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* J.A.I.L. Is Not Designed to Replace Judicial Commissions

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  • jail4judges
    J.A.I.L. News Journal ____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California January 3, 2001
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2002
      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      Los Angeles, California                                         January 3, 2001 
      J.A.I.L. Is Not Designed To Replace
      Judicial Commissions
      Following are a couple of articles from the St. Petersburg Times reporting on activities regarding the Judicial Qualifications Commission in Florida, sent to J.A.I.L. by Citizens for Judicial Accountability CforJA@.... It's good to see this activity on investigating judicial behavior by states' commissions, and J.A.I.L. is not designed to replace that system. A popular argument by those opposing the passage of J.A.I.L. is "We already have a process in place to examine alleged judicial misconduct; we don't need duplicity." 
      The reason it is not duplicity is that J.A.I.L. is designed to be independent of the influence of government officials who often have conflicts of interest in judging judges, and most of the time the commissions summarily deny that judicial misconduct exists and consider the case closed, denying the complainant due process of law and creating yet another unconstitutional "roadblock" to a judicial remedy. J.A.I.L. steps in to provide this remedy whenever the system fails to do so. Willful violation of the U.S. Constitution and laws made in pursuance thereof is the objective standard to be used in the J.A.I.L. process, a standard generally overlooked by commissions.
      Our thanks to C for J.A. for this contribution. 

      (Article 1)
      More about Judge Holder and the good old boy's club   CforJA@...

      A Times Editorial

      Watch how JQC handles Holder

      © St. Petersburg Times
      published December 20, 2001

      Like him or not, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Greg Holder has helped bring about positive change at the county courthouse. The local judiciary is more diverse, more open, more professional and more accountable because Holder alone among 48 judges had the courage to speak out against the good ol' boy system that has long been the fabric of Tampa politics. Now Holder is the subject of a conduct complaint -- thin gruel, by the look of documents and interviews released thus far. How the Judicial Qualifications Commission handles the matter will reflect on that agency's own judgment and candor.

      We are in no position to judge at this stage whether Holder violated judicial ethics. The JQC is trying to determine whether Holder misled a federal judicial nominating panel by declaring at the time he was unaware of any professional complaints filed against him. Holder had met on two occasions with the JQC chairman, who admonished him for speaking to reporters. Several attorney-members of the nominating commission said they did not believe that Holder misled them. They also said they doubted that the facts amounted to a material change or would have played a role in determining whether Holder was nominated. It will be up to the JQC to make a convincing case that a meeting between judicial colleagues somehow equates with a formal disciplinary process.

      Holder has welcomed an airing of the facts, and we'll leave his defense to him. But the episode raises troubling questions about the process and whether judges who blow the whistle face retaliation. On what pretext, for example, did a JQC representative meet with Holder? The disciplinary process exists to establish a public record and to prevent a small circle of judges from refereeing ethical and political disputes. If the JQC meeting with Holder was intended to keep him quiet, what confidence can the public have in the agency's ability to handle judges who are genuine problems?

      The JQC has at least as many questions to answer. If it is firing a shot over Holder's bow to keep other judges from voicing dissent, then the whole concept behind the JQC -- that the judiciary can be trusted to self-police -- will lose its moral authority.

      Holder has his detractors -- they call him a showboat -- but it would be derelict to disregard the political and personal risks he took to right a justice system terribly off-track. Don't forget what the community learned about Judge Ward, Judge Ficarrotta, Judge Bonanno. If the JQC has a case against Holder, it should pursue it without reserve for the contribution he's made. What we may see instead is another example of the old boys at work.
      *  *  *
      (Article 2)
      As you can see the Grand Jury, at least in Florida operates in secrecy, plus the judges can seal the records so that a Grand Jury in Florida for sure is not the answer to investigate judicial misconduct.  CforJa@...
      House requests Bonanno transcripts
      A House panel seeks the testimony for the impeachment case
      of a circuit judge in Tampa.


      © St. Petersburg Times,
      published October 18, 2001

      TAMPA -- Legislators considering the impeachment of Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Bonanno want to look at secret grand jury testimony about him.
      State Rep. Larry Crow, R-Dunedin, who chairs the House Judicial Oversight Committee, said he didn't know how the Legislature would obtain the testimony, which remains under seal by court order. The committee meets Tuesday to discuss the case. "I think we will take a very aggressive stance in trying to get all information," Crow said.

      A grand jury heard testimony last year about Bonanno's presence after hours in the darkened office of a fellow judge, and suggested Bonanno had lied under oath. The grand jury recommended he resign. However, the state's Judicial Qualifications Commission conducted a separate investigation and recommended only a reprimand. The Florida Supreme Court will consider that recommendation. In addition, the House Judicial Oversight Committee will hold impeachment proceedings against Bonanno, and the legislators involved want the grand jury testimony.

      Both Bonanno and the JQC already have asked the Florida Supreme Court to unseal the testimony. Bonanno has said it will help him defend his reputation. The JQC has said the testimony will help the Supreme Court decide if Bonanno lied before the grand jury. But State Attorney Jerry Hill of Polk County, who brought witnesses before the grand jury, wants the testimony kept secret.

      At Hill's request, the Florida attorney general filed a motion Wednesday blocking the release of the transcripts. The Attorney General's Office wants the judge in St. Petersburg who presided over the grand jury to hold a hearing on the transcripts. "The law is fairly clear about grand jury testimony," Deputy Attorney General George Sheldon said Wednesday. "There is a presumption of secrecy to protect witnesses."

      The Florida Constitution gives the JQC the right to review grand jury testimony. JQC special counsel Lauri Ross said the JQC should be able to use the grand jury testimony too. 

      Times staff writer David Karp is at (813) 226-3376 or karp@...


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