|San Diego Education Report
|As prosecutor, he withheld evidence,
destroyed innocent lives,
allowed a killer to kill again,
and became a judge
Prosecutor Ken Anderson. It's about time the legal
system took some action against prosecutors and
judges who knowingly destroy innocent lives.
Innocent man: How inmate Michael Morton lost 25 years
of his life
By Josh Levs
December 4, 2013
...A few years ago, a group of attorneys,
working pro bono on Morton's behalf,
managed to bring the truth to light.
Not only was Morton innocent,
but the prosecutor, Ken Anderson,
was accused of withholding crucial evidence.
The little boy, Eric, had seen the attack
and told relatives that daddy was not
home at the time. He described the man
who did it. Neighbors had described a man
parking a green van behind the Mortons'
house and walking off into a wooded area.
A blood-stained bandana was found nearby.
None of that evidence made it into the trial.
It took years of fighting, but Morton's attorneys finally got the bandana tested for DNA. It
contained Christine Morton's blood and hair and the DNA of another man -- a convicted
felon named Mark Norwood.
Norwood had killed Christine Morton. And since no one figured that out after her death,
he remained free. He killed another woman in the Austin area, Debra Baker, in similar
circumstances less than two years later, authorities say.
Norwood has now been convicted in Morton's killing, and indicted in Baker's killing. A
documentary details how Michael Morton -- with help from the Innocence Project --
proved he didn't kill his wife.
Morton was freed in October 2011. He was 57 years old. "I thank God this wasn't a
capital case," he said.
Morton's story, told in the CNN Films' documentary "An Unreal Dream," shines a
spotlight on wrongful convictions in the United States. More than 2,000 wrongfully
convicted people were exonerated between 1989 and 2012, according to data compiled
by the University of Michigan Law School.
But Morton's case has paved new ground that could affect cases nationwide.
Last month, Anderson -- Morton's prosecutor who in 2001 became a judge -- pleaded
no contest to criminal contempt for deliberately withholding exculpatory evidence.
Anderson's punishment pales in comparison to Morton's experience. The former
prosecutor stepped down from his position as a judge and agreed to 10 days in jail. He
then served only five of those days, under Texas laws involving good behavior behind
He also agreed to a $500 fine, 500 hours of community service, and the loss of his law
license, according to the Innocence Project, a legal clinic affiliated with Yeshiva
University's Cardozo Law School.
It's "an extremely rare instance, and perhaps the first time, that a prosecutor has been
criminally punished for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence," the Innocence Project
The "historic precedent demonstrates that when a judge orders a prosecutor to look in
his file and disclose exculpatory evidence, deliberate failure to do so is punishable by
contempt," said Barry Scheck, the project's co-director.
The organization is working with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and
the Innocence Project of Texas to coordinate a review of Anderson's cases.
Anderson, meanwhile, has not publicly acknowledged any personal wrongdoing. In
court, he said he couldn't remember details of the case, and that he and his family have
been through false accusations over it.
"I apologize that the system screwed up. I've beaten myself up on what I could have
done different and I don't know," he said, acknowledging Morton's "pain."
Morton asked a judge to "do what needs to be done, but at the same time to be gentle
with Judge Anderson."
In prepared remarks outside the courthouse, Anderson repeated that he wanted to
"formally apologize for the system's failure to Mr. Morton and every other person who
was affected by the verdict."
Re: Recent Telephonic
Communication With Columnist
June 25, 2006
Via: US Mail
Presiding Judge of San Diego
Superior Court Family Law Court
The Honorable William J. Howatt
1501-55 Sixth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
Re: RECENT TELEPHONIC
Due to the admiration I have held
for you over the years, I feel a
recent phone call I received from
a Reporter should be brought to
your impendent attention. I trust
you are appreciative of the need
for my anonymity. My practice
necessitates my not being a party
to this quandary.
This Reporter expressed that he
was contacting many involved in
San Diego Family Law, citing he
was doing "a follow-up story
regarding the recent June 6, 2006
Election". His initial questions
were relatively general in nature,
inquiring of the duration of time I
had been in practice, if I had ever
contemplated running against an
Incumbent Judge for a seat in
Superior Court, and if! had
witnessed an Family Court Judicial
seat opposed in prior elections.
