Critiques of the Judiciary
Fearful of a growing backlash from the public against arbitrary, prejudiced, and even malicious judgments that are protected by judicial immunity, judges have banded together under government sponsorship to devise means of defending themselves from aggrieved and increasingly militant pro-se litigants.Continuing Education Credit Prejudices Judges
The Anti-Government Movement Handbook [PDF] is a training manual for judges and court staff against pro-se litigants, published in 1999 by the National Center for the State Courts (NCSC) in Williamsburg, Virginia. This book, along with Dealing With Common Law Courts: A Model Curriculum for Judges and Court Staff, published in 1997 by NCSC, was developed from an Institute for Course Management (ICM) course on dealing with common law courts, held in Scottsdale, Arizona, February 5-7, 1997. The curriculum and manuals for this course were prepared with a grant from the State Justice Institute: Award No. SJI-96-02B-B-159, “The Rise of Common Law Courts in the United States: An Examination of the Movement, the Potential Impact on the Judiciary, and How the States Could Respond.” The State Justice Institute (SJI) is a non-profit, 501C(3) corporation that was started in 1986 and funded by Congress to develop courses and training manuals for state courts and judicial training organizations. This course and training manuals were developed by a group of 27 judges, court clerks, court administrators, and prosecutors in Arizona who examined the history and procedures of the Common Law Court Movement (CLC) and created the training curriculum and responses that courts, judges, and court administrators can use when dealing with common law courts in their own jurisdictions. My contact at the conference said that one of its goals was to identify ways the courts can make preemptive strikes against the CLC movement. Some of the keynote speakers who helped produce the CLC course in Arizona were Chief Justice Thomas Moyer of Columbus, Ohio, T.C. Brown of Columbus, Ohio (a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer), and Jonathan Mozzochi, Executive Director of the Coalition for Human Dignity in Seattle, Washington. Mozzochi, who distributed Guns and Gavels, a publication of the Coalition, was listed as “a nationally recognized expert on militias and hate group activity.” The Coalition is like a west coast version of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). I originally found out about this course by watching a videotaped session of the 1996 combined conference of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), held in Nashville, Tennessee in the summer of 1996 and called “Impact of the Common Law Court Movement on the Courts.” More than 50 state supreme court justices and state court administrators attended the Tennessee conference. The CLC session was taped with a grant from SJI. Keynote speakers were Michael Reynolds, senior intelligence analyst for the SPLC, and James Reynolds, chief of the Terrorism and Violent Crime Section, U.S. Department of Justice. The panel discussion included Susan Hansen, senior reporter with American Lawyer, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer (past president of CCJ), Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Zimmerman, and Judges Jeffrey Langton and Gregory Mohr from Montana. The taped session was more than three hours long. At the end of the session, one of the speakers mentioned that there was funding for additional CLC conferences. I immediately called ICM, located at NCSC in Virginia, and asked about the additional CLC conferences. My contact told me that a Scottsdale conference was going to take place in about three days. Since those two conferences, there have been additional conferences sponsored by SJI with other organizations. SJI sponsored a conference with the American Judicature Society in Scottsdale, Arizona in November, 1999 that was closed to the public and the press. There will also be an ICM course in Orlando, Florida on February 5-7, 2001 called “Increasing Access to Justice for pro-se Litigants,” with that organization's perception of what “access” means. “Constitutionalists in Court” was held in the St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota area in the summer of 2000 by the National Judicial College (NJC) of Reno, Nevada, and the same course was held again November 13-14, 2000, also at NJC in Reno. This course discusses the history of protest movements affecting the judiciary, identifies typical challenges and ways to handle them, anticipates courtroom security needs, and plans solutions and strategies. NJC, together with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), conducted a survey, developed material for their courses from SJI materials and grants, and published a brief report called “Right-Wing Extremist Challenges to the Authority and Jurisdiction of the Court” in 1998. This course and report contains a preemptive plan against pro-se litigants and others who may disagree with the court, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Native American protest