'Jail 4 Judges' targets judicial corruption
Only 7 removed from bench in 9,529 abuse cases
August 30, 1999
On Aug. 4, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts of America was a "public accommodation" in violation of the state's anti-discrimination laws protecting homosexuals. If not overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Scouts will have to admit homosexuals as members and leaders.
On Aug. 24, a federal judge in Ohio issued an injunction against the state's school voucher program, saying it violated the separation of church and state.
On Aug. 25, a Phoenix, Ariz., judge ordered a 14-year-old girl to be taken out of the state for a late-term abortion. Arizona currently bans abortions after the 20th week.
These cases and hundreds more are the reason Baptist minister Ronald Branson founded Jail 4 Judges, a Los Angeles-based group seeking to pass the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (JAIL) in California next year.
"Through my experience," said Branson, "I found that the judicial system is completely deteriorating so that justice is a thing that's almost extinct."
Branson must gather 670,816 valid signatures by Jan. 6, 2000 before his initiative will be placed on the ballot. He hopes to obtain more than a million names.
One of Branson's allies is attorney Gary Zerman who works as a volunteer with Jail 4 Judges. Zerman, who has practiced law for 15 years, is disturbed by the corruption and lack of accountability in the California judiciary.
As an example of corruption, Zerman points to the case of Judge George Trammel, a former Pomona Superior Court judge, who resigned after it was learned he had coerced sexual favors from the wife of a criminal defendant. Trammel has not been prosecuted by the county or by the former or current state attorneys-general.
Zerman also cites a 1996 San Diego Superior Court corruption case in which three judges and a lawyer were convicted of taking bribes or influence peddling. Since neither county nor state would prosecute, federal prosecutors had to do the job under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) statute. Former San Diego Judge Michael Greer admitted taking $75,000 in bribes in exchange for having given a lawyer preferential treatment. Greer was placed on suspension after pleading guilty. Judges G. Dennis Adams, James A. Malkus and attorney Patrick R. Frega were convicted under the RICO statute. But in June of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned racketeering charges against Adams and Malkus, claiming the jury had been given inaccurate instructions. All of these men have remained free since 1996 as they appeal their cases.
What about the state's Commission on Judicial Performance, which is supposed to investigate and deal with judicial corruption? More often than not, says Zerman, it simply fails to do the job. "Just look at CJP's '10-Year Summary' of enforcement actions. It's amazing the number of goose eggs there are. The system is not holding judges accountable."
The "10-Year Summary of Commission Activity" shows, for example, that the Commission reviewed 1,174 cases of judicial misconduct. Of those, 1,001 were closed after an initial review. Ten judges received private admonishment; four received public admonishment; one was publicly censured; two resigned during the investigation and zero were removed from the bench for misconduct.
During the years 1988 through 1997, only seven judges were removed out of a total of 9,529 cases of judicial misconduct and/or corruption.
What will JAIL accomplish? If passed, the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law would remove the immunity judges currently have from civil liability when they are found guilty of:
Deliberate violations of the law
Intentional violation of due process of law
Deliberate disregard of material facts
Judicial acts without jurisdiction
Unreasonable delay of a case
Deliberate constitutional violations
The law would establish three statewide 25-member grand juries that would be empowered to investigate, indict and sentence judges for criminal misconduct. The grand juries would have the power to remove any judge after he or she has been convicted of three adverse decisions (the "three strikes" rule). Under the initiative, lawyers and judges would be barred from being grand jury members.
Although the State Department of Finance estimates it will cost $17 million a year to operate these grand juries, part of the cost would be offset by another part of the JAIL initiative: It would reduce all judges' salaries by 2.5 percent and cut in half the retirement benefits of judges who are removed under the "three strikes" rule.
Huntington Beach lawyer Phil Putman is helping promote the JAIL initiative, but believes California judges will rule it unconstitutional. He has more hope that federal judges will approve it once it is passed by the voters.
California Judges Association (CJA) lobbyist Mike Belote said his group probably won't take a formal position on JAIL until it qualifies for the ballot, but he believes it violates free speech, due process and other rights of judges. "It's so full of constitutional infirmity that you could almost pick any section of the Constitution and this initiative violates it."
Branson is counting on the CJA and other pro-judges groups to provide him with the publicity he needs to garner support. "Once we get them to holler 'ouch,' they've done our advertisements for us," said Branson. In the meantime, Branson has established a website [www.jail4judges.org] to promote the JAIL initiative. The JAIL address is: 11304 Chandler Blvd., Unit 207, North Hollywood, California 91603; phone: (818) 386-5804.
Attorney Gary Zerman says Jail 4 Judges is planning a series of rallies or protests to draw attention to judicial corruption in California. Announcements of these events will be posted on the Jail 4 Judges website.
Ronald Branson is not alone in his concern over judicial activism and corruption of the legal system. The Free Congress Foundation, founded by Paul Weyrich, has established a Judicial Selection Monitoring Project to track activist judges and to promote judicial restraint. The JSMP notes that activist judges typically: change the meaning of the Constitution's provisions, substitute their personal judgment for the law, change the meaning of statutes and use extraneous considerations to avoid the result of criminal statutes. JSMP has also organized the Coalition for Judicial Restraint, a grassroots lobbying group whose purpose is to oppose aggressively the confirmation of activist judges to the bench.
The Eagle Forum, founded by Phyllis Schlafly, has recently established Court Watch, headed by Virginia Armstrong, legal studies professor at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Court Watch raises public awareness about unconstitutional court decisions and works to hold members of Congress accountable for their votes on judicial appointments.
The Family Research Council publishes Legal Watch, a weekly fax and online newsletter edited by attorney Jan LaRue that tracks examples of judicial tyranny.
Copyright 1999, WorldNetDaily.com
From: WorldNetDaily, August 30, 1999, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=17180, accessed 04/01/01. Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.