Dr. Richard Cordero, Esq.
Ph.D., University of Cambridge, England
M.B.A., University of Michigan Business School
D.E.A., La Sorbonne, Paris
Judicial Discipline Reform
New York CityDr.Richard.Cordero_Esq@verizon.net, CorderoRic@yahoo.com, Dr.Richard.Cordero.Esq@cantab.net, Dr.Richard.Cordero.Esq@outlook.com
- Exposing abuses in the judicial system, not only in family court
- I applaud your decision to widen the scope of your advocacy of honest judiciaries from family court to the judicial system as a whole. By so doing, you have widened the potential audience of your documentaries from a relative small one –parents with children in custody litigation- to everybody that has or has had anything to do directly and indirectly with the courts:a. The dissatisfied users of the judicial and legal systems are among the 100 million parties to the 50 million cases(jur:8fn4(jur:8fn,5)) filed in the federal and state courts every year, plus the parties to the scores of millions of pending cases as well as cases deemed to have been wrongly or wrongfully decided. To them must be added their relatives, employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, etc., all of whom suffer indirectly the abuse that litigants suffer directly in court.
- The twofold aim of your production company is justified by the facts. However, when you title your feature documentary The Monstrous Maze — Inside Family Court, you are drastically reducing your audience in practice.
- Money! the most insidious corruptor and where it is found in the judiciary
- The parties to close to one million new cases filed in the federal bankruptcy courts every year will not be attracted by your documentary. The amount in controversy only in the personal, as opposed to the commercial, bankruptcies is mind-boggling: hundreds of billions of dollars -$373 billion in 2010(jur:27§2)-.
- The immense majority of bankrupts appear pro se precisely because they do not have money and cannot afford a lawyer. Consequently, they are easy prey of judges, bankruptcy trustees, auctioneers, accountants, warehousers, evaluators, etc., all of whom work as members of a wrongdoing, exploitative system(jur:xxxv).
- The same holds true for surrogate/probate courts and their settlement of estates and appointment of guardians of incompetent adults. Wards of the court that are old and have accumulated money throughout their lives are the target of unscrupulous judges, clerks, guardians, accountants, etc.
- Cases involving mergers and acquisitions, the launch of an initial public offer of shares, product liability suits, contract disputes between big companies, especially those involving the financing of large projects, inheritance among heirs to rich people, etc., call into play the most insidious corruptor of public officers: Money!
- Money is not at stake in child custody battles in family court
- Nowhere near that amount of money is at stake in family court, even taking into account the divorce of rich people where money can play a corruptive role in the partition of assets.
- Adults with children are likely to be young people who are starting out in life and have little money to be stolen. Parents enmeshed in custody battles have kids and debts. The fixing of child support amounts is unlikely to be the source of corruption of judges and of all the people who are necessary, and who take a cut, for a parent to reach a judge.
- How do parents and spouses corrupt public officers other than with the venom of their anger at each other, their mutual bitter recriminations, and the horrifying spectacle of love turned to corrosive hatred, the devastating impact on their children notwithstanding? What they corrupt is their moral standards.
- If there is corruption in family court, it is not of the worst kind, namely, that motivated by money that can be used to bribe judges and other people and thus, to spread corruption. Consequently, a documentary on family courts is left begging for a motive for judges to do wrong.
- Without the motive of money, what is left is the means without malice of abuse of power
- Without being able to show the corruptive workings of money, a documentarist is unable to prove one of the three fundamental elements of a criminal charge: motive. The opportunity is obvious: the cases. Only the means is left to explore. The means for judges’ wrongdoing is judicial power of decision-making. Power is a potent corruptor too. In family court, the problem may spring from abuse of power. Judges would have to be shown to abuse their power because they go on an ego trip driven by the potent self-worth enhancer of all they can do and get away with.
- But if that is what a documentarist will try to show, a key element necessary to elicit a condemnatory reaction in his audience toward judges will be missing: malice in the form of abuse of power to grab an unlawful benefit, such as money.
- Abuse of discretionary power is very difficult to prove and very different from corruption
- Worse yet, in a great number of cases, the alleged abuse of power falls within the discretionary bounds of judges’ adjudicatory function: What is in the best interest of the child may be assessed differently by the parents, who are too emotionally involved in the case, and by the judge and Children Protective Services officers, who are not so involved. The latter two have a wide margin for decision-making necessary to protect children in cases that are likely to be sui generis because each case has particular elements that distinguish it from all others.
- Hence, it is very difficult to show in a documentary that there has been abuse of discretionary power. For instance, impugning a judge’s discretionary decision not to hold a plenary hearing in a case is extremely difficult. The effort will probably be unconvincing, especially if the complaint comes from a pro se who has little knowledge of the law, never mind of the standards for its application set by precedent, and the functioning of the courts.
- And where is a documentarist going to find successful family court lawyers willing to stand in front of his camera to accuse of abuse of power family court judges before whom they have appeared and will continue to appear? Their doing so could amount to their signing their professional death warrant.
- Logistics or budgetary cuts as the cause of alleged abuse of power
- The state of New York has reduced so drastically the budget and the personnel of courts that it is very likely that there are not enough resources to do what should be done in its courts, such as holding plenary hearings in a timely fashion.
- I know from experience that decisions concerning my practice had been taken by the judge but there was nobody to take them to the county clerk’s office in the same building to enter them there officially. When I complained to the director of the court’s records office, he asked me to come to the office and look for those decisions myself. I went there…and there were hundreds and hundreds of decisions waiting to be entered!…and so many empty desks in his office because many of the officers had been let go.
- A serious documentarist aims to portray the situation in the courts in a fair and impartial manner so that his work is not dismissed as the emotional cry of protest of a biased party to litigation with a grudge against a judge. To that end, he must disclose the deleterious impact of budgetary cuts on judicial performance. That can reduce the situation complained about to a mere consequence of an underfunded court system in a state running short of money. That is not corruption at all.
- Some ways of showing suspicious conduct that raises “the appearance of impropriety” and forces the resignation from the bench
- Compare showing the consequences of judicial personnel shortage with suspecting a judge of concealing assets, as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico(jur:65fn107a) did Then-Judge Sotomayor, the first justiceship nominee of President Obama, now a justice of the Supreme Court. Imagine the pregnant questions that would be prompted after analyzing the documents about her financial affairs(jur:65fn107b) submitted by herself to the Senate Committee on Judicial Nominations and finding that more than $3.6 million is unaccounted for(jur:65fn107c).
- How can it be explained that the annual mandatory financial disclosure reports(jur:65fn107d) submitted by federal judges to peers(jur:105fn213a) on the Judicial Conference(jur:54fn91a) committee that handles those reports may show not variation year after year(jur:102§2)?
- In the case of a judge who must run in judicial elections the focus of the investigation need not be a lifestyle or amount of assets inconsistent with her salary, which is a matter of public record. Rather, the focus may be how she afforded her election. What has the judge made possible her large donors to receive in exchange for their financing her campaign: undue information filed in court under seal; favorable decisions contrary to evidence and legal principles; commercial contracts through which kickbacks are transferred?
- See the exposé in the New York newspaper Newsday, The Insiders: Suffolk judges violated rules while awarding Oheka Castle owner at least $600,000 of foreclosure work; by Reporters Sandra Peddie and Will Van Sant, and Editor Deborah Henley, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Saturday, 4oct14; http://data.newsday.com/projects/long-island/melius-receivership/. See also my proposals to them(ol:176, 214).
- The above are example of how a documentarist and journalists can show that a judge or judges have failed to abide by the injunction in their own Code of Conduct to “avoid even the appearance of impropriety”(jur:68fn123a). Nothing has to be proved to make that showing; the applicable standard is that of the opinion formed by a reasonable and unbiased person informed of the facts. But the consequences can be grave: even a justice of the Supreme Court can be forced to resign, as was Justice Abe Fortas on May 14, 1969, after Life magazine showed his financial improprieties(jur:92§d).
- Using the easier to handle term “wrongdoing” rather than “corruption”
- Corruption cannot be demonstrated through a court transcript. If one believes that it can, there is a problem with what one understands to be corruption, which involves bribery; using confidential information filed under seal for self-benefit; resolving a conflict of interests in one’s own interest; and similar acts punishable by law. Corruption involves criminal activity.
- If a judge engages in a corrupt practice in open court where it can be recorded by the court reporter, he or she would rather be blatantly incompetent. Moreover, a judge can prevail upon a court reporter, lest the latter be fired without recourse(jur:31§a), to have her transcript cleansed of any passage “demonstrating” corruption.
- Because corruption is such a technical term and a charge of corruption requires to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, a more appropriate term to expose judges and bring about judicial reform is wrongdoing.
- Wrongdoing is a negative term wider(jur:86§§a-c) than corruption and much easier to show; yet it can faster attain the main objective of removing wrongdoing judges from the bench. Proving a judge’s corruption by suing her in court(ol:158), where the judge will be judged by her peers, colleagues, and friends; and trying to impeach a judge in Congress(jur:21§a), where she will be judged by those who recommended, endorsed, and confirmed her, are protracted, cumbersome, and seldom effective methods of removing a judge from office.
- Abuse of discretionary power, even the disregard of the law and the facts, is not corruption. It falls within the scope of wrongdoing.
- A competent documentarist can show judicial wrongdoing. But how is he going to reach the widest audience possible?
- The advertisers with the farthest reach: presidential candidates covered by a host of journalists
- Making a documentary that is reasonably calculated to appeal to the public at large, never mind the national public, is only the first hurdle. Thereafter the documentarist needs to distribute and advertise it widely.
- Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 on President Bush and his alleged connection to 9/11 and Laura Poitras’ Citizen Four on Edward Snowden and his leak of NSA secret documents dealt with subjects that had captured national attention either as a national tragedy or a scandal. Consequently, their documentaries received free advertisement on the national newscasts for months, which not even money could have bought. If Moore and Poitras had had to pay to advertise their documentaries, it is hardly conceivable that they would have been as successful as they were. Fahrenheit 9/11 was the largest grossing documentary up to its time.
- Taking advantage of presidential candidates and their coverage by journalists
- Analyzing the above considerations through strategic thinking results in this:
- Presidential candidates covered by journalists offer the most cost-efficient avenue for bringing to the national public a documentary on the issue of judges’ wrongdoing.
- What presidential candidates stand to gain from exposing judges’ wrongdoing is this in brief: Proceeding opportunistically in a very crowded field of 22 candidates and counting –V.P. Joe Biden and even Former V.P. Al Gore may enter the race-, they can stand out of the pack, attract journalistic coverage, and draw support from the huge(¶2 above) untapped voting bloc of the dissatisfied users of the legal and judicial systems, especially victims of wrongdoing judges and advocates of honest judiciaries(ol:311).
- Moreover, particularly the governor and non-politician candidates can use the exposure to attack the opponents who at any time were members of the Senate, which confirms judges nominated by the president, bears responsibility for their oversight, and has in connivance(jur:23fn17a) with them disregarded the evidence of their wrongdoing(jur:26fn23a).
- It follows that the emphasis of the strategy to reach the national public is on federal, not state, judges. Indeed, New Yorkers could not care less what California judges do and vice versa; the same can be said about the people of any one state concerning the judges of any other state.
- Federal judges are the only ones who have national jurisdiction. The exposure of their participation in, or condonation of, wrongdoing in connivance with top politicians will provoke national outrage, especially during a presidential campaign. That reaction will translate into a higher demand for related and updating news, and consequently intense competition among media outlets for a greater share of that audience. The prospect of a scoop deserving of a Pulitzer prize will motivate journalists to jump on the investigative bandwagon(ol:250).
- That chain of events will embolden journalists to investigate state judges and expose those engaged in wrongdoing. Upon demand and spontaneously, victims of wrongdoing state judges will share their complaints with those journalists and demand that also those judges be exposed.
- This is a plan born of strategic thinking(Lsch:14§3; ol:52§C; ol:8§E; jur:xliv¶C), which also gives rise to the following strategic considerations.
- Approaching each presidential candidate with an offer to make a documentary on him or her exposing federal wrongdoing judges through two unique national stories
- The next Republican presidential debate will be held in only a few weeks’ time. It can sound the death knell for a candidate to be relegated again to the afternoon session or for one who participated in the prime time session of the first debate to be demoted to it.
- Therefore, if they are to be enticed by the idea of exposing federal judges as a means of attracting journalistic and national public attention and attacking their opponents, they must be approached as soon as possible.
- The proposal for them to expose wrongdoing judges will not be to tell them to go out and investigate federal justices, judges, and magistrates -2,217 were in office on September 30, 2013(jur:22fn13)- to see if they find some committing wrongdoing.
- Rather, it is by directing their attention to the information already available on the two pinpointed unique national stories of President Obama-Justice Sotomayor and Federal Judiciary-NSA(ol:190§§A,B).
- I trust you realize that a documentary on exposing wrongdoing New York lawyers cannot compete in journalistic national newsworthiness or presidential politics importance with those two unique national stories.
- Networking to presidential candidates through The Independent newspaper
- The way of approaching the presidential candidates, or more realistically, their press department and through it their chief of staff is through The Independent –assuming you meant the New York office of The Independent newspaper of England-.
- Journalists and news editors of The Independent are likely to know directly or indirectly people in the candidates’ press department with whom to arrange a presentation by us to the respective candidate, chief of staff, and aides of the proposal for a documentary:
- Why and how the candidate undertook investigating those two stories until he or she became convinced that they were legitimate and raised issues of national importance concerning the integrity of judicial process and of connivance between politicians and judges; and the steps that the candidate took that led to his or her breaking the stories at a press conference and subsequently including them as a key feature in his or her stump speech.
- Therefore, I propose that at your earliest convenience we meet with your contacts in The Independent to discuss this strategy. You may share with them this email in advance or print it in its article version at ol:313.
- In preparation thereof, I respectfully suggest that you read the presentation article at ol:190 and the letter addressed to presidential candidates at ol:311 and as many of its references as possible.
So, I look forward to hearing from you.
Dare trigger history(* >jur:7§5)…and you may enter it.
Dr. Richard Cordero, Esq.
Judicial Discipline Reform
New York City