"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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On saddle-stitch, perfect binding and access to court - the U.S. Supreme Court serving the rich, as demonstrated by its rules for petitions of certiorari

If you don't think that book-binding techniques, such as "saddle-stitch" and "perfect binding", have anything to do with indentured servitude, think again.

Here are the rules of the U.S. Supreme Court for the requirements as to petitions for the writs of certiorari - remember, those petitions are preliminary petitions asking (actually, begging) the Highest Court to take the case for their review.

The High Court has an absolute discretion not to take the case - of course, no court in the United States can have an absolute discretion, but, since there is no higher court to review the Highest Court's rejection of a certiorari petition for abuse of discretion, the Highest Court does have that absolute discretion.

Also, let's keep in prospective that access to court is a fundamental federal constitutional right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment, which cannot be unreasonably restricted.

Now, do the Highest Courts' certiorari rules violate the 1st Amendment access to court requirement?

In my opinion, they most certainly do.

I am not the first person writing about the crazy process required by the U.S. Supreme Court for exercising people's constitutional right to petition the government, that same court.

The prior criticism pointed out the unnecessary, unreasonable - and huge - burden imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court rules of formatting.

I encourage my readers to read the U.S. Supreme Court rule in full and try to imagine following it - and as to why such rules would be even introduced.

The rules require that:
  • certain paper needs to be used:
    • white, but not glossy, 
    • of 60 pound weight - that is thicker than the normal printing paper (why - nobody knows)
    • printed with a laser-printer quality or higher;
  • certain margins,
  • certain binding -  
    • saddle-stitch binding or
    • perfect binding
  • printing should be on both sides of the pages.

The rules do not mention it, but, after doing some research, I also learned that there are two more aspects of the margins, the so-called "creep" and "bleed" that will have to be taken into account on top of the required margins, because of the binding requirement.

Saddle-stitch binding requires special equipment - a long-armed stapler, and for the petition to be able to be stitched through, which is not realistic for a 40-page document required to be printed on 60-pound (thick) paper.

Such staplers can be less expensive (but that one will not pierce a 40-page document) or very expensive.

This is what perfect book binding is - and a machine that is doing it.  Quickly.

2) Moreover, the Highest Court's rules require that all records in the Appendix (that is, the court decisions, any transcripts, any pleadings you include for the U.S. Supreme Court review) - must be also reformatted and "typeset" into the same format as required for the petition.

The rules warn you that failure to adhere to the above will result in rejection of the petition.

What does your ability to present 40 copies of perfectly bound, reformatted petition on 60-pound non-glossy paper, with a reformatted typeset records in the Appendix, has to do with your right of access to court to argue constitutional violations, nobody knows.

Translation into plain English.

You have a court order you are appealing, it is set in certain fonts, with certain margins.

Like my order of discipline, for example: here and here.

I cannot simply include a copy of those decisions into the Appendix.  I have to re-format those decisions to have a "Century" font, with the margins, "creep" and "bleed" requirements.

There are also decisions from the 3rd Department in another font.

And decisions from Delaware County courts (Family and Supreme), also in a non-Century font, and not satisfying the U.S. Supreme Court margin-creep-bleed requirements.

And there are transcripts.

And there are pleadings.

All of them in non-Century fonts.

I now have to re-format ALL of those documents into a "Century font", with creep and bleed requirements.

Since I only have some of those documents in paper copies or scanned copies (but not in Word-processing files), I will have to re-type or copy-paste (sometimes it is not possible with scanned documents) large amounts of documents, spending hundreds of hours of my time on something that has absolutely no relevance to the merits of the case.

Of course, I can hire somebody else to do that job for me.

And, there are a lot of businesses that offer such services.

I called a couple.

One such business offered me a quote of $1280 for a 60-page petition plus Appendix bundle, and that does not come close to including transcripts and pleadings which are voluminous and which may be required for the court's review.

The other business pressured me to reveal the nature of my case, I asked if the quote is connected with the nature of my case, the person said no, but quoted to me around $2,800 for the same job as the first business quoted $1280.

That is in addition to the $300 filing fee.

While I am stripped of my ability to earn a livelihood, I also own property and cars - together with my husband - and am thus not eligible for a poor person status forgiving the fees (but not the printing requirement).

Why such particular rules that are difficult to even read, much less follow - in our day and age of the Internet, where all federal courts are practicing electronic filing (for attorneys at least), so electronic filing is technically available, widely used, eliminates the waste of paper and saves efforts and money?

