"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, July 26, 2017

Russia's judges can take a master class from American judges in how to be corrupt more subtly - and how to quash dissent against such corruption more effectively. The case of Judge Khakhaleva and attorney Zhorin

An attorney reported on his Instagram account that a judge had a lavish wedding reception for her daughter's wedding, which experts estimated to have cost around 2 mln dollars.

The post went viral.

The backlash came, of course - not against the judge, but against an attorney.

You would think it is happening in America - as it usually does.

But no, it is happening in Russia.

Yet, same as in America, of course, the attorney is wrong and the judge is right.

And, of course, the judge submitted contracts for services at the wedding reception that did not amount to even close to what a reception with live performance by top pop-stars could cost, and the public is supposed to believe that bullshit, because the investigators did.

And, of course, those singers who were filmed (and the video posted) performing at the wedding, performed there for free, or for a song.

And, of course, since attorney Zhorin specializes on representing stars of Russian show business, and since his information may have come from sources with first-hand information, the pop stars who performed (or were underpaid, or were not invited) to the reception, his post should be considered totally unbelievable.

And, of course, when Zhorin claimed he made his exposing publications based on a reliable source, that should be totally disregarded.

Now, in a classic spinoff of what usually happens to American lawyers exposing a judge for what appears to be evidence of corruption, the heat is not on the judge - who claimed that it was her ex-husband businessman who paid for the wedding, 1 mln roubles, which is an equivalent roughly of $17,000, and not $2 mln, which was attorney Zhorin's assessment, based on the video, the caliber of performers at the wedding, his knowledge of such pop stars' usual fees, and a tip from a reliable source.

Of course, it is clear that such a star as Nikolay Baskov will not look in the direction of the Krasnodar region (where the wedding was held) for the claimed amount covering the entire wedding, yet he was filmed making speeches at the wedding while embraced with the judge:

Of course, it is possible that Nikolay Baskov is merely a personal friend of the judge who flew from Moscow to the provincial Krasnodar region to perform at her wedding for free, as friends do.

Same as the other pop stars:

Valeriy Meladze
Vera Brezhneva and
Joseph Kobson - who, by the way, was, reportedly, repeatedly denied US visas since 1994.

Of course, one of the unnamed guests at the wedding denied participation of these stars, and denied that Nikolay Baskov was acting as host at the wedding - so, what you see in the video of the wedding and the screenshot about is just a collective visual illusion to be disregarded.

And, of course, Joseph Kobzon, when asked about his participation in the wedding, preferred to feint indignation about the "invasion of privacy" on behalf of the judge, while the local press published, and quickly deleted an article about the judge's wedding.

And, of course, the judge and her guests were not served caviar or crabs at the wedding, as the unnamed guests assures. 

And, of course, the cost of a wedding involving live performances of top Russian pop stars was assessed not just by attorney Zhorin, but by experts of such fees, judging by the video of the wedding that surfaced on the Internet, and is still available on YouTube.

So, who is to blame for the scandal and backlash in social media that ensued?

Of course, attorney Zhorin, who "fouled his own nest" by exposing the wedding that had to cost, by conservative assessment, about 2 mln DOLLARS, while the judge's income by the tax declaration for the last year was around 2 mln ROUBLES (around $34,000).

How could he ... do what?

Post the video in his Instagram account?

Say that it is a feast in time of plague?

Say the truth?

How could he?

And, of course, the court where this "royal judge" sits, was known for a story where a large brick multi-story building was captured under the guise of a "legitimate transaction" where the unwilling seller ended up in jail "for fraud", and the very willing buyers sued claiming that the 10 000 roubles ($166) that they have transferred to the bank account of the unwilling seller constituted just and proper consideration for the building.

