Huffington Post Editor Victoria Fine Writes About Her Dad, Esteemed Lawyer Richard I. Fine, Who Is In Solitary Confinement For Speaking Out About Judicial Corruption in California
My father is a respected lawyer and has, for the last decade, dedicated his career to retrieving as much of these wrongly funneled funds back to taxpayers like you and me. He is 69 years old, and is known for his dapper bow ties and for seeing the world in strict terms of right and wrong. And since March, he has been taken a political prisoner of the L.A. County Jail System. In a country that prides itself on its adherence to the rule of law, my father has been in solitary confinement for more than nine months, deprived initially of paper, pen and telephone, without any legal charges being filed or indication of length of his incarceration. His crime? His belief that $300 million dollars in taxpayer money should be legally spent. And suggesting that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe had violated state law by accepting bribes from a party before him in court -- namely, Los Angeles County. My father is being held in contempt of court by the judge he has embarrassed. BREAKING NEWS: Janette Isaacs has asked the Los Angeles' Superior Court for a Farr hearing.
Breaking News from Full Disclosure, April 18, 2010:
Does Jailed Attorney Richard Have the Right to a Hearing on Coercive Confinement Issue?
Full Disclosure Network: Torture Complaint Filed with United Nations over Richard Fine Jailing
Volunteer Janette Isaacs has asked the Los Angeles Superior Court for a Farr Hearing.
Editor, HuffPost Impact
Posted: January 12, 2010 12:44 PM
My Dad Tried to Right a Wrong, Now He's Behind Bars Unjustly
As an editor at Huffington Post Impact, I have the honor of reporting daily the generous acts of others and the devastating issues that our communities have yet to address sufficiently to make this world a safe and healthy place for everyone.
I empathize with the subjects of our articles on a very personal level. My own parents are uninsured, facing foreclosure of their house, and my father is unjustly in jail. All because of his compulsion to help others.
Many of you may be familiar with California's budget mess. Around the state, parks are being closed, tuition hiked and state workers laid off in an attempt to salvage a very bad financial situation, one that is rife with misuse of funds and, in some cases, corruption. My father is a respected lawyer and has, for the last decade, dedicated his career to retrieving as much of these wrongly funneled funds back to taxpayers like you and me.
He is 69 years old, (he turns 70 on the Friday after next) and is known for his dapper bow ties and for seeing the world in strict terms of right and wrong. And since March, he has been taken a political prisoner of the L.A. County Jail System.
In a country that prides itself on its adherence to the rule of law, my father has been in solitary confinement for more than nine months, deprived initially of paper, pen and telephone, without any legal charges being filed or indication of length of his incarceration. His crime? His belief that $300 million dollars in taxpayer money should be legally spent. And suggesting that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe had violated state law by accepting bribes from a party before him in court -- namely, Los Angeles County. My father is being held in contempt of court by the judge he has embarrassed.
Every day, an uncountable number of people are unjustly held in prison for crimes they have not committed. Most of these people are too poor or too ill-connected to find advocates for their cause. They suffer in silence, and their families are torn apart in the aftermath of their incarceration. But my father is a first-generation American who, from sheer hard work, rose to found the first municipal antitrust division in the United States in Los Angeles and has served as a diplomat for Norway for the last 14 years. I never believed that a man like my dad could be in the same situation. And yet, here we are, my mother and me, sorting foreclosure papers while my dad waits in his jail cell for someone to recognize the ridiculousness of this affair.
What could have led a respected 69-year-old antitrust lawyer to nine months of solitary confinement?
On March 4, my father was arguing a case on behalf of a group of homeowners in Marina Del Rey. The case piggybacked on another case of his that was gaining some attention by local media, in which my father was representing a group of environmentalists who wanted to stop further development in the neighborhood of Playa Vista in Los Angeles. The city had allowed new homes to be built on methane gas deposits with allegedly faulty safety monitoring systems. In several of these cases, my father alleged that the county was selling taxpayer-owned land for rock-bottom prices in return for campaign donations.
These are the kinds of cases most lawyers don't want to take on. But my father believed that justice would be served to normal people who wanted houses that were safe to live in and their tax money to go toward sound investments.
His cases kept getting dismissed for nonsensical and strange reasons and it wasn't surprising to find out that the judges my dad was going up against had a very good reason to shoot down his arguments on behalf of homeowners and taxpayers. They were being paid off.
