Our American Legal
System "The Best in the World" or a Joke? You
In the last presidential election, I recall Vice
Presidential candidate John Edwards on the campaign trail telling us repeatedly
that "America has the best legal system in the World." He may believe
that, as he is a
personal injury lawyer who has made millions from
it. I also am a lawyer, but what I have experienced and observed leads me
to a very different conclusion. What comes to my mind, is the character
portraying Tammany Hall's "Boss Tweed" in the recent Martin Scorsese film "The
Gangs Of New York," where he stated: "We must always uphold the appearance of
the law. Especially when we are breaking the law."
or clarity, on an issue is hard to determine, hard to find. And then again,
sometimes it smacks you right in the face. Here is a recent example of the
latter, U.S. v. Sassower. On June 28, 2004, the very day America was
turning over sovereignty to the nation of Iraq - to establish the Rule of Law
and democracy there, in our very own Nation's capital, in our very own "legal /
justice system" Elena Sassower, was sentenced to 180-days in the D.C. jail,
for her conviction on one (1) BOGUS charge of "Disrupting Congress," prosecuted
by our Justice Department. All Ms. Sassower did was attempt to
testify at a public U.S. Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing on May 22,
She had paid her own way to Washington, D.C., from New York.
She is the head Coordinator for The Center for Judicial
Accountability. (See www.judgewatch.org
.) She waited politely,
respectfully and silently for over two hours in the back of the room, while the
hearing on nominee Richard Wesley was conducted. Not one meaningful
question was asked of the nominee. The hearing was then gaveled to a
conclusion by the lone senator still there, Saxby Chambliss. (He did not
ask, as has been the practice, if there were any other witnesses for or against
the nominee.) Ms. Sassower then rose, and stated 23-words from a prepared
"Mr. Chairman, there's citizen opposition to Judge Wesley
based on his documented corruption as a New York Court of Appeals
judge. May I testify?"
Ms. Sassower was immediately handcuffed,
arrested, taken to jail, held
incommunicado for 21-hours. She was then
charged, prosecuted and convicted. In preparation for her trial, Ms.
Sassower subpoenaed involved senators and staff for her defense. Senate
counsel moved to quash those subpoenas and stated:
[Sassower] request to testify was never granted, consistent with the Committee's
normal practice on lower court nominations not to hear in person from
non-congressional witnesses other than the nominee."
Despite her 6th
Amendment right to confront witnesses, the trial judge
subpoenas. On June 28, 20004, Ms. Sassower was sentenced to 180-days in the
Elena Sassower served the entire 180-days. The trial was
a sham proceeding in a kangaroo court. Ms. Sassower in fact did no wrong,
caused no harm.
The hearing was over - thus nothing could be disrupted, and
always was to testify against an unfit nominee - not to
disrupt. See www.whiteplainscnr.com
, November 25,
2004 article "Day 151 of the Elena Sassower Incarceration in Washington, D.C."
by John R. Bailey and www.villagevoice.com/news/0505.lombardi,60660,6.html
February 1, 2005 article "The Scourge of Her Conviction - Activist Elena
Sassower Annoyed Congress, Her Trial Judge, and Defenders of Free Speech - All
the Way to Jail" by Kristen Lombardi, which reported that Jonathan Turley, who
teaches Constitutional Law at George Washington University School of Law, found
that the Sassower case was "extraordinary," her punishment was "unprecedented,"
and sets up "a worrisome precedent."
Now compare U.S. v.
Berger. Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger was President Bill Clinton's National
Security Advisor. On September 2, and October 2, 2003, Berger, (then a
"civilian" and a senior foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign), went to
the National Archives to look at documents as the designated representative of
the Clinton administration, before those documents were turned over to the 9/11
Commission. Archive officials immediately suspected Berger had taken
documents after his October 2 visit, and when later confronted, Berger falsely
claimed he had removed documents accidentally in "an honest mistake".
Justice Department began a criminal investigation, which led to
being brought before a grand jury. Later an authorized Berger associate
told reporters that in a chronology Berger gave to the Justice
Berger admitted on his first visit he took a copy of the Clark report and put it
in his suit jacket and on the second visit, took and removed four more versions
of the Clark report.
Byron York, the National Review Whitehouse Correspondent, in his
July 21, 2004 column, "Sandy Berger's Heavy Lifting - The Troubling Details of
the Archives Document Removal", wrote: "The documents Berger took --- each copy
of the millennium report is said to be in the range of 15 to 30 pages --- were
highly secret. They were classified at what is known as the ‘code word'
level, which is the government's highest tier of secrecy. Any person who
is authorized to remove such documents from a special secure room is required to
do so in a locked case that is handcuffed to his or her wrist."
of unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials is a misdemeanor
that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to
$100,000. Clearly Berger committed at least two such violations, maybe
five. There also is at least one charge, maybe three, for destroying
classified documents. On April 1, 2005, Berger told U.S. Magistrate Deborah
Robinson, "Guilty, your honor," in response to how he plead; he also
acknowledged that he intentionally took and deliberately destroyed three copies
of Clark report. On April 1, 2005, in "Sandy Berger Pleads Guilty to Taking
Classified Material," CNN.com reported in part:
"However, under a plea
agreement that Robinson must accept, Berger would serve no jail time but instead
pay a $10,000 fine, surrender the security clearance for three years and
cooperate with investigators. Security clearance allows access to
classified government materials. Sentencing was set for July 8."
