Equal Justice Under Law
Background  Case Calendar  More Options
— Judicial Ballot Initiatives —
A Veteran's Lament Part 2, -3, -4, -5
Critiques of the Judiciary
"Amendment E would permit convicted felons ... to sue the prosecutors ... the jurors ... and the judges who sentenced the felons ..."
-- South Dakota Resolution No. 1004
(From a false and deceptive description)

A Veteran's Lament
On February 13, 2006 South Dakota's Senate Minority Leader Garry A. Moore (D) issued a blistering attack in the local press [1] on Amendment E, a ballot initiative that had been pressed upon the legislature through citizen petition and which, if passed by the voters on November 7, would strip judges of their protective immunity in cases where they had engaged in willful violations of the law.  The state legislature had just unanimously passed a resolution denouncing Amendment E using language that bordered on hysteria [PDF].  Senator Moore's statements motivated Air Force veteran Charles W. Heckman to explain in an open letter how the unconditional immunity enjoyed by judges allows them to engage in corrupt practices against which there is presently no effective recourse.

An Open Letter to Senator Garry A. Moore
February 15, 2006

You have severely criticized the initiative to make judges in South Dakota accountable for their own illegal acts. Your criticism was based largely on the fact that some promoters of the initiative are natives of California and that criminals will be able to sue judges. Your first criticism is irrelevant, and your second is based on a misrepresentation of the initiative.

While you were attending college with a student deferment, I was defending the United States against the Communist bloc in Vietnam. I had already earned a college degree when I received my U.S. Air Force commission in 1963, and after my service in Vietnam I earned an M.S. in the United States and a doctorate in Germany. Because of my service, I had to work most of my life in Europe and South America. I have had more experience before federal and state courts than many lawyers while trying to overcome pro se the employment discrimination against me, and forcing the United States government to grant citizenship to my wife. As you know, the same discrimination has resulted in hundreds of thousands of veterans with great talents and a fine work ethic spending part of their lives homeless on the streets.

Although I have had minor successes before the courts and did succeed in forcing the Department of Justice to provide my wife with her citizenship 18 years after we were married, I have not been able to obtain any of the employment rights which the law guarantees me. At the same time, I have learned that almost all judges are guilty of grave dereliction of duty, and many are overtly corrupt. According to our Founding Fathers, the right to trial by jury is a fundamental civil right. Nevertheless, fewer than 2% of lawsuits filed ever come before a jury. The deciding factors of whether a jury trial is granted or illegally denied are whether the litigants are prominent persons or powerful corporations and whether or not the lawsuit is given attention by the press. Ordinary citizens, especially veterans, encounter only chicanery before the courts, permitting their constitutional and statutory rights to jury trial and due process to be disregarded.

For my own cases, I have obtained some of the costs of the litigation to the taxpayers. Remember that Congress and the individual states have spent many billions of dollars on veterans' employment services, veterans centers, and assistance for homeless veterans. Yet, when I sued the government to obtain employment services and to compel agencies to abide by veterans' preference statutes, Department of Justice and state lawyers ran up astronomical legal bills to see to it that I was unable to find any employment in the United States for 37 years because I served in an unpopular war. The estimated legal costs that government lawyers have accumulated just to see to it that I was not allowed to work in my native country already exceeds a million dollars. They would certainly have lost before any jury, so judges have kept all of my employment claims against government agencies from the eyes of a jury by violating the law, judicial procedures, and common sense. The lawsuit to obtain citizenship for my wife was eventually successful, even though a magistrate tried his best to rig the outcome in favor of the Department of Justice.

What can an ordinary citizen do under the following circumstances? The lawyer for his opponent in a lawsuit submits a motion to have a judge rule in favor of his client. The judge holds up five fingers and is given a bag with $5,000 in unmarked bills by the lawyer who filed the motion. The judge then signs the order.

The answer is that the litigant can do nothing. The judge has absolute immunity, even if his actions are malicious or corrupt. Appeals courts routinely affirm the decisions of lower courts without even reading the submissions. Government attorneys claim that they are too busy prosecuting violent criminals to investigate official corruption, especially in the courts. Fewer than one in a thousand ethics complaints against judges result in any action at all, and the worst a corrupt judge can expect from a local bar assocation is a slap on the wrist. Furthermore, judges frequently take personal vengence on the complainant, also with complete immunity.