On that day in court, my father brought forth the argument that Judge Yaffe couldn't give an impartial ruling on his case against the county of Los Angeles because, like other L.A. Superior Court judges, Yaffe had drawn his salary not only from the state of California but also from Los Angeles County. Judges receive $46,436 in annual bonuses from the county, on top of a handsome salary of $178,789 from the state. The total compensation of $225,225 a year exceeds the pay of even Chief Justice John Roberts, who earns $217,000 a year.
The payments, my father maintained, were illegal under a 1997 state law that held that the state was solely responsible for paying the salaries of trial court judges. Just last year, California's Court of Appeals ruled the practice of double-dipping unconstitutional. In addition, my father noted that Judge Yaffe, like others, had failed to report this extra income in state financial disclosure statements, which also is a violation of law. How, my father asked, could a judge receiving an illegal annual bonus from the county render an objective judgment in a case involving the county?
Remember, this is $300 million we're talking about here. California's school bus system or more currently, California's colleges could have used some of the more than $300 million that Los Angeles County taxpayers have spent footing the costs of these illegal bonuses to judges.
But just as much of an issue for my father as the taxpayers' loss is the conflict of interest created by double-dipping. In a brief to the court, my father pointed out that in all cases brought over a three-year period by citizens against Los Angeles County, judges ruled against the citizens. It could reasonably be expected that the county would prevail most of the time, but it is a stretch to assume that a court should find that government is right all the time.
To be clear, many judges in the United States are paid by their county without suspicion of bias. What differentiates this circumstance is that Los Angeles judges do not publicly disclose that they receive two paychecks in state-mandated statements. Our city residents have no way of protecting themselves against judicial bias if they bring a case against L.A. county in front of these judges.
My father's incarceration appears indefinite. Judge Yaffe has said he would be freed if he signs a personal financial statement (so that the judge could order a fine) and accept disbarment without further options for recourse. This would leave my father, already financially ruined from this debacle, without hope of further employment in his career choice of 40 years for the remainder of his life.
Why would my father jeopardize his career and livelihood over a mere pay issue? It is not in his nature to close his eyes to what he regards as injustice. He believes that justice should prevail over insider politics. To him, the taxpayers are a bunch of Davids, facing a government Goliath who was supposed to protect them. He feels obligated to seek a hearing for his clients before a court without a conflict of interest.
In the face of this, Judge Yaffe is using coercive detention to stifle his dissent.
Richard I. Fine and Family
My father, my mother and me, Christmas 2006
In the meantime, the whole affair has ruined my family. My parents have been left with nothing, their house foreclosed on, their health insurance, due to age and stress, revoked. Their pleas ignored.
The only thing that hasn't been ignored, in a strange ironic twist, is the pay issue itself. As of late November, L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich revoked these illegal judicial benefits for new judges and has retroactively made the bonuses already paid out to judges legal. (That means that until November 23 of this year, the payments were officially recognized as illegal.)
Despite this, my father remains in jail. His request for release is 'under consideration' but there's no deadline for courts to make a decision on his case. My father may very well have to face his birthday in a jail cell while he, and we, await the scrutiny and resolution that his situation deserves.
Every day at Impact, I work in the hopes that injustices will be given the attention they're entitled to. I hope that today, as my father faces a biased and unsympathetic court, you will keep this small injustice in mind and share his story with the people you know so that he can one day return to championing the causes of others.
You can learn more about my father's situation and how you can help on his supporters' site.
Los Angeles, CA The Full Disclosure Network® presents a special six minute “preview” covering the ten-part cable television series. The Video Reveals the on-going Court battle between Superior Court Judges, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Court Administrators, a prominent jailed anti-trust attorney and the Judicial Watch organization. The legal battle began when Richard I Fine began to challenge Superior Court Judges who had been receiving illegal payments from the County of Los Angeles and who did not disclose those payments on their Economic Disclosure Form 700 nor to the parties appearing before the judges in their court rooms in cases that involved the County of Los Angeles.
Appearing in the six minute video are:
* Richard I Fine, who is serving an indefinite sentence in L.A. County Central Men’s Jail since March 4th, 2009 for attempting to disqualify Judge David Yaffe
* Sterling Norris, Judicial Watch Attorney (Sturgeon vs. County of L.A.)
* Paul Orphanedes, Judicial Watch Attorney (Sturgeon vs. County of L.A.)
* Professor Emeritus Daniel Gottlieb, Purdue University (ret.)
* Leslie Dutton, Full Disclosure host and moderator
Issues covered in this preview presentation of the complete series are:
* Senate Bill SBX2 11, Legislation granting retroactive criminal and civil immunity to all California Judges, County Government and Court officials who participated in the illegal payment scheme, since 1988 to present.