He then inquired if I had ever had
encountered cases where
children had been left by
presiding Family Law Judges in
the care of "Registered Sexual
Offenders" or "abusive parents",
of Judges not acknowledging
submitted evidence of child abuse
and/or endangerment or of "only
removing one child from an
abusive parent's home while
leaving other siblings in a parent's
inappropriate Ex Parte
evidence of personal
relationships between Judges
or their family members with
children's removal from
competent parents due to
"personal Judicial biases",
of Judges removing calendared
hearings requested by "PRO
PER litigants without due
of persons appearing in
Propria Persona being ruled
against due to their financial
inability to retain Counsel and
thus "lacked knowledge of
proper legal ethics and
procedure due to no fault of
He repeatedly made requests of
any evidence pertaining to
"Parental Alienation" and Support
Arrears being amended and
either fully waived or dramatically
lessened, "Like what Howatt did to
Betty Broderick years ago. "
His questions eventually became
more specific, and it became
apparent that his primary
emphasis was in obtaining
defamatory data pertaining
primarily about Judge Trapp but
also about yourself. When I
manifested that I had no
intentions of responding further,
he began providing me "direct
quotes" from Transcripts, citing
Case Names and Numbers plus
the names of other Family Law
Counsels who had "openly"
conversed with him and provided
him "documentation" pertaining to
their supposed "substantiated
evidence against both Judges
Trapp and Howatt. "
He inquired if I were aware that
"Judge Randa Trapp has left a
young child in the care of a
Convicted Sexual Predator,
Rebecca Robertson". He claimed
that this "female Registered Sex
Offender" had married a child's
Military Officer father and, despite
the Court being properly noticed
of this individual's criminal history,
"Judge Trapp has left a five year
old child in this woman's primary
care while the child's father was
deployed overseas though this
young girl has a competent
mother seeking custody".
He cited Case Law, and provided
several Case Names and
Numbers in which Support Arrears
had been "dramatically and
inappropriately" reduced by Judge
Trapp. He voiced his being in
possession of documentation
regarding "more than ten rulings
of Judge Trapp's" that are
currently before the Appellate
Court. He voiced having been in
contact with "Lisa Lake", claiming
this Local 10 News Anchor had
opposed Judge Trapp's reelection
and is supposedly amenable with
assisting him in his current
endeavors of "bringing these
Judges' ongoing 'Abuse of
Discretion' to the public's attention
". He additionally made mention of
"representatives of CBS News
Anchor, Katie Couric's" having
expressed an interest in their
involvement upon Ms. Couric's
upcoming visit to San Diego.
He appeared to have
consequential awareness of
Attorney Jim Hairgrove, and his
candidacy against Judge Trapp's
reelection. He cited specific Case
Names and Numbers of this
Counsel's which had gone before
Judge Trapp, claiming that her
"personal biases" against Mr.
Hairgrove "have been reflected in
her rulings against his clients" and
is "well documented". He further
emphasized a "future Recall
Election of Judge Trapp" and his
fervid endorsement of this recall.
This journalist claimed that two
individuals, who had been
"actively involved in the campaign
of Attorney James Hairgrove's",
had recently approached the
Court over Judge Trapp's recusal
from presiding further over their
Cases. That these persons had
both emphasized fearfulness of
"further bias in her future rulings
against them" for their having
opposed her candidacy and "their
ex- partners' relationships with
and communication with Judge
Trapp's husband." He stated that
he has evidence to verify that one
individual's request was
adjudicated and "reluctantly
granted" by Judge Trapp on May
30, 2006. The disposition of the
other's request for Judge Trapp's
recusal for supposed "identical
reasonings" was, however,
He inquired if I were aware of a
June 2006 Hearing where you had
been approached over "Ex Parte
communication and a long-term
friendship between Judge Trapp's
Law Enforcement spouse and a
petitioner's Sheriff's employee
ex-husband" with a request for
Judge Trapp's recusal. I stated
that I had knowledge of some
'scuttlebutt' floating around Family
Court recently regarding this
Case but had no direct knowledge
of what had taken place. He then
claimed that you had "financially
sanctioned" the Petitioner for
approaching you over this matter
while you cited that this was "not
an Emergent matter that
warranted ex parte intervention."
That you had voiced that Judge
Trapp had the discretion of not
recusing herself despite her
knowledge of her Law
Enforcement husband's friendship
with this individual's ex-spouse
"for in excess of fifteen years" and
also of "this petitioner's active
involvement with Attorney
Hairgrove's campaign opposing
He further voiced that Judge
Trapp's "actions of Parental
Alienation" toward petitioners "she
has personal biases against" was
evidenced in her rulings of not
returning children to a mother's
custody despite court-submitted
corroborated that "loss of child
custody" had been exclusively
based on "erroneous information
against her" and was presented to
the Court by her Law
June 25, 2006
Counsel. He cited that Judge
Trapp had further ordered one
mother's children removed from
her care because this woman had
approached the Judge over her
children's refusal to visit with a
father whom they voiced having
fear of and no relationship with.
