Misjudging the Judges - Massachusetts SJC Moves To Protect Judges Further
THE STATE Supreme Judicial Court last week defanged a nine-member commission responsible for enforcing the standards of judicial conduct and disciplining wayward judges. The SJC claims the move was necessary to reinforce public trust in the integrity of the judiciary. But it may have the opposite effect.
Justices of the state's highest court disapproved of commission actions last year that led to a $50,000 fine and year-long suspension for Plymouth County Juvenile Court Judge Robert Murray. Members of the state's highest court felt strongly that Murray deserved removal from the bench for the sexual harassment of two female employees. And he probably did. But the SJC's response is now raising more eyebrows than the Murray decision. How is public trust served when the SJC, angered by a single decision, strips a commission of its authority to impose serious sanctions, including suspensions and large fines?
The SJC is the last body in Massachusetts that one would expect to find overreacting in such a case. Its members have been criticized from some quarters for the 2003 decision allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Charges of judicial activism, overreaching, and worse have been leveled at the court. Yet Chief Justice Margaret Marshall has steadfastly supported the principle of deciding each case on its merits, free of meddling and outside influence. In the Murray case, the commission -- composed of three judges, three attorneys, and three lay people -- weighed the facts and reached its conclusion in a manner no different from its routine since 1988, with no interference from the SJC. If the highest court was so disappointed, it might still have found a way to suspend Murray indefinitely. Instead, it targeted the commission.
Judges in Massachusetts enjoy extraordinary job security. They face no contested elections, reappointment hearings, or retention reviews. Such independence serves justice well. But it also means that citizens need an efficient way to lodge misconduct complaints against judges when they go astray. The Commission on Judicial Conduct has been that address. It has reviewed complaints, investigated allegations, and imposed sanctions, provided the judge in question agreed to the disciplinary measures. If the judge balked, formal charges could then be filed with the SJC, which has the final word on discipline.
With its new ruling, the SJC leaves the commission with only a few wrist-slapping duties in the areas of education, training, and counseling. Only the SJC gets to bring down the hammer. And the added duties would significantly increase the SJC workload. The judicial conduct commission, which includes lay members, should retain its clout.
Commentary from Fathers Unite
This is an obvious attempt at a power grab by the Massachusetts SJC to protect already immune judges further. The biggest problem in the judicial system today is that judges have far too much immunity. They can break the law, commit fraud, ignore the constitution (which legally strips them of immunity but for practical purposes?), rape estates for the benefit of lawyers and even destroy people on vendettas with little risk due to many layers of protection erected by the judges and lawyers themselves.
Margret Marshall, the Chief Justice of Massachusetts, is isolated in her ivory tower. Her minions have run amuck and she may not even know it. If she does then she is also guilty of crimes against the people. Family court judges in particular are doing more damage to families and children than good. They ignore due process and parental rights defined by the constitution of the U.S. and Massachusetts for the profit of the divorce and legal industry. The lawyers are in control and cause problems, custody fights - anything for more billable hours. They are literally doing intentional damage to children for profit. The foxes are truly watching the hen house as the cozy relationship between judges and lawyers has removed all appearance of a "unbiased" rulings. In fact the ruling are most often what is in the best interests of judges and lawyers.
Conflicts of interest abound in this system. For example when a judge awards child support the state indirectly gets a significant piece of that award through federal reimbursements for child support collections. So every judge has a conflict of interest in every child support award. No wonder child support is often many times the cost of a child and placed entirely on the back of one parent (dad). We are talking about HUNDREDS of MILLION of dollars a year here. Can anyone really believe this does not influence their decisions?
If you think these decisions are made without profit and political motives I have a bridge I want to sell you with good toll revenue (slightly used). Corruption is becoming rampant today for the profit of people in power. For each Enron, each police scandal of officers smuggling truck loads of drugs, each judge committing sexual harassment, each payoffs of a mayor, defense contractor or senator, there are likely hundreds that get away with it because they are smarter and more careful. After all it is hard to trace cash and prove motive when they have complete discretion.
This is a scandal looking for an opportunity to break on to the front pages. Major reform is coming to the Massachusetts judicial system, and probably the entire U.S. judicial system. It is just a question of how much reform and when. If the legal system was not a monopoly it would have driven itself out of business or improved a long time ago. Unlike any real business it has no "feedback system" to adjust, detect failures and improve. Therefore it can ignore its customers without any penalty. No real business can survive doing that, and as a result any business must evolve and improve.
If we had true leadership in the judicial system, not past lawyers and judges with little management and leadership experience, we would have a system that is proactively trying to improve and adjust to the realities of today's family life. Our family courts are still making rulings like it was still 1950. Like fathers do not contribute to the upbringing of their children and women have no ability to earn a living.
I guess expecting any appointed political figure to show leadership is a tall order. Where would they learn these skills? Leaders are made, not born, and need to grow up into their positions with years of experience. Our political system can not appoint "leaders" without leadership experience. The appointment of the most recent Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is a perfect example. Put the new guy in charge, who is the youngest and least experienced. That will get results! What? Right? Hey I am all for youth, energy and progressiveness, but let's be serious. This was wholly inappropriate because there were many more experienced and qualified people with many years EXPERIENCE already on the U.S. SJC. Doesn't government understand people grow from experience in an area not by official appointment? The was Mr. Bush (it hurts to call him President) trying to build a legacy and ignoring his duty to do the best job he could for the nation. Why is he not embarrassed to do this? I guess because enough people do not understand this that he can get away with it.
Reforms the judicial system needs:
1) Remove judicial immunity in cases of fraud, clear bias and violating due process, civil rights or constitutional rights. Judges are human and can make honest mistakes. They should not be liable for those, only intentional steps outside their authority and the law.
2) Allow jury trials as the original check and balance our forefathers designed against judges personal opinions, social agenda and bias.
3) Institute strict monitoring of judges with in courtroom video systems, that are out of their control. We need monthly a sampling reviewed process by their management and leadership. Judges who violate the law again and again after feedback must be removed quickly.
4) Streamline a process for judicial complaints and track judicial complaint on a public web site. Today people who are abused are intentionally buried in paperwork, appeals and more legal fees as punishment for speaking out. If they report misdeeds judges abuse them further. The Judicial Oversight Board is thought by many to be a joke. It waits a year after a complaint to send a letter saying "we found no evidence of wrongdoing", when they don't even call the people listed as witnesses to pretend there is a real investigation. It is a fraud upon the people.
5) Hold the Chief Justice and individual court Chief Justices accountable for RESULTS as measured monthly to track success, costs and customer satisfaction. Every real business is subject to this reality and improves because of it. Why should our most important institution be immune from improvement?