* L. A. County Sheriff Leroy Baca’s fight to prevent Full Disclosure Network’s access to interview jailed attorney Richard I Fine.
* Richard I Fine’s incarceration in the L. A. County Jail
* One-page description of the entire series here.
* Backgrounder on Full Disclosure Network
* L.A Times Coverage & U S Supreme Court on Judicial Bias
* FDN Newsletter Archives
Corrupt Judge David Yaffe Jails Political Prisoner Richard Fine
Written by: Rob Share
Judicial failure to file financial disclosures can be an indicator of a serious problem. The judges involved may be attempting to hide payments they received that could bias them. This at the heart of the controversy over judicial corruption involving allegedly illegal payments by the County of Los Angeles, California, to judges in the county. In that case, judges are being paid money directly by the county as “bonuses” in a manner viewed as subverting their objectivity. Despite the payments of around $46,000 per year per judge, the judges in Los Angeles County have allegedly systematically failed to file financial disclosure form 700 required by state law. One of these judges, David Yaffe, has also jailed Richard Fine, a leading critic of corruption in California courts. He’s been in jail for nearly a year, without any charges or trial, in apparent retaliation for his campaign to clean up the Los Angeles courts.
Some of these Los Angeles judges rule on law suits against the county or other matters involving the county government. According to Richard Fine, since this started these judges never rule against the county. Whether there is real bias or not may be a matter of debate, but these kinds of financial improprieties create an appearance of corrupt courts.
Reinforcing that appearance of bias is how Judge David Yaffe threw Richard Fine into prison in solitary confinement in an apparent move to shut him up. You can find more on this disturbing story on California court corruption at Full Disclosure Network’s web page “COERCIVE CONFINEMENT” Judicial Benefits and Court Corruption that includes a video featuring civil rights activist Fred Sottile, also active in family law reform, speaking to a reporter Leslie Dutton about the wrongful imprisonment of Richard Fine without reasonable due process.
Full Disclosure Network® compiled an eight minute video revealing the essence of what happened and demonstrated the growing unrest among the citizens over Court Corruption in Los Angeles. Specifically, the citizens kept focusing on the jailed attorney Richard I Fine and the controversial State Senate Bill SBX2 11 that was approved by the Legislature during the budget session that gave retroactive immunity from criminal and civil prosecution to Judges, Courts, and government officials who had accepted and or given illegal public funds from the County to the Judges. Richard Fine was jailed on March 4, 2009 after he attempted to disqualify Judge Yaffe who had accepted the illegal payments from the County, he remains in L.A. County Jail.
David Hernandez, an activist in Los Angeles who recently lost a court case against Los Angeles County, spoke with Leslie Dutton about how the money the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors pays to judges ruling on cases involving the county creates a perception of bias. In his view, it is little different than if he decided to pay judges because he liked what they were doing and then those judges made decisions beneficial to him.
Richard Fine To Die In Jail?
As of early 2010, Richard Fine is apparently still rotting away in jail without a trial or being charged with any crime. There is apparently no time limit to how long he will be there, nor any intent to charge him with a crime or provide a trial. The Los Angeles Superior Courts and Judge David Yaffe, one of the judges taking allegedly illegal payments, apparently wanted to shut him up and has thrown him in jail on contempt of court accusations over what Fine contents is an illegal court order which he is opposing on principle.
Law enforcement has wrongly followed Judge Yaffe’s direction by executing his improper orders to incarcerate Richard Fine without reasonable due process for what are apparently political reasons. Yes, even in supposedly “free” America we have political prisoners. Richard Fine is on the hit list because he’s been poking away at corruption in California for years and recently started going after the corrupt Los Angeles Superior Court with increased intensity.
But this isn’t the first time California judges have struck back at Richard Fine. Shortly before being tossed in jail by Judge Yaffe, Fine was disbarred by the California Supreme Court in what also looks like a move to shut down his ability to continue to challenge judicial corruption in the state.
(from Supreme Court Orders Disbarment of Attorney Richard I. Fine)
The now-disbarred lawyer is also suing the State Bar in federal court, arguing that the statute that permits disbarment for acts of moral turpitude not amounting to crimes violated the Due Process Clause. That suit, pending before Judge Dale Fisher in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, has been on hold pending the outcome of the State Bar proceedings, Fine said.
“This is political payback for my having exposed the corruption in the judicial system,” Fine said yesterday. “….I would have to question whether the California Supreme Court ….even read the papers….This is on one of the greater travesties of justice…They want to take the lawyer who has saved the taxpayers more than $1 billion dollars and put him out of the bar when they have done nothing about the corruption in the judicial system.”
