*** Two Judges Get Prison Terms
- Los Angeles TimesTuesday, June 13, 2000
2 Former San Diego Judges, Lawyer Get Prison Terms
Court: All receive minimum sentences in the gifts-for-favors scandal that shook city's legal system.
Two former San Diego judges and a former "lawyer of the year" were sentenced Monday by a federal judge in Los Angeles to minimum prison sentences for their roles in a gifts-for-favors scandal that rocked the San Diego legal system.
The case revealed publicly an old-boy network of unusual coziness among some lawyers and judges.
Former Superior Court Judges James Malkus and G. Dennis Adams and former civil attorney Patrick Frega were ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie* to begin their sentences July 10. The three have been free while appealing their 1996 convictions.
"I have suffered shame, humiliation and sleepless nights," Malkus told Rafeedie.
"I'm mortified by the embarrassment I have caused the judiciary," Adams said outside the courtroom.
Rafeedie rebuffed a request by federal prosecutors to impose maximum sentences.
Still, the case reaffirmed the controversial principle that it is illegal, not just unethical, for judges to receive gifts from lawyers whose cases they are hearing--even if it cannot be proven that the gifts were in exchange for specific preferential treatment.
Rafeedie sentenced Adams, 58, to 38 months; Malkus, 63, to 30 months; and Frega, 54, to 41 months. In all three cases the sentences were the minimum under federal guidelines.
After the 1996 trial, Rafeedie sentenced Adams and Frega to 41 months and Malkus to 33 months. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voided one count of the conviction against the two judges. The case went back to Rafeedie for resentencing after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
A third ex-jurist, former Presiding Judge Michael Greer, escaped a prison sentence only by becoming the star witness for prosecutors. He pleaded guilty and was placed on probation.
Frega, who often represented consumers against large corporations, lavished more than $100,000 in gifts on the three judges from 1983 to 1992. Among them: automobiles, vacations, office equipment, health club memberships and jobs for the judges' children.
The judges coached Frega on how to present his cases, pressured opposing attorneys into reaching out-of-court settlements and assigned his cases to "friendly" judges.
Greer and Malkus resigned in 1993 during an investigation by the Commission on Judicial Performance. Adams was ousted by the California Superior Court in 1995. A dozen other San Diego judges and lawyers received scolding letters from the commission.
San Diego Presiding Court Judge Wayne Peterson, in a telephone interview, said the case has been "a dark cloud" over the San Diego judiciary.
"Members of the judiciary have had to suffer for the sins of these participants for years," he said. "It's very difficult to be on the defensive for actions you did not commit, errors you did not make."
Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times* Lest anyone think U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie is an angel, let's look into his background. Rafeedie was a defense attorney who frequented the Santa Monica Branch Office of the Los Angeles District Attorney where Stephen Trott was Head Deputy (now on the 9th Circuit Courts of Appeal by appointment of President Ronald Reagan.)Through the recommendation of Trott, Rafeedie received a position as Superior Court judge in the Santa Monica court where he later became presiding judge.Thereafter Rafeedie was recommended to and appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the federal district court in Los Angeles.As a federal district judge, Ronald Branson had the occasion of a case coming before Judge Rafeedie, where he made every attempt to thwart Branson's case. He tried in vain to place words in Branson's mouth that Branson objected to, suggesting he say things detrimental to his case involving the defendant County of Los Angeles, and several state judges he was suing. The case involved judges acting in complete absence of all jurisdiction, among which was named Justice Michael G. Nott.Not only did Rafeedie make every attempt to evade the issue clearly before the court, dodging the cases Branson cited on point, of which he could not refute, nor did he even try, but he imposed monetary sanctions upon Branson for even bringing the lawsuit in the first place against the good ol boys network of which he was a part.The case went on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal entitled Branson v. Nott, (9th Cir. 1995) 62 Fed 3rd, 287, which became a famous eleven page published opinion often cited by the Ninth Circuit. While the Ninth Circuit did all they could to cover for Judge Edward Rafeedie and make Branson appear to be a nut that all he knew how to do was sue judges, they reversed Rafeedie on the imposition of sanctions against Branson.It is Branson's opinion that U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie fails and refuses to acknowledge the truth when he finds it uncomfortable, and he readily demonstrates a willingness to violate his oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution. Branson believes Rafeedie himself should be sentenced to prison for involved corruption.Please note the words above, "In all three cases the sentences were the minimum under federal guidelines," meaning under law Rafeedie was not allowed to exercise his discretion to give these bribe-taking criminally corrupt judges a lessor sentence. "All receive minimum sentences in the gifts-for-favors scandal that shook city's legal system," says the Los Angeles Times. Branson suggests there is a scandal going on that is even bigger than the one reported on by the Times. A complaint by Mr. Branson seeking impeachment proceedings in Congress against several federal judges for corruption is still pending. Branson has now proposed a federal "Judicial Accountability & Integrity Legislation" Bill to be passed by Congress. This proposed Bill is now on the J.A.I.L. For Judges website.
J.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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