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The Best Courts (Your) Money Could Buy

You’ve probably never even heard about it, but our LA County Supervisors have been giving local superior court judges an illegal bonus (now an extra $57,000 a year per judge), even though doing so is plainly prohibited by California’s Constitution.  (Judges already receive about $179,000 a year in salary from the State, plus another $30,000 in benefits, and they’ll continue to receive as much as 80% of the packages in retirement benefits.) 

There are letters, reports and memos which prove there were no doubts the givers and receivers all knew and understood that the payments were illegal, but they’ve been doing it anyway for more than 20 years.

Why would the County pay out such a huge amount of money (about $300 million so far) when it didn’t have to?   When it was illegal to?   (And now the County is suffering from a monstrous budget "crisis", for heaven's sake!   Might this be a clue as to why?)  They’ve said it was to “attract and keep quality judges”, but that explanation ignores the fact that judges are elected and We The People decide which ones we’ll keep, and it ignores the thousands of qualified lawyers who’d gladly fill the judgeships at the legal base pay rate.  (These LA County judges are receiving far more than any other group of judges in America, even more than the judges of the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court.)   So the reasons given can’t possibly be true, not to mention the glaring fact that we've now paid more only to have gotten an entire bench of judges acting illegally.  Whose definition of "quality" are we going by here? 

The Cost of Living Index bears this out:  Los Angeles is rated 147.7 (the “average” city is rated 100.0), yet it costs 14.2% more to live in San Francisco, which is rated at 172.1.  Yet LA judges have managed to get themselves 32% more salary than San Francisco’s judges.

Could the answer instead lie in the 2005-2008 reports analyzing the cost of lawsuits in which LA County was a defendant?  It turns out that not one of those cases was lost by the County when decided by a judge who’d gotten the illegal bonus.   Not one.  (Update with newly discovered report:  It also turns out that the criminal conviction rate has doubled, while the actual crime rate has remained essentially the same.) (Update #2:  LA County Board of Supervisors' salaries are set to match superior court judges' salaries, which were supposed to have only been paid by the State.  But since the Supervisors paid them illegal bonuses, the Supervisors' own salaries also apparently were increased as a result ... without the public's permission.  The law characterizes this as a crime of "embezzlement".)

Many years prior to these discoveries, Richard Fine, a gentleman and attorney with a very distinguished career as a taxpayer advocate, had forced LA County to stop stealing from kids after a client discovered that the County was holding up child support monies it collected before paying them over to the parent who was supposed to receive them, illegally keeping all the interest while callously depriving millions of helpless children in the process.  (In some instances, the support monies were not being paid over at all.)  Mr. Fine also forced the County to stop overcharging residents on their sewer bills (obtaining $85 million in refunds).  There are many more examples from over the years, but perhaps the worst of all was the relatively recent discovery that County leaders are striking sweetheart deals with developers which practically give away taxpayer-owned land (OUR public land) to them, in exchange for campaign donations and who knows what else.  This practice alone has and will continue to cost us hundreds of millions in lost tax collections, money that we’ll all have no choice but to make up elsewhere, because judges have dismissed all the lawsuits that were filed trying to recover the lost tax value of at least $700 million dollars.

This is no exaggeration. 

Mr. Fine realized that very strange things had happened in several recent cases he’d filed against Los Angeles County.  Knowing that cases were mysteriously being dismissed for nonsensical and bogus reasons, he investigated and uncovered the County’s illegal payments to judges and the reports showing that the County was no longer losing lawsuits when judges determined their outcome.

In trying to right the further wrongs being done to taxpayers, Mr. Fine insisted that judges being paid by the County should have revealed that fact on their mandatory financial disclosure forms and, if any party to a lawsuit objected, the judge should voluntarily step aside and not determine the outcome of cases in which the County was a party.  As an officer of the court, Mr. Fine was obligated by oath to raise these issues.  He made it clear that any other course of action looked suspicious, and reminded them that judges are required by the law to disqualify themselves automatically when there was even an appearance of impropriety.  Mr. Fine insisted that the judges disqualify themselves and allow the cases to be ruled over by unbiased judges.

