Non-Judge Appellate Court Employee is Writing Judicial Opinions and Signing Orders

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Below is only one example of  opinions and judgments  filed on the record in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, that appears to be written  by Joseph D. Seletyn Esq, who indicates his title only as “Prothonotary.”  I have found several other similar documents on the record .  Who is this man and what authority does he have to be making life-altering decisions? While Chief Counsel of the Judicial Conduct Board, Robert Graci,  claims that the Order is just certified ad filed by this person, as these documents are signed, it appears as if he wrote it.  There is nothing to refute this.  It clearly is not signed by any judge.  No one is accountable for the decision besides a prothonotary employee.

I find this very disturbing.  I would think that all citizens would find this equally outrageous.  In my own experience, over the last eight years of being trapped in the courts, I have had appeals at this court continually quashed “per curiam,” which means they were not “eligible” for appeal.

In law, a per curiam decision (or opinion) is a ruling issued by an appellate court of multiple judges in which the decision rendered is made by the court (or at least, a majority of the court) acting collectively and unanimously.[1] In contrast to regular opinions, a per curiam does not list the individual judge responsible for authoring the decision,[1] but minority dissenting and concurring decisions are signed.  However, most orders are issued  without any justification at all.

Watch this video produced by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.  It is littered with inconsistencies and vagueness, as to the duties of the law students and clerks that work in what is known as the “Central Legal Staff.”

It appears that this has been a hoax on the public.  This is not in any way acceptable.  It is a good example of the effect of judges policing themselves.  There is simply no oversight and no accountability  in our courts. It is  evidence as to why the court rules should not be enacted and interpreted unilaterally by the Judicial Branch, without legislation or the “consent of the governed.”  I can see no provision in this rule below, for staff to act in place of judges.  The courts have been seriously overstepping their jurisdiction to make secret decisions such as this.

Title 210  – Appellate Procedure CHAPTER 65. OPERATING PROCEDURES OF THE SUPERIOR COURT –65.7. Central Legal Staff.    Central Legal Staff is an office of the Court created for the purpose of assisting the Court in reviewing and processing motions, preparing memos for the Court as directed, screening cases, certifying cases to advise the Court of apparent conflicts, preparing a newsletter to inform the Court of recent Supreme and Superior Court decisions, and accepting such other responsibilities as may be assigned by the Court or the President Judge.

In June 2013, I was given a meeting with  the  Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board. They invited me to resubmit two complaints that were again dismissed; however, 30 days later, the judge recused.  Her discipline is in the 2013 Annual Report of the Judicial Conduct Board.  I know they are referring to her because it is almost verbatim to my complaint, where both cited that she failed for years, to report the disposition of my long overdue emergency motions, according to PA R.C.P. Rule 703.

Thanks to this judicial misconduct, that went unpunished, there has been no appellate review of my case in eight years.  Although the Conduct Board was negligent in not acting on the first complaint four years ago,  I was informed by Chief Counsel Robert Graci, that the Board has no mechanism for restitution, for the massive amount of financial damage that resulted.

I now have an application for a King’s Bench Petition, my second, in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which I am sure will be quashed before review, as have all of my other valid complaints of civil rights violations.  The likelihood that they are being dismissed by other than a judge, has me even more livid.

The  “independent” judiciary, is in reality a “rogue” judiciary that is operating as a crime syndicate.  Judicial immunity, self-regulation,  coupled with unregulated attorney hourly billing and the human condition,  is just an invitation for racketeering.  Judges and lawyers clearly cannot police themselves and make their own rules.

Governor Shapp saw this impending decay of the justice system and tried to stop it. The Supreme Court needs to review two items – 42 Title § 1703 – which the Supreme Court Justices struck down as unconstitutional in 1978- exempting itself from the Open Meeting Laws.   The other is 482 PA 522 (1978), which is letter that the Supreme Court Justices wrote to the Governor, declaring themselves outside of public and legislative oversight.

As Thomas Jefferson predicted in the 1800’s – “judicial review,” which is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary,  has been a disaster.  It is the judiciary which needs to be under review of the other two branches of government. This is not a democracy- it is an oligarchy. Having the oldest Supreme Court in the country, at over 300-years, in this state, has just given it that much more time to decay.  We are way ahead of the rest of the country in that respect.

