J.A.I.L. Attorney Takes His Stand
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California July 7, 2001Everyone is encouraged to tune in to J.A.I.L. Night Radio today, Sunday, July 14th starting a 8:30 through 11pm PST. Our guests will be Della Tarpinian, our Kentucky JAILer-In-Chief who is fighting with the Kentucky State Bar, and Connie Tschantz, the Lt. JAILer-In-Chief of Kansas, with Allen Raymond as host. You may tune in via your computer at http://www.soundwaves2000.com/media/truthradio1.ramMiami Newspaper Exposes JudgeAttorney Alberto Batista, a Florida JAILer, is principled enough to hold the honor of being one of Judge Cindy Lederman's "blacklisted" attorneysAlthough lengthy, it is informative and interesting:From miaminewtimes.com
Originally published by Miami New Times March 23, 2000
©2001 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.
Judge Cindy Lederman, champion of justice and advocate extraordinaire, bends the rules on the bench.
By Tristram Korten
Unlike Miami's austere courthouses, such as the Flagler Street tower or
the fortresslike behemoth on NW Twelfth Street, the sprawling Juvenile Justice Center on NW 27th Avenue has all the dignity of an elementary school. And form speaks to function. In the adult courts, both civil and criminal, grownups suffer the consequences of their actions under the harsh glare of reason. But in the juvenile system, emotion threatens to swamp every minute of every day. In delinquency court, where kids are tried for criminal acts, red-faced parents drag their youngsters before judges who try to determine whether transgressions are the result of youthful ignorance or the first buds of a blossoming life of crime. ....
To control a juvenile courtroom, a judge must be decisive and firm. Judge Cindy Lederman, who oversees the place, goes one step further. In the hallways she is known to be downright draconian. Dwarfed by her high-backed chair, Lederman glares through large glasses at defendants and at times barks that they should sit down and shut up. One defendant, who declined to give her name for fear of retribution, recalls Lederman announcing to no one in particular: "I don't like this family. This is a
problem family." Indeed Lederman recently threw an eighteen-year-old
mother into jail just because the judge suspected the girl had lied about writing a letter to the court. "This judge is incredible; she hates our family," says the girl's mother, Valeria Howard. ....
... at least eight lawyers and court officials who regularly work in
dependency court contend Lederman illegally blacklists attorneys from taxpayer-funded cases. Critics believe she rejects those who advocate too aggressively for their clients or successfully challenge her rulings. The claim is corroborated by two years of monthly activity reports on the wheel, minutes from meetings of a committee that considers lawyers' complaints, and the accounts of thirteen others who work at the court. Only five lawyers would allow their names to be used in this story. Others interviewed would talk only on condition of anonymity, largely because of Lederman's reputation for vengefulness.
If Lederman blacklists lawyers, it could be construed as interference in
the administration of justice, possibly a violation of the judicial code of conduct. The ultimate victims of such action would be clients who do not receive solid defense. "Everybody's terrified that one day they'll be too aggressive in court in front of her and lose their appointments," says a lawyer who has practiced in juvenile court for more than a decade. "Believe me, when I disagree with her in court, my sentences are filled with, 'respectfully, judge,' and, 'with all due respect, judge,' just to let her know I've got a job to do here. I haven't been blacklisted -- yet."
Adds another counselor, who has practiced in dependency court more than five years: "Personally I have not been blacklisted, but it affects how I do my job. I don't have the freedom to strongly advocate for my client, because I rely on these cases for my livelihood."
"It's a culture of fear," says still another.
Lederman denies blacklisting lawyers or doing anything improper. She
acknowledges excluding three lawyers, Virginia Stanley, Karl Hall, and Alberto Batista, from her courtroom during the past two years. ....
The first complaints surfaced two years ago. At one point a committee
associated with the court even prepared a letter of complaint to Lederman's boss, Chief Judge of the Eleventh Circuit Joseph Farina. But before the missive could be delivered, the committee was disbanded. Committee members (including Stanley) believe Lederman orchestrated the coup.
At five feet three inches tall, Cindy Lederman appears unlikely to inspire fear in anyone. But her diminutive size conceals a formidable, even fierce, intelligence. Lederman has been a government lawyer for nearly her entire career. Although such experience could dull a less-ambitious mind, she has thrived. During the past 21 years she has honed savvy political instincts and networking skills to become one of the most well-known judges in Miami. ....In a bit of poetic justice, the system Lederman allegedly subverts was put in place five years ago as a corrective measure following one of the most notorious scandals to hit the Miami-Dade court system.
In 1991 the FBI concluded a massive sting on courthouse corruption known as Operation Court Broom. By its end three former judges, one retired judge, and eleven lawyers had pleaded or been convicted of various misdeeds. With the help of an informant, federal agents used marked $100 bills to prove some judges could be bribed to assign cases to lawyers, return seized property, and order evidence suppressed. The last defendant in the case, former Judge Alfonso Sepe, pleaded guilty to racketeering only this month. The delay occurred after he was acquitted of 29 counts in his original 1993 trial and then retried on five remaining counts.
As a result of Court Broom, Leonard Rivkind, the former chief judge of
the eleventh judicial circuit, ordered the creation of committees to explore ways to safeguard against such abuses. In juvenile court a team of experts (including allegedly blacklisted lawyer Stanley) studied the issue. The result was administrative order 94-27, establishing a system to blindly assign private lawyers in publicly funded cases. ....
