Judicial Accountability Initiative Law
Los Angeles, California April 4, 2009
The Battle Lines are Drawn: J.A.I.L. versus The Foreign Power
A Power Foreign to Our Constitution
Mission Statement JNJ Library ederal J.A.I.L.
J.A.I.L. More Important
Than the Polio Vaccine
"The issue [judicial immunity] is as epic as the plague,
the outcome as important as the polio vaccine."
"Imagine how great our country would be, if only judges were held accountable. For one, most probably there would be no Wilkes-Barre incident [described below], and children would not have been jailed to satisfy craven judges."
- Attorney Gary L. Zerman
Immunity Claim Really Nothing To Sneeze At
Mark Guydish Opinion
Thursday April 02, 2009
Oh how I yearn to make medical treatment work the way justice does in the mind of disgraced former Judge Mark Ciavarella. Imagine the ability to declare immunity no matter what health problem you create.
Doctor: "Frankly, your reckless participation in contact sports has caused severe premature arthritic joints."
Me: "Oh, don't be silly, doctor, I'm immune to arthritis. Why else do you think I was so reckless?"
Doctor: "I see. Well, your heavy use of alcohol has resulted in cirrhosis."
Me: "I'm immune to cirrhosis as well. I wouldn't have kept drinking like a sot gone wild otherwise."
Doctor: "Ummm … Really … and those clotted arteries from your horrendous diet of lard and milk shakes?"
Me: "Obviously I would never have indulged like that if I weren't immune."
Doctor: "And the hypertension from putting extra salt on the pound of potato chips you ate daily?"
Me: "I can't have helped caused my own high blood pressure, I'm immune."
Doctor: "So, you believe that, even if you deliberately abuse your health, you're immune to consequences?"
Me: "Of course! If it works in a courtroom, why not in my own life?"
Ciavarella has become the man who admits guilt while denying wrongdoing. He's our version of Hollywood's Terminator: Every time you think he's done and over with, he pops up acting like you barely scratched him.
His latest legal claim: Utter immunity from a civil lawsuit, even if his actions with children in juvenile court were done corruptly. It sounds outlandish. Unfortunately, while I'm certainly no expert in legal nuance, the cases he cites suggest he's right.
Reading these things gets a little scary, if you thought no one is above the law in the U.S. For example, Ciavarella cites a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case called Stump v. Sparkman. A mother petitioned an Indiana court to let her sterilize her "somewhat retarded daughter." Without a hearing or telling the daughter, the judge agreed. The daughter was sterilized under the ruse of having an appendix removed. Later, when married and unable to have children, she learned the truth and sued. The Supreme Court decided the circuit judge had ruled within his jurisdiction and thus was immune from liability "even if his approval of the petition was in error."
There's another case involving a segregated bus terminal in Mississippi, but the main ruling bolstering Ciavarella is Bradley v. Fisher in 1871, which involved a man connected to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A judge and lawyer got into a bit of a spat. The judge ruled the lawyer's name be stricken from rolls of attorneys authorized to practice before that court. The lawyer sued. The Supreme Court ruled, as Ciavarella's paperwork notes, that judges aren't liable even if their actions "are alleged to have been done maliciously or corruptly."
Like I said, I'm no expert. But it's interesting to note that Ciavarella's paperwork, as well as rulings in the case he cites, talk about judicial immunity as "doctrine" and "established principal," but not as black letter law or a Constitutional right.
It's also worth noting that the Supreme Court justices made a strong case for such immunity in Bradley v. Fisher. I'm posting it on my blog at http://www.timesleader.com/. The suit filed against him, on the other hand, argues that his actions in juvenile court struck at the very heart of the Constitution. I'm eager to see it play out.
The issue is as epic as the plague, the outcome as important as the polio vaccine.
Posted: April 2,
Officials Mull Suing Two Judges
Suit against disgraced pair depends, in part, on realistic possibility of recouping funds, county solicitor said.
By Jennifer Learn-Andes
Luzerne County Reporter
Taxpayers are also victims in Luzerne County's judicial corruption scandal, and county officials are exploring the possibility of a lawsuit to recoup damages.