That he has evidence of Judge
Trapp's spouse having had prior
"ex parte communication" with this
individual's Attorney ex-partner
and the father of her children,
claiming "proof of Trapp's evident
bias in this father's favor before
she ever made such a ruling
against this woman"
That one mother was ordered by
Judge Trapp only supervised
contact with her teenaged
children following their run-away
attempts from their alleged
"abusive Law Enforcement father"
despite any lack of evidence to
implicate the mother's involvement
in her children's actions. He spoke
of the "emotional devastation"
which Judge Trapp's rulings had
caused by her having left a five
year old in the care of a
"Registered Sex Offender" while
being "alienated from a
competent, loving school teacher
He additionally read me a portion
of a Transcript where Judge
Trapp had refused a woman's
requests of her to obtain and view
"a Sheriff's Department/
Chadwick's Hospital's Child Abuse
Report and Video-Tape" despite
the mother informing Judge Trapp
that minor's counsel had failed to
acknowledge this alleged
"relevant verification of the
father's abuse ". He also read
from another Court Transcript
where Judge Trapp had ordered a
mother be permitted only
supervised contact with her
children because this woman had
refused to agree to a proposal of
minor's counsel's that she agree
to her children remaining in their
"Law Enforcement father's primary
care against her children's
desires to the contrary".
He took great strides in attempting
to convince me that 'Parental
Alienation' is rampant in Family
Court, especially where it involved
Judge Trapp's rulings.
This columnist claimed that on
more than two occasions following
the June 6, 2006 Election, Judge
Trapp has asked for "a show of
hands in her Courtroom" as to
who had voted in favor of her
candidacy. He voiced the names
of four local Counsels who have
contacted him with claims of their
presence at recent Hearings when
this "abhorrent request" of Judge
Trapp's was made of those in
His questioning then shifted in
your direction, inquiring that as
Judge Trapp's "Superior", did I
feel you were cognizant of her
supposed "discrepant actions and
rulings" and yet chose to
"disregard her Judicial
incompetency". He informed me of
your alleged "prior cover-up and
protection of Mark Barber", and
also made inferences pertaining
to the Honorable Janis
Sammartino, Assistant Presiding
Judge, and to Jeffrey C. Fritz, Esq.
This reporter gave the
appearance of having devoted
extensive time and energy into
gathering a humongous array of
documentation against Judge
Trapp, yourself and others. He
further voiced his intentions of
placing this information obtained
into upcoming articles "once all
has been substantiated".
Following this exchange, I did
verifY that this Reporter was, in
fact, who he represented himself
as being, but I am unable to
authenticate the validity of what
My most sincere of regards.
cc: The Honorable Janis
Sammartino, Presiding Judge-Elect
Problem judges across the US
It wasn't easy to decide whom to vote for in this election. The choices were an
unqualified sitting judge and a challenger who did not provide enough
information for an evaluation to be conducted. What's worse, the challenger was
endorsed by a group that endorses incompetent candidates. So I held my nose and
voted for the incumbent.
Judge rated unqualified in local bar evaluation
Salcido took legal action against court a week ago
By Greg Moran
San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
May 14, 2010
Harold Coleman Jr: Unable to Evaluate
Judge DeAnn Salcido: Lacking Qualifications
Superior Court Judge DeAnn Salcido, facing an election challenge and under heavy criticism
from her colleagues after she filed a legal action against the court a week ago, received the
lowest possible rating in the local bar association’s evaluation of candidates.
Salcido was found to be “lacking qualifications” by the San Diego County Bar Association, which
evaluates candidates for judicial seats each election. The bar says the evaluations are done as a
public service to assist voters.
The process is supposed to be confidential and uses surveys distributed to judges and lawyers. A
bar committee also interviews candidates and does other research before making its decision.
Salcido said that while she would have liked a higher rating, the low evaluation did not surprise her
because she has ruffled feathers of lawyers and judges.
“I view it as the natural result of the county bar association asking only attorneys and judges of their
view of me, and not the general public,” she said.
Last week Salcido took the unusual step of asking the 4th District Court of
Appeal to issue an order commanding judges to impose certain probation
conditions on misdemeanor domestic violence cases. She contended many
judges were not following what she believes state law requires, and that
when she stood up for that position, she was harassed by her supervising
judge in El Cajon.
Salcido said thatshe was not willing to go along with plea bargains that were
fashioned to avoid some probation conditions, and that this has angered her
colleagues and defense lawyers.