April 10, 2005 "Congress May Launch Sandy Berger Probe," NewsMax.com reported in
part: "'Several committees in Congress are interested in looking into the Berger
issue.' Peter King told WWRL Radio host Steve Malzberg and Karen Hunter on
Thursday. The senior New York Republican declined to identify the specific
committees, but said any probe would come before Berger is formally sentenced in
When news of Berger's theft broke last July, the Justice
Department took a much tougher line - with Deputy Attorney General James Comey
suggesting that it made no difference whether the documents Berger had stolen
were originals. ‘It is against the law for anyone to intentionally
mishandle classified information, either by taking it to give to somebody else,
or by mishandling in a way that is outside the regulations of government
information,' Comey told reporters at the time.
‘All felonies in the federal system bring with them the promise
of jail time,' he added. Asked how Berger should be held accountable if
the documents he destroyed contained any original material, Rep. King told
Malzberg, ‘He should go to jail.'"
On April 5, 2005 in "Sandy Berger's
Crime," a Washington Times editorial wrote in part: "Mr. Berger committed
an egregious violation of the rules that govern the handling of sensitive
national-security documents. His offense would cost most any government employee
his job, security clearance and future in government. Quite possibly it would
cost him his freedom.
On top of his crime, Mr. Berger lied about it to federal
investigators. But Mr. Berger won't likely suffer any of the consequences. For
those who suspect that different rules apply at the top, a case like this is
reason for cynicism. Meanwhile, his associates from the Clinton years are
silent, perhaps hoping the scandal will blow over ....
We can only speculate as to why the Department of Justice would
agree to such lenient terms for the offense. .... Whatever the reason, we
can be reasonably sure it wasn't done for reasons of national security, justice
Finally, on April 11, 2005, in "Sandy Berger's Scissors," a
Antiwar.com, Michael Scheuer, wrote in part: "… What Mr.
Berger had previously described as an inadvertent mistake is now, according to
the same gentleman, better described as the deliberate theft and destruction of
classified documents ... In sum, the papers secreted in his shoes,
BVDs, and pockets were not a surprise discovery when he got home and
undressed. No, Mr. Berger now acknowledges that he had hidden them on his
person, apparently with the joys of scissoring them into a mound of destroyed
evidence foremost in his mind.
Well, Department of Justice officials last week delivered firm
justice to Mr. Berger in the form of a virtually pain-free plea bargain.
so, they junked a law meant to protect the U.S. security, at least
as it is to be applied to America's political aristocracy. Mr.
pleads guilty to that about which he previously lied to the American
people, the 9/11 Commission, and the families of the 9/11 dead. In turn,
he is punished with a fine and a three-year ban from holding a security
clearance. In plainer terms, Mr. Berger ponies up a month's pin money and gets
his clearance back .... Boy, that'll teach
The Sassower case and the Berger case have some
similarities. They both committed their "crimes" in Washington,
D.C. They were both charged by the U.S. Department of Justice. They
both were in federal court, before federal judges. But there the
similarities end. Ms. Sassower did nothing wrong. She in fact did not
disrupt Congress. She committed no crime. In fact, under 1st Amendment
rights of speech and petition, she was a citizen simply attempting to ensure
integrity and accountability in the confirmation process of federal judges.
(Judges who are not elected, given a life-time appointment, possess tremendous
grabbed absolute immunity for themselves.) A process, in
abandoned by both the executive branch and the legislative
branch, regarding selection and removal of judges. Both branches in fact
routinely broker deals behind the scenes and hold hearings that are a charade,
giving us judges more connected, than qualified. And both parties are
equally engaged in it.
Ms. Sassower's liberty was taken away. She
should immediately be given a pardon by President Bush and be given an apology
by all three (3) branches of government, with President Bush leading the
way. As Justice Louis Brandeis stated: "The most important
political office is that of private citizen."
In contrast, Sandy Berger
confessed to breaking the law and committing serious offenses. But Sandy
Berger apparently is not going to jail. How can that be? Why has he been
given such a privilege by the Justice Department? the federal judge
If our legal/justice system is to have any meaning, Sandy
Berger must go to jail. Are we a Nation of laws? Then why is
Sandy Berger above the law? If he does not go to jail, our legal system is
a JOKE. National Security is a JOKE. The Constitution is made a
Why was Elena Sassower prosecuted? Why was the book thrown at
her when there was no harm? Why was she given the maximum sentence?
She was attempting to do good. Yet Sandy Berger does bad. Commits multiple
serious crimes. And no jail time? How can anyone claim we have a Rule
of Law, with outcomes like this? It simply boggles the mind.
legal/justice system is a JOKE. With such blatant disparity in cases
like Sassower and Berger, we can no longer pretend we have even - an
appearance of justice. Such retributive and vindictive acts imposed in
the one case, and such favoritism and privilege granted in the
other. These results are obscene. They are perverse.
have soldiers fighting, sacrificing and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq for -
upside down justice - like this?
And it's the judges who ultimately are
inflicting the injustice in both
cases. They are supposed to be the
gatekeepers. The final backstop. They are not upholding the
Constitution. They are not protecting our rights. This is what Judge
(retired) Andrew Napolitano referred to in his recent book "Constitutional
Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws".
Common Sense, Liberty & Justice,
Gary L. Zerman, Atty,
J.A.I.L.- Judicial Accountability Initiative Law - href="../../State_Chapters/dc/DC_initiative.doc">www.jail4judges.org
J.A.I.L. at P.O. Box 207, N. Hollywood, CA 91603
See our active flash, http://www.jail4judges.org/Flash.htm
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