But the judges, who all feared having to repay that money and who faced prison time for accepting it, closed ranks and refused to disqualify themselves.  They put on the false front that there was no problem whatsoever.   Mr. Fine’s clients were not happy, of course, and encouraged him to stop them from getting away with it.  So he fought back. 

To make a long story short, the judges managed to take away his license to practice law, charging him with “moral turpitude” for questioning the courts’ neutrality.  (This issue is what’s currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Update:  State Bar files waiver of right to respond, meaning Mr. Fine's appeal is unopposed.)

They even held a hearing about Mr. Fine without notifying him (which they later admitted), and issued orders in his absence without giving him any opportunity to object or respond.  He is now being forced to sit in jail on a false contempt charge because he refuses to pay sanctions of $47,000 which were imposed to punish him for causing them trouble and prevent him from continuing.   Judge Yaffe even acted as a witness in the contempt "trial", improperly putting himself in the role of judging the truthfulness of his own testimony.  (There are so many laws against this kind of thing, it’s stunning it was even tried, much less that they’ve been able to keep Mr. Fine behind bars for months with an “order” which was generated under false pretenses and under color of law.)   To prosecute the contempt charge, Judge Yaffe and the attorneys for developer Jerry Epstein agreed that Epstein's attorneys would prosecute the case.

The judges are so scared that they’re keeping Mr. Fine in jail despite knowing that the California Court of Appeal issued a decision late last year in a case brought by Judicial Watch called Sturgeon v. LA County which left no doubt that it is absolutely illegal for the County to make these payments to judges. 

However, rather than conform to the law as the Sturgeon decision commanded, those involved got together and, guided by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George, hired expensive lobbyists (paid with public funds?) to manipulate the State Legislature into literally sneaking through a midnight bill (called “SBX2-11”) at the peak of this year’s budget crisis.  Our laws were thus changed to not only make the payments  appear to be “legal” and authorized to continue, everyone involved in the giving and receiving of them has been granted retroactive immunity from criminal prosecution.  (Immunity is never given when no crime is involved.)   (UPDATE:  The paragraph of SBX2-11 concerning the retroactive immunity was not put into the official Code like the rest of the bill.  Why are they hiding this pardon of over Ten Million Felonies from the public?  Also, and luckily for taxpayers, it turns out that SBX2-11 does NOT grant immunity to county supervisors who paid themselves matching bonus.  Looks like they'll be facing some time behind bars for their greed blinded by stupidity.  Now, if only we could find an honest prosecutor.)

SBX2-11, however, is an ex post facto law.  Its immunity provisions will ultimately be repealed.

Mr. Fine currently has an appeal for release before a higher court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,  and new ammunition:  a brand new decision by the U.S. Supreme Court was issued on June 8, 2009 (in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co.) which confirms the no-brainer holding confirming that judges must disqualify themselves from presiding over cases in which they’ve received money from a party to a case before them.

Also, a bright star on the horizon is the news that a preliminary injunction is being sought on July 13th by Judicial Watch to stop the bonus payments to judges from the Los Angeles County Supervisors (one of whom was actually caught some years back phoning a judge on behalf of a campaign contributor to try to influence the outcome of a case being heard at the time).   (UPDATE:  Protecting his fellow judges (for now), Judge Richman has dismissed the case,  ruling that SBX2-11 now authorizes the payments.  The case is again up on appeal before the California Court of Appeal (which ruled in Sturgeon's favor after the first round), with oral arguments scheduled for sometime in October, 2010.) 

