Saturday, June 20, 2009

Monday: L A County Supervisors to Give Judges $Millions More Illegal Payments?

County Budget Approval Process Revealed

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:

......"For the purposes of Government Code Section 29125, Trial Court Operations shall constitute a single budget unit within the General Fund, with separate cost centers maintained for individual court Districts and Central Court Operations. Authorize the Chief Executive Officer and the Auditor-Controller to make appropriation adjustments between the above mentioned cost centers within the Trial Court Operations budget unit “without any monetary limitation”.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

In a telephone interview from his L.A. County Central Men's Jail cell, disbarred attorney Richard I Fine told Full Disclosure " the county benefit payments to the Judges are nothing more than a pretext to influence the judges to decide cases in favor of the County." Fine, has been in jail for over 110 days for contempt of court following his attempt to disqualify Judge David Yaffe from sitting on a case that involved L. A. County, an interested party in the case.

In reference to his Motion To Set Aside the Disbarment Judgment and the Writ of Habeas Corpus (for immediate release) Mr. Fine reports that "neither the California State Bar, Judge Yaffe or the Superior Court filed opposition to the argument there has been denial to due process by sitting on cases involving the county, when they have received money from L.A. County. CV-09-1914 CW-JFW and CV 08-2906 JFW(CW).

Both Mr. Fine and Sterling Norris of Judicial Watch maintain that the County payments to the Judges are "unearned" payments, contending the Judges do not have a contract to perform services with the County of Los Angeles, yet they have been paid. According to Fine, the judicial payments are in violation of Federal Mail Fraud Law, 18 USC 1341, 1343, 1346 covering the intangible right to receive honest services.

Article 6 Section 19 and 20 of the California Constitution states that the Legislature shall set the compensation and retirement benefits for the judges. Mr. Richard I Fine told Full Disclosure he is waiting to see if the County is going to authorize the Chief Executive Officer and the Controller to set the compensation for Judicial Benefits in Los Angeles County.

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. "


  1. To allow this to continue is unbelieveable. Do the Supes not get it? Did they not understand the message in Sturgeon? They have undermined the credibility of our courts and then attempted to defend these actions by putting their boys up. A plaintiff with a solid civil case against the County has to question the impartiality of these judges until such time that this issue is remedied. Hopefully the courts will get it right, the legislature didn't.

  2. george1la,

    This case shows how far down the path we have dropped. We are now no better than a "BANANA REPUBLIC". How can their be any credability in our Superior Court system with this kind of action taking place?

    Richard Fine is a hero. Only those type of people put themselves on the line for important issues. He could be living the high life, but, instead he has chosen solitary confinement in jail for the integrity of the law.

    How many of you would do this?

    Right now there is not a "rule of law". Does anyone believe that it is credable for no one to win a case against the County of Los Angeles in the last 3 years in Superior Court, and the courts are unbiased? It's impossible on the face of it!!

    I thank Full Disclosure for their brave publication of these events and making the public aware, worldwide, of how bad things are here.

    We will never get out of this mess we are now in unless this kind of activity is stopped and those who perpetrated it pay the consequences.

    After all, we put people in jail for minor infractions, how about something such as this?

  3. This is out of control, as this could have been handled differently.

    What I see happening is that many elected officials are being exposed as to whom they really are.

    It appears to me that those few people that questioned these illigal payments prior to SBX2-11 should have some standing, in the same manner that the 18,000 married gay coupled received standing because they married prior to the passage of Prop 8.

    It appears to be no rules of law, everything is arbitrary and very dangerous because is shows that once those in power are caught, they can simply have an emergency bill written granting immunity.

    Mr. Fine should have been out long ago, as he did in fact question these payments prior to the passage of SBX2-11.

    I can't wait to see the day that we the people begin to recieve fair and honest services, as this is conpletely out of control!!

  4. terri lynn daySunday, June 21, 2009

    ....will force some judges to leave the Superior Court ???

    One can only hope.

    Maybe teachers who have lost their jobs can get into this.
    Give teachers the boot, shut down children's programs, close hospitals, and give the money to the judges instead.

  5. terri lynn daySunday, June 21, 2009

    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.

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

    47% of voters rated the job being done by state courts and judges in their state as poor.

    94% of judges believe that state courts and judges in their state do a good job.

    76% of voters believe that contributions made to judges influence judicial decisions.

    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.

    Public Trust and Confidence in the Courts: What Public Opinion Surveys Mean to Judges - Court Review, Volume 36, Issue 3 - Fall 1999 • David Rottman, Alan J. Tomkins - Available on-line

  6. terri lynn daySunday, June 21, 2009


    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.

    The “misconduct” listed above sounds a lot like crime, no? For “misconduct,” such as, “executing false salary affidavits” a judge in California GOT A SECRET LETTER!

    Hmmmm… “investigation” by the Commission on Judicial Performance seems more like a cover-up….

  7. How did corruption get a stranglehold on judges? Is it judges “Let Them Eat Cake” attitude? Is it a swilling whirlpool of no accountability? YES!!!

    In McBryde v. Committee to Review Circuit Council Conduct and Disability Orders, (2001)264 F.3d 52 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.