The appeals court rejected the move on Tuesday, but Salcido said her
stance long ago earned the enmity of her peers. Bar officials said Salcido was
informed of her rating about a week before she requested the order from the
The bar does not give specific reasons behind the ratings. But Salcido said she
was told that lawyers thought her use of humor in court was inappropriate,
and that she was considered “not professional enough.”
It is unusual but not unprecedented for the bar to rate as sitting judge an
unqualified, said Patrick Hosey, the president of the bar association.
Salcido’s opponent, Harold Coleman Jr., was given a rating of unable to
That is a neutral rating, and means the bar committee doing the analysis did not have
sufficient information on the candidate to “fairly and adequately evaluate” a candidate’
s ability to be a judge.
Coleman, an arbitrator and lawyer, is one of four candidates who is endorsed by
Bettercourtsnow, an organization founded by a now-deceased religious
leader that is supported by conservative legal and religious groups. All four
are running against sitting judges.
The three other candidates who are endorsed by the group — William Trask,
Craig Candelore and Larry “Jake” Kincaid — all received rating of “lacking
|San Diego Education Report
Judges from everywhere
Pennsylvania: Appoint Judges, Ex-Governors Say
By TRIP GABRIEL
New York Times
March 18, 2013
Four former Pennsylvania governors called for eliminating elections for senior
judges in favor of appointing them. Judges seeking campaign donations are open to
corruption, the governors argued. “The influence of money on judicial elections is
pernicious,” said Edward G. Rendell, a former Democratic governor, who joined with a
fellow Democrat, George Leader, and two Republicans, Tom Ridge and Dick
Thornburgh, in the unusual bipartisan appeal. Last month, a Pennsylvania Supreme
Court justice, Joan Orie Melvin, was convicted on campaign corruption charges. Only six
states select all judges in partisan elections, according to Pennsylvanians for Modern
Courts, which wants the governor to fill the state’s three appellate benches. The change
requires a constitutional amendment. Critics say it would introduce secretive back-room
Former judge Ken Anderson--Texas
Ken Anderson became a
judge in 2001
Judges G. Dennis Adams and James Malkus convicted
of fraud and racketeering, and Judge Bruce Greer
resigned and entered a guilty plea
Commission Probing Three Judges in S.D.
April 10, 1992
MARK PLATTE and LEONARD BERNSTEIN and H.G. REZA
LOS ANGELES TIMES STAFF WRITERS
SAN DIEGO — The state Commission on Judicial Performance is investigating whether
three San Diego County judges gave favorable treatment to a prominent local
attorney who provided them gifts over several years.
Two of the San Diego County Superior Court judges awarded multimillion dollar
verdicts to clients of attorney Patrick Frega, who took the unusual step of asking that
jury trials be waived in both cases so the judge alone could determine the size of the
The verdicts and the relationships between Frega and Judges Michael I. Greer, James
A. Malkus and G. Dennis Adams are under scrutiny by commission authorities who are
visiting San Diego this week.
The commission Thursday interviewed a former Frega associate about whether Frega
may have telephoned Greer to ask that a certain case be assigned to a particular
judge. The attorney, George Manning, said he was present at a meeting at which
Frega telephoned Greer and appeared to ask for a special assignment in the case.
The two investigators from the state Commission on Judicial Performance also are
raising questions about a 1989 boat ride around San Diego Bay on which Greer,
Adams, Malkus and Superior Court Judge Barbara Gamer were Frega's guests along
with attorneys, law clerks and others during which cocktails and hors d'oeuvres were
The commission is charged with investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and
making recommendations to the state Supreme Court, which has final authority over
removing or reprimanding a judge.
One case involving Frega and Malkus prompted Bank of America attorneys to ask the
Superior Court Thursday to recuse Malkus from a
tentative October, 1991, verdict in which he awarded a San Diego truck dealership $4
The owner of the dealership, Norm Pressley, sued the bank over a loan it made and
then later recalled.
Bank attorneys thought it unusual that Frega waived a jury trial in order to ask Malkus
to decide the case. Normally, plaintiffs seek trials by juries, who are generally more
likely to give higher money awards, Bank of America spokesman Peter Magnani said.
In 1985, Malkus reported on financial disclosure forms that Frega had given him $450
worth of gifts, including a charity dinner at St. Vincent de Paul and the use of Frega's
The information was never passed along to Bank of America attorneys, a court
Security Pacific Bank attorneys and commission investigators are questioning a similar
case in 1986, in which Superior Court Judge Adams ordered Security Pacific National
Bank to pay $5 million to a former San Diego car dealer who alleged that the bank's
fraudulent business dealings caused him to lose dealerships in San Diego and Los
Just as in the Bank of America case, attorney Frega asked Adams to waive his client's
right to a jury trial. Frega had contributed the use of his computer to Adams for a book
collaboration, which the judge valued at $1,400.