Bar Association Claims Members Are Above the Law

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BWJCBCrimeNOT DEPENDENT UPON THE GOVERNMENT TO PRACTICE LAW?

The below excerpt is from the Preamble of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers.  It was taken from the rules in Pennsylvania, however, it is derived from the American Bar Association’s national rules,  that controls all of the country’s bar associations. It claims that the Judicial System is not dependent upon the government for the right to practice law.  This is beyond unconstitutional, a lawless statement and it is unbelievable that it has gone unchallenged for decades.

[11] To the extent that lawyers meet the obligations of their professional calling, the occasion for government regulation is obviated. Self-regulation also helps maintain the legal profession’s independence from government domination. An independent legal profession is an important force in preserving government under law, for abuse of legal authority is more readily challenged by a profession whose members are not dependent on government for the right to practice.

This needs to be challenged immediately by the executive branch of our federal government and stricken immediately. There is no dispute that this is non-democratic and in violation of every principle that supports equal treatment under the law, and is what is fueling the collapse the integrity of our government.

MORE FODDER FROM THEIR RULES

These rules are an abomination.  Here they declare they do not have to even follow their own rules.  This entire set of “rules” was set in place without the “consent of the governed,” without legislation – and it is the most crucial part of our government.  We are a sinking ship because of this.

[19] Violation of a Rule should not itself give rise to a cause of action against a lawyer nor should it create any presumption in such a case that a legal duty has been breached. In addition, violation of a Rule does not necessarily warrant any other nondisciplinary remedy, such as disqualification of a lawyer in pending litigation.

Because of this cult-like environment, the Innocence Project has had approximately 400 innocent people released from prison, and thousands of children were falsely imprisoned in Luzerne County, PA.  Lawyers have used this “independence” to lie, cheat and steal-they have been supported and encouraged  with the complicity of Judges who rely on them for campaign funds.  In researching campaign financing, it is found that the majority of all money comes from law firms and lawyers.

“The Fraternity “- The Corruption of the Legal System Exposed by a Judge

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"The once honorable profession of law now fully functions as a bottom-line business, driven by greed and the pursuit of power and wealth, even shaping the laws of the United States outside the elected Congress and state legislatures.”

-- Justice John F. Molloy

When I began practicing law in 1946, justice was much simpler. I joined a small Tucson practice at a salary of $250 a month, excellent compensation for a beginning lawyer. There was no paralegal staff or expensive artwork on the walls. In those days, the judicial system was straightforward and efficient. Decisions were handed down by judges who applied the law as outlined by the Constitution and state legislatures. Cases went to trial in a month or two, not years. In the courtroom, the focus was on uncovering and determining truth and fact.

I charged clients by what I was able to accomplish for them. The clock did not start ticking the minute they walked through the door.

Looking back

The legal profession has evolved dramatically during my 87 years. I am a second-generation lawyer from an Irish immigrant family that settled in Yuma. My father, who passed the Bar with a fifth-grade education, ended up arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court during his career.

The law changed dramatically during my years in the profession. For example, when I accepted my first appointment as a Pima County judge in 1957, I saw that lawyers expected me to act more as a referee than a judge. The county court I presided over resembled a gladiator arena, with dueling lawyers jockeying for points and one-upping each other with calculated and ingenuous briefs

That was just the beginning. By the time I ended my 50-year career as a trial attorney, judge and president of southern Arizona's largest law firm, I no longer had confidence in the legal fraternity I had participated in and, yes, profited from.

I was the ultimate insider, but as I looked back, I felt I had to write a book about serious issues in the legal profession and the implications for clients and society as a whole. The Fraternity: Lawyers and Judges in Collusion was 10 years in the making and has become my call to action for legal reform.

Disturbing evolution

Our Constitution intended that only elected lawmakers be permitted to create law. Yet judges create their own law in the judicial system based on their own opinions and rulings. It's called case law, and it is churned out daily through the rulings of judges. When a judge hands down a ruling and that ruling survives appeal with the next tier of judges, it then becomes case law, or legal precedent. This now happens so consistently that we've become more subject to the case rulings of judges rather than to laws made by the lawmaking bodies outlined in our Constitution.

