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Tag: private judges

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Private Justice Can Be Yours If You're Rich

The following article was written by Michael Hiltzik for the Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2006.

Note from Author: A terrifying experience in a haunted house on an island in Montreal segued with cruel treatment in the chambers of a private judge, and "The House on Black Lake" was born. The use of private judges is only legal in a few states, but what is most disturbing are the states  that allow laymen attorney to don the robe of a judge and precide over trials.

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       You don't need me to tell you how grand it is to be rich in California. You don't have to care about the condition of public education because your kids go to private school. You don't have to worry about higher park fees, because you can lock up access to your private beach and hire thugs to run off any riffraff who get near the water. You don't have to do your own gardening, because there are plenty of illegals around to trim your perennials.

        And you don't have to subject yourself to litigating your private disputes in open court, because you can buy yourself a judge to run interference for you - under cover of the state Constitution, no less.

        If your private judge violates state judicial rules and bends the public court system to your personal ends, what's the downside? Your judge is outside the reach of the state's disciplinary system for misbehaving jurists. If your case happens to involve matters of manifest public importance and interest, too bad about the public. After all, the system belongs to you.

        Many states allow retired judges to fulfill limited judicial roles - as referees in evidentiary disputes or as fill-in udges to relieve docket gridlock, for example. But California, apparently uniquely, is much more liberal. Its Constitution allows attorneys and ex-judges to conduct actual trials in the guise of temporary jurists. Once selected by litigants, they're sworn in as Superior Court judges and endowed with almost all the powers and authority of any active judge.

        They then proceed to abuse their power. Documents and hearings in the cases before them are supposed to be public, but often the papers don't end up in public files, trial schedules are kept secret, and even those that leak out are held in private offices behind layers of security. The sealing of a court document is an important decision that involves a core principle of the public judicial system; these judges do it all the time, secretly, simply by sticking sensitive papers in their briefcases and dodging requests for access.

        So justice ends up belonging, like a private preserve, to the rich and powerful - indeed, anyone who can pay a judge $400-$500 an hour. It's unsurprising that the public knows little about this system because the judicial establishment isn't even sure how widespread it is; court clerks don't keep a tally of how many cases are tried by privately temporary judges.

        Instead of reining in this system, the Legislature is preparing to expand it. A bill to give temporary judges the authority to seal many documents in divorce  cases is currently moving through Sacramento, despite  evidence that temporary judges have overstepped their nonexistent authority in the past.

        The corrosive influence of this two-tier system is hardly a secret. In 1992 when a plan to expand the authority of private judges came into consideration by the court administration came up for consideration Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien complained in a letter that that a double tier system - one for the wealthy, one for the poor (or even not so wealthy)" was a "real evil." He dismissed the complaint that public dockets were jammed - as a "feeble rationalization" for the creation of a money making scheme.

        One corrupting feature of the process is the immunity of privately from from disciplinary action. The state commission on judicial performance, which has the power to remove ordinary judges from the bench, has no jurisdiction overy temporary judges, even when they misbehave. Even a county's  judge is powerless to force temporary judges to comply with local procedural rules.

        Why should we care about this? Not only because the very idea of a two-tier justice should enrage every citizen but also because as conditions get better for the privileged they become worse for everyone else. As long as the wealthy and powerful can buy their own civil justice the system goes to hell, and the road to its collapse will become even steeper.

The complete article may be viewed at:

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/mar/16/business/fi-golden16

 

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One Voice - A Writer Sparks Revolution

The protesters that began the expansive "Occupy Wall Street " movement are examples of the power of One Voice. They are not alone in the history of uprisings that have changed the course of history.

In my case,  a terrifying experience in a haunted house on an island outside Montreal  segued with injustice in the chambers of a private judge in the family court system. At the time, I felt I had no voice. So, I began to write the story of a world-weary American woman's story of transformation and empowerment in the French Canadian underground.

I wrote the following piece to remind myself that one must be brave and speak the truth for the good of the world.

                                                                                                                                                                         One Voice

     A man sat at an ornate  desk and gazed at a blank  parchment. On the paper he had agreed to write  a proclamation, a fiery statement that would be delivered to the King and all of his courtiers and officers. it was a document that  would irrevocably alter his life.

     He  realized he was jeopardizing everything he owned and held sacred. The lovely estate he had designed himself  and furnished with artifacts from around the world, the gardens he had tended and nurtured would be confiscated.  His servants would be out of jobs - employment they needed to survive. His cherished family would lose their comforts, and his wife would be reduced to working in the households of the nobles, if they would  take her at all. The prospects of his children be would horribly altered. His daughters' marital opportunities would be diminished and his sons' opportunities limited to those of farmer or laborer, rather than gentleman.

     Even worse, he understood if he wrote and signed the proclamation he would  likely be hung by the neck in the gallows. He would be publicly humiliated in front of his wife and children and all of the community that  looked up to him as a man of high position. Once he finished putting ink to the parchment his life as he knew it was over.

     Five men waited for the document - the well positioned men had chosen him to create the first draft. He had only written a few words, then just a few paragraphs, when he was compelled to stop. He was aghast at his own vehemence - he had called the King a tyrant! Surely the others would think him mad for using such an explosive word.

     Then, like one possessed, his pen began to scratch at the parchment, his hand desperately seeking to keep up with the words raging from his mind. Once he had written of the horrible deeds of the King against his countrymen, the lost lives and futures, insults to dignity and honour, crimes against his comrades, his brethren - there was no turning back. He completed the deed and signed the document with relish.

     The man gently picked up the parchment, still wet with the black ink from the crystal ink holder given to him as a present from his beloved father, and walked from the sun drenched room. His carriage waited outside, and within the hour he delivered the document to the five illustrious men. To his surprise, they did not attempt to edit his words, instead they reinforced them by signing their names. Then, it was delivered to the Commission, where each added their name to the list.  His voice became stronger as each signed the document, and it soon became a throng of cries from citizens who had been mistreated for too long.

     The voice of the man at the desk has never stopped speaking. His voice caused the downfall of a government. His voice helped to create a new constitution based on its precepts. His voice has resonated through three centuries, and continues to speak throughout the world. One man's proclamation is now viewed by most of mankind as  Divine Right - the Divine Right of the Individual for Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It marks the birth of democracy.

     The man was Thomas Jefferson and his proclamation -  The Declaration of Independence.

                                                                                      xxxx

     May we all be bold and brave in standing up for our God given rights -  and those of our  comrades.

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Romantic Scene Filmed in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Stars Tosh Yanez and Anastasia Blackwell

The House on Black Lake

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MASKS AND THE SUMMER SOLSTICE CELEBRATION

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Gothic Romance

Photograh from "The House on Black Lake" taken during filming of trailer at Chateau Tivoli in San Francisco. Picture depicts scene from novel in which Alexandra succumbs to charms of French Canadian artist, Andre Labat in St. Agathes Des Mont, outside Montreal. Features Anastasia Blackwell and Tosh Yanez.