Greer, Malkus and Adams did not return calls Thursday for comment.
Frega, said an attorney familiar with the case, has "turned contract disputes into fraud
(litigation). From the banks' standpoint, he has taken a negative loan situation and
made his client millions."
The attorney called Frega "a very successful and aggressive lawyer who has made a
lot of money representing failed auto dealers in lawsuits against banks."
Manning, a past associate of Frega, said he told two commission investigators
Thursday that he was present at a meeting when Frega telephoned Judge Greer and
appeared to ask that a particular case be assigned to a specific judge.
Manning said he also told the investigators that Frega may have been asking Greer
for his thoughts on a case that Greer would later have to assign to a judge.
"I got the impression he was very cozy with this judge, and he was asking for some
special assignment or something like that," Manning added. He said that the
telephone call occurred in "1988 or 1989" but that he could not remember the details
of the case or the judge involved.
Manning said he remembers being "flabbergasted" that Frega would have a private
conversation with Greer about any upcoming case.
"He just picked up the phone and called right through to the judge about that
particular case," said Manning, who resigned from the the firm in 1989 after he
refused to try a case.
According to financial records filed by the judges, Frega gave Greer $1,520 in gifts
between 1986 and 1991 in the form of a golf bag, sweaters, lunches and fruit baskets.
In August, 1990, Greer reported a $7,500 gift from the Los Angeles Rams football
team, which paid for a one-week trip to Berlin for Greer and his wife to watch a
National Football League exhibition game.
Friendships within the tightknit legal community are not uncommon. But the California
Code of Judicial Conduct warns that judges should not "allow their families, social or
other relationships to influence their judicial conduct or judgment."
Former judge Ken Anderson
Judge in horrific Glastonbury child
rape case tied to court corruption
By Anne Stevenson
Communities Digital News
July 22, 2014
CONNECTICUT, July 22, 2014 — In a hearing
yesterday in Hartford Superior Court, accused
pedophile rapists Dennis Harasz, 48, and
Douglas Wirth, 43, waived their right to a jury
trial in favor of a trial before Judge Julia Dewey. This is not surprising given
how well things have gone for the defense, now that a GAL affiliated with one of the
defense attorneys’ and the judge herself has been appointed onto the case to
determine their fate.
Harasz and Wirth are now facing charges for raping some of the nine boys the couple
had adopted since 2001, all of whom were removed from their care in 2011 by the
Connecticut Department of Children and Families. The couple’s parental rights were
also terminated by the Superior Court in 2012, and currently the victims remain in
As reported by Communities Digital News last weekend, things have not been going
DCF’s way lately. In court orders issued on July 9, 2014, Judge Julia Dewey cited the
“appearance of propriety” and the fact that the court perceived DCF to have an
unspecified conflict of interest to justify her decision to grant Wirth’s motion to appoint
a guardian ad litem onto the criminal case to assess whether or not the victim, now
age 8, should be allowed to testify against the defendants. Dewey then selected a
GAL who is not only her own coworker, but tied to the defendant’s attorney’s law
Communities Digital news has uncovered new evidence linking Dewey to other
conflicts of interest on this case, raising serious questions about corruption. In 2013
and 2014, a little known corporation called the Association of Family and Conciliation
Courts made headlines during legislative hearings where parents testified that the
Connecticut family courts and the AFCC based GAL certification program were
riddled with fraud and steering cases to corrupt AFCC professionals and programs
who bankrupted entire families and trafficking their kids into the care of unfit parents,
When it comes to the Glastonbury rape case, Dewey failed to disclose her own past
business dealings with the controversial court vendor run by her own co-workers.
This mistake may have a role in influencing Dewey to decide the case in favor of
these potentially dangerous defendants.
DEWEY’S BUSINESS PRACTICES LACK PROPRIETY, RIG CASE IN FAVOR OF
By the time Dewey was tapped to preside over the Glastonbury rape cases, she
already had over 40-years of combined training and experience presiding over many
of the systems most difficult cases. So why did Dewey feel unqualified or ill equipped
to proceed without instructions from a GAL certified under questionable
Why did Dewey select a coworker as a GAL? Why select Horowitz, a criminal defense
attorney affiliated with an offender rehabilitation center-co-operated with defense
attorney Hubie Santos’ law firm instead of a child psychologist free of conflicts and
with actual training relative to helping child rape victims?
In 1994, Dewey was tapped by Governor John Rowland to become a judge while
employed as an Assistant Prosecutor for the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s office.