Just scan it and file it, right?

Why not?

Try complying with all of the above rules of the U.S. Supreme Court at the same time without professional help of a printer/typesetter specializing in doing just that (a printing company likely connected to the court).

If you do not comply - the court will reject your filing.

Well, at least that is an honest self-description - an "anonymous coward" it is.

"Otherwise you'd have every crackpot with a gripe inundating the court".

Now, "every crackpot with a gripe" must previously jump through the hoops of the entire appellate process in state or federal court, because the Highest Court is the appellate court of last resort.

And, it is an admission that the rules are created deliberately as a way to discourage people from filing an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In other words, the 9 elderly judges control their docket this way.  The judges' desire to give themselves and their personnel less work has nothing to do with people's constitutional access to court.

Here is another "caseload control" argument: the rules are created so that "trolls like [XYZ] cannot exploit the system with fake legal documentation".  But, a requirement to reformat REAL legal documentation does not control filing of FAKE legal documentation, and treating, before review, all litigants as potential "trolls" or pests demonstrates an attitude of judges of the Highest Court incompatible with fitness for such an office - or for any public office.

Let's go further with the comments.

That's a hint that the Highest Court is giving business this way for those selling paper for laser printers along with binding kits.

While the rules certainly boost such businesses, boosting such businesses is not the court's job, in fact, if the court is doing that, and such businesses have connections with the court, then the court is involved in corruption and high treason, impeachable offenses.

Let's go further with the comments.

$1,800 to $1,900 to print a brief - which, by court rules, cannot exceed 40 pages, if everything is supplied in "ready to go" format.  Beautiful.  Nearly $2,000 to print 40 pages that are ready to be filed, if scanning-and-e-filing or filing in an "as-is" paper format is allowed (like other federal courts do).

And, they gave a discount of $500, that is 27% (one third) off the cost.  

Whyever would they give such a huge discount?  

Because the cost of such "typesetting" and printing is $300 max (I checked with printing companies not specialized on preparing certioraries for the U.S. Supreme Court, simply by giving them specifications).  

Look at the explanation  (offered by an anonymous commentator)  as to why rules are necessary:

First of all, of course, anybody criticizing the government is an idiot - no doubt about that.  So, a little brown-nosing always helps.

Then, the pitch is that the requirement for "just-so" margins helps the court review cases quicker and make decisions quicker.

Laudable purpose, no doubt about that.

Yet, why other courts do not require the same, for the same purposes?

And where is the evidentiary proof that re-formatting a transcript, a court decision, a pleading from Times New Roman, or a Calibri, or any other printed font, into a "Century" font promotes speed of making court decisions to such a point that it justifies burdening a fundamental constitutional right of access to court with thousands of dollars of fees, pounds of wasted paper and hundreds of hours of wasted effort by the litigant?

Where in majority of the Highest Court decisions, the litigant will receive two words from the court, for all of the litigant's efforts - "Certiorari denied".  No explanation.

Moreover, the argument that such requirements defies pure logic.

Imagine how much time is supposed to be and is actually spent on seeing whether the color of the cover is right, whether the pound weight of the paper is right, whether the gloss is there or not, whether the margins are correct, whether the binding is correct - things that have NOTHING to do with the contents and merits of the petition, but that preclude possibly good, brilliant ideas that could save this country, protect people's rights and boost social progress of this country and its democracy - from every being reviewed and seeing the light of day!

Apparently, not all commentators shared the brown-nosing frenzy of "Wally".

Where "Wally" gladly found rationality in crazy court rules just because the Highest Court issued them, and the Highest Court cannot possibly be crazy, some people called a spade a spade.

This comment just calls "crazy" as "crazy".

This one diagnoses "crazy" further - as an "extreme case of OCD".  OCD is obsessive-compulsive disorder, a mental illness according to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental illnesses.

Looks like an "extreme case of OCD" to me, too.

On the other hand, if all judges of the Highest Court have OCD and that interferes with their duties to the point of unreasonably burdening people's constitutional rights - removal of all of them is in order.

There was an interesting comment - while calling the discussion of how a paper format may lead to easier decision-making crazy, which it certainly is, the commentator shrugged off the importance of the discussion and claimed that it is simply some "epic trolling".

Well, I see the Supreme Court rules as "epic trolling" - of the American public, because those admittedly crazy rules serve as a barrier for majority of people from even thinking of filing a petition for a writ of certiorari to the court.