Meanwhile, Mr. Fine has been locked in solitary confinement under horrendous circumstances and conditions since March 4, 2009.  He’s been in what the ACLU has said is absolutely THE “worst” jail in all America    Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, home to 20,000 inmates.  Things were bad enough as he was kept from sleeping because of bright overhead lighting being purposefully left on all night, and he was not allowed outside for fresh air and exercise, or even a moment to see the sunshine.  The judge’s malice was clear from the beginning, however, inasmuch as he ordered that Mr. Fine be denied paper and pencil with which to petition a higher court … a basic civil right of ALL incarcerated persons, even mass murderers.  Reporters were also not allowed to interview him.    Mr. Fine is not allowed to post a bail or have any kind of hearing, nor does he have access to a law library or any legal materials; simply put, he is ordered to remain in jail until he relents and acknowledges the void “order” as being legitimate.  (For this to happen, Richard Fine will be forced to violate his oath,  one deeply held and honored throughout the life of his productive career.  But eighteen months later and counting, we can't help but wonder how much longer any human could hold out.)

At the present time, even though the (all-volunteer) support team was able to have some of the jail restrictions relaxed a tiny bit, Mr. Fine continues to be prevented from earning an income and the financial consequences have been devastating.  As a taxpayers’ advocate, Mr. Fine never lived a life of opulent luxury.  Now he is literally on the brink of losing everything.  (One judge even took money directly from a client settlement fund of Mr. Fine’s, forcing him to pay for the cost of the judge’s attorneys to defend his receipt of the illegal payments.)

Richard Fine worked tirelessly for all of us, but now has nothing left beyond the hope that you, the decent citizens of California and elsewhere, will return a small part of the favor and support efforts to restore and enforce our Constitution. 

How can you help?  Consider voting against all incumbent superior court judges and LA County Supervisors in their next elections.  Consider voting against all California State Senators and Assemblymen who voted in favor of SBX2-11 while it was in committee. (See Footnote 1)  And consider voting against all those who’ve refused to get involved here with the excuse that it’s “a judicial matter” like Congressmen Brad Sherman and Adam Schiff, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (who also signed off on SBX2-11).

The details of this story are very complicated, so drafts have been written and put online -- one for lawyers which contains legal details, and a shorter one for those who don’t have the interest in slogging through it all.  (Both are works in progress.)  If you’re interested in learning the details, you will find the lawyers’ version at http://sites.google.com/site/freerichardfine/Home/the-money-trail and the shorter version at http://sites.google.com/site/freerichardfine/money-trail---edited-version.  (If you are interested in staying updated, please see our blog at RightTrumpsMight.blogspot.com .) 

These documents are within a website recently created for public access to our collection of evidence, press articles, actual pleadings filed, a donation appeal, etc.  The homepage for the effort to “Free Richard Fine” can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/freerichardfine/Home.  From there you will find links to all sorts of information.

EVERY SINGLE FACT stated above is true and proven.  Not all of the evidence is online at our website yet, but we have clear and irrefutable proof of every piece of this puzzle known so far.  (We also have no doubt the corruption extends to other areas, that what’s been uncovered is just a small part of it.)   And we’re uncovering new evidence all the time because a few good citizens in the know (including a couple of lawyers) are coming forward and sharing additional information.   

But lawyers still tell us they cannot afford to get involved publicly.  They have to work before these judges, and they know very well that what is happening to Mr. Fine could also happen to them if they make waves.   So it’s up to us.

Your support, in whatever form, will make a difference.  Monetary donations would certainly help tremendously (the cost of filing just the one petition with the U.S. Supreme Court was almost $3,100).  The larger picture, however, involves protecting ourselves and our futures from those we cannot trust who have managed to get into office. 

But we’re only a small group of dedicated people in a fight against 500+  …  and the robed robbers have a tremendous amount of power. 

However, WE have the decency and good intent they sorely lack.  If you join us, someday you too will be able to look back with pride in the knowledge that you played a meaningful part in history … that you helped save an entire state from massive corruption, getting it back on track to becoming a great place to live, where justice is dispensed fairly, once again

Beyond freeing Richard Fine, the following issues will be addressed and changes implemented with immediacy to undo damage done and right wrongs committed to date:

*     Demand will be made upon judges to return all monies that were paid to them illegally, and any judge so tainted who may remain on the
        bench is forbidden and will be prevented from ever presiding over any future lawsuits involving the County.  (The costs of providing
        additional judges to handle County-related matters will be deducted from tainted judges’ State salaries.)