According to the New York Times, Rowland was convicted in 2005 unrelated
corruption charges for which he did a stretch in federal prison, and in 2014, Rowland
was again indicted on campaign fraud charges related to offenses he allegedly
committed in 2012.
Before taking the bench in criminal court, Dewey served as Connecticut’s chief
administrative judge for the family division where part of her duties included
overseeing the contracts, programs and services relevant to the family courts.
During the time Dewey oversaw administration of the family court, the Court Support
Services Division (CSSD) also awarded at least one significant contract to a
controversial corporation with a checkered past called the Association of Family and
Conciliation Courts, Inc., which according to the Washington Times, was founded and
operated by Connecticut family court judges and administrators, as well as the family
court industry professionals who appear before them. According to the original
incorporating documents, one of the original founding officers was former CSSD
Director Anthony Salius.
As the Chief Administrative Judge of the Family Courts, it would have been Dewey’s
responsibility to know that CSSD administrators who also served as AFCC officers,
had for decades been raising money for the AFCC on the local and national level
and through their Judicial Branch offices from the same public and family court
industry professionals who came through their courts. Older AFCC newsletters actual
contain instructions to instructions for AFCC sponsors to mail fees and donations
directly to Salius at his Hartford Judicial Branch offices during times when the
corporation was not registered to do business in Connecticut...
Read more at http://www.commdiginews.com/life/judge-in-horrific-glastonbury-child-
|News, information and ideas about our
by Maura Larkins
Judge Julia Dewey
Here Comes the Judge, in Cuffs
In Broward County, Fla., Spate of Judges in D.U.I. Arrests
By FRANCES ROBLES
New York Times
JUNE 27, 2014
MIAMI — Lawyers gawked from office windows last month
when a BMW S.U.V. swiped a parked police cruiser in the
parking lot of a courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, then
slammed into a gate over and over again.
A judge was at the wheel.
As lawyers used smartphones to snap pictures of the
morning spectacle, Judge Lynn D. Rosenthal became the
third Broward County judge in six months to be arrested on
charges of driving under the influence. A colleague, Judge
Gisele Pollack, had been suspended five days earlier after
getting arrested on a D.U.I. charge while already on leave
for taking the bench intoxicated — twice.
Even for South Florida, where absurd news events are
routine and the sheriff went to prison for corruption, the
spate of judicial scandals has raised serious questions
about whether the arrests in Broward are a bizarre
coincidence or underscore a larger systemic problem.
In a county where the judiciary is known for old-
school nepotism and cronyism, and judges have been
caught smoking marijuana in a park and found drunk and
partly naked in a hotel hallway, some lawyers find
themselves wondering: At what point do isolated
instances of misconduct point to something bigger?
On Wednesday, WPLG, an ABC affiliate, citing anonymous
sources, reported that a Broward family court judge was
under federal investigation on suspicion of allowing a now-
convicted Ponzi schemer to influence a case.
And this month, a former judge in Broward was
disbarred for exchanging 949 phone calls and 471
text messages with the prosecutor during a death
Yet another judge was recommended for removal in April
after being accused of cheating clients and a co-counsel in
the settlement of a civil suit she handled as a private lawyer
a decade ago.
As it turns out, bad behavior by judges has become
distressingly common across Florida in recent months.
Judge John C. Murphy in Brevard County is on leave after
he was caught on video this month threatening a public
defender, who later accused the judge of punching him in
But Broward — a heavily Democratic county of 1.8 million
people with many judges who are the children,
spouses, siblings and fraternity brothers of other
judges and some of the region’s most powerful
people — seems to be ground zero for allegations of
The system’s critics say that is because Broward has
a highly politicized and clannish culture that is known
for protecting its own, which has led some in the
judiciary to feel invincible, even as they preside over a
county court system that produces the state’s highest
Read more here.
Texas Judge resigns after being caught
texting instructions to prosecutors to help
October 25, 2013
Poor Richard’s News
...A whistleblower revealed that Corker was
sending text messages to prosecutors with
suggestions on questions to ask in court in order
to secure a conviction.
from Houston Chronicle:
State District Judge Elizabeth E. Coker–who sits on the
bench over Trinity, Polk and San Jacinto counties–has
resigned under fire in a texting controversy, according to a
voluntary agreement with the State Commission on Judicial
It stems from complaints and media stories alleging that
Coker “had engaged in improper ex parte text
communications with Polk County Assistant District
Attorney Kaycee Jones while Judge Coker presided” over
a criminal trial in August of 2012.
With those complaints, “the commission commenced an
investigation into allegations that Judge Coker used
Assistant District Attorney Jones to privately communicate
information” about the case “to suggest questions for the
prosecutor to ask during the trial” among other issues.
