April 15, 2006
The Inherent Right of ALL People to Alter
or Reform Abusive Government.
The Right Upon Which All Other Rights
Says California Chief
Justice Ronald M. George
"What's disturbing about this current effort
is that the attacks seem to be escalating and gathering momentum.
California Lawyer Magazine - April 2006 issue
(Page 13 - ESQ. Edited by Martin Lasden)
Judging the Judges
By Susan Davis
A grassroots movement seeks revenge against offending
IF GARY ZERMAN HAS HIS
WAY, judges across the country will soon find
themselves a lot more exposed to angry litigants. A Valencia-based sole
practitioner, Zerman first got riled up about judges in the 1990s when he was
representing two plaintiffs in a legal malpractice suit. When he got to court,
he says, the judge made him sit down, cutting short his opening statement, and
then told the jurors to find for the defense. Zerman pursued the case all the
way up to the California Supreme Court, but without success. He then tried to
sue the offending judges in federal court - only to learn that they are immune
from such suits. "It's like the judges are the new kings," he marvels.
Soon afterward, Zerman hooked up with Ron Branson, a military prison guard
turned pastor turned cult investigator, who also had a negative experience with
the courts. Together they formed Jail4Judges - a nonprofit that has mounted a
national campaign that looks pretty quirky but is starting to be taken
Most conspicuously, Zerman's group has been pushing hard for a
constitutional amendment that would establish 13-member grand juries to
investigate, indict, and sentence judges who abuse their power. And though the
group failed three times to secure the required number of signatures to put a
Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (JAIL) on the ballot here in California,
this fall voters in South Dakota will get the chance to vote on one. Jail4Judges
plans to launch a similar effort in Nevada as well.
Of course, the judicial immunity that Zerman is so steamed up about has
never been absolute. It protects judges only against civil lawsuits, claims of
civil rights abuses, and liability for judgment calls made within the confines
of their official jurisdictions. But it doesn't protect them from charges
related to judicial acts taken outside their jurisdictions or others arising
from non-judicial acts on the job, such as sexual harassment. Then, too, all 50
states plus the District of Columbia have boards or commissions that hear and
investigate complaints against judges. In 2004 this state's Commission on
Judicial Performance received 1,114 new complaints about active and former
California judges (see MCLE, page 45). Eight percent of those led to staff
inquiries and four percent to investigations.
But that isn't enough to satisfy Jail4Judges. On its website, the group
blames judicial immunity for a wide range of ills, including "ignored laws,
ignored evidence, sophistry, eminent domain abuse, confiscation of property
without due process, probate fraud, secret dockets, graft, falsifications of
court records and other abuses."
If nothing else, Jail4Judges has flair. Cofounder Branson, for one, refers
to himself as the organization's "Five-Star National JAIL Commander-In-Chief."
And in Nevada, Jail4Judges member Steven Dempsey rails not only against abusive
judges but also against the fluoridation of tap water.
Still, even at the highest levels,
esteemed members of the judiciary aren't taking these people lightly. "The
question of judicial immunity has come up over and over again in the last 150
years," says the chief justice of the California Supreme Court, Ronald M.
George. "I remember as a child the move to impeach Earl Warren. What's
disturbing about this current effort is that the attacks seem to be escalating
and gathering momentum. That's worrisome."
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, April 14, 2006 9:22 AM
Subject: Your (Susan Davis') April 2006Califorian Lawyer Piece
"Judging the Judges"
Dear California Lawyer Editor:
I (along with Ron Branson and our
Judicial Accountability Initiative Law -href="../../State_Chapters/dc/DC_initiative.doc">www.jail4judges.org,) am the subject of "Judging the Judges - A grassroots movement seeks revenge against
offending jurists." [April]. Your first sentence reads: "If Gary
Zerman has his way, judges across the country will soon find themselves a lot
more exposed to angry litigants." Contrary to your assertion, I have
always sought, and still seek, when I (or anyone) goes to court, to simply
get my (their) day in court: a fair judge, a proper finding of the
facts, a proper application of the law and that a measure of justice be
done. And when that is not done because of judicial misconduct (or
worse), I do seek to hold those judges accountable.
You want to term that
revenge? I can't stop you. Actually, revenge is where: in
July of 1993 Giani Luigi Ferri went shooting his lawyers (and others) at
Petit & Martin in San Francisco, killing 9, wounding 6; in
2003 William Strier started shooting at his new attorney Gerald Curry, who
luckily danced for cover around the tree at the Van Nuys courthouse; and, in
February 2005 Bart A. Ross lied in wait for federal Judge Judith Lefkow at
her home in Chicago, after he killed her husband and mother. See the
essay "The Plague of Violence" in your August 1993 edition that predicted
something like this.
