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Critiques of the Judiciary
“Not every court case is corrupt.  Maybe one out of twenty, or one out of forty.”

--Sherman H. Skolnick

Intimidation of Pro-Se Litigants
The attitude of court officers toward pro-se litigants ranges from condesending to openly hostile, and when pro se's oppose an experienced attorney, they are often dispatched before having the opportunity to properly present their case.  In the following article, investigative reporter Sherman Skolnick describes a scenario he has witnessed.

Big Court Fix
Part 1: Introduction to what you need to know

Here is the start of what you need to know about the courts. This applies primarily to state and federal civil cases in bigger communities and cities. And please note, not EVERY court case is corrupt. Maybe one out of twenty, or one out of forty. But after you study this series, you might become more skilled in telling which is which.

In civil cases, judges usually designate a certain day at a certain time when they have "Motion Call." That means they put on the docket for that day a list of cases where motions (parts of cases) are to be heard.

So suppose you are a plaintiff, representing yourself against a defendant corporation or a politician or other important personality. You check the computer-generated Motion Call list taped to the wall outside the courtroom door.

You notice that you are among the first cases to be heard that morning. The judge is not yet on the bench. The defendant's attorney is at the desk, next to the bench, whispering to the deputy clerk.

The judge comes in, gets on the bench, and your case is among the first called. The clerk, or the judge himself, announces that your case will be heard "at the end of the call," which means you will have to wait in the courtroom for several hours, perhaps close to lunch-time.

Non-lawyers tend to call the other side, "the enemy." So your enemy's attorney goes out into the hallway with his cell phone. You follow him and ask, "You were whispering to the clerk before the Motion Call started. And when the judge got on the bench, my case was pushed to the end. What is going on?"

The enemy's "mouthpiece" does not respond. So you raise your voice and repeat the question. Suddenly, the deputy sheriff (state court) or deputy U.S. marshal (federal court) stationed in the courtroom comes out and comes up to you.

"If you don't stop threatening counsel, I am going to have to arrest you," he warns. Outraged at being falsely accused, you raise your voice to who in past years was called the court bailiff. He barks at you, "Get away from counsel, or I will arrest you."

You reluctantly walk away from the "counsel" and the "bailiff". You begin thinking to yourself, "Hey, what's going on here anyway?"

You go back into the courtroom and wait. Before the clerk calls your case, all the other motions have been heard and the court has been cleared out.

Suddenly, the bailiff goes to the courtroom door and locks it. If you are savvy, you look at the judge's face now. It is not more or less relaxed as you saw it during the Motion Call. After all, the judge often hobnobs socially with some of the same lawyers who were there during the Motion Call. He goes to golfing events with them from time to time. The judge sees many of the same attorneys at Bar Association luncheons and pep-talk meetings, where they pat themselves on the back for the great system of justice they are in. You think, "It is the wonderfully corrupt bench and the bar." And YOU are no part of it.

So now it is just you, your enemy's counsel, the judge, the clerk, and the bailiff. If you have been around the courts before, you know to notice that the judge's face is now a little red. Although judges practice to show no expression about which way they are going to rule, they are still human and it sometimes does show in their face when a particularly difficult or clout-heavy case is to be heard.

The judge now points to you and says, "What is this all about?" Since you are, as is known in the law trade as a foolish "pro-se-er" (one who represents themself) who is presumed to be a know-nothing amateur, you do not read from your well-prepared typewritten papers. Instead, you start talking off the top of your head. Doing that, you are bound to start "pissing on your own shoes." More experienced sorts would answer, "Judge, what I have to say about my motion (or objections to THEIR motion) is in these papers. Here is a copy if you have not seen one yet."

To befuddle you, and get you to depart from your papers, the judge might state, "No, I do not have time to read your papers. I want you to tell me what this is about."

Now feeling a little stressed, and trying to come up with ideas without referring to your papers, you suddenly blurt out, "Judge, I am a little nervous. Your bailiff, without basis, threatened to arrest me in the hallway before."

So now the enemy's counsel speaks up, "Judge, this pro-se-er tends to imagine things. He (or she) does not know what they are claiming in their papers or in the hallway."

Without further formality, the judge announces, "Plaintiff's motion is denied," or "Defendant's motion is granted." And the judge adds, "Counsel, draw up the Order and the clerk will stamp it."

Many non-lawyers, being inexperienced in such matters, simply walk out of the courtroom without waiting to see what the enemy's counsel puts into the Court Order. Or, the non-lawyer does not raise the question, "Judge, why is this lawyer permitted to draw up the Order instead of me? And he is not allowing me to read the Court Order before your clerk stamps it with your name," or "Your Honor, it is so scribbled up by counsel, I cannot read it."

So this is how court orders, which are supposed to state the truth of what happened, wind up containing straight-out lies that the clerk stamps with the judge's name and date.

[This series is based on actual examples personally observed by us as court reformers over a period of well over forty years.  Follow this series to learn what to watch for and to find out about cases where there is the BIG COURT FIX.  If you don't know about corruption on the U.S. Supreme Court, read our extensive series, "Coca-Cola, CIA and the Courts," at www.skolnicksreport.com.]

Sherman H. Skolnick
May 4, 2005

The Author: Sherman Skolnick has been a court reformer since 1958 and is Chairman of the Citizen's Committee to Clean Up the Courts, which he founded in 1963.  The Citizen's Committee has been responsible for disclosing instances of judicial bribery, other bribery, and political murder.  Skolnick is a regular guest panelist and since 1995 has been the moderator/producer of the weekly, one-hour public access TV show, "Broadsides," which is cablecast on Channel 21 at 9 p.m. each Monday in Chicago.  He can be reached by email at skolnick@ameritech.net.  The above article is taken from his Web site: "Skolnick's Report" (http://www.skolnicksreport.com), accessed 8/16/2005.  The statements and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tulanelink.

Note: 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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