The agreement also said the commission looked into other
complaints that Coker allegedy engaged in other improper
communications and meetings with Jones, other members
of the Polk County prosecutor’s office, the San Jacinto
County District Attorney and certain defense attorneys.
The agreement goes on to say “the parties agree that the
allegations of judicial misconduct, if found to be true, could
result in disciplinary action against Judge Coker.” As a
result, the parties sought to resolve the matter “without the
time and expense of further disciplinary proceedings.”
Coker did not admit any guilt or fault.
Honestly, I feel that Coker is getting off far too lightly. Her
actions may have caused innocent people to end up in
prison. She should be face criminal charges for such a
grave violation of the law.
Her resignation also opens the door for a flurry of re-trials
for anybody convicted in her court sessions. By trying to
illegally secure convictions, Coker opened Pandora’s box,
and now the state of Texas will have some massive legal
knots to untangle.
This Election Inspired a John
Grisham Novel. Now It Just Got
Twelve years after coal baron Don Blankenship
bought a seat on the West Virginia Supreme
Court, the tables have turned.
May 9, 2016
In 2004, with his company facing a $50 million
fraud judgment, Don Blankenship, then
the CEO of coal giant Massey
Energy, spent $3 million in a
successful effort to elect a little-
known attorney named Brent
Benjamin to the West Virginia
Supreme Court, where Blankenship
planned to appeal the judgment. A few years
later, Benjamin voted to overturn the $50 million
verdict. It was such a perfect illustration of
money's corrupting influence that it inspired a
John Grisham novel.
Twelve years later, Blankenship has been
sentenced to a year in prison for conspiring to
violate mine safety regulations in the lead-up to a
deadly explosion at one of his company's mines in
2010. But the legacy of his political activism in the
state—where he poured millions of dollars into
conservative candidates and causes—has not
ebbed. As Benjamin runs for reelection for the
first time on Tuesday, following a 12-year term,
funds from Blankenship allies are again flooding
the race. But this time, this outside money is
working against Benjamin, whom Blankenship's
allies deem insufficiently conservative. And
Benjamin, without the financial backing of the
business community, has been forced to turn to
the very public financing system that was
established as a response to his initial
Benjamin's 2004 race haunts this year's contest.
The state Supreme Court justice he challenged
that year was a liberal stalwart named Warren
McGraw. Blankenship anticipated he would lose
his appeal unless he could change the makeup of
the five-member court, so he spent about $3
million to elect McGraw's Republican challenger,
Benjamin, then a Charleston attorney. Much of
that money was channeled through a nonprofit
called And for the Sake of the Kids, which ran ads
accusing McGraw of voting to set a child molester
free. Blankenship also personally paid for ads
supporting Benjamin, solicited money to help elect
him, and sent out letters urging doctors to donate
to Benjamin's campaign on the grounds that he
would help lower their malpractice premiums,
according to court documents.
Benjamin won. When Blankenship's case came
before the state Supreme Court a few years later,
Benjamin joined a 3-2 majority in support of
Blankenship and Massey Energy, tossing out the
$50 million judgment.
"They've turned on him viciously," says Tim
Bailey, a prominent plaintiff's lawyer who often
challenges the coal companies in the state.
That wasn't the end of the case. Hugh Caperton,
the man who had sued Massey, appealed to the
US Supreme Court on the grounds that
Benjamin's failure to recuse himself violated his
right to a fair trial.
June 4, 2016
From an victim to her rapist, who
was a privileged Stanford
athlete sentenced to only
six months in jail after a
judge expressed concern
for his future.
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over
an island looking for boats to save;
they just stand there shining. Although
I can’t save every boat, I hope that by
speaking today, you absorbed a small
amount of light, a small knowing that
you can’t be silenced, a small
satisfaction that justice was served, a
small assurance that we are getting
somewhere, and a big, big knowing
that you are important,
unquestionably, you are untouchable,
you are beautiful, you are to be
valued, respected, undeniably, every
minute of every day, you are powerful
and nobody can take that away from
North Georgia newspaper publisher jailed
over open records request
July 1, 2016
by Rhonda Cook
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
‘Retaliation for use of the Open Records Act will inhibit every
citizen from using it.’
A North Georgia newspaper publisher was indicted on a
felony charge and jailed overnight last week – for filing an
Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, along with his
attorney Russell Stookey, were arrested on Friday and
charged with attempted identity fraud and identity fraud.
Thomason was also accused of making a false statement in
his records request.