California Government Out for Revenge
Fine has been a thorn in the side of the government for years. Now the government is out for revenge.
During the 1998 California budget crisis, Richard Fine got an injunction that shut down the entire State of California government for a day, terminating pay for all state employees including judges. The legislature had to pass an emergency funding bill to get the government running again.
As another example relevant to many of our readers, Richard Fine worked to force the County of Los Angeles government to pay out $14 million in child support payments that they collected from parents paying it to the county as required by law. These child support payments that were supposed to go to families were being held by the County of Los Angeles and not being distributed. Amazingly, even though this is illegal, the county courts approved the action. Later, it was discovered that Judge James Chalfant who approved this illegal hoarding of funds was being illegally paid under the table by the County of Los Angeles.
(from transcript at Attorney Richard I. Fine Speaks Out on Judges, Corruption, Circumstances, video at Full Disclosure Network Interviews Richard Fine and David Hernandez on Judicial Benefits & Court Corruption)
RICHARD FINE: Well, this — this all started in a very innocent type of way. It started back in 1999, and in 1999, I brought a lawsuit called John Silva vs. Garcetti — Gil Garcetti, Los Angeles District Attorney. And that lawsuit was based upon the fact that John Silva had paid money as part of his divorce — child support money. And child support money was being paid into the County of Los Angeles because the County of Los Angeles, as you know, collects child support money. Now, what we found out is that he had paid his child support money in, but the child support money wasn’t going to his wife. The County was not distributing it. And the County wasn’t distributing about $14 million of child support money. What the County was doing is, the County was taking this money in and it was holding it. Now, there’s a law that says that the County must distribute the child support money within six months or give it back to the father. And they will only give it back to the father if they can’t find the wife or the children. Now, in John’s case, he knew where his wife was, and he knew where the children were, because his wife was friendly. You know, he was giving the money to the County support system; the County wasn’t giving it to his wife. His wife knew that the money was going in, so she was cooperating with us, and we found out that all these other women and children were not getting their money.
So I sued the County to have this money distributed. The County answered and told me how much money was there, where the accounts were. All they had to do was distribute it. They were refusing to do it. I went into court, and we got to the end of the trial. The County moved to dismiss, and the judge dismissed the case. And I was astounded. And I went up into the appeal, and after the trial was over and before I filed my first brief, I found out that the judge, Judge James C. Chalfant, had received money from the County of Los Angeles. That’s how it started. That was one case.
Most of California Judiciary Is Corrupt
Richard Fine believes that all judges in the State of California have been receiving these illegal payments except for Superior Court judges in Yolo County, Mendocino County, and San Francisco County, and judges on the California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. In his view, nearly the entire judiciary of the State of California is corrupt and biased and beholden to the interests of county governments.
Citizens Campaign to Free Richard Fine
Supporters of Richard Fine have set up a website called Free Richard Fine to help defend the man from the government that is intent on silencing him.
Others angered over the apparent willingness of the government and judiciary to unconstitutionally trample all over political opposition have set up the web site Right Trumps Might to push for court reform. Their view is that the spreading corruption in American courts jeopardizes the rights of all citizens.
Report Your Judge, Check Before You Vote For A Judge
If you’ve got experience with a judge, fill out the surveys and comments at the web sites RateTheCourts.com and CourthouseForum.com. Your experiences can help others determine how to vote. An uninformed electorate is often incapable of eliminating problematic politicians which is exactly what these judges appear to be.
The next time you’re voting for a judge in elections in your area, do some investigation before casting your vote. Unless the public votes out of office judges like Texas Judge Suzanne Stovall and California Judge David Yaffe, the public should be expecting the corrupt courts of this nation to continue to subvert public intent and to harm public interests for their own benefits.
My Dad Tried to Right a Wrong, Now He’s Behind Bars Unjustly
Did L A Times Miss the Mark On Judicial Bias & Richard Fine???
Does Texas Judge Suzanne Stovall Deserve Re-election?
Supreme Court Orders Disbarment of Attorney Richard I. Fine
Full Disclosure Network Interviews Richard Fine and David Hernandez on Judicial Benefits & Court Corruption
Judge David P. Yaffe — Perched on a Throne in ‘Wonderland’
“Perspectives” Columns on Judge David Yaffe
Eileen Lasher on San Diego CPS/Family Law Court Misconduct
Stephen Doyne and San Diego Family Law Courts Under Fire
California Legislature Orders Investigation of Family Law Courts
Holding Family Law Judges Accountable