** To The Slammer, Your Honor!
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California August 27, 2001The following is a report on JAIL4Judges from a liberal newspaper's point of view. We reproduce the article in full as written by Kate Silver, and will answer some questions raised by her. We shall also make some observations following her article. By and large, the Las Vegas Weekly newspaper and Kate Silver are to be commended for choosing to taking on the challenge of reporting on J.A.I.L. rather than fleeing the issue as most publications would do.- Ron Branson, author/founder of J.A.I.L.Las Vegas WeeklyJuly 26 – August 1, 2001To the slammer, your honor!New initiative aims to punish judgesBy Kate Silver (silver@...)
It’s time to throw the gavel at “black collar” crime. At least, that’s what the backers of Jail4judges (Jail is an acronym for Judicial Accountability Initiative Law), are saying. Its members are supporting a proposed amendment to the Nevada Constitution that aims to crack down on judicial misconduct.
“I want good, honest judges in there,” says Christopher Hansen, chairman, or “jailer-in-chief” as he calls himself, of the Nevada “cell” or chapter (www.nevadajail4judges.org), a group claiming itself nonpartisan but whose rigmarole reeks of right-wing, conspiracy obsession. Hansen is founder of The First Christian Fellowship of Eternal Sovereignty, he’s been involved with the Independent American Party and is an active worker in the Protection of Marriage initiative – that hate-filled initiative that took money from homophobic conservatives and made liberals livid. (Not that we’re biased here.)
Hansen started pushing the Jail4judges initiative seven months ago in Las Vegas. If passed, it will establish a “check and balance” system investigating complaints against our judges – though we already have one.
“(We want) to establish a grand jury to sit over all the judges in Nevada so complaints can be filed with the grand jury only after all other legal recourse has been taken,” he says.
THROW THE BOOK AT ‘EM
Jail4judges originated in California six years ago. Presently, there are branches pushing to get the initiative passed in 41 states. Hansen thinks that, with the heavy influence of the Independent American Party, Nevada has a great shot at being one of the first.
The group’s main premise is to abolish the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, which currently oversees judges, and to create a 25-member “Special Grand Jury,” made up of common folks who would have the power to sanction judges by levying fines and forfeitures, and remove them from the bench. Hansen beams at the enthusiastic reception he’s gotten so far.
“We’ve already had 70 people sign up; everyone from libertarians to Black Panthers to Reform Party members, from the far right, to the far left, and all over the middle, everyone has a story about a judge,” he says.
And the corruption’s nothing new.
“This has been going on for a long time,” he says. “There have been tremendous complaints about the judiciary for over 200 years. Thomas Jefferson said the one big mistake they made in the Constitution was the way they set up the judiciary. (It’s time to) fix the judiciary, and that is up to We the People. The people are the ones that are supposed to be in charge. Not lawyers, not judges.”
Hansen thinks judges have too much power. It’s to the point that they’re making law, he says, rather than ruling on it. His group thinks money and politics sway judges more than the Constitution. He says this initiative is the solution.
“The judges, because of the good-old-boy syndrome, are afraid to discipline their own. This removes sovereign immunity off the judges,” he says, never elaborating on just how this Special Grand Jury will be selected, or how it will, itself, avoid corruption. “The jury can determine if judges have acted in violation of the Constitution.”
CLOSE THE BOOK ON ‘EM
Though he’d not heard of the initiative before speaking with Las Vegas Weekly, Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, says the initiative sounds unnecessary and unconstitutional.
“The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline is a mechanism with guidelines that are already designed for that. Certainly (the notion that) there’s something in the constitution that would allow a group of citizens to decide whatever judges are doing (the) right or wrong thing is a romantic idea,” he says. “It does strike me as something that would not be constitutional. Some sort of self-style group that’s going to make determinations would be really problematic and would require extensive alteration of the Nevada Constitution and the way that the government is structured under the Constitution.”
The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline is our primary state agency for screening, investigating and disciplining judges. While they refuse to comment on the initiative, Executive Director Alan Rabkin explained how the current system works: “The procedure is that anybody, whether it’s a judge, attorney or member of the public, would file a complaint of misconduct to the office in Carson City. Once it’s received we check to make sure that a Nevada judge is involved, and schedule that complaint before the commission, which meets four times a year. At that meeting they decide either to dismiss that complaint because it’s not in our jurisdiction, or proceed to investigate the complaint or file formal or informal charges against the judge.”