Is such a blatant act of corruption possible? The only investigation of corruption of this kind in Cook County resulted in numerous lawyers and judges going to prison. If investigations were held elsewhere, the result would be the same. However, judges who help prosecutors put the innocent into prison for crimes they did not commit can expect protection from prosecution for their own crimes. Members of the bar associations like corrupt judges who will make sure that the cases large law firms handle for influential clients can be settled favorably to them. The judge in Brooklyn, New York, who sent his bailiff around the court to let lawyers know that he would settle their cases for $18,000 each still has not been convicted, although the bailiff and a clerk were. It took the bar association in Tacoma, Washington, five years to remove a judge who had looted his clients estates and helped to commit insurance fraud. Meanwhile, he presided over countless lawsuits. The lawyer who reported the judge's crimes was suspended.

Countless litigants have experienced other common criminal acts by judges. The most frequently mentioned include accepting testimony that is obviously perjury to serve as the basis of a decision. In a few cases, documents clearly showing that the testimony was perjury disappeared from the court records. In most cases, however, they are left in the file since the judge knows that the appeals court will affirm the decision without even knowing what the case is about. Perjury and subornation to perjury are now considered normal courtroom tactics, and prosecution of this felony is extremely rare, especially when representatives of government agencies or their paid witnesses are the felons. Litigants have learned that they can do nothing about this.

Judges frequently dismiss lawsuits citing laws that do not exist or precedents that are actually the opposite of what the judge says they are. Litigants can do nothing about this because the judge has absolute immunity, and unless the litigant is a prominent person or gets a newspaper to report what is happening, the appeals court will affirm the judgement without reading the submissions.

Judges dismiss lawsuits based on blatant misstatement of the facts. This is most frequently done because it looks as if the litigant would be successful before a jury. To stop that, and help the litigant favored by the judge, summary judgement is granted citing claims that the litigant never made. The litigant can do nothing about this deliberate misstatement of the case by the judge.

Judges sometimes openly express contempt for litigants because of their race, religion, or status as veterans. The litigant can do nothing against biased judges who refuse to recuse themselves. Similarly, a litigant can do nothing against a judge who is biased against him because he is suing a corporation in which the judge has invested.

Judges are not supposed to hold ex-parte conferences, but litigants have discovered that judges are advising their opponents on how to have their complaint dismissed. This is particularly common when a government agency is being sued. A litigant can do nothing about this.

In criminal cases, judges have refused to permit witnesses to testify that the accused was miles from the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. At the same time, they routinely permit drug addicts threatened by a life sentence for a third offense to testify at the behest of a prosecutor with the power to prosecute them or not prosecute them, depending upon their testimony.

Many lawyers have complained about the blatantly corrupt actions by judges or opposing attorneys and have been disbarred for doing so.

You suggest that South Dakota is not afflicted by corrupt courts the way other states are. If that is true, then your judges would really have nothing to fear if the law made them liable for criminal acts. At the same time, elimination of judicial immunity would remove the temptation of any judge in your state to take part in the corrupt practices that are common in the courtrooms throughout the rest of the country. What is the real reason for the opposition to the initiative in the legislature?

Sincerely yours,

Charles W. Heckman, Dr. Sci.
USAF Service, 1964-1968
Vietnam Service 1966-1968 (2 tours)

Dr. Heckman's open letter was originally circulated to the Internet through A Matter of Justice, http://www.amatterofjustice.org.  His latest book is, "Encyclopedia of South American Aquatic Insects: Odonata-Anisoptera," published by Springer Scientific Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2006.  Heckman may be contacted at cwheckman@hotmail.com.  Senator Moore can be reached at sen.moore@state.sd.us.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.

  1. Sen. Garry Moore, "Pierre Report: House Gives J.A.I.L. Chilly Reception," Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, South Dakota, February 13, 2006.






Help Balance the Scales of Justice!
Help Balance the Scales of Justice!
Censure Judge Berrigan? Send a message to Congress now!
          Send a Message to Congress!        
Web site created November, 1998     This section last modified September, 2006
|  Home Page  |  Site Map  |  About Bernofsky  |  Curriculum Vitae  |  Lawsuits  |  Case Calendar  |

|  Judicial Misconduct  |  Judicial Reform  |  Contact  |  Interviews  |  Disclaimer  |
This Web site is not associated with Tulane University or its affiliates

© 1998-2014 Carl Bernofsky - All rights reserved
send me an e-mail