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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

September, 2004

"Vultures Should Eat His Body!"
By Jim Scanlon

 

Could This Happen In Marin?                                                                                                                                     
   The NY Times  of August 19, 2004 reported on an interesting case of "cronyism" and judicial corruption (In Prosecution's Tapes, Judge Takes Money and Coaches Lawyer on Divorce Case.").
   Revealing video tapes were played in the trial of the judges former clerk and a court officer on trial for taking bribes to steer a favored lawyers  divorce clients to the judge. The judge's trial will take place later this year.
   The tapes contain much profanity and ethnic slurs and show, according to the reporter "... a culture that appears, at best, indifferent to conflict of interest..." The judge tells the informer lawyer that he will award the lawyer's client the rights to a house and uses an expletive to describe how the decision will affect the client's estranged wife. He tells the lawyer exactly what language to use in a memo to him (the judge) and urges him to charge his client extra for the memo.
   Little did the judge know that at some point in their relationship the lawyer began cooperating with criminal investigators. The judge has been charged with accepting cigars, cash and many meals from the lawyer. He is shown in the video pocketing $1000 in cash.
   The Times contacted the ex-wife of the man whose lawyer fixed the divorce case, the mother of his five children. She said she had a feeling during the hearing that the case was fixed.  She is quoted: "Is he a judge? What is he? How is he deciding the fates of people and families, ruining houses and families and children. They should put him in Alcatraz.  And when he dies, vultures should eat his body."
   The woman seems to be saying that the judge is not fit to live in human society and not deserving of the loving grief afforded to the honored dead.

He Stole From A Mentally Retarded Woman's Trust Fund
   An appellate court judge in Minnesota plead guilty to stealing $300,000.00 from a mentally retarded woman whose trust fund he administered. He bought sculptures and marble floors for his home.  His lawyers said he was suffering from depression. Sentencing guidelines call for from 43 to 47 months in prison.

"She Didn't Feel She Was Conflicted"
   The NY Post reported on a Columbia University professor who sued the largest and most profitable law firm in Manhattan  for excessive billing stating he had been charged $170,000.00 for work that had never been done. A federal judge in Manhattan ruled in the professor's favor but the law firm that didn't, apparently, do the work, re-filed the case in Manhattan Superior Court  where, over the protests of the professor, the case was assigned to a judge who was a friend of two of the senior lawyers of the firm being sued. The judge was also co- president of a charity that holds monthly meetings in the offices of the law firm.
   The judge promptly awarded the law firm $800,000.00 plus interest in a summary judgment. She was asked to remove herself from the case but she refused  because she didn't feel she was conflicted.
   It seems safe to say that many, if not most, criminals don't feel conflicted when they steal. Many, no doubt, don't feel anything at all.

Did Justice Prevail After all?
   Last year the Washington Supreme Court suspended a lawyer for six months for exposing a corrupt judge. The court said it acted because of the lawyer's "...willful, unnecessary and repeated violation of his ethical duty not to betray his client's (the corrupt judge's) trust."
   It sounds pretty bad, but wait! The case grew out of information the lawyer received in 1992, from a client who told him the judge was going to engage in improper conduct as the trustee of a dead man's estate. The lawyer's client bought a bowling alley from the dead man's estate at a  below market price and gave the judge a Cadillac. In 1999 the lawyer's disclosure of the deal resulted in the judge's being removed from office
   But it gets worse. The lawyer did not report the judge's misconduct until three years after it happened, after the judge sanctioned the lawyer for bringing a frivolous law suit.
   But there's a happy ending. They are both back practicing law again.

 

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