 *      All lawsuits against the County of Los Angeles and/or members of its Board of Supervisors filed in LA Superior Court while its judges were improperly receiving payments will be reopened and examined by a neutral judicial body, after which settlements will be entered into with any wronged parties, and judges who improperly dismissed cases or otherwise acted dishonorably will face impeachment, disbarment and indictment.

*       A citizens’ oversight committee will be established to monitor activities occurring on behalf of the County, especially those involving the leasing of public land.

*      In all future cases, every judge must disqualify himself upon request from any party before him, with no requirement that any reason be given, after which the case should be turned over to the judge whose name follows next alphabetically in the roster.

*       Thorough Federal investigation of all dealings between Supervisors and developers will be expanded and completed.  Audits will examine the County’s use of all Federal funds ever at its disposal.

Immunity will be revoked, then criminal indictments brought and prosecutions begun against all persons who committed what would have been considered a crime prior to passage of Senate Bill SBX2-11.

*      The current provisions tying salaries of County employees to percentages of judges’ salaries will be immediately repealed.  (i.e., innocent employees will not suffer because of judges' misconduct.)

None of these will be a breeze to tackle, much less accomplish … but they are what we will see is accomplished because they are all the RIGHT things to do.   And when it’s all over, we’ll have an honest system again … the bare minimum we can allow ourselves to accept … and we’ll have lower taxes to boot! 

Our forefathers wisely crafted founding documents which were intended to create a system of justice by which we could all live under the rule of law.  Our current leaders and judges, however, have callously subverted our rights and subjected our taxpayer funds to rampant theft with, apparently, no fear of consequences.  If that isn’t changed … soon … California will be overrun by corruption forevermore.   Since there's no other moral choice other than that somebody must do something about it, we will.

Make no mistake about it, we're coming.  And if a reader is guilty of any part of the corruption, you're a felon, we all know it, and we're coming for you.  We've given the powers that be several months to do the right thing as we've painstakingly collected the evidence.  Now the case is in place and no one's done anything beyond hunkering down further.  So be it.  Soon, the world will know what you've done because we WILL NOT STOP until FULL justice is obtained, not only for Richard Fine, but for ALL decent citizens of Los Angeles County and the state of California. 

See HERE for updates.  MANY surprising events have occurred since the above was written months ago.  Also, check the blog Right Trumps Might for commentary on critical events as they occur.

If you've read this far, you know the situation is dire.  So donate, why don'tcha?  There's a PayPal link on the home page for just that purpose.  The volunteers' time is all free, but it's costing us an average of $350 a week in hard expenses to keep this critical ball rolling.  If we have to quit for lack of funds, we all may as well pack our bags and leave the state. 


Footnote 1:  The "yes" votes on SBX2-11 in the California Senate Committee were cast by:

Ducheny	Alquist	    Calderon	Cedillo
Corbett DeSaulnier Florez Hancock
Kehoe Leno Lowenthal Liu
Negrete McLeod Oropeza Padilla Pavley
Romero Simitian Steinberg Wolk
Wright Yee

P.S.  To anyone having access to the Sustain system, if it's not illegal to do so, we sure would appreciate receiving an anonymously-sent copy of whatever secrets it contains regarding the Fine cases, especially 09-56073 and 09-80130 (9th Circuit) and 09-cv-1914, 08-cv-2906, and 09-mc-00129 (USDC).   Please email to FreeRichardFine@gmail.com.

"One man with courage makes a majority."  ~  Andrew Jackson

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Don't measure your life by what you've attained in terms of your desires...

but those small moments of integrity, compassion... rationality, even self-sacrifice. 

Because in the end, the only way that we can measure the significance of our own lives...

is by valuing the rights of others.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Next:  Resume/career biography of Richard Fine.    (Link)          

Or see "Right Trumps Might" blog for timely updates.  (Link)

Or jump to HOME page for links to other outrageousness discovered. (Link)

Or see our LINKS, in the column to the left.


Here are the words that shook the thrones of tyrants and haunt the days of despots:

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.  ..."

"He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries."

[More at above link.]







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