This case-law system is a constitutional nightmare because it continuously modifies constitutional intent. For lawyers, however, it creates endless business opportunities. That's because case law is technically complicated and requires a lawyer's expertise to guide and move you through the system. The judicial system may begin with enacted laws, but the variations that result from a judge's application of case law all too often change the ultimate meaning.

Lawyer domination

When a lawyer puts on a robe and takes the bench, he or she is called a judge. But in reality, when judges look down from the bench they are lawyers looking upon fellow members of their fraternity. In any other area of the free-enterprise system, this would be seen as a conflict of interest.

When a lawyer takes an oath as a judge, it merely enhances the ruling class of lawyers and judges. First of all, in Maricopa and Pima counties, judges are not elected but nominated by committees of lawyers, along with concerned citizens. How can they be expected not to be beholden to those who elevated them to the bench?

When they leave the bench, many return to large and successful law firms that leverage their names and relationships.

 

 


 

fraternitycoverThe Fraternity: Lawyers and Judges in Collusion

Business of law

The concept of "time" has been converted into enormous revenue for lawyers. The profession has adopted elaborate systems where clients are billed for a lawyer's time in six-minute increments. The paralegal profession is another brainchild of the fraternity, created as an additional tracking and revenue center. High powered firms have departmentalized their services into separate profit centers for probate and trusts, trial, commercial, and so forth.

The once-honorable profession of law now fully functions as a bottom-line business, driven by greed and the pursuit of power and wealth, even shaping the laws of the United States outside the elected Congress and state legislatures.

Bureaucratic design

Today the skill and gamesmanship of lawyers, not the truth, often determine the outcome of a case. And we lawyers love it. All the tools are there to obscure and confound. The system's process of discovery and the exclusionary rule often work to keep vital information off-limits to jurors and make cases so convoluted and complex that only lawyers and judges understand them.

The net effect has been to increase our need for lawyers, create more work for them, clog the courts and ensure that most cases never go to trial and are, instead, plea-bargained and compromised. All the while the clock is ticking, and the monster is being fed.

The sullying of American law has resulted in a fountain of money for law professionals while the common people, who are increasingly affected by lawyer-driven changes and an expensive, self-serving bureaucracy, are left confused and ill-served. Today, it is estimated that 70 percent of low-to-middle-income citizens can no longer afford the cost of justice in America. What would our Founding Fathers think?

This devolution of lawmaking by the judiciary has been subtle, taking place incrementally over decades. But today, it's engrained in our legal system, and few even question it. But the result is clear. Individuals can no longer participate in the legal system.

It has become too complex and too expensive, all the while feeding our dependency on lawyers. By complicating the law, lawyers have achieved the ultimate job security. Gone are the days when American courts functioned to serve justice simply and swiftly. It is estimated that 95 million legal actions now pass through the courts annually, and the time and expense for a plaintiff or defendant in our legal system can be absolutely overwhelming.

Surely it's time to question what has happened to our justice system and to wonder if it is possible to return to a system that truly does protect us from wrongs.

A lawyer from Tuscon, Arizona, John Fitzgerald Molloy (b. 1917) was elected to the Superior Court bench where he served for seven years as both a juvenile court and trial bench judge. He subsequently was elected to the Court of Appeals where he authored over 300 appellate opinions, including the final Miranda decision for the Arizona Supreme Court. During that period, he also served as president of the Arizona Judge's Association. After 12 years, Molloy returned to private practice to become president of the largest law firm in southern Arizona. His book has received widespread praise for its candor and disquieting truths. (Photo courtesy of Paragon House)

Copyright 2004, Paragon House



From an Internet released preview of the book by John Fitzgerald Molloy, The Fraternity: Lawyers and Judges in Collusion, Paragon House, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2004. Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.


Legislation Demands – Retake Control of the Judiciary

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PROPOSAL TO THE PENNSYLVANIA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE  AND THE LEGISLATURE:
Repeal of PA Constitution Article  V  – Section 10  

The current structure of the legal system is impotent, and entirely self-defeating of  the principles of a democratic judicial system. To have a self-regulated branch of government, has created a venue for racketeering. There is no motivation for an attorney to expeditiously end a legal matter with the absurd hourly fee structure;  they are further pressured by law firms who inflict profit quotas on their employees.  While the Supreme Court claimed  it must be “independent” to function- what they have really become is a rogue and suppressive branch of government- promoting collusion of judges and attorneys to furthering the profits of the bar association members. 

