. Dennis Adams and a former lawyer of the year were sentenced to minimum prison sentences for their roles in a gifts-for-favors scandal that rocked the San Diego legal system.  The case affirmed the CONTROVERSIAL…CONTROVERSIAL principle that it is ILLEGAL not just unethical, for judges to receive gifts from lawyers whose cases they are hearing---even if it cannot be proven that the gifts were in exchange for specific preferential treatment.

A Louisiana US District judge F.A. Little received the boot for the incredibly short sentence and even more unbelievable reason for the sentence of a man convicted of child molestation.   The defendant faced 21 to 24 months in prison after he pled guilty in May to possessing child pornography.  The pornography showed children, some as young as 4 years old, engaged in sexual acts.  But Judge Little let the guy off with a 13-month sentence. Is our justice system supposed to look out for the weak and the young, those who can't protect themselves?  An adult who exploits children for his own pleasure-deserves more than a slap on the wrist. But Judge Little said he gave the LIGHTER sentence because the defendant “was ADDICTED TO CHILD PORNOGRAPHY.”

A San Luis Obispo judge ruled that a litigant did not qualify for a fee waiver because she could obtain the filing fee by setting aside $10- each month for four to five months by BARTERING her FOOD STAMPS.

Stuart Lesandky, another jurist, was convicted of attempting a lewd act on a 14 year old child.  He argued that he should NOT be disbarred because his criminal conduct DID NOT involve moral turpitude.

THIS IS HOW THEY DO IT, folks, and they don’t have any problem saying so, publicly:

Monterey County Superior Court Judge Robert Hinrichs suddenly retired from the bench shortly after a grand jury swearing in ceremony. Monterey County officials changed the statutory oath removing jurors independence and investigation and indictment powers. After the ceremony the judge was asked if he received a copy of the statutory oath which was distributed prior to the swearing of the jury.  The judge replied “Yes, I did and it’s a good thing I read things so carefully because I could have read that oath by mistake.”  A former grand juror replied, “Then you would have been following the law” to which the judge responded “Well, WE DON’T DO THAT HERE!” 

It was Judge Hinrichs who failed to issue a protective order to a violent crime victim who was later shot at in front of her home by her former boyfriend.  A twenty-year-old Monterey County resident and surfer was killed during the incident. The same judge also refused to issue a search warrant for another man who had placed his loaded gun into the hands of his six-year-old daughter and made a death threat to the child’s mother.

News from the Bench, originally broadcast:
  Saturday, June 22, 2002

PittsburghPennsylvaniaAlleghenyCounty Judge Patrick McFalls “is alcohol-free, clear-headed, cogent and is capable, willing and eager to resume his judicial duties” according to his attorney, who also said the charges against Judge McFalls don’t warrant removal from the bench. The charges against the judge are: he heard cases while drunk and had a bottle of vodka fall from his pocket while in court, he dropped his pants in public at the Casbah restaurant on Valentine’s Day, he was arrested for drunk driving, and he was arrested for theft for failing to pay his cab fare. When the cab driver warned the judge he would be arrested, Judge McFalls replied, “I don’t think so,” and then said he was a judge, according to the report. Charges against Judge McFalls also include failing to recuse himself from a real estate case where his law clerk had an attorney-client relationship with a real estate company involved in the case.

After the problems with the judges relationship to litigants involved in the real estate case were made public, Judge McFalls fired his law clerk and his law clerk’s wife, who was the judge’s secretary. They are suing. The judge claimed that, “it would be a severe breach of public policy if staff members were able to publicly criticize the inner workings of a judicial office,” according to court papers filed in February. (Indeed!)

Judge McFalls offered the $32,000 a year law clerk position to his son, but publicity prompted the judges son to turn down the offer. “I guess I’ll just have to keep paying my son’s student loans out of my own paycheck,” Judge McFalls said. McFalls said he would hire Ben Woods, a former city councilman who served a federal prison term for corruption charges. The judge said that state law does not bar him from hiring a convicted felon for his personal staff. “He’s one of the finest public servants I’ve known in my life,” Judge McFalls said. Woods was convicted on 17 counts of racketeering, income tax evasion, extortion and conspiracy. Authorities said Woods accepted nearly $48,000 in bribes from contractors who did work with the city while he was city councilman. A government witness testified he made some of the payoffs through McFalls who was a private attorney at the time. McFalls was never charged and has denied the claim.

Judge McFalls was placed on paid leave from his $119,000-a-year position in December then went back on the payroll in May after serving a 30-day suspension and completing a month-long stay at a rehabilitation clinic. Attorneys for Judge McFalls filed documents which said the terrorist attacks on 9-11 caused the judge to have a relapse and resume drinking. A psychologist also found that, “the events of 9-11 had an unfavorable impact,” on the judge. Judge McFalls was suspended from his post by Judge Robert Dauer in 1995 for excessive drinking.

Hiring family is common practice among Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County Judges. At least 11 of the 41 Allegheny County judges have sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives or in-laws on the court payroll. Still other judges have hired relatives of politicians, government officials or people with whom they shared a law practice. Judge Randy Todd hired his former law partner and brother-in-law as his law clerk. The position is part-time and pays $33,950. Judge Frank J. Lucchino, has his son as his law clerk. Senior Judge S. Louis Farino first hired his son as his tipstaff, he is now his father’s law clerk. Judge W. Terrence O’Brien has his brother as his tipstaff. Judge Donna Jo McDaniel hired her daughter as her tipstaff. Judge Robert Horgos’ son works as the tipstaff for another judge, Judge Robert Gallo and Judge Gallo’s son works for Judge David Cerone. Judge Cerone hired the wife of the county treasurer as his secretary and his law clerk is the son of the former underboss of the Pittsburgh La Cosa Nostra organization. Administrative Judge for the Civil Division Judge Joseph James hired the daughter of a former U.S. Representative. Before becoming judge, Criminal Division Judge John Zottola worked for former Mayor Masloff. As a judge, he hired the Mayor’s secretary and chief of staff, to be his secretary and law clerk.