The statistics of rejection of such petitions coupled with the imposed cost of crazy reformatting, printing and "just-so" "saddle-stitch" or "perfect" binding puts off the majority who cannot afford such an exercise, even with high stakes, but with extremely low chances of success (unless, of course, you paid for a hunting trip with a Highest Court judge).

Some people are simply asking, and this comment is from the commentator who pointed out initially that the rules are a caseload control measure - asked how one format will help read and decide a case better over another format?

By the way, this particular argument is funny-but-not-so-funny in the era of "zoom in"/"zoom out"  ("pinch and enlarge") features of computers and tablets.

WHY ask to submit everything on paper when the court can satisfy the readability requirement by e-filing BETTER - where an e-filed document is (1) word-searchable, (2) better than laser printing quality and (3) with the text enlargeable to the point of comfort of each particular reader.

And that is without any re-formatting.

There is a comment saying precisely that, 3 years ago:

A lawyer for the consumer group "Public Citizen", Paul Alan Levy,  pitched into the discussion, acknowledged that the rules led to reducing the caseload of the U.S. Supreme Court, acknowledged that the rules make it difficult to comply to even professional printing company that is not "specialized" on Supreme Court briefings.

The comment of "public advocacy" attorney Paul Alan Levy was business advertising, without saying so.   Without disclosing that he works for "Public Citizen", made a comment that "Public Citizen" will charge you less for printing your "cert" brief:

And, attorney Levy finally justifies the imposed cost as being a "drop in the bucket" as compared with attorney fees.

But, attorney fees are not an issue when people are representing themselves, and the "drop in the bucket" argument does not make unconstitutional rules imposing unreasonable huge financial burden on access to court constitutional.

As to my allegation that the Highest Court may have a conflict of interest and connection with brief-printing companies, everything is possible, considering how the Highest Court is handling its own conflict of interest - from Justice Scalia's to Justice Breyer's.

For example, how could it happen that justice Stephen Breyer's son had a contract for broadcasting court proceedings in his father's court?

How could it happen that Justice Breyer published a book, "The Court and the World", likely based on travel experiences of his law clerk or clerks whose "all expenses paid" trips to England were financed by powerful secret attorney-funded organizations?   

By the way, I've been trolled on this blog after I criticized Justice Breyer for publishing and advertising that book, and I was trolled on this blog, over 2.5 years of its existence, only twice.

The second time was when I reported a house fire of a governmental critic when the local government refused to extinguish the fire, refused to investigate it and instead tried to blame the victims - and they still do.

I was then trolled by an anonymous male attorney (judge?) who refused to reveal his name, refused to come out in a streamed video-conference with me on the issues that he claimed I got wrong about Justice Breyer, and instead told me to stop my non-sense arguments and go do something else.

After the first trolling did not help stop my criticism of Justice Breyer, by the way, I was quickly suspended from the practice of law (within less than 2 months since I published my criticizing blogs), so I do not really know whether it is worth it to go to the U.S. Supreme Court with a petition for a writ of certiorari.

Who am I asking for relief?

Amazingly, among the usual bickering in comments about U.S. Supreme Court rules that reduced comments down the road to a regular brawl, an access to court argument was made by one of the commentators:

And a technological argument was made, too:

When I was in law school, upper classmen from the Law Review team taught a citation workshop.

I still remember an all-A student boasting that he pinpointed and corrected a comma formatted in italics where it should have been straight.

He was actually proud of it.

I also recall a federal court sending back an appellate paper filing because a comma was not present where the court wanted it on the front page, and the court demanded to re-file not just that page, but all 6 copies of the entire brief.

That's a triumph of form over substance, common sense and constitutional rights of access to court.

That this triumph of caseload-control-through-money that a litigant can or cannot afford to pay for the crazy and unnecessary rules burdening access to court, is supported, condoned and in fact demanded by the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court of the country dealing with federal constitutional rights of Americans, should be a point of action of the U.S. Congress.

Of course, rich individuals and businesses will have no problem paying several thousand dollars for complying with those rules.

The problem will be visited only upon those who cannot afford the cost.

That is the purpose of the rules, and that is a big problem.

We, the citizens of the United States, should demand the U.S. Congress to remove from all courts the control of their caseload through rules burdening access to court for ordinary people by imposing extra burdens and costs upon litigants and by thus reserving their service to predominantly the rich.

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