This system became enabled as a direct result of defective legislation passed  in 1968- when the Pennsylvania Constitution was disastrously amended with Article V –most egregiously Section 10 (c) –misinterpreted by lawyers as  giving the legal profession self- regulatory powers. Amendment V was perverted over the years- as they insidiously began “making  rules” which in effect were “laws” that impede and distort the justice system. The U.S. Constitution mandates that only Congress can  pass laws, however, in many states this provision has been mutilated by bar associations-who formed “committees” to make “rules.” Although the Pennsylvania Rules Committee claims “rules” are not the same as “laws” – they are nothing more than vehicles for lawyers and judges to commit what would be considered crimes in any other venue.

1) Common Pleas Courts Needs To Be Monitored At The County Level – by an impartial non-attorney agency. The source of the corruption and collusion is at the Common Pleas level. .The Judicial Conduct Board is completely impotent as it stands now.
7) Laws and Rules can only be passed by the Legislature:. The legal system  has been made into a game of manipulation for self- enrichment of attorneys. They use it to expand cases and distract from the real issues of the law.- using procedural rules to usurp substantive law- -The General Assembly needs to reempowered.
2) Sovereign Immunity, Self–Recusal And Interlocutory Orders Are In Consistent With The U.S. Constitution System Of Checks And Balances – they are absurd and undemocratic and must be ELIMINATED. This is not a monarchy- there are no kings and queens in the U.S. We are all subject to the same standards and laws- self-regulation has shown itself to be disastrous.
8) Judges Need to be certified, as do Attorneys in the Areas of Laws they claim to be competent in…currently incompetent untrained individuals have been able to make their way on to the bench, and attorneys  misrepresent their skills to procure retainers.  . And it promotes and perpetuates adverse judicial conduct. . And the argument that “judges will be inhibited to do their job ” is nonsense and rhetoric spread by their cronies in the bar association. Only the corrupt judges will have their behavior inhibited.
3) Family Court Must Be All Mediation– the commerce of the bar associations must be removed. Attorneys are perpetrating crimes against families by extending cases to steal marital assets- enticed by financial transparency of the divorce process.
9) The Code Of Conduct For Attorneys Needs To Be Made Actionable at Law -as it is now there is no cause of action that can be used in civil suits..as one attorney said to me- they don’t have to follow the Code- its merely a suggestion. So they can feel free to lie and perpetrate crimes against the opposing party. ABUSE OF PROCESS IS A RAMPANT PROBLEM!
4) Mandatory Independent Escrow Account Agencies That Hold All Attorney Retainers– it is absurd that the bar association  maintains a “fund” to reimburse victims of attorney conversion of escrow funds. This is like treating the symptoms of a disease and failing to vaccinate the population with available inoculations. Funds would only be released upon agreement of both clients and attorneys.
10) Cap Attorney Fees.. Physicians Have Their Fees Controlled- Healthcare Is Not A Luxury Is Neither Is Justice. Pro Se services are a myth-there is NO HELP for anyone who is not mentally disabled or has any assets whatsoever. That excludes legal representation for the majority of the U.S. Population.
5) Pro Se Litigants Should Be A Protected Group Under The Civil Rights Amendment. It is a Constitutional right to represent yourself in civil matters. Currently discrimination is rampant, to the point where judge will not allow videos in the court room. .
11) Anyone Sitting In The Legislature Must Be Banned From Being Active Members Of Any Bar Association! This is an obvious conflict of interest
6) Video Cameras Allowed In Every Courtroom Upon Request By The Plaintiff Or Defendant  this is a right that was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. (SEE http://www.aclu-il.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Alvarez_ruling.pdf
12) Legalize Paralegal Assistance For Civil Filings- currently the bar associations have obstructed this- because it would interfere with their profits. Paralegals can do many of the processing at a fraction of the fees that attorneys charge. ( Attorneys even charge $95 per hour just for services by their clerical staff – which is twice the rate of most paralegals)

.Once the tyrannical influence of this amended section is removed- the following should be amended to the Constitution to provide an impartial and fair judicial system:

Is This the Biggest Fraud Ever on Americans? Judicial “Discretion” Abused to Repay Campaign Contributions

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C-Lawyer-Morally Since the early 1970s, lawyers have gained complete independence from oversight.   Increasingly, the unregulated, unlimited ability of attorneys to charge their clients by the hour, for as many hours a week as possible, has impoverished thousands, if not millions of Americans.  There is simply no escape from the propensity of lawyers to complicate and prolong cases. This is an abomination in this country. The members of every bar association have used this to trap litigants in the court system until they extort as much of their assets as possible. There is no motivation for any attorney to ever expedite a case quickly, and in fact the current system has the exact opposite objective. Judges have taken to abusing their discretion, failing to issue sanctions against attorneys, as these attorneys are the ones that put them in office to begin with, by funding their judicial campaigns.

Where appropriate, judicial discretion allows a judge to decide a legal case or matter within a range of possible decisions.  Under the doctrine of the separation of powers, the ability of judges to exercise discretion is an aspect of judicial independence, a concept can be traced back to 18th century England.. even if those decisions are politically unpopular or opposed by powerful interests.  Unfortunately, this concept is subject to abuse in a democracy where the checks and balance system is as important as the separation of powers. 

Where the exercise of discretion goes beyond constraints set down by legislation, by binding precedent, or by a constitution, the court may be abusing its discretion and undermining the rule of law. In that case, the decision of the court may be ultra vires, and may sometimes be characterized as judicial activism.

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the following on this subject:

Judicial power, as contradistinguished from the power of the laws, has no existence. Courts are the mere instruments of the law, and can will nothing. When they are said to exercise a discretion, it is a mere legal discretion, a discretion to be exercised in discerning the course prescribed by law; and, when that is discerned, it is the duty of the court to follow it. Judicial power is never exercised for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the judge, [but] always for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the legislature; or, in other words, to the will of the law.

The most egregious behavior is no doubt in the family courts. Unsuspecting families think they are coming to a safe haven to resolve their family issues, and hire a lawyer. The truth is the lawyers on either side only work for each other- prolonging the case to bill as much as possible. The hourly fees range from $200 to $1000 per hour. And in my experience- the rate at which you pay has nothing to do with the quality of the legal work. It has to do with how much influence the law firm has on the judge. Most of the time, the law firm has contributed to the judge’s electoral campaign and this is how the outcome of the case will end.

If you enter the courts without an attorney i.e. pro se.. you will receive no justice at all. In fact, I requested statistics on the outcome of pro se litigants vs represented litigants- and the Administration of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) claimed they had no such statistics. I also requested the length of family court litigation in Pennsylvania in comparison to other civil cases- and they claimed they did not have that information either.

SOLUTIONS

I have seen cases that are intentionally dragged out by attorneys for five years, ten years and even 20 years. If the incentive of the hourly fees were removed this would stop. This can be done by not only capping hourly fees, but by limiting the amount of charges they can invoice per week. Not only must their hourly fees be capped, but a threshold for the length of time before they are assessed punative fines, needs to be set. For example, any case that goes beyond 18 months, needs to be reviewed by a panel of non–bar associated citizens. If there is any intentional expansion of the case, both the judge and the law firms should be fined in the thousands for such conduct.

Other solutions are to tax the falsely proclaimed “non-profit” bar associations to support the court system, as the fees just to file have become prohibitive.. The U.S. Constitution provides for equal treatment under the law, and we have anything but that.. what we have are profiteering attorneys who all belong to the same club, and for decades have been robbing Americans blind. They have precluded too many people from benefiting from any of the statutes of our U.S. and State Constitutions.

A massive change that needs to be made is to bring the entire Judicial Branch back under compliance with the Open Meeting Laws, to which every other agency and branch of our government is subject. Since 1978, the lawyers have been making their own rules, to the point of completely obstructing justice and out and out stealing people’s assets. This has to stop, and the only way that it will is to make it clear to the new governor and the newly elected senators and representatives that we will not tolerate this any more.

Everyone needs to demand that the General Assembly address these issues and provide restitution for all the people that have been harmed by these lawyers. All bar members must be prohibited from serving on the judiciary committee, and it is just insane at how long this has been allowed to continue, and it continues because people do not speak up.. they wait for everyone else to do it. Copy this and send it to the Senators and Representatives in your State.. no matter what State you are in.. because there is no justice anywhere in America today.