To ensure that the wheel remains fair and impartial, the court established the Juvenile Court Dependency Standing Committee in 1994. It was to include seven attorneys who monitor the system's fairness. The committee was to certify that lawyers had sufficient experience in juvenile court. It also was to review payment when lawyers' bills topped $500. And finally, the committee was to hear complaints about lawyers and judges.
Karl Hall is a sandy-haired man with a predilection for blue blazers and
chinos. But his prep school image blurs the fact that he's worked in juvenile court for ten years, first as a prosecutor for the state, then, beginning in 1997, as a defense lawyer. He contends that while in private practice, he has never been appointed to a case by Judge Cindy Lederman, a statistical impossibility if the system is being correctly managed.
"It's common knowledge in the juvenile-court building that there are a
number of attorneys who are blacklisted, including myself," Hall says. "The blind appointment system is designed to ensure the judiciary doesn't interfere with the right to counsel by selectively picking attorneys to handle certain cases.... Even my five-year-old daughter understands that concept."
Alberto Batista, a stout lawyer with a bushy black beard and an eccentric demeanor, has practiced in juvenile court since the late 1980s. Like Hall, he says Lederman has blacklisted him. "Judge Lederman has violated the whole spirit of the administrative order, establishing a blind selection
system," says Batista, who complained two years ago about blacklisting
by both Lederman and fellow dependency court Judge Jeri Cohen in a letter to Cohen. Lederman promptly filed a bar complaint against him in July 1998 for violating the code of professional responsibility.
When New Times first confronted Lederman with the accusations in early
March, her response was, "You've got to understand; what we're dealing with here is the most basic right of parents: to parent their children. Parents who find themselves before this court are entitled to the best representation possible. It's my job and my duty to make sure the best representation is afforded them." When pressed on whether that meant she was blacklisting certain attorneys, she responded, "No, that's clearly not true." ....
Beginning in 1998 the blacklisting complaints of Hall, Batista, and about eight other lawyers filtered to the Dependency Standing Committee, the group that certifies lawyers for inclusion on the wheel. There they fell upon the receptive ear of committee chairperson Virginia Stanley, a 53-year-old
Miami native and highly regarded juvenile-court lawyer. In 1988 Stanley
founded the Juvenile Justice Attorney's Association, the equivalent of the bar association for lawyers practicing in juvenile court. She also co-wrote the report recommending the wheel system in the wake of Operation Court
Broom. Stanley says she was well acquainted with the issue of blacklisting. ....
During the committee's March 3, 1999, meeting, Stanley broached the
subject. "Judge Lederman better do something about this before she reads about it in the papers," she said, according to several people present. Stanley declined to comment about that meeting.
"Yes, she said that," committee member E. Joseph Ryan recalls. "She wasn't the first attorney to say that. The issue [of blacklisting] had been brought up by a lot of attorneys over the preceding year." Ryan, who says he is not blacklisted by the judge, was taking the minutes for the session. He made a note: "Memo to be drafted re: selective appointments by judges." The memo was to be sent to Chief Judge Joseph Farina. A rough draft of the memo reads in part: "Over the past several years, committee members have received repeated complaints that the Administrative Judge, Cindy Lederman, has engaged in a pattern of 'blackballing' and 'handpicking' attorneys. The past several months the committee has been grappling with a means to address this problem."
But on March 9, 1999, before the memo could be sent or the committee
could again meet, it was disbanded suddenly and without warning. The order terminating members' tenure was signed by Farina. But as administrative judge, Lederman was in charge of the group. "Nothing happens over there without her okay," one lawyer says. ....
Ryan, Stanley, and others believe the dissolution was a direct result of the fact their preparing to raise the issue of blacklisting with Farina. Lederman then appointed a new committee. ....Critics of Cindy Lederman say she is winning. The attorneys she dislikes
are leaving. Alberto Batista recently withdrew his name from the wheel. He still practices in juvenile court, taking only private clients.
Virginia Stanley, in many ways the doyenne of juvenile court's defense
attorneys, recently announced plans to move to Maine and write books. "I'm getting the hell out of Dodge," she says.
Lederman, meanwhile, faces re-election this November.
Thanks to Sherree Lowe for sending J.A.I.L. this article to us, and to Attorney Bastia, or J.A.I.L. attorney, for standing on his principles.
This article tells us, "As a result of Court Broom, Leonard Rivkind, the former chief judge of the eleventh judicial circuit, ordered the creation of committees to explore ways to safeguard against such abuses." It is always in the light of public exposure that government creates "another committee" to "investigate." The problem is that these committees are but another layer of corrupt politics in government, which require another committee to investigate.Here in Los Angeles, the voters created a new commission called "The Ethics Commission." While it was still new a few years ago, I chose to sit in on the Ethics Commission. After observing it for a while, and the floor being made open for public comments, I took the seat at the table up front and stated that the way they were running things they could soon anticipate the public questioning the ethics of the Ethics Commission. The chairman quickly responded to my comment without missing a step, "They're already doing that."The reason commissions, such as the State Commission on Judicial Performance never work is because they are but politic hacks of the system. This is the very reason JAIL4Judges establishes a Special Grand Jury of citizens drawn by lottery that is entirely rolled over every year with change to its face monthly to avoid politics. People need to learn that politics will never result in ethics, but JAIL4Judges will force the issue. It's time everyone jump on board the J.A.I.L. Victory Train for a turn-around in this country! -Ron BransonJ.A.I.L. is an acronym for Judicial Accountability Initiative Law
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