 Baltimore Maryland District Judge Catherine Curran O’Malley, assigned to the criminal docket, is the wife of the Mayor and daughter of the State Attorney General. Most criminal cases involve listening to police testimony. Police provide 24-hour protection for Judge O’Malley and her husband the Mayor. Despite an ethics ruling that the position might cause a conflict of interest Judge O’Malley will continue to hear criminal cases. The District Court’s Administrative Judge Keith E. Matthews said, “She said she feels comfortable hearing criminal cases, and if that’s how she feels, I have no problem assigning her there.”

While serving as an Illinois Associate Judge for the Tenth Circuit, Judge Arthur Henry Gross purchased two grams of cocaine from an informant working with the police. He used the name “the judge” as his alias when purchasing the drugs. 

 Scottsdale Arizona Justice of the Peace Mark W. Dobronski made biased an offensive remarks to litigants in court, displayed handcuffs, threatened a defendant with contempt for failing mediation, and dismissed cases improperly. Judge Dobronski repeatedly was intolerant, impatient, sarcastic and patronizing and mistreated litigants and attorneys appearing in his courtroom. In one case, the judge held a defendant in contempt, had her removed from the court, and then defaulted her case. 

 Phoenix Arizona Cochise County Superior Court Judge Charles A. Irwin made sexually inappropriate comments to employees and kept alcohol in his chambers, offering drinks to employees after court hours. Judge Irwin was ordered to attend workplace sensitivity training.

Florida Broward County, 17th Judicial Circuit Judge Joyce Julian was found intoxicated, acted in a scandalous manner which included falling down drunk in public areas, being partially unclothed in public areas, and made a false report to law enforcement officers. The incidents occurred on Amelia Island Resort where Judge Julian was attending a judicial conference. The misdemeanor charges were dropped by the state attorney assigned to the case after prosecutors received confirmation that Judge Julian completed a 39-day substance abuse treatment program. No criminal charges will be filed against Judge Julian for making a false police report. Judge Julian’s attorney said, “they were very fair,” about prosecutors decision to drop the charges. In a letter to Chief Judge Dale Ross, Judge Julian said, “I feel I am now equipped with the experience, strength and hope to move forward and resume my judicial responsibilities.” Two months after her arrest Judge Julian was assigned to permanently take over the drug court. 

Florida Pasco-Pinellas County Circuit Judge Charles Cope, currently assigned to section 22, room 432 at the Clearwater Branch, Family Law Division was charged with battery, prowling, aggravated trespassing, and peeking into an inhabited dwelling in April of last year while he was  attending a judicial seminar in Monterey County, California. Judge Cope who is married with three children, made unexpected and unwanted sexual advances to a woman and tried to enter her motel room without permission. This event marks the second time in five years that Judge Cope has been arrested. Both incidents occurred while he was out of town attending judicial seminars. His first arrest was for a DUI charge, which was eventually dropped. The current charges, which were filed more than one year ago, continue to pine away in the justice system while Judge Cope continues to sit on the bench and collect his six figure salary. A pre-trial hearing on the still pending criminal charges has been re-set (again) for July 18th at 10 AM in Monterey County Superior Court, Department 8. A jury trial scheduled for June 10th was vacated and re-set for July 29th.

Florida Hillsborough Circuit Judge Cynthia Holloway was accused of interfering in a child custody case involving a friend’s niece. According to witnesses, Judge Holloway confronted the judge hearing the case and lied about contacting a detective investigating child abuse allegations. Judge Holloway defended her actions as poor judgment.

Florida Treasure Coast Circuit Judge Scott Kenney is under investigation for being intoxicated on the bench, and drinking excessively in public bars.

Florida Hillsborough County Chief Judge F. Dennis Alvarez, Judge Gasper Ficarrotta, and Judge Robert Bonnano were friends and the power center of courthouse politics. The three resigned recently amid ethics investigations and a grand jury investigation which included charges of extramarital courthouse affairs.

Judge Bonnano faced questions about a courthouse affair, the sealing of cases, the purchase of a $450,000 home and why he was sneaking around in a vacationing judge’s office, who happened to be a judge who was investigating courthouse misconduct. Judge Ficarrotta reportedly pranced around his chambers in his bailiff’s thong underwear.

Judge Ficarrotta’s courthouse paramour, Sheriff’s Deputy Tara Pisano, reported observing a safety deposit box filled with large amounts of cash in Judge Ficarrotta’s private courthouse office in a closet to Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents who found that Judge Ficarrotta got a cell-phone bill reduced, and his grown son’s kidney stones treated as a dependent on his tax-subsidized health insurance policy. Judge Ficarrotta was not charged with any wrongdoing.

Chief Judge Alvarez said there are no written rules to forbid judges from having sex at work.  Judge Alvarez denied that the investigation surrounding his handling (aka cover-up) of courthouse shenanigans forced his resignation.

The grand jury, stated that the public deserves some explanation as to the reasons behind the resignations.  The I-quit-and-you-don’t-let-the-dogs-out arrangement between judges and the Judicial Qualifications Commission didn’t sit well with the grand jury. The grand jury pointed out that the JQC is the official investigative body of judicial misconduct and that they operate in secrecy, and should a judge resign prior to being formally charged, the investigation remains secret even if it contains evidence of a crime. “We do not believe that these rules instill confidence in the judiciary or otherwise serve the public well,” a powerless grand jury stated. The three judges will maintain their state-paid pensions and benefits.

Who knew it was so hard to be a judge?

There you have it. As it stands now, abundant plain references of courthouse corruption look destined to continue unchecked. Even in law, everything is politics, nothing is principle. And judges today don’t simply apply the law, they make the law, setting public policy in place. The danger of judicial decisions focused on promoting judges personal policy objectives from the bench is clear to all but the intentionally ignorant.

Those who are charged with enforcing and upholding the laws must themselves scrupulously obey the law. They must lead by example. And that example must be based on principles of honesty, integrity, credibility and accountability.

