"If the judges interpret the laws themselves, and suffer none else to interpret, they may easily make, of the laws, [a shredded] shipman's hose!" - King James I of England, around 1616.
“No class of the community ought to be allowed freer scope in the expression or publication of opinions as to the capacity, impartiality or integrity of judges than members of the bar. They have the best opportunities of observing and forming a correct judgment. They are in constant attendance on the courts. Hundreds of those who are called on to vote never enter a court-house, or if they do, it is only at intervals as jurors, witnesses or parties. To say that an attorney can only act or speak on this subject under liability to be called to account and to be deprived of his profession and livelihood by the very judge or judges whom he may consider it his duty to attack and expose, is a position too monstrous to be entertained for a moment under our present system,” Justice Sharwood in Ex Parte Steinman and Hensel, 95 Pa 220, 238-39 (1880).
case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of not
affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for admission.
For this record shows that [the rejected attorney candidate] has many of the
qualities that are needed in the American Bar. It shows not only that [the
rejected attorney candidate] has followed a high moral, ethical and patriotic
course in all of the activities of his life, but also that he combines
these more common virtues with the uncommon virtue of courage to stand by his
principles at any cost.
It is such men as these who have most greatly honored the profession of the
law. The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and its glory if it is
not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become a
group of thoroughly orthodox, time-serving, government-fearing individuals is to
humiliate and degrade it.” In
Re Anastaplo, 18 Ill. 2d 182, 163 N.E.2d 429
(1959), cert. granted, 362 U.S. 968 (1960), affirmed over strong
dissent, 366 U.S. 82 (1961), Justice Black, Chief Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan,
“Because the law requires that judges no matter how corrupt, who do not act in the clear absence of jurisdiction while performing a judicial act, are immune from suit, former Judge Ciavarella will escape liability for the vast majority of his conduct in this action. This is, to be sure, against the popular will, but it is the very oath which he is alleged to have so indecently, cavalierly, baselessly and willfully violated for personal gain that requires this Court to find him immune from suit”, District Judge A. Richard Caputo in H.T., et al, v. Ciavarella, Jr, et al, Case No. 3:09-cv-00286-ARC in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Document 336, page 18, November 20, 2009. This is about judges who were sentencing kids to juvenile detention for kickbacks.
"The legal profession must take great care not to emulate the many occupational groups that have managed to convert licensure from a sharp weapon of public defense into blunt instrument of self-enrichment". Walter Gellhorn, "The Abuse of Occupational Licensing", University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 44 Issue 1, September of 1976.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
A DA with a toy electric chair
We know how it works generally - prosecutors are drumming up convictions no matter what is the law or the record, and are unflinchingly offering false evidence, feeling fully protected to do that by the judge-created concept of absolute prosecutorial immunity.
But, usually prosecutors at least keep the front of pretending that they are doing their dual duties/roles and are fair and impartial to the accused.
Not so in a case in Georgia, a state with a death penalty, where a "toy electric chair" was on display in the office of Alcovy Judicial Circuit #DistrictAttorneyLaylaZon.
Here is Layla Zon's official biography on her DA's website.
She is prosecuting death penalty cases.
And in her office she keeps on display a "toy" described as follows:
“Death Row Marv” is a battery-powered toy electric chair that produces an electric buzzing sound with Marv’s eyes glowing red under a helmet attached to electrodes. After his “electrocution,” Marv asks, “That the best you can do, you pansies?”
And because of that toy - a motion to vacate a death penalty was recently filed in court where the defense counsel puts it out like it is - that Layla Zon "is 'pathologically enthralled' with the death penalty and has pursued it with a fervor and zeal unmatched by any other district attorney in the state".
AFTER the motion was brought, DA Layla Zon said that she seeks only death penalty in cases that "warrant" it, that the toy was in her office before she became a DA in 2010 and that she has "recently" removed "the toy".
2010 was 6 years ago.
Layla Zon worked in the DA's office - and obviously saw the "toy" before, too - she joined the DA's office in 2000.
If it was the previous DA's idea to display this "toy", and Layla Zon did not have authority, as a subordinate employee, to remove it, Layla Zon's DUTY was to REPORT it as PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT to disciplinary authorities, to the courts and to the defense counsel in all death penalty cases - which she obviously did not do before 2010.
When Layla Zon became the DA herself - in 2010 - it was her duty to remove the "toy" and give an ethics course to her staff about it - which she did not do either.
And, Layla Zon, when cornered, displayed an astounding casualness about what the "toy" is and represents:
"'It was not something I purchased to decorate my office,' she said. 'It was a left-behind trinket that became part of the woodwork. … I never sat and looked and fixated on it, like it was part of some medieval mindset.'"
So, we need to be grateful that Layla Zon just had an electric chair on display in her office and "never sat and looked and fixated on it".
You know what says that she did fixate on it?
The toy was battery operated.
If anybody saw it operated during the term of Layla Zon - from 2010 to 2016, it is not simply a "trinket left behind", batteries go bad quickly, they need to be replaced.
The toy was obviously a cherished "part of the woodwork".
And, whatever Layla Zon says now that the "toy" is exposed to the media scrutiny and to a motion to vacate a death penalty, the appearance that for the DA death penalty is entertainment requires her removal from that position - together with her subordinates and staff who supported such entertainment.
Predictably, the person condemned to death by a white prosecutor in the Southern State of Georgia, is black.
His name is Rodney Young, and he is poor - otherwise he would have had a private attorney and not the "state capital defender" representing him.
The motion of Rodney Young's public defender also says that Layla Zon turned down Rodney Young's request to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, even though such a rejection of a plea offer resulted in, probably, millions of dollars for state taxpayers for the trial and for the death row appeals that may go on for years.
A conviction on a plea bargain with a life sentence would not have been subject to such appeals.
She was determined - and inspired by the "Death Row Marv" (which is still sold on Amazon, by the way - which would not have happened in any civilized country) - to put Rodney Young on the death row.
Georgia is a death penalty state.
But, the death penalty in the state is administered by a lethal injection.
The lethal injection - and the death penalty itself - are subject to increasing protests and U.S. Supreme Court filings addressing it as a cruel and unusual punishment.
But, whether it is or it isn't a cruel and unusual punishment, the electric chair is not and has not for a while, been used in Georgia for executions.
The motion of Rodney Young said that
" The motion notes that the Georgia Supreme Court in 2001 found that death by electrocution caused excruciating pain with a certainty of “cooked brains and blistered bodies.”
“The idea of any elected state official memorializing such a barbaric (and unconstitutional) practice with an office ornament would be surprising and troubling,” the motion said. “The fact that the elected official at issue here is a constitutional officer entrusted with virtually unfettered discretion in deciding which defendants under her jurisdiction will be singled out for execution, and which will be spared, is cause for real concern.”
Now Layla Zon says she regrets she didn't trash the toy when she came to office.
But - she didn't trash it specifically because that she didn't think it is inappropriate for a prosecutor in a death penalty state to display such a thing in her office.
And that is the problem, whether the "toy" will be now removed or not.
With the "toy" Layla Zon and all members of her staff who supported such entertainment, should be removed, too.