Rabkin says the commission has removed many judges in the 25 years it’s been in place, and has disciplined “scores.”
The Administration Office of the Courts, the Nevada Judges Association, the American Judges Association, the national Judicial College in Reno and the state Supreme Court would not comment on the initiative. Apparently, judges are a pretty close-robed group.
Maybe they do have something to hide?
Lessons may be learned from this Las Vegas Weekly article, and for that reason we are thankful. I have repeatedly stated that the number one defense the corrupt system will use against the passage of J.A.I.L. in all fifty states will be appealing to the various state judicial commissions on the basis that J.A.I.L. will be redundant and unnecessary. Of course, this is not so.We are told, "The group’s main premise is to abolish the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, which currently oversees judges..." This is an unsupportable statement as the J.A.I.L. Initiative purposely makes no mention in any state of its judicial commissions.As a point of history, the first state judicial commission began here in California around 1961, which was then called "The Commission on Judicial Qualifications." In its beginning, it did its job quite effectively in going after judges until the California Supreme Court placed a curb on their zealous aggression. It soon became a lap dog of the Supreme Court and then the entire judicial system. It is currently now called the Commission on Judicial Performance, and receives near 1,400 complaints a year. Their own published record shows that in the last ten years they have removed near three judges at a cost of several millions of dollars in operational costs accomplishing that feat.Let's here draw the distinction between the state judicial commissions and the objective of J.A.I.L. If a judge, for instance, smokes on the bench, uses the "F" word and makes sexy innuendos while under the influence of liquor, such indiscretion is not within the scope of J.A.I.L., but the judicial commission. J.A.I.L. clearly deals with willful violations of established law, not indiscretions of a judge's conduct. Of course, if there were a law on the books that said, "Thou shalt not smoke on the bench, use the "F" word, or tell sexual jokes or be under the influence while on the bench," the case would be different. The state commissions are needed to deal with judicial indiscretions where J.A.I.L. does not presume to involve itself.One must learn the rules of the game. Here is how it goes currently without J.A.I.L. (I know, I've been through it all.) You file a criminal affidavit against a judge with the Grand Jury or the District Attorney. You then receive a letter that says, "We do not have jurisdiction against the judge of which you complain about. You are advised to direct your complaint to the Commission on Judicial Performance." After you follow their advice, you will receive a letter stamped inside and out "Confidential." It will say within, "Regarding your complaint again a [your state's name] judge, at our [month] meeting, your complaint was brought up, and after a discussion and a vote, it was determined that there is no stated cause for which this commission should take action. We have therefore closed the file on this matter." When pressed, you may get them to admit, as they did in my case, that they have no jurisdiction over direct violations of state law, they not being a law enforcement body, that that jurisdiction rests with the State Attorney General. Indeed, the California Constitution says, Art. V, Sec. 13, "Subject to the powers and duties of the Governor, the Attorney General shall be the chief law officer of the State. It shall be the duty of the Attorney General to see that the laws of the state are uniformly and adequately enforced."So, I took my complaint, on advice of the CJP to the Attorney General's Office. Indeed Mr. Virgil Chapman, in charge of public relations, stated that the CJP had sent me to the proper place, and it was their duty to see that the laws of the state were enforced. (That's what he said for purposes of public consumption.) However, when I could not get action from the A.G.'s Office, I was then told by another A.G. Deputy, "Mr. Branson, you are asking us to go after the judges in this state. We just cannot do that. We are their attorneys. When they are sued, we defend them. When we, as the A.G. bring actions on our own behalf into the courts, we want the judges to rule in our favor. Now you are asking us to do what is against our interests, and we just cannot do that.So you must learn the merry-go-round of finger pointing that is hidden from the inexperienced. From the Grand Jury (or D.A.) to the state commission, then on to the A.G., and then into a state of limbo for conflict of interest.J.A.I.L. is needed for where the commission admits to having no jurisdiction because of not being a law enforcement body, and vise versa, let the commissions go after smoking, drinking, bad demeanor, abusive language, and bias where J.A.I.L. has no jurisdiction.J.A.I.L. is the new means of a peaceful revolution in this country.
J.A.I.L. is an acronym for Judicial Accountability Initiative Law
JAIL's very informative website is found at www.jail4judges.org
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JAIL is powerful! JAIL is dynamic! JAIL is America's ONLY hope!
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