No one is above the law, especially those who are sworn to uphold it. That is, of course, unless you’re a judge??  


 Advisory BOL: Be On the Lookout for: California Attorney Barry David Brown [CA BAR #75941] of Redwood City, (San Mateo County) who was suspended for one year, (suspension stayed), and placed on three years of probation. The order took effect Jan. 7, 2001. Brown pleaded no contest (aka guilty) in 1999 to two misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and lewd conduct in public. Because Brown had emotional problems, is remorseful and is undergoing therapy, the judge in the case did not require sex offender registration and the BAR found his conduct did not constitute moral turpitude.

News from the Bench, originally broadcast:  Saturday, June 29, 2002

Boston Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Maria I. Lopez
was accused of giving false information to a court public information officer. Judge Lopez said the victim was not kidnapped and was not threatened with a screwdriver during the commission of the crimes.Judge Lopez issued the statement that she knew was false as a defense of her sentencing decision. The case involves a transgendered defendant housed in public housing  who admitted kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and attempting to rape an 11-year-old boy. Judge Lopez called the crimes “very low scale.”

Chief Judge in the Miami Dependency Court, Judge Cindy Lederman accused officials of the Department of Children & Families of “perpetrating fraud on the court,” and “hiding” details of cases and giving false information about children placed in the agencies care. Judge Lederman held the agency in contempt of court and ordered the department to pay a fine of $500. Judge Lederman asked Miami-Dade County prosecutors and the state attorney's office for a criminal investigation of the social services agency.

A national survey of 1000 registered voters and 2428 state judges found that Americans have deep concern about what is happening in our courts.

94% of judges believe that state courts and judges in their state do a good job, yet 47% of voters rated the job being done by state courts and judges in their state as poor.

76% of voters believe that contributions made to judges influence judicial decisions, while 56% of judges believe contributions made to judges have little to no influence on judicial decisions.

28% of voters believe judges are not honest and trustworthy.

31% of voters believe judges are not fair and impartial.

35% of voters believe judges are not independent.

36% of voters believe judges make decisions based on politics and pressure from special interests.

62% of voters believe there are two systems of justice in the U.S. – one for the rich and powerful and one for everyone else.

67% of voters believe individuals or groups who give money to judges get favorable treatment.

72% of voters believe judges have a great deal of power over our daily lives and that we have the right to criticize them and hold judges accountable.

87% of voters believe we should reform how we select and treat judges to ensure that justice is the same for all citizens regardless of who they are, what they believe, or how much money they have.

90% of voters are concerned about judges being selected for reasons other than their qualifications.

86% of voters and 70% of judges support establishing independent citizens boards to inform the public about judicial functions.

And what about the CA court ruling the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional?????

The President of the United States said the ruling is “ridiculous” and congress members and legislators around the country are calling the ruling “nuts.”

We must begin to realize that there are judges in courtrooms across our country who make rulings on a daily basis that are ridiculous and nuts.

The time has come to put a stop to judges who have taken it upon themselves to place their private preferences above the law.

The bias that exists in our judicial government is set against the truth, against men and women and children and business owners, property owners, taxpayers, gun-owners, and crime victims.....Americans all. The bias at odds is the rendering of judicial decisions that are not based on the facts and applicable law relevant to the individual case(s) presented.

Have we, as Americans, as human beings, lost our individual and collective ability to make the clear distinction between right and wrong? I hope the answer is NO. My fellow Americans, let us resolve to use our blessings to stand for what is right, not who is right.

May we stand united and pledge our allegiance to one another, and to our nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?

News from the Bench, originally broadcast:  Saturday, July 13, 2002

In a May 28th 2002 unpublished opinion from the California Court of Appeal, 3rd Appellate Division, the justices ruled: “We begin by noting our profound disappointment in the conduct of the Alameda County Superior Court Judge Donald Squires and Alameda County District Attorney. In the case presented California’s Attorney General generally conceded that a ‘tag-team’ operation has been conducted by Alameda and San Joaquin Counties with one purpose in mind – to keep a mother” --claiming to be protecting her two young daughters from abuse by their father who is a registered sex offender as a result of his admission during a criminal prosecution to sexually molesting his former wife’s thirteen-year-old niece-- “in custody. The record before us is replete with suspect pleadings all of which were designed simply to ensure this mother would not be released from custody. The deeper this court explores the record before us, the more that record reveals a substantial abuse of the judicial process. However righteous Alameda County and San Joaquin County may feel it is our intent to put an end to this nonsense once and for all.” 

California Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick Couwenberg provided false information to the Governor when seeking judicial appointment. Judge Couwenberg made false representations about the colleges and law schools he attended, falsely stated that he had received a master’s degree, made false claims about his past employment, and falsely claimed (in public ceremonies and to reporters) to have received a Purple Heart while serving in VietNam. Judge Couwenberg never served in VietNam. Judge Couwenberg also falsely claimed that he had participated in covert CIA operations.

California Los Angeles County Municipal Court Judge Alfonso D. Hermo issued a $20,000 failure to appear bench warrant in a matter involving a misdemeanor vehicle code violation and alleged probation violations. The defendant subsequently appeared and was remanded into custody. The defendant fled the courtroom and Judge Hermo increased bail to $175,000. But at the request of the Bailiff the following day, the judge recalled the bench warrant and altered the court record to assist his bailiff in avoiding suspension without pay for allowing the defendant to escape.

California Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick B. Murphy claiming various illnesses, was absent for multiple, extensive periods over four years. On days Judge Murphy claimed to be ill, he was engaged in activities such as teaching evening law classes, sitting for depositions in civil litigation, completing prerequisites for admission to medical school, and attending Medical School in the Caribbean.

California Riverside County Superior Court Judge William H. Sullivan presided over cases involving trusts while he was managing the trusts finances and loaned himself at least $300,000 from various trust accounts and gave himself interest in 12 real estate properties from conservatorship estates while presiding over the cases. Several of the properties are part of the Racquet Club of Palm Springs. Judge Sullivan’s misconduct began in 1987 and continued for twelve years! Do you think that not one of the people Judge Sullivan was STEALING from none noticed or complained for twelve years?? Right.

