October 29, 2001
Problematic For Watchdog
Ethics: Legal experts say the state
Commission on Judicial Performance must protect its own integrity in a probe of
allegations against its top lawyer.
Bu Steve Berry
Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times 10/28/01
With its longtime top lawyer under fire for
an alleged breach of ethics, the integrity of California's judicial watchdog
agency could be tarnished if the group's handing of the controversy is not
beyond reproach, legal experts said.
The 11-member Commission on Judicial
Performance, which disciplines unethical judges, said last week that it plans to
seek an independent examiner to investigate the charges against Victoria Henley,
the commission's chief counsel and top administrator.
The commission, as the state's guardian
against unethical, corrupt and incompetent judges, plays a critical role in
maintaining the integrity and credibility of the judiciary.
If the allegations prove true, "then you
have a situation where the righteous are being unrighteous," said Robert
Fellmeth, director of the Center for Public Interest at the San Diego University
School of Law. "Here's a body that is supposed to be imposing ethical standards
on judges, and they have their own ethical problems."
Already the case has caught the attention of
the state's top judge.
"In view of the seriousness of the
allegations, I hope they will be resolved expeditiously," California Chief
Justice Ronald M. George said Friday. "It is particularly important that it be
resolved in a manner that does not impugn the critical role played by the
commission ... in ensuring integrity among judicial officers."
The charges have been especially shocking in
the legal community * because they
have been directed at the 48-year-old Henley, whose integrity had never been
publicly questioned during her 10 years at the commission's helm.
"She's always been a straight-arrow
person and a paragon of integrity, said Peter Keane, dean of the Golden State
University Law School....
Henley's job is to direct the entire staff,
including the lawyers who investigate misconduct by judges, and to make
recommendations to the commission. The commission has the power to privately or
publicly reprimand judges or remove them from the bench.
Henley refused to comment last week and did
not return calls Friday.
If the charges against her are found to be
true, the commission will have to move swiftly and forcefully to protect its
credibility, said Fellmeth of the Center for Public Interest. "This case raises
the hypocrisy angle," he said.
Fellmeth said the conflict-of-interest
charge is more than just an abstract allegation. "She has a duty to be neutral,
and that person should not be financially inter-twined with the subject of her
* Oh do people have
short memories. This article says, The charges have been
especially shocking in the legal community because they have been directed
at the 48-year-old Henley, whose integrity had never been publicly questioned
during her 10 years at the commission's helm. Is
this writer kidding us, or doesn't he remember Victory Hensley being right
in the middle of a dispute over Attorney John Plotts, who became a
whistle-blower from the inside of the California Commission on Judicial
John Plotts was one of their very own investigators who
exposed the Commission as corrupt, and Victoria Henley threaten to and indeed
did fire him because he would not shut up. She accused him of impugning the
integrity of the Commission on Judicial Performance, and making it look bad, and
this matter hit the newspapers all over, and became a heated controversy over
whether one could or should be fired because they spoke up about internal
corruption. Henley argued that matters of the Commission were and are to be kept
secret, and they Plotts had breached the Commission's secrecy by
propose we either create another ethics watchdog commission to investigate this
ethics watchdog commission, or we set up a Citizen's rotating Special Grand
Jury created by J.A.I.L. I vote for the latter.
J.A.I.L. is the new means of a peaceful revolution in this
J.A.I.L. is an acronym for Judicial Accountability Initiative
JAIL's very informative website is found at www.jail4judges.org
JAIL proposes a
unique new addition to our form of government.
JAIL is powerful! JAIL is
dynamic! JAIL is America's ONLY hope!
JAIL is spreading across America like a
fast moving wildfire!
JAIL is making inroads into Congress for federal
JAIL may be supported at P.O. Box 207, N. Hollywood, CA
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keen to set brush fires in people's minds.." - Samuel Adams
are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is
striking at the
-- Henry David Thoreau <><