County officials stress that they will only turn to litigation if there's a solid legal argument and likelihood of obtaining money, especially if the county can't find lawyers willing to take a suit on contingency.
County Solicitor Vito DeLuca said the administration has indicated it "doesn't want to throw good money after bad." Commissioners would have to vote before filing suit, he said.
One possible avenue is suing former judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan to recoup county funds spent on the placement and treatment of juveniles who will have their records erased by the state Supreme Court, DeLuca said.
Thousands of juveniles charged with certain minor offenses may fall into this category, in large part because they did not have legal representation when they appeared before Ciavarella.
"If these juveniles were detained unnecessarily and we paid to put them in placement, obviously taxpayers should recoup that money," said Commissioner Chairwoman Maryanne Petrilla. "I think we should at least explore the possibility of recouping that money."
DeLuca said more research is needed before pursuing this type of litigation because judges have immunity in acts performed as part of their duties.
This immunity doesn't cover judges for acts performed off the bench, including administrative decisions, DeLuca said. That's why another possibility is suing the former judges for conspiring to close the old county-owned detention center.
Conahan and Ciavarella are awaiting sentencing on guilty pleas for accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks in exchange for actions that led to the county's use of privately-owned PA Child Care centers in Pittston Township and western Pennsylvania.
Shortly before the Pittston Township center's opening in 2003, then-president judge Conahan announced that he would no longer send juveniles to the county-owned River Street detention center. Conahan stripped funding for the 16 county detention center workers from his budget and returned the county detention center license to the state, even though the state said the county-owned building met licensing requirements.
Minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban supports this type of suit, noting that the federal complaint against Conahan also revealed that he signed a placement guarantee agreement in January 2002 saying the court would pay PA Child Care $1.314 million a year in rent and that these payments "shall be absolute and unconditional."
A suit could recover the additional money that had to be spent on detention as a result of the closure of the county's River Street facility, Urban said.
DeLuca said the county may have a strong case pursuing damages caused by the closure of the old center.
"It would be a valid cause of action, assuming we could show that there was a conspiratorial action taken by one or more defendants to force the county to have to go out and find another facility," DeLuca said.
DeLuca said taxpayers may also have to foot some of the bill for litigation now that the county has been added as a defendant in one of three lawsuits filed in connection with the scandal involving the two former judges.
The county's liability insurance would cover legal representation and damages up to $1 million or $2 million, but the county would be responsible for a $50,000 deductible and damages beyond the cap, Urban said.
County officials plan to argue that the county has no liability because judges are supervised by the state Supreme Court. Commissioners have no supervisory control over the judges and their policies.
Because the state also covered much of the cost of detention and placement, DeLuca said he will consult with state agencies to determine if they'd want to enjoin a county suit.
The two former judges aren't the only potential targets of a suit, though DeLuca declined to name other possibilities.
"One of the main focuses of my research is to try to determine all the parties that may be liable because the more parties we could determine are liable to the county, the more likely we'd be able to recover something," DeLuca said.
Commissioners would seek a law firm willing to represent the county at little or no cost in exchange for a percentage of any damages obtained, DeLuca said. If no firms bite, commissioners would have to weigh the cost of litigation against the likely recovery, he said.
It's difficult in Pennsylvania to enforce a judgment against one person when the assets are also in the name of that person's spouse, he said.
"It's not completely impossible, but it's a very, very difficult process," DeLuca said.
Thanks to Attorney Gary Zerman, firstname.lastname@example.org, for sending the above.
PS - Along this line, Ron Branson, author of JAIL4Judges, received a call from two District Attorney Deputies from the County of Los Angeles regarding their filing a criminal complaint against two L.A. Superior Court judges whom they sought criminal prosecution. However, these defendant judges were being protected by other judges through the doctrine of judicial immunity. I told the District Attorney Deputies that there is no theory in law that judges are protected from criminal prosecution by judicial immunity. But, of course, this is precisely where things head when it is found acceptable by judges to cloth all judges with judicial immunity. "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" I Corinthians 5:6. Indeed, if a select few are above the law, then all are above the law!
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