California Placer County Superior Court Judge W. Jackson Willoughby told a bailiff he could “stand here all day and watch you undress” told his clerk that he just wanted her “to sit there and look pretty” regularly made kissing motions toward court employees and referred to a deputy DA as “old iron tits.” Judge Willoughby apologized.

California San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John B. Gibson said in court “isn’t that the best pair of legs and ass you’ve ever seen?” Judge Gibson told a court employee that he “really enjoys her 46DD bra and her nipples showing” and that he “gets really excited when I see that,” several times he tugged on the employee’s bra strap and said, “I’m an expert at undoing these.” On several occasions at the courthouse, while putting on his judicial robe, he wiggled his fingers through his robe in the area of his groin and told court employees to, “say hello to Mr. Bobo.”

In 2001, California judges were “privately admonished” or sent “private advisory letters” (!) for committing the following acts of misconduct:

·         Making remarks during court proceedings that disparaged litigants. Some remarks advocated one side of the case.

·         Delaying rulings.

·         Executing false salary affidavits.

·         Attempting to pressure a defendant into pleading guilty.

·         Expressing open hostility to an attorney who sought correction of an inaccurate order.

·         Conducting all or portions of criminal proceedings without the prosecutor being present.

·         Using judicial stationery to obtain advantage in a personal business matter.

·         Responding to a disqualification challenge by criticizing a litigant’s attorney and delaying the transfer of the case.

·         Making rude and disparaging remarks to a witness and improperly threatening incarceration of the witness in a manner that implied prejudgment of the case.

·         Failing to self-disqualify or disclose the judge’s relationship with one of the attorneys.

·         Ordering the own-recognizance (no bail) release of a professional acquaintance who called the judge personally to request a release from jail before being booked.

For “misconduct,” such as, “executing false salary affidavits” a judge in California GOT A SECRET LETTER!

Hmmmm… does appear that an “investigation” by the Commission on Judicial Performance is more like a cover-up….

Complaints were filed in Los Angeles Tuesday alleging Los Angeles County government pays judges an extra $30,000 a year each, on top of their state-paid salary and benefits. The complaint alleges the payments makes judges biased in cases involving the county. “These Los Angeles County voluntary payments and the judges’ practice of not disclosing the payments are probably the single largest corruption of a state judicial system in the history of our country,” said attorney Richard I. Fine of Beverly Hills. “Even worse, Los Angeles County is using taxpayer moneys for this while claiming it doesn’t have money to fund health care for the poor, or for other social programs.” Judges state-paid salary is $136,224, and will increase to $139,493 on Monday.

In California, the County Board of Supervisors in each of the state’s 58 counties has a discretionary fund for every county judge. In addition to judges state tax-payer funded salaries, benefits and perks, supervisors can give each judge an additional $20,000 from the county tax-payer treasury in cash, gifts, property, trips, college tuition, whatever floats their boat. There are no written performance rules to receive the $20 G’s, like working overtime. And the supervisors can withhold the money from a particular judge. It is discretionary. Does that sound like bribe money? The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court agreed “it’s a problem” during interviews with reporters at a press conference sponsored by the First Amendment Coalition at Cal-State Fullerton. The county-paid bonus payments add more than $100 a day to judges take-home pay.

After hearing the News from the Bench many people responded they were shocked to learn there are so many corrupt judges. They asked questions like:  how on Earth did corruption get a stranglehold on justice?  Is it judges “Let Them Eat Cake” attitude? Is it unbridled judicial activism? Is it a swilling whirlpool of no accountability? YES!!!

In a recent case (McBryde v. Committee to Review Circuit Council Conduct and Disability Orders, 264 F.3d 52 [2001]) the United States Court of Appeals affirmed the relationship between maintaining an effective judicial discipline system and preserving judicial independence. The Court of Appeals noted:  “the benefits to the judiciary from intra-branch efforts to control the self indulgence of individual judges.......argues for internal discipline powers” and prevents “exposing the judicial branch to the citizens justifiable contempt. The court further stated that by controlling internal discipline, “the judiciary can only gain from being able to limit the occasions for such contempt.” (Emphasis added.)

I believe the problem with Judicial Conduct Commissions is in their genesis. They exist, we are told, because private citizens are incapable of regulating public officials themselves, because, we are told, private citizens are bad or stupid or irresponsible or all of the above. Well, are YOU?

But, because our courts have exclusive power to regulate themselves, they are neither responsive nor responsible to us and tend to act in their own personal interests and not ours, while they tend to grow in numbers, budget and power, regardless of their poor performance.

There you have it, folks. High concentrations of power in the hands of judges, who with no external auditing systems and no accountability to the public are prone to corrupt behavior.

News from the Bench, originially broadcast:  Saturday, July 27, 2002

340 new complaints were filed against Massachusetts judges in 2000, the last year reported to date. 182 complaints came from civil cases, 97 from criminal cases, 58 from divorce or child custody cases and one from a probate case. 2 complaints involved off-the-bench conduct. The 80 judge Superior Court received 226 complaints. The 51 judge Probate and Family court received 59 complaints. Of the 340 complaints, 292 were dismissed and 19 were informally resolved and closed. An additional 60 cases were still pending from previous years. No public hearings were held. The Massachusetts Judicial Conduct Commission is composed of nine members who serve without pay. Six staff members received $421,840 in 2000. The Commission meets once each month.

Florida Collier County Judge Brenda C. Wilson drove to a Denny’s restaurant after consuming alcoholic beverages, joined a group of intoxicated people and witnessed one of the people handling a video surveillance camera that belonged to Denny’s restaurant. Judge Wilson accompanied the group to a residence where she saw that one person of the group had possession of the camera and was told that it had been taken from Denny’s. Judge Wilson did not report the theft and when she returned to Denny’s approximately two weeks later she was questioned about the theft of the camera by a Denny’s employee. Judge Wilson claimed she had no knowledge of the theft. When Judge Wilson discovered the employee knew her identity, the judge asked that her name be kept out of the matter. When Deputy Sheriff’s interviewed Judge Wilson about the theft the judge concealed her knowledge of the crime. After being informed that other witnesses had identified her the judge told deputies what happened. Judge Wilson served a ten-day suspension without pay, and apologized for making false statements to law enforcement officers.