CLICK HERE
CLICK ON THE STAMP, DOWNLOAD THE PROPOSALS AND SEND TO YOUR LEGISLATORS

Learn How the Judicial Branches Throughout the U.S. Gradually Destroyed the Checks and Balance System

 

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Justice is Coming

U.S. Department of Justice Claims No Due Process for Self-Represented

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Judge4-1Due process is a right guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  However, anyone that has been involved with the courts, and represented themselves, already knows that pro se discrimination is real and its a crime that goes unpunished.  If you are not a paying member of their club i.e. the bar association- you will receive no justice- because essentially you are cutting into their profits by not paying a  lawyer.  But now here it is in writing.. hard proof. .  From the Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  HERE IS THE PHONE NUMBER OF ROBERT MOOSSY – WHO’S IS LISTED ON THIS LETTER AS THE CHIEF OF THE CRIMINAL DIVISION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE…

Please call and ask for an explanation of this letter..202-514-3204

  DOJ Malik letter

Judicial Corruption
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Just How Bad Is Our Legal System?

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The Justice System’s Imprisonment of Innocent Citizens
Anthony Gregory Become a fan

It is frequently said that a civilized people would rather let ten guilty men go free than put one innocent person in prison. I would revise the ratio, myself, yet we are starting to get a glimpse into just how often innocent people are convicted in this country.

Damon Thibodeaux is the 300th convict exonerated through DNA evidence. He is an innocent man who was threatened and intimidated into giving a false confession that never withstood a cursory comparison to the facts. Not only was he innocent, but one of the crimes to which he confessed — sexual abuse — appears never to have happened to the murder victim.

These releases have blown a hole in the myth that the justice system almost never damns the innocent. Some would suggest that the return of these individuals’ freedom shows the system is working — yet for years they have been deprived of their birthright of liberty, and rarely ever receive retribution. Moreover, many more remain imprisoned and are likely never to be released.

Thibodeaux’s ordeal reminds us that even when the facts appear to clearly prove the prosecution’s case, behind-the-scenes criminal justice shenanigans often obscure the picture seen by jurors. The Washington Post reports that among exonerations in the last five years, “as many as a quarter of the cases involved a false confession.” This might shock Americans who have never learned about the way police interrogators can psychologically manipulate suspects, breaking them down hour by hour, until the suspects no longer have any conception of reality or identity.

Research out of the University of Michigan indicates a 2.5 percent to 4 percent error rate in capital cases. And in June, “researchers examining biological evidence from hundreds of Virginia rape convictions between 1973 and 1987 determined that new DNA testing appeared to exonerate convicted defendants in 8 percent to 15 percent of cases.”

This means that for the 140,000 on death row or serving life imprisonment alone, “many thousands of innocent individuals could be in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.” In some categories of offenses, it would seem the U.S. is getting awfully close to an error rate that would mean letting everyone out of prison would satisfy the moral standard that imprisoning an innocent person is worse than letting ten guilty people go. This sounds crazy, but that is the degree of injustice our system has wrought.

Unfortunately, most innocent people will probably never be released, since the vast majority of cases resulting in DNA-based exoneration involve rape where there is DNA evidence to test. There are many more cases in which confessions and eyewitness testimony — two notoriously unreliable forms of proof — are the main ways prosecutors secure convictions. Compounded by the highly problematic reliance on plea bargains, and we see how things can get so awful.

It is almost a certainty that thousands of innocent Americans are behind bars, potentially subject to brutal conditions, violence, and very often rape. This of course does not even touch on those who are punished for peaceful acts that should not be crimes in a free society — like drug or gun ownership or illegal immigration — nor does it take account of the many property criminals who would be more humanely and justly handled through restitution to their victims rather than imprisonment; nor does it consider the hundreds of thousands imprisoned on petty parole and probation violations where no one was actually hurt. Maybe if the criminal justice system were only focused on violent crime, it could better ensure that fewer innocents were locked up, but even this would require eternal vigilance on the part of the people.

Despite the criminal justice system comprising one outrageous injustice mounted atop another, this gets very little attention in mainstream discourse. Why?

Perhaps it is because this reality poses a major inconvenience for