328** Gilding The Gavel
- Feb 27, 2001
J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles - February 27, 2001
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For a beautiful navy blue T-shirt with "J.A.I.L." on the back and www.jail4judges.org large and visible over the pocket, imprinted in a bright yellow-gold lettering, send your check payable to J.A.I.L. for $11.95 plus $4 S&H. (Discounts on volume quantities.) Wear them to your next courthouse function and watch the reaction.Last night, I walked into a 7-Eleven store to purchase a cup of hot chocolate, and laid eyes upon the front page headlines of the day's Daily News which said in large print, "Gilding the gavel?" Noting it was on the Los Angeles Superior Court's slush fund, I immediately purchased a copy, knowing that those involved with J.A.I.L. in some manner had a part in it. I'm very pleased that this story has finally hit the big time establishment news.In 1996 Marve Bryer called me and shared with me his findings and the checks he had in hand. He was very worked up and told me that he was going to the District Attorney with his evidence that the judges in Los Angeles were involved in a money laundering scheme in which they personally receive gifts under the table.I responded, "Marve, don't turn loose of your evidence to the D.A. because you will likely find that he is involved in it too, and you can be sure he will do absolutely nothing about it." Marve followed my instructions, and he found that my advice was correct.Marve has been at this for years, and everywhere he has gone with this documentation before government, he received lip service. At times the media threaten that they were going to blow the lid on this story. Now, five years later, he is rewarded with the below article in yesterday's newspaper.Irene Jensen mentioned in this article is among our first involved in JRA, (Judicial Reform Act) the former name of J.A.I.L. Adelle Clarke has recently attended our JAIL business meetings, and is currently on the KCAL Channel 9 website via video production.
Daily NewsMonday, February 26, 2001by Troy AndersonGilding The Gavel?Los Angeles Superior Court judges have used an obscure fund supported by lawyer contributions, court monitors and legal seminar fees for nearly 40 years to cash personal checks and to pay for retirement parties and other nonjudicial functions.Throughout most of the four decades, what judges call the "coffee and flower" fund operated under the county's tax number, and its records were kept by county employees....Details of the fund -- which carried six-figures balances at times -- have emerged out of a running legal battle between the Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Association and a group of parents who claim they were victimized by the family court system because of the financial interests of the judges.The parents allege in a lawsuit that the "coffee and flowers" fund is really part of a multimillion-dollar "money-making web," a slush fund operated improperly for the benefit of judges without independent oversight."It is a cause for concern when money that attorneys thought what was going to pay for training or classes went into a private fund that was used for any kind of personal expenditures for judges," said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Encino.".... I think if those allegations are true it's definitely a matter that should be the subject of an audit or brought to the attention of the attorney general." ....Jerrianne Hayslett, Superior Court Spokeswoman, said it would be premature to place credence in criticism of the fund because the disgruntled litigants have not proved their claims."The allegations are full of misrepresentations," she said. "It's an attempt to discredit the court." ....Still Superior Court presiding Judge James Bascue has responded to new questions being raised about the fund by asking the judges association to arrange for an independent audit.Controversy over the fund has been stirred by several dozen families involved in lengthy custody fights....La Crescenta resident Marvin Bryer, 62, a retired computer analyst, has spearheaded the effort, spending more than $100,000 and years of effort trying to help his daughter Karen, 32, in her custody battle over her 12-year-old son Nicholas Van Meter.Bryer, former San Fernando resident Irene Jensen and Sierra Madre resident Idelle Clarke have filed various motions in their family law cases and lawsuits in recent years attacking the judges' fund because of the contributions from lawyers and court-appointed visitation monitors who profit from child-custody battles.Along with several dozen others involved in custody fights, they claim court-approved visitation monitors who oversee child visits qualify for the job by paying fees for certification courses taught by judges, with the proceeds going into the fund.Through discovery processes and in direct dealing with court officials, they have gained access to documents that shed some light on the fund.Two months' worth of the association's canceled checks showed $7,000 in checks made payable to the court for official court business found their way into the "coffee and flowers" fund. The checks were written by the Los Angeles County Bar Association and monitors. Bryer has attempted to obtain more canceled checks from the judges association, but his requests have been refused.Two checks Bryer obtained show visitation monitors wrote checks to the court, but the checks were deposited into the judges' association fund. ....Checks drawn on the account were written by judges and made out, among other things, to a Tarzana country club, a Los Angeles jewelry store and to cash. ....The county Auditor-Controller's Office investigated the issue in 1996, finding ....two Los Angeles County Bar Association checks, totaling $6,750, that should have been deposited with the court rather than the judges association fund, Auditor-Controller J. Tyler McCauley wrote in a confidential March 27, 1996, memo to the court clerk.Bryer and Jensen went to the Board of Supervisors in August and asked for a more thorough investigation, but McCauley told them the county did not have the authority to investigate a private judges association. ....A 1999 IRS 990-EZ tax return for the association showed .... The association directors were listed as Judges James Bascue, Victor E. Chavez and Aviva Bobb. ....Jensen's attorney, Richard A. Mata of Downey, has challenged the system, claiming that the judges supervise the monitors list, take the fees from a training and certification course and deposit the fees into accounts controlled by the judges association."The process by which the above checks were being collected and deposited in the judges' accounts raises not only more questions about the Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Association but a perceived conflict of interest between the judges' financial relationship to other child-custody professionals who work for the court," Mata wrote in court documents filed in August to challenge the system. ...."The money is supposed to support the functions of the family court," said Syrus Devers, an attorney and senior consultant to Kuehl. "However, checks written out to various titles all went into this same fund, the judges' miscellaneous fund. It may have said Family Court Services, but it was deposited into the miscellaneous fund. That looks odd."There is one name on the check and then you flip it over and the account name stamped by the back is the judges' miscellaneous fund." ....Judges started the fund in 1962 to pay for coffee in the judges' lounge and for flowers for the spouses of sick or deceased judges, according to court spokeswoman Hayslett. ....Later, judges used the fund to by gifts for judges....Documents obtained by the Daily News show the judges association did not file tax returns or file as a tax-exempt organization with the State Franchise Tax Board or the Internal Revenue Service until 1997.Before filing for federal tax-exempt status, the association had used the federal identification number of Los Angeles County government. ....Taxpayer advocate and Los Angeles attorney Richard I. Fine said the fund "boggles the mind.""It's incredulous that something like this could be going on and nobody would pick up on it," Fine said. "They are running an operation out of the courthouse that people are paying money into. It literally boggles the mind that this could exist."
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