Ironically, I noted that in your same April edition,
the MCLE self study article was "Judges Behaving Badly." It started
with Socrates' famous admonition: "Four things belong to a
judge: to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and
to decide impartially." Conspicuously absent from Socrates' admonition
was - immunity. Perhaps that was Plato,who came up with "Philosopher
Kings." But fact is, there is no Easter Bunny. Nor are there
Philosopher Kings. (Even if there were, we neverwanted them in
America. We fought a revolution to get rid kings and royalty ruling
over us. Instead we chose a Republic and the jury system, albeit today
less and less.) Nor just because you give one the title "judge" and a$29.00
cloth robe, does that insure the judge comes with a halo. In fact the
almost absolute power given to a judge, can cause just the opposite
condition. See Bracey v. Gramley, 522 U.S. 899 (1997) recapping the federal
sting "Operation Greylord" in Chicago and learn about "bagmen," "bribes" and 14
judges who went to jail. Why haven't there been more Operation
Typically your piece was slanted, using biased terms such as "revenge,""angry litigants," "so steamed up about" and "rails ... against,"
foregoingthe usual pejoratives "disgruntled," "vexatious," "gadfly," and
"pest." Thanks for that. You did though, in habitual journalistic
favoritism, omit our core arguments about the doctrine of absolute judicial
immunity (AJI), that:
- 1) there is NO authority in our
Constitution giving immunity tojudges (nor do any of the USSC cases on AJI
ever cite any);
- 2) judges giving judges AJI violates the doctrine of separation
of powers - the so-called checks & balances (nor do any of the USSC cases
- 3) AJI turns the sovereignty of We the People on its head,
by placing the judiciary over, above and beyond the People, making the servant
the master; and,
- 4) why has our USSC condoned eugenics? See Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978).
Note, neither Chief Justice Roberts, nor Justice Alito, were asked any
of these questions at their recent Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation
hearings. Checks & balances?
Your piece asserted that "...
judicial immunity ... has never been absolute." Correct in theory, but
almost totally wrong regarding application. Name the last judge
impeached, federal or state. (We have a joke around J.A.I.L. -
Impeachment of judges is like Haley's Comet, it comes around once every 64
years.) Judges can be criminally prosecuted, but in fact seldom, if ever
are; and if they are, still usually get a break on punishment. See "L.A.
County's Dual Standard of Justice Marches On," 1/11/98 LA Times, p.M6, by
Charles Lindner, asserting this "insider justice" happens because of the "closed
fraternity" between judges and prosecutors.
You citied 2004 Commission on Judicial Performance statistics:
that of 1,114 complaints received, 8% led to staff inquiries and 4% to
investigations. Pitiful. A manufacturing concern handling
complaints in that fashion would be out of business - pronto. But here
we are dealing with people and their rights, which calls for greater
integrity than products or services. You omitted stats for discipline
actually imposed. Review of the 10-Year Summary of Commission Activity,
notes a grossly inordinate amount of "0" (goose eggs) and "<1%" (less than
one percent) tallies for actual discipline.
The federal system is worse,
with over 99% of complaints against federaljudges routinely
dismissed. For example, see 'WITHOUT MERIT: The Empty Promise of
Judicial Discipline," by Elena Sassower, Massachusetts School of Law, The Long
Term View, Vol. 4, No. 1, p.90 (1997), www.judgewatch.org
. More recent, see "9th
Circuit's Kozinski Blasts L.A. Judge, Majority in Discipline Case," 10/4/05 The
Recorder, by Justin Scheck, www.law.com
, with the
first sentence: "Can federal judges be trusted to police themselves?
Alex Kozinski isn't so sure." In re Complaint of Judicial Misconduct, No.
03-89037, Judicial Council, 9th Circuit, 9/25/05, where the complaint was
dismissed for the 3rd and final time (despite finding the involved judge
deliberately acted without legal authority), Justice Kozinski wrote in dissent:
"... It does not inspire confidence in the federal judiciary when we treat our
own so much better than everybody else." Bingo!
Your piece ends
quoting Chief Justice George: "... What's disturbing about this
current effort is that the attacks seem to be escalating and gathering
momentum. That's worrisome." We agree. Meet with us Chief
Justice George and let's work together to solve these crucial problems in our
judicial system. Please be a leader. Or will your reply be "Let them eat
cake." We hope to hear from you. GLZ.