Los Angeles, CA This Monday, June 22, 2009 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is poised to approve untold millions of dollars of what has been ruled as illegal payments to Superior Court Judges in an obsure Agenda Item listed on Page 9 Section V as " Other Budget Items" No. 17 #7 that reads:
When the Full Disclosure Network requested supporting documentation for this agenda item from the Administrative Office of the Board, Amy Bennett informed us “there is no supporting documentation” and she went on to say of the authorization that “this is a boilerplate paragraph that has been used previously.”
BLANK CHECK FOR TRIAL COURT OPERATIONS?
Without supporting documentation it is difficult to determine just exactly how the County Administrative Officer and Controller will spend the $238,154,000 for Trial Court Operations as shown in Budget Summary (page 60.1) FY2009-10. This is especially curious since the 1997 enactment of the Lockyer-Isenberg Trial Court Funding Act when the state assumed primary responsibility for funding of the trial courts, with counties providing maintenance of effort (MOE) payments.
APPROVAL OF $300 MILLION IN ILLEGAL BENEFITS TO JUDGES
This could explain how the judicial double benefits were mysteriously appropriated in the amount of approximately $300 million to L.A. Superior Court Judges over the last 20 years. A Fourth District 4th Appellate Court decision (Sturgeon vs County of Los Angeles) held that the double judicial benefits were illegal and was affirmed when the Supreme Court refused rehearing even with letters of support from such notables as major law firms, all the special interest and ethnic Law Associations and Bar Associations, the L. A . County District Attorney Steve Cooley and the Public Defender.
“Because the County has paid these benefits for more than twenty years, virtually all judges came onto the Superior Court expecting to receive them. Taking them away now unfairly changes the salary –and-benefits packages after the fact and indisputably will force some judges to leave the Superior Court for far more lucrative positions in the private sector to become private judges or to return to their former jobs in the public sector.”
In an April 2009 interview with Attorney Sterling Norris, Full Disclosure® learned about the circumstances of how Judicial Watch had tried to obtain discovery from the County in the Sturgeon case Here he describes how he attempted to learn who authorized the illegal judical payments in excerpts below from the cable television interview:
NORRIS: We tried and tried in discovery to seek where and when these benefits were approved. And of course, it is our contention that nobody ever did. --We asked, in our discovery, is there any meeting wherever this was discussed, by the supervisors, or in session, in secret session, even then, we were given nothing by the County in terms of discovery. The only thing they said, well, there there's a final budget. All they had titled on it was Judicial Benefits, no meetings. no approvals, just Judicial Benefits. And that was like a spike on the final budget. That was the only thing that the County gave to us for justification of where did this money came from.
COURT OF APPEAL VICTORY
And of course, the Court of Appeals, in San Diego that gave us our victory, they asked many of those questions of where did this money come from? What bill? What authorization? And of course, we hope in our new litigation to exclude the bill (SBx2 11 Judicial Benefits, described by the Judicial Council as “legislative authorization” for the double benefits that were held illegal in the case of Sturgeon vs County of L.A.)
because of the violation of the extraordinary session and several other factors……. When that bill was passed up there, the only court in this state that benefited was L.A. County. None of the rest of the judges across the state had any, anything to do with that. And the Sturgeon case only dealt with L.A. County. Almost the last statement the court made at the Court of Appeals was that we express no opinion as to other counties, as to other benefits that they may receive.
DUTTON: In that immunity legislation (SBx2 11 February ‘09) that you're challenging, did it grant immunity to others besides the judges?
NORRIS: As I read the bill, it would grant immunity to everybody involved in that, the supervisors, the county counsel, anybody else involved, in those monies.
DUTTON: You mean like the County Controller that writes the check?
NORRIS: Could very well be. And of course, that's outrageous. I mean, what you're writing a blank check to acquit all these people of wrongdoing? See this to me goes to the audacity of the judiciary. Not only to go out seeking this money, but then to put in immunity and excuse (themselves) from liability clauses into that legislation. I think it smacks of the lack of integrity and to say the judges are doing this. It's kind of like AIG, and some of these great corporations that failed us during this recession. They knew way before, and I have to believe these judges knew well before 10 years that there was a problem here. And they should not have been in that arena.
DUE PROCESS THREATENED BY PAYMENTS TO JUDGES?
On July 13, 2009 there will be a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing in the Sturgeon vs County of L. A case. At which time the Judicial Watch organization is seeking an injunction to prevent the county from making further payments to the Judges. On that day Special Appellate Court Justice James H. Richman from San Francisco will again preside, due to the fact that all the L.A. Superior Court Judges have disqualified themselves from hearing the case as they have received payments from the County that were ruled illegal.
When asked why he has not been released from jail on a Writ of Habeas Corpus, Mr. Fine responded: "I am still sitting here because the Magistrate Judge has violated Federal Law 28 us 2243 that says when we filed our Writ, it should have issued, but she failed to do so. "