» READ THE INDICTMENT
Thomason’s relentless pursuit of public records relating to
the local Superior Court has incensed the court’s chief judge,
Brenda Weaver, who also chairs the state Judicial
Qualifications Commission. Weaver took the matter to the
district attorney, who obtained the indictments.
Thomason was charged June 24 with making a false
statement in an open-records request in which he asked for
copies of checks “cashed illegally.” Thomason and Stookey
were also charged with identity fraud and attempted identity
fraud because they did not get Weaver’s approval before
sending subpoenas to banks where Weaver and another
judge maintained accounts for office expenses. Weaver
suggested that Thomason may have been trying to steal
banking information on the checks.
But Thomason said he was “doing his job” when he asked for
“I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any
charges to be had,” said Thomason, 37, who grew up in
Fannin County. “I take this as a punch at journalists across
the nation that if we continue to do our jobs correctly, then we
have to live in fear of being imprisoned.”
Thomason and Stookey are out on $10,000 bond and have a
long list of things they cannot do or things they must do to
avoid going to jail until their trials. On Thursday, for example,
Thomason reported to a pretrial center and was told that he
may have to submit to a random drug test – a condition of the
bond on which he was released from jail last Saturday.
Alison Sosebee, district attorney in the three counties in the
Appalachian Judicial Circuit, and Judge Weaver say the
charges are justified. Weaver said she resented Thomason’s
attacks on her character in his weekly newspaper and in
conversations with her constituents.
“I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned,” Weaver
She said others in the community were using Thomason to
get at her. “It’s clear this is a personal vendetta against me,”
she said. “I don’t know how else to explain that.”
But legal experts expressed dismay at the punitive use of the
Open Records Act.
“To the extent these criminal charges stem from the use of
the Open Records Act undermines the entire purpose of the
law,” said Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia
First Amendment Foundation. “The Open Records Act is the
vehicle by which citizens access governmental information…
Retaliation for use of the Open Records Act will inhibit every
citizen from using it, and reel us back into the dark ages.”
Another expert said the charges against attorney Russell
Stookey may also be unfounded. Robert Rubin, president of
the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said it
was wrong for the grand jury to indict a lawyer who “is using
the legitimate court process for a subpoena to get records
relevant for his case.” The dispute grows out of a March 2015
incident involving another judge who is no longer on the
bench. Judge Roger Bradley was presiding over several
cases and asked the name of the next defendant. The
assistant district attorney announced next up was “(Racial
slur) Ray.” Bradley, who resigned earlier this year, repeated
the slur and also talked about another man whose street
name started with the same slur.
Thomason asked for the transcript after he was told
courtroom deputies also used the slur.
But the transcript only noted that Bradley and the assistant
district attorney used the word.
According to Thomason, the court reporter told him that it
was “off the record” when others in the courtroom spoke the
word so it would not be recorded in the transcript. He asked
to listen to the audio recording, but his request was rejected.
In an article Thomason quoted the court reporter as saying
the slur was not taken down each time it was used.
And then Thomason asked Stookey to file paperwork with the
court to force the the stenographer, Rhonda Stubblefield, to
release the recording.
Stubblefield responded with a $1.6 million counterclaim
against Thomason, accusing him of defaming her in stories
that said the transcript she produced may not be accurate.
Two months later a visiting judge closed Thomason’s case,
concluding that Thomason had not produced evidence the
transcript was inaccurate.
Last April, Stubblefield dropped her counterclaim because,
her lawyer wrote, it was unlikely Thomason could pay the
award if she won.
The next month, however, Stubblefield filed paper work to
recoup attorney’s fees even though last last year she was cut
a check for almost $16,000 from then-Judge Bradley’s
“She was being accused of all this stuff. She was very
distressed. She had done absolutely nothing wrong,” Weaver
said of the judges’ decision to use court money to cover
Stubblefield’s legal expenses. [because she was just doing
what the judges told her to do]“She was tormented all these
months and then had to pay attorneys’ fees. And the only
reason she was sued was she was doing what the court
Stubblefield’s lawyer, Herman Clark, said in court Stubblefield
was asking for the money from Thomason or his attorney so
she could replace the funds taken out of the court bank
account. Clark said it was unfair to expect taxpayers to pick
up the cost.
To fight Stubblefield’s claim for legal fees, Stookey filed
subpoenas for copies of certain checks so he could show her
attorneys had already been paid. One of those two accounts
listed in a subpoena had Weaver’s name on it as well as the
Appalachian Judicial Circuit.
Weaver said the identify fraud allegations came out of her
concern that Thomason would use the banking information
on those checks for himself.
“I have absolutely no interest in further misappropriating any
government monies,” Thomason said. “My sole goal was to
show that legal fees were paid from a publicly funded