South Carolina Town of Sellers Municipal Court Judge Brenda Joyce Hamer was suspended from judicial duties after officials discovered that she has never been licensed to practice law in South Carolina and that she was an attorney in California who resigned from the BAR as a result of disciplinary action involving, among other things, credit card forgery, supplying false tax returns, false employment information, using false social security numbers in applying for a loan, filing false income tax returns, mail fraud and money laundering. ---Soooo, how did she become a judge in South Carolina???

Alcohol flows freely at taxpayer-funded judicial conferences, and judges get drunk, Florida Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Charles Cope testified this week at a hearing before the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Judge Cope said, “I don’t think I was doing anything unique.” Judge Cope failed to report his arrest by Carmel PD to the JQC and Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer, helped him cover it up. She found out about Judge Cope’s arrest after being contacted by FL’s state attorney. Judge Schaeffer said “It just seemed fair to buy him time and let him get his finances in order.” Judge Schaeffer made a deal with Judge Cope to not report his arrest to the JQC. The chief judge said “Charles and I thought the case would be resolved quickly and favorably to him,” and that she, “didn’t take her responsibility lightly.” Last week, Schaeffer defiantly told the JQC, “I have nothing to apologize for….what I did was right.”

Now, Judge Cope, through his attorney, is threatening to further attack his victim in court and sue everyone involved in his arrest if the charges pending against him are not dropped.  On Thursday, Judge Cope’s attorney made the following plea offer: All charges dropped except “drunk in public” and he will make a $5,000 donation to a charity of the victim’s choice. The DA reported yesterday that Judge Cope refused to pay the victim’s costs and attorney fees involved in defending herself in the action because it would be “unethical.” The DA said the plea deal that is likely to be accepted will require Judge Cope to pay the $5,000 to a nationwide organization of citizens dedicated to ending judicial corruption.

Judge Cope was arrested for drunk driving while attending a judicial conference in 1995. He beat that one, too. And last January Judge Cope circumvented a three-year prison term for a man convicted of sexually touching a six-year-old girl while he videotaped her by sentencing him, instead to house arrest – in the same house where the girl, now 8, continues to live.

Faced with judges with vices they refuse to disclose, or even acknowledge, you inevitably think, if they’re covering this up, what else is there? Where there’s smoke… follow the logic. Judges cannot sit tight claiming to be abused and misunderstood if they do not take the actions they should.

The truth is what is important. Publicity not only exposes the problem but allows many people who would not otherwise have access to it, the information they need to not only to exercise their rights and protect themselves, but to take ACTION. The very possibility of adverse public reaction may aid in the correction of evils, which would otherwise escape detection.

News from the Bench, originally broadcast:  Saturday, August 3, 2002

**EXCLUSIVE REPORT** Monterey, CA. -- Florida Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Charles Cope’s plea deal with Monterey County California prosecutors fell apart last week. The Salinas based firm The Worthington Law Center asked Monterey prosecutors to let Cope plead guilty to being drunk in public and pay $5,000 to a charity of his victim’s choice. In return, all charges against the judge would be dropped. Judge Cope is not charged with being drunk in public in the California case. Judge Cope quickly rejected making a charitable contribution to five charities including: Washington D.C. based House of Ruth/United Way; National Center for Victims of Crime; Communities Against Violence; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence Network; and Day’s End Horse Rescue in Maryland. Communities Against Violence Network is funded by the Ms. Foundation which is the country’s only national multi-issue public women’s fund and sponsor’s an annual Take Our Daughters To Work Day. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, based in Washington D.C., is the nation’s leading group of professionals providing health care for women. The Center for Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence’s goal is to engage religious leaders in the task of ending abuse and to prepare human services professionals to recognize and attend to the religious questions and issues that may arise in their work with women and children.

Judge Cope was arrested in Carmel last year while attending a judicial conference and is charged with sexual battery, prowling, peeping, aggravated trespassing and petty theft for forcing his affections on a woman, stealing a key to her hotel room and trying to break-in.  A pre-trial hearing is scheduled on August 20 in Monterey County California. Monterey County DA. Lisa Poll is prosecuting the charges in California and can be reached by calling 831-755-5070. The Worthington Law Center in Salinas California is representing Judge Cope on the criminal charges and can be reached at 831-758-1688. Judge Cope is benched at the Florida Clearwater Branch, his judicial office can be reached by calling 727-464-3594.

Illinois Cook County Circuit Judge George J.W. Smith was sentenced last week to the maximum 27 months in prison for buying his way onto the bench. The investigation began in 1998 when Judge Smith’s wife made the allegation about the $30,000 bribe during their divorce case. Lawyers for the judge tried to block her testimony arguing that the judges conversations with his wife were confidential. The court rejected that argument and found the judges wife’s testimony credible, concluding that Judge Smith conspired to pay a bribe to become a judge. Judge Smith admitted to defrauding his deceased brother’s wife and children of nearly $10,000 in a lawsuit settlement. His sister-in-law testified that the judge was well aware that since his brother’s death she and her children had been living hand-to-mouth sometimes living on cereal and popcorn in order to keep their home and pay-off her husband’s medical bills. Prosecutors objected to any sentencing leniency for Judge Smith and stated that the judge tried to obstruct the investigation by lying to the FBI. Judge Smith obtained the rest of the bribe money by taking an early withdrawal of $20,000 from his county pension and later told agents he had spent the money on concrete work at his home. A prior appraisal of Judge Smith’s home indicated the concrete work had been done two years earlier. The FBI is looking into whether Judge Smith paid the $30,000 bribe to a politician who is a close friend of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman.

Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Roland Amundson swindled more than $300,000 from a trust fund he managed to buy himself paintings, sculptures, marble floors and other extravagances. The trust was established to care for a 31-year-old woman with the mental age of a 3-year-old by her father Robert Day who died in 1989. Day appointed Admundson to handle the trust before he became judge, when he was secretary for the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association. Judge Amundson earned a divinity degree from University of Chicago and a law degree from Notre Dame. He was appointed to serve as Hennepin County court judge in 1988 and elevated to the Minnesota court of appeals in 1991 by Governor Arne Carlson. The judge was later elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1998. Judge Admundson, 52, began stealing money from the Day trust six-weeks after he gained control of it.

Brooklyn New York Supreme Court Justice Victor I. Barron demanded $115,000 to fix a case in an automobile accident case involving a child who suffered a brain injury and a  $4.9 million settlement in January. Judge Barron had a conversation in his chambers with an attorney who gave the judge a down payment of $18,000 in marked $100 bills. Judge Barron has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors who called the case one of the most blatant examples of judicial corruption in New York in many years. The agreement calls for the judge to be eligible for parole after three years in prison. The plea agreement can only go forward on Monday, August 5 with the approval of Justice Nicholas Colabella, a Westchester judge assigned to the case. At trial, Judge Barron would face a 5-15 years sentence. Earlier this year, Judge Barrons’ attorney argued that the judge should continue to be paid his salary because he needed the money and it was his only means of support. An acquaintance of the judge said he was “a very good dancer.” Judge Barron has remained free on his own recognizance since being arrested in January. In 1985, Queens State Supreme Court Justice William C. Brennan Jr. was indicted by a federal grand jury and later convicted of taking about $50,000 in bribes. Prosecutor Charles Hynes can be reached at 718-250-2202. Jerry Schmetter, spokesperson for Charles Hynes can be reached at 718-250-2300. Justice Nicholas Colabella chambers can be reached at 914-995-4752.

South Carolina Beaufort County Magistrate George B. Brown took money from criminal, traffic and civil court deposits. A search of Judge Brown’s office turned-up numerous money orders and wire transfers to a woman the judge was having an extra-marital affair with and utility bills were found in the name of the woman and with the judge’s mailing address. Also found in the judges office was a criminal history report of the woman. The law enforcement investigation concluded that a total of $12,374 had been embezzled by Judge Brown. The Supreme Court of South Carolina accepted an agreement for a public reprimand of Judge Brown after he resigned his judicial position.

South Carolina Jasper County Magistrate Donna D. Lynah issued a court order for judicial sale of a motor vehicle for storage fees or repair charges alleged owed to Jasper County Magistrate Joyce Lynn Leavell. Judge Leavell did not actually own or operate a vehicle storage or repair facility and no judicial sale was actually held. Judge Lynah then issued a judicial bill of sale stating the vehicle was sold at public auction for $30 and stating the buyer was Judge Leavell. The vehicle was worth far more than $30 and no notice of lien or sale was given to the vehicles actual owner Gary Brown. Judge Leavell used the bill of sale to obtain a certificate of title to the vehicle from the South Carolina Department of Revenue. Criminal charges against the judges were dismissed and the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued a nine-month suspension to the pair, with pay.

People not only have the power, authority and duty to make changes in their laws, but also the power, authority and duty to enforce their laws. However, under existing laws, judges have no accountability even when their rulings are malicious or corrupt.

The time has come to change the laws governing judges conduct and take responsibility for the enforcement of these laws once established.

Until then, News From The Bench will continue to hold corrupt judges feet to the fire until they cry uncle.

News from the Bench, originally broadcast:  Saturday, August 10, 2002

On Wednesday, May 13, 1998, the South Carolina House of Representatives assembled and opened with prayer “....deliver us from deception and self-righteousness, from confusing our own selfish desires with the will and best interests of the people, from indifference and over-confidence, from an attitude of compromise with corruption.....” 

Presented on the Agenda that day was a judicial study committee report with recommendations. The Summary Court Judges’ Association recommended increasing judges salaries and placing all judges under the Police Retirement System, providing for full retirement benefits after twenty-five years.

Committee members, including Greenville County Magistrate J. Metz Looper recommended that judges determined to be lacking the overall intellectual, educational, or administrative skills necessary to adequately perform the duties and responsibilities required of a judge, be “exempted” from such qualifications because “to not grant exemptions to unqualified judges would be unfair and otherwise may cause judges to not qualify for retirement benefits.”  WHAAAAAT!! 

Two years later, Judge Looper resigned while under investigation for ethics violations. The investigation determined that while traffic charges were pending before Judge Looper, the judge went to a car dealership owned by the defendant’s father, where the defendant worked as a salesman, and where the judge traded his vehicle for a new car. One year later, while charges against the same defendant were still pending, Judge Looper returned to the car dealership and obtained another new vehicle. The traffic charges were never set for trial and were eventually dismissed on the court’s motion. In another matter where Judge Looper, his wife and a corporation owned and operated by the judge was in litigation, Looper communicated with the judge hearing the case apprising the hearing judge of his personal interest in the litigation.

California San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Michael Platt fixed traffic tickets for friends and relatives but said that he can still be an effective judge at a hearing before the state Commission on Judicial Performance. His attorney argued that the judge didn’t fix tickets for personal gain, but to help people (his friends). Judge Platt received a prior private admonishment from the commission in 1997 for ethics violations.

Pennsylvania Lawrence County Judge Ralph D. Pratt entered a settlement in a federal lawsuit filed by a former law clerk. The suit claimed that the judge engaged in a relentless pattern of sexual misconduct while on the bench. The settlement is confidential according to Judge Pratt’s attorney who added, “the agreement is in the best interest of all concerned because the judge gets-off…..and can continue to be a good judge…..”

