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Los Angeles, California October 5, 2005
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______________________________________________________Time To Open The ProcessTo Public Scrutiny(Important - See Ron Branson's expose below this article)MontereyHerald.comPosted on Sat, Oct. 01, 2005
THE HERALD'S VIEWRutledge case damages public trust
The District Attorney's Office has done a commendable job investigating Traffic Commissioner Richard Rutledge -- finding that he broke the public trust even if he didn't quite break the law by dismissing tickets for friends and friends of friends. But while Rutledge has resigned, the job isn't done.
Among other things, the judicial system needs to rebuild public confidence, something it can do only if it opens the rest of the process to public scrutiny. Traffic court may be the lowest level of the system, but it's the level the general public deals with more than any other. If traffic court is about who you know, what does that say about the higher reaches of the courts?
Recipients of Rutledge's judicial generosity included a traffic court employee, a former employee, husbands of two employees, the husband of a district attorney's employee and a judge. The District Attorney's Office hasn't named names, though, and hasn't made it clear how much of a role some of them played in seeking favor.
Also unanswered is why it took a spurned lover to make it public, and why someone else in the system didn't sense that something was wrong in Rutledge's Marina courtroom.
District Attorney Dean Flippo concluded that Rutledge hadn't committed a prosecutable crime. A California appellate court ruled in 1987 that judges, unlike other officeholders, can't be prosecuted for failing to disqualify themselves when they should. If Rutledge had taken money or plotted with others, he could have been charged with obstruction of justice. Sue Stryker, a tenacious investigator for the district attorney, found no such evidence.
Appropriately, Flippo announced Thursday that he would pack up Stryker's reports and send them on to Stephen Sillman, presiding judge of the Monterey County Superior Court, for further investigation. He also said the names wouldn't be released because of the court's investigation and because state judicial rules require that such details remain confidential "until disciplinary action is ordered by the court."
But with Rutledge already resigned, it isn't likely there will be any disciplinary action, at least against him. So does that mean the paperwork stays in a locked file forever?
And who will decide whether to release the information? The same court system that hired Rutledge and supervised some of the others mentioned in the reports? The judge whose speeding ticket was dismissed by Rutledge?
For various reasons, some legal and some political, the system won't be eager to air any more dirty laundry by making the paperwork public. The decision-makers may cite state law that allows law enforcement investigations to remain private -- allows, but not mandates. The court system also might try to say, as it did Friday when asked for a copy of Rutledge's resignation letter, that "all personnel matters are confidential."
But that isn't really the case, and it shouldn't be the case, especially if they are personnel matters that involve public employees and the public trust.Re: Traffic Courts:Once J.A.I.L. becomes in effect, there is little doubt that all traffic courts, as we know them, will cease to function for the following reasons: When a traffic officer pulls you over, the moment he pulls out his ticket book and begins to write, he conduct is prescribed by all the Fourth Amendment criminal processes. For instance, he must take the person he just stopped before a magistrate for a Probable Cause hearing in which a determination of the lawfulness of the stop must be decided as certain as if he had arrested the person and placed handcuffs on them. (Most cops do not know the constitutional mandates I am telling you, and the system is not about to educate them on it.)But what the cop is trained to do is attempt to make it easy for himself by seeking your signature on a "promise to appear" for the purpose of excusing himself from complying with the Fourth Amendment, otherwise he would just have to let you go, and he does not what to do that.And when you do make your appearance as your promised, you are not taken in front of a magistrate for a Probable Cause hearing as required by the Fourth Amendment, but rather in front of a commissioner who "assumes" jurisdiction to conduct an arraignment. But so doing they omit a magistrate, the P.C. process, the prosecutor, and the verified accusatory pleading, all of which is essential to proceeding with the entering of a plea. Without these processes there is nothing in which to enter a plea to. In effect, there are no charges, there is no judge, and there is no defendant. In reality, everyone in the traffic "court" is just play-acting like children playing doctor, patient, and nurse. Such a "court" could be just as well play-acted out at Joe's garage after hours.Should one enter a plea to such game-playing, the play-acting continues. The "judge" sets the "charges" for "trial," in which you must appear as promised for "trial" in which you will be without the benefit of the assistance of counsel for your defense, and without a jury, notwithstanding U.S. Const. Amend. VI, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury...and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."(U.S. Const., VI Amend.) You can count on being deprived of your right to a jury trial despite Art. III, Sec. 2, Clause 3, "The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury." The fact is, there is not one thing in a traffic "court" that is legitimate under constitutional standards. As I say, everything is purely play-acting right down to the "conviction." I know the game well. But it will not be until the passage of J.A.I.L. that this jig will be up. There's too much $$$ involved here.-Ron BransonJ.A.I.L.- Judicial Accountability Initiative Law - www.jail4judges.org
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