And, of course, the public would have a reason to worry about such a lavish wedding of a judge's daughter if a judge:

  • sits on a court handling land issues;
  • sits on a court handling land issues in Krasnodar region;
  • sits on a court handling land issues in Krasnodar region where Sochi is located (remember the Sochi Olympics?);
  • sits on a court handling land issues in Krasnodar region while it was reported that land was unfairly expropriated, through the court system including, so that the right land lands in the hands of the "right people" who would benefit from the Olympics, and from the tourist industry afterwards.
And, of course, nobody ever wrote about state corruption in the Sochi Olympics, right?  Like, Vanity Fair, for example, didn't?

And nobody tried to mention that this judge's (allegedly) former husband wins all cases in court?  Which, of course, can be attributed only to the merits of his cases and the quality of his legal representation and to nothing else?

And nobody wrote quite recently about the judge's former longtime assistant presiding over the case of the judge's husband and ruling in favor of what the press characterized as illegal asset-grabbing - grabbing 33 land plots with houses already built on them, at the expense of a landowner who legally purchased the property?

And, that assistant to Judge Khakhaleva, the happy mother of the bride,  (a.k.a. The Tsarine of the Krasnodar Regional Court) did not:

And judge Khakhaleva's husband is a truly former husband, and the press never wrote about the yacht and the personal plane that the couple uses to fly to - gasp! - Sochi.

So, as to the wedding.  Why was it not reported in June of 2017 when it happened?

Good, but rhetorical question.

Appears that some insider got pissed and leaked the video to attorney Zhorin.

For some reason, attorney Zhorin thought that he is powerful enough to not be afraid to poke the dragon in the eye with a stick and exposed the judge.

And THAT is the whole problem.

Not the corruption, but exposure.

So, in an ancient move - kill the messenger - the attack now against attorney Zhorin, to have the "independent" Chamber of Advocates, the "self-regulating organization" of Russian attorneys, discipline him for allegedly spreading false information about a judge.

Don't American lawyers disciplined, suspended and disbarred for the very same thing, identify with attorney Zhorin's plight.

Of course, judges in America act in more subtle ways than judges in Russia.

For example,

And, American judges are regulating those who are investigating them - with the result that 99% of complaints against judges are dismissed without investigation.

And, American judges are regulating the legal profession, unlike Russia where judges still do not control the legal profession and there is no monopoly for legal representation in court.

So, theoretically, even if the federal Chamber of Advocates expels attorney Zhorin, he can still practice law and earn a living.

Not so in the United States.

If an attorney here criticizes a corrupt judge and his/her license is yanked for that - which regularly happens - the attorney will be foreclosed from not only the practice of law, but, in many states, even from jobs that do no require a law license from anybody but the suspended or disbarred attorney, such as law assistances, paralegals, legal secretaries etc.

And, such an attorney will not be able to work in any other professions requiring some kind of government approval (certification, registration, licensing) - while the percentage of such professions is, by conservative estimates of the White House in 2015 was close to 40% of the labor market, and, judging by job descriptions in job announcements in the U.S., is much higher.

Russian judges still have a lot to learn about:

  • the subtlety of corruption; and
  • about the means of quashing the public dissent - through regulating the legal profession, nipping the most knowledgeable and vocal critics of judges in the bud, and depriving the public of independent legal representation
And, they have great teachers.

Because, if there was attorney monopoly in Russia, attorney Zhorin would never even opened his mouth to do what he did.

And everything would have been hunky-dory.

Why don't people learn from the best, even when it's offered on a silver platter?

Just don't blunder like this

and control those who can leak the most about you and who can be the most knowledgeable and creditable experts against you - attorneys.

Or, arrange for rules and behind-the-scenes organizations, like American Inns of Court in the U.S., where judges can comfortably meet with legal elite behind closed doors, at attorneys' expense, and discuss deals not like the Judge Khakhaleva's assistant did for Judge Khakhaleva's husband's asset-grabbing case (read above) - through ex parte "consultations" during breaks in a court hearing - but without the parties even knowing that it takes place.

Just be more subtle in your corruption and quash your critics more effectively - and you'll be fine.

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