The notion that judges must be honest for the system to work is hardly profound. Many years have passed since our founders complained about judges who were obedient to their cronies, rather than the cause of justice. But a pure heart is not all that judges must bring to the bench. For the system to work as it should, judges must be honest, and without bias, and have no tilt in the cause that is being heard. Laws and Conduct Codes for judges are intended to create the climate for integrity.  But rather than disciplining wrongdoing by judges, it seems that the primary function of judicial conduct commissions is to protect judges from public complaints.

The first thing judicial conduct commissions do is send complainants a letter telling them the investigation is confidential and that they’re not to discuss it with anyone! If they told YOU about it, it’s NOT confidential! The intent of the letter is to intimidate people into keeping their mouth shut. What seems important to judicial conduct organizations is criminalizing those who present complaints about judges and their policies; and scaring the hell out of a lot of other people.

News from the Bench, originally broadcast:  Saturday, August 17, 2002

Of  the 61 million acres of land within Oregon’s borders almost 57 percent is owned by the federal government and under the control of the USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. High value, publicly owned timberlands (on federally owned property managed by BLM) provide important raw material for Oregon’s wood products industry and local governments receive half the incomes from harvested lumber. Federal lands also provide important habitat for more than 200,000 cattle grazing Oregon ranges, while ranchers pay the federal government for the grazing privileges. Milk is Oregon’s official beverage and home of the “got milk” campaign.

Oregon Marion County Judge Albin W. Norblad stopped to visit friends and down several stiff drinks -not milk- on his way home from vacationing in Mexico. Judge Norblad left his friends home and drove to his home near Salem, stopping for more drinks on the eight-hour drive. Motorists reported the judge’s erratic driving to state police and police began to follow Norblad’s vehicle at about 11 P.M. in the vicinity of the judges home. Officers watched Judge Norblad run a red light, stop in the middle of an intersection, and make a sweeping turn.

Judge Norblad who was now driving on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic, did not immediately stop for police. Police found an open container of alcohol in Judge Norblad’s car, the judge could not stand without assistance and had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit. Judge Norblad told officers he was “smashed.”

Although Judge Norblad has a history of abusing alcohol and the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness & Disability said “It is evident there is likelihood of a repetition of misconduct,” charges were dropped against the judge after three months of substance abuse counseling.

Since completing the program Judge Norblad said he has resumed consuming alcohol but has reduced his intake to two glasses of wine each night. Isn't that special.

California Orange County Judge Thomas J. Borris, 48, was found sitting on a curb next to his dented vehicle by Huntington Beach police. Tests revealed Judge Borris, supervising judge at the West Justice Center in Westminster, had a blood alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit at about 2 A.M. when the judge ran into a tree. Judge Borris’ attorney said he does not think the arrest will affect the judge’s work. Judge Borris was named “Judge of the Year” in 1995 and “Deputy DA of the Year” in 1984 by the Orange County Narcotic Officer’s Association. Judge Borris signed nomination papers for Orange County Judge Ronald Kline at a signing party two weeks after Kline was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography. Judge Borris said “I signed his papers out of courtesy to other judges.” Orange County Judge James Stotler also signed the petition for Judge Kline. Stotler is married to U.S. District Judge Alice Marie Stotler who was assigned to be the trial judge in Kline’s child pornography case filed by U.S. Attorneys.

Law enforcement authorities have audio tapes of PennsylvaniaAlleghenyCounty Common Pleas Judge Joseph A. Jaffe accepting $13,000 from an attorney who had cases pending before the judge. Common Pleas President Judge Robert Kelly and Administrative Judge Joseph James of the Civil Division said in a statement “We are deeply saddened by these published allegations. If the alleged conduct is proven to be true, it undermines the central purpose of our courts: to provide a fair and impartial system for citizens to litigate their disputes.” The lawyer gave Jaffe $13,000 during a meeting at his home. The FBI stopped Judge Jaffe as he left the house and took the marked bills from the judge but did not arrest him. Judge Jaffe was granted paid leave and will continue to receive his $119,315 salary.

Pennsylvania Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge H. Patrick McFalls, 59, who faced more than three-dozen charges filed by the state’s Judicial Conduct Board, agreed to resign this week. In exchange the Judicial Conduct Board will dismiss all 39 charges against the judge and Judge McFalls will collect $7,000 a month in disability and pension benefits. Judge McFalls attorney said that, “much of the attention in this case involves matters fit for late-night comedy shows,” and that, “the substance of the charges has been obscured by the extensive publicity and ridicule.” Judge McFalls denies ever being intoxicated on the bench.

Indeed, who sits in judgment over the people in our courts is more important than the struggle over virtually anything else today.  Judges conduct must measure up to the essentials of due process and fair treatment, which are not granted through back-room deals. Haven’t we all learned that what can’t be won in a fair contest is too often achieved in a court where a corrupt judge sits? Judges who believe they are the social engineers of our time seek to do through imposing their personal policy objectives what the Constitution plainly left to the people.

In light of what has been reported, it’s too late for preventive medicine. America’s courts are sick and dying. American principles of law, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights are infected with disease that has been brought on by the willful blindness and deliberate ignorance that allowed crimes by the “judicial industry” to flourish and continue to harm innocent people.

The only hope for America is her people. Don’t let America’s courts continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of injustice! Are you asking yourself, what can I do? How can anyone prevail against such a powerful social oppression? The answer has been in front of us all along. Just as Martin Luther King stood with two hundred thousand people decades ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C……you simply…..disobey…..unjust authority. Peacefully, non-violently, ABSOLUTELY. Disobey social protocol that stifles truth and stigmatizes personal freedom and perverts justice!

There is awesome power in disobedience, and we have witnessed its powerful example from Dr. King, from Ghandi, from Joan of Arc, from Jesus, and from every other great person who led people to stand for what is right even when it meant they had to stand against powerful enemies.

When someone you elected, or someone appointed by someone you elected is seduced by political power and betrays you…..petition them…..oust them…..banish them!

