"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).

“This 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, dissenting.

" I do not believe that the practice of law is a "privilege" which empowers Government to deny lawyers their constitutional rights. The mere fact that a lawyer has important responsibilities in society does not require or even permit the State to deprive him of those protections of freedom set out in the Bill of Rights for the precise purpose of insuring the independence of the individual against the Government and those acting for the Government”. Lathrop v Donohue, 367 US 820 (1961), Justice Black, dissenting.

"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.

“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.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Are we behind Putin in preserving evidence of court proceedings?

In Russia, a bill was just introduced which would require to videotape all court and even arbitration proceedings.

In New York, videotaping court proceedings is a crime of misdemeanor punishable with up to a year in jail, Civil Rights Law 52.

I wrote a lot on this blog about the importance of preserving evidence of court proceedings through videotaping, and not to give a "monopoly for the truth" to court reporters who, in fear of their job security will not report, for example, judicial misconduct. 

In fact, as the recent disciplinary case against an attorney in Louisiana shows, a court reporter would go to an extraordinary length to try to block access to an audio file requested by the attorney to verify veracity of the transcript, to the point of filing a lawsuit - while the audio file was cooked during the pendency of the lawsuit to insert a "disclosure" of the judge that was previously missing from the audio - and the transcript.

The judge was ordered recused from the case.

The attorney whistleblower, who exposed likely criminal activity of #JudgePhyllisKeaty, lost her law license for a "year and a day" for "disrupting court proceedings" with allegedly "unwarranted motions to recuse".

Had there been independent video recordings - from multiple sources, both official and unofficial, by members of the public or by litigants themselves - no such thing would have happened.  Judge Keaty would have been YouTube'd from the bench immediately. 

A video recording can make a difference when a judge tries to misrepresent the record - as a Russian judge tried to do, I described it here.  The Russian judge did not know he was secretly recorded.

The Russian judge was been suspended from the bench, and the attorney who he ordered bodily carried out of the courtroom, and then complained about that attorney for "wilfully abandoning the case", is now a hero.

In Louisiana, on the opposite, the judge whose "disclosure" was criminally inserted into a court audiofile, #JudgePhyllisKeaty, was promoted to an appellate court, and the whistleblower attorney #ChristineMire who exposed Judge Keaty's misconduct, lost her license.

What a difference several videotapes of proceedings in front of Judge Keaty (and other such judges) could have made.

And - are we going to be behind Russia, Russia, a country that is being blamed for all kinds of human rights violations under its current president - on the issue of transparency of court proceedings?

Are judicial lobbies opposing videotaping because, with a possibility of being YouTubed at any time, judges would not be able to act as rude and vulgar petty tyrants, as they do now?

I bet, the bench would not be that popular then - where there will be an occupational hazard of a possibility of daily exposure of judges' tantrums, tantrums of people with expensive and privileged education and a life of privilege before coming to the bench.

But, as of now, it isn't Russia, so do not hope for transparency of court proceedings...


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