groups, religious organizations, and anyone else who may take issue with a court decision. The information from NJC is so controversial that NJC has banned its course and conference materials from the public, but their library and the SJI repository is open to the public. I originally started researching judicial training organizations in 1996 after I was denied an inheritance by the New Jersey court system when my parents died and was also denied entrance to a conference and course materials at NJC in May, 1996, called “The National Conference on the Media and the Courts: Working Together to Serve the American People.” The media conference was closed to the public. Only one New Jersey judge, Martin Kravarick, attended that conference. Judge Kravarick was elected president of the American Judges Association (AJA), a judge's organization under NCSC. AJA publishes a quarterly journal called Court Review, available in your local law library, by subscription, or through interlibrary loan. I first found out about the judicial movement against pro-se litigants and the CLC movement by reading Kravarick's “President's Message” in the Fall, 1996 issue of Court Review. I called Judge Kravarick for more information on what the CLC movement was all about, and he gave me some additional contact information. I called Mike Reynolds of SPLC, and he told me there were four conference proceedings and that the conference was taped. I waited over three months to get a copy of the tape, “Impact of the Common Law Movement on the Courts.” That tape is available through interlibrary loan from NCSC along with the training manuals mentioned above. Each state has an SJI repository for all publications put out by the organizations they have funded. For example, the repository in Nevada is at NJC in Reno. In New Jersey, the SJI repository is at the New Jersey State Library in Trenton. You can check out these training manuals with a New Jersey library card. You can also find out where your SJI repository is by looking it up on the Internet at http://www.statejustice.org, by calling SJI at 703-684-6100, or by writing to the State Justice Institute, 1650 King street, Alexandria, VA 22314. SJI is funded by Congress with your tax dollars. If you don't like the courses and materials they are funding, you can write to your senator or congressman, or directly to SJI and ask them to stop funding these materials. SJI gets very few letters from the public, and I'm sure they would love to hear from you. When you get to their Web site, read and download the newsletters. Most of their new grants are in their newsletters. The National Center for State Courts is an umbrella organization for several judges' organizations such as the National College of Probate judges (NCPJ), AJA, CCJ, COSCA, ICM and others. I have been a member of NCPJ since 1996 and have attended four judges' conferences. The most controversial and harmful material against the public is coming from NJC and NCSC materials, two agencies that compete with each other for SJI and federal government funding. In the training manuals mentioned above, there are two sections in each book where the writers advise judges and court personnel such as court clerks and guards on how to handle pro-se litigants using a step-by-step process. The writers of these manuals reveal a court that is biased and has a dangerous point of view about justice and equal access in the court system.Copyright © 2001 June Wisniewski
The Author: June Wisniewski is a legal researcher and journalist in Reno, Nevada, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has written a number of articles on judicial subjects and is author of the book, The Coffin Chasers: An Aggrieved Litigant's Journey Through the Corrupt World of Probate. The source of this article is the January 5, 2001 issue of the Idaho Observer (http://proliberty.com/observer/20010105.htm). The text has been modified by reformating and other nonconsequential editing and is noted as such at the request of the author. The subject matter is the basis of another book by Wisniewski, Unequal Justice: The Inside Story of the National Judicial College.
Note 1: The vulnerability of pro se's to the hostility of judges is exemplified by the fate of Elena Sassower in 2004. See also: Sherman Skolnick's Big Court Fix. For a judicial perspective, see: Judge Richard A. Posner.
Note 2: In 2006, the American Bar Association issued a manual, Countering the Critics; Q&E Guide [PDF], that instructs judges on how to respond to complaints about the lack of accountability and other "hot-button" issues they are likely encounter from critics of the American court system.
Note 3: On March 11, 2008 the Judicial Conference of the United States adopted a new set of rules for processing misconduct complaints against federal judges [PDF]. This document also contains instructions for filing complaints against judges.
Note 4: In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida prepared a guide for pro se filers that contains useful information generally applicable to other district courts.
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