  8. The Sorcerers of Justice

    California Judges Association

    Formed in 1929, the California Judges Association historically took the lead role in speaking for the state’s trial judges and, to a large extent, the courts as an institution.

    The California Judges Association is a voluntary association of California judges that works with the state Legislature, the Judicial Council and the State Bar to represent the interests of judges.

    The California Judges Association, a voluntary professional organization for judges of the state courts, conducts workshops for judges and reviews and sponsors legislation effecting the courts.

    CJA drafted the judicial rules of ethics.

    Virtually every judge in the state belongs, and they treasure their democratic structure. Members from constituencies such as the big trial courts, the small ones, and the appeals courts elect the policymaking board, and the board elects the president.

    Although it lacks the constitutional status afforded the state Judicial Council, for years CJA was where the action was for courts and judges.

    That changed gradually over the years, and drastically in the late 1990s.

    A series of sweeping court reforms—shifting funding responsibility from counties to the state, eliminating municipal courts, and making courthouses state instead of county property—put the Judicial Council clearly in the lead on court issues.

    “I think there is anxiety on the part of some members of CJA as to where we stand,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory O’Brien, a journalist, a former candidate for the county Board of Supervisors, and a longtime Superior Court judge, says. “As to the definition of our role, I think some of our members feel that there has been an encroachment. But I think there’s an opportunity for a strong strategic partnership between CJA and the Judicial Council on most issues.”

    “The Judicial Council is an appointed body,” O’Brien stresses, with most members selected by the chief justice.

    “CJA really is a grassroots organization,” he explains. “Unlike the Judicial Council, our members are not asked to have statewide perspective. We are mindful of the needs and sensitivities of our constituents” (read: judges).
    Mike Belote the association’s executive director is also a lobbyist for the California Defense Counsel and California Advocates ( California Judges Association, 88 Kearny Street, Suite 1850, San Francisco, California 94108-5523, 415-263-4600, FAX: 415-263-4605.

    Following the passage of Proposition 190 in the November 1994 election, the formulation of the principles of ethical conduct for judges, formerly the responsibility of the association, rests with the Supreme Court. Those are contained in the Code of Judicial Conduct (Cal. Rules of Court, Appendix).

  9. Judges should not make law, and an informed public must not allow the judiciary to lobby the legislature and use its significant influence to provoke public policy. To do so violates the very core of well-thought and long-established constitutional provisions regulating the separation of powers. The legislature is charged with the duty of enacting laws, the judiciary with enforcing laws enacted by the legislature for the benefit of the people. The express purpose of having created three distinct branches of government is for each branch to keep the other two in check.

    Here’s why: Judge-protection-laws have prevented prosecutors and grand juries from investigating judicial misconduct because, they say, only the Commission has authority to review a judge’s conduct. This is simply not so. The Commission is only authorized to review judge’s ethical violations, not criminal violations of the law. And the fact that the Commission has a POLICY that allows criminal violations of the law committed by judicial officers to be secreted and not reported when they become known would cause a reasonable person to conclude that the Commission is improperly concerned with cover-ups instead of protecting the public from insubordinate judges.

    "Commission Rules: Rule 102 Confidentiality and Disclosure
    (g) (Disclosure of information to prosecuting authorities) The commission may release to prosecuting authorities at any time information which reveals possible criminal conduct by the judge or former judge or by any other individual or entity.
    "Policy Declaration: 4.2 Disclosure of Information to Prosecuting Authorities
    When, in the course of evaluating complaints or conducting investigations, commission staff acquires information revealing possible criminal conduct by a judge, former judge or by any other individual or entity, such information shall be brought to the attention of the commission at the earliest possible opportunity for consideration of a referral of the information to prosecuting authorities. Such a referral requires a vote of a majority of the commission members." (Emphasis added.)

    So, if “virtually every judge in the state belongs” to the judges lobby is the Commission on Judicial Performance a public review board or a protection racket? The failure of the Commission to promote the proper administration of justice, by focusing its efforts instead on ignoring, excusing, concealing and improperly labeling judicial crimes “misconduct,” has confounded grand juries, law enforcement and government officials, who are authorized 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 the Commission can make that determination. This attitude is contrary to settled California law and Commission rules, yet has allowed judges to attack the very core of public safety through unchecked and unauthorized tampering with public policy in cases that come before the court. The abandonment of its intended duty to protect the public from errant judicial officers--allowing judges who put their personal policy objectives above the laws of the State of California because they can get away with it without risk to their position on the public payroll--is evidence of what little regard the Commission has for the safety, protection, rights and public funds of California citizens.

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

  10. terri lynn daySunday, June 21, 2009


  11. Grab the pitchforks, and the torches, we cant rely on our government to fix this train wreck. This racketeering scam goes all the way to the governors desk, through the legislature of course. Yep, a couple of dsys before approving the state budget, they slipped in "immunity for all judges that took illegal payments, retro active 20 years, and they still get the money, and rule for the county in 99% of the cases before them. So, if you expect a fair trial in LA, forget it. The "judicial mafia" is spreading to a state near you.

  12. In CA the CJA-California Judges Association lobbied against laws that protect kids from living w/child molestors. (SB33)