News from the Bench, originally broadcast:  Saturday, September 7, 2002

One out of five Chicago area adults say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a CBS/Chicago Sun-Times survey. Of the women surveyed 31% had experienced sexual harassment at work and another 44% said they experienced sexual harassment outside the workplace. Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County Associate Judge Oliver Spurlock served in Domestic Violence Court, Drug Court Division, and in the Evening Narcotics Section of the Criminal Division. While on the bench, Judge Spurlock gawked at a Victoria’s Secret catalog and commented on the items he found attractive to the women assigned to his courtroom and invited the women to his chambers. Complaints lodged against Judge Spurlock include that the judge engaged in a pattern of sexually intimidating and inappropriate physical conduct toward female attorneys, which included touching and kissing the women against their will and that Judge Spurlock refused to excuse himself from hearing cases handled by one of his willing romantic partners, a victim’s assistance coordinator. Judge Spurlock also used his judicial chambers to engage in sexual acts with a court reporter. 

New York Hempstead Village Judge Lawrence Goldstein got caught in a bride-for-hire scam last month that involved hundreds of immigrants who paid $5,000 for the chance to get green cards through quick marriages to the same women. The couples exchanged vows at Judge Goldstein’s home in Hempstead and the judge was paid $75 for each ceremony. One woman charged with conducting a commercial operation to commit marriage fraud was married four-times in one year. Judge Goldstein swore in a phone interview the he never realized he was marrying the same brides.

Shining the light of day on judges

News From The Bench has held a spotlight on judges from Alaska and Arizona, from Washington and Wisconsin, from California, Oregon, Illinois, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New York, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Montana, Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Nevada. There continues to be much, much more judicial misconduct and crime, all occurring outside public review.

In each and every instance, News From The Bench has found and reported that judicial conduct commissions in every state are failing in their responsibilities to protect the people from corrupt judges, despite their profligate budgets. The News has reported that in every instance judges who have been caught engaging in misconduct and/or CRIME have been rewarded with paid vacations, well orchestrated institutional cover-ups, and substantial lifetime pensions, versus being held accountable and brought to justice. Worse yet, in most instances, judges who were found guilty of committing crimes and/or misconduct remained on the bench, and many of these judges had been previously caught doing misdeeds and/or had been doing misdeeds for many years and in some instances, for decades.

Judges have stolen money from children’s trust funds, plundered estates, transferred litigants property to themselves, taken bribes, been drunk on and off the bench and at judicial conferences, assaulted their wives, sexually assaulted and harassed their employees, attorneys, and other women who have had the misfortune of appearing in their courtrooms, lied to police, used their position to advance their private interests, violated the due process rights of litigants by ordering them to jail without notice, hearing or legal representation, violated the due process rights of parents by terminating their rights to parent their children without notice, without hearings or legal representation, ignored reliable evidence of child abuse and family violence, and allowed children to be victimized and abused over and over again and again by identified abusers. Judges have used their power to silence complaining children and their protective parent’s and too many times too ignore have incarcerated abused children in institutions and imprisoned parent’s who believe their children’s complaints of abuse.

The actions of far too many family court judges rival the actions of former Riverside County Judge Eugene R. Bishop, who agreed to resign the bench on March 29, 2002 after admitting to charges then pending before the Commission on Judicial Performance. (Inquiry Concerning Judge Eugene R. Bishop, No. 161, Decision and Order Imposing Private Admonishment, February 4, 2002, California Commission on Judicial Performance.)

The Commission found that Judge Bishop had, "violated the mother's basic rights and exceeded it's jurisdiction in giving custody to the out-of-custody parent," (In re Shawn P., No. E022375), "violated the due process rights of the parents....ordering, without notice or a reasonable opportunity to be heard, that placed in a foster home and that there be no visitation...," (In re Emily D., No.IJ-11166), "violated the mother's right to basic due process under the federal and state constitutions and violated several statutes by removing the boys from their mother's custody....without....notice," (In re Daniel K., No.IJ-8816), and, "violated the due process rights of the father of Anthony B. by proceeding with hearings without adequate notice or a reasonable opportunity to be heard," (In re Anthony B., No.IJ-9898).

Are Judicial Conduct Commissions public review boards or protection rackets? Remedial efforts should include executive, legislative or voter driven initiative to restructure or terminate these Commissions.

The failure of Judicial Conduct Organizations to promote the proper administration of justice, by focusing efforts instead on ignoring, excusing, concealing and improperly labeling judicial crimes “misconduct,” has confounded grand juries, law enforcement and government officials, who are authorized by law to investigate and take action against judges who violate the law into believing no judicial act constitutes a criminal violation of the law and that even if a judicial act does criminally violate the law only a Judicial Conduct Commission can make that determination.

This attitude is contrary to settled law and even to Commission rules, yet has allowed courts to attack the very core of public safety through unchecked and unauthorized tampering with public policy in cases of wide public concern.

The abandonment of the intended duty of Judicial Conduct Organizations --to protect the public from errant judicial officers, allowing judges who put their personal policy objectives above the law because they can get away with it without risk to their position on the public payroll --is evidence of what little regard these Organizations have for the safety, protection, rights and public funds of citizens.

The need for an independent judiciary is recognized throughout the free world. However, in return for judicial independence the trust we place in judges is that they will carry out their duties impartially. I define impartiality as the absolute recognition and application by judges of fidelity to the law.

In order to achieve independence and prevent chaos from ruling in our courts the judicial branch as a whole must be accountable. Judicial accountability requires that the public must be able to see that justice is being done. Just as judicial impartiality is the other side of the coin of judicial independence, open justice is to judicial accountability.

Open justice demands that the public is allowed to review the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the justice system. To accomplish these goals people must effectively supervise the conduct of judges and oversee the proper use of public resources, control the procedures for selecting judges to insure judges are appointed strictly on merit, and deliver swift removal to  judges who abuse their authority.

The law is not the exclusive property of the bench. It rightly belongs to the people. In the interest of preserving respect for the rule of law, the highest possible standards must be applied to those who sit in judgment of others.

Court reforms will have important consequences for the judges, and there is public debate as there should be about those consequences.

Together we must tell judges they have responsibility, not power.