June 27, 2002
Los Angeles Daily
Wed. June 26, 2002
Attorney: Payment to
By Troy Anderson
A taxpayer advocate attorney filed complaints Tuesday
alleging Los Angeles County government pays judges an extra $30,000 a year each,
on top of their state-paid salary and benefits, and claiming it makes them
biased in cases involving the county.
"These Los Angeles County voluntary payments and the
judges' practice of not disclosing the payments are probably the single largest
corruption of a state judicial system in the history of our country," said
attorney Richard I. Fine of Beverly Hills.
"Even worse, Los Angeles County is using taxpayer
moneys for this while claiming it doesn't have money to fund health care for the
poor, and other social programs."
Fine filed the complaints with the Commission on
Judicial Performance, the Fair Political Practices Commission, the California
Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice, asking them to
investigate and prosecute Los Angeles County and Los Angeles Superior Court
judges and commissioners for violations of criminal and other laws.
The complaints follow a lawsuit Fine filed June 13 on
behalf of Sylmar resident John Silva against Los Angeles County, alleging that
the payments were illegal.
Los Angeles Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini
said federal judges have dismissed two similar lawsuits filed by
"The only adjustments in the three actions are slight
adjustments in who the plaintiff and defendants are," Parachini said. "Mr. Fine
has been told twice unequivocally by judges in federal court that there is no
merit whatsoever to this complaint. We consider this a closed
Fine said the federal judges dismissed the cases,
saying they did not have jurisdiction, and they did not decide the merits of the
case. They said they would have jurisdiction over a case like Silva's
Since 1998, Los Angeles County has been paying judges
more than $30,000 a year each above their base salary of $136,224, which will go
up to $139,493 on July 1. Here is a breakdown of the extra funds paid
- $25,884 in cash for health and insurance benefits,
even though they are fully covered by the state.
- $5,586 in professional development for legal journals,
books and conferences, although the court already provides most of their
journals and pays for conferences.
- $840 a year as a transportation allowance....
- Two retirement programs, one from the county and one
from the state. The county provides a matching contribution of up to 4 percent
for the judges' retirement plans.
Allow me to comment and address some matters on the
above. The reason for these "hidden salaries" to judges are two-fold.
Much of government bureaucratic salaries are tied to
judges' salaries, and when the judges receive a pay raise, so does a whole
string of bureaucrats. By hiding these funds and not calling it a
"salary," it avoids a universal round of salary increases for all
other government officials.
Number two, governments, including the County of Los
Angeles, know that their continued status quo existence depends upon these
judges ruling in their favor, so they have to treat these judges royally in
This editor himself, in a lawsuit against the County of
Los Angeles, moved for a venue change outside the County of Los Angeles because
every judge therein had a clear conflict of interest. Of course, the very
ones holding the conflict of interest ruled on my question of their conflict of
interest and "found" that they did not have a conflict of interest. When I then
turned and sued this county judge in federal court, who shows up
to defend this judge but the very same attorney that was defending the
defendant County of Los Angeles in front of this judge in the original case.
Ah, yes, and I'm not done yet! What federal
judge sat in judgment on the case but a former Deputy District
Attorney having worked for and receiving retirement from the County
of Los Angeles. One just cannot win. Fact is, that many, if not most Los
Angeles Federal judges have in some capacity worked for the County of Los
Angeles prior to ascending to the federal bench, and are personal friends of
those working for the County of Los Angeles. I've already talked about this
before, showing they work on a first name basis, and ask how the wife is and the
judge's children by name.
Now let's consider these secret funds given in cash off
the record to all L.A. County judges. We are told these judges receive more
than $25,000 per year for health care. Pray tell, who in this world pays
anywhere near $25,000 for health-care insurance annually? Oh, wait,
health-care? We were just told these judges already have full health-care
coverage provided to them by the state. Isn't this "double-dipping?" You
say, "Well, if their employer is so stupid as to pay them twice, its their
fault, why shouldn't the judges take it?" But where does this secret
funds come from? Yes, yes, the taxpayers! They've been ripped off again, and the
County of Los Angeles wins again.
And let's not forget, this is at a time when the County
of Los Angeles is claiming that due to budget shortfalls, they are having
to close health-care facilities to the poor that have "NO" health-care
whatsoever. Yes, I said "NO" coverage -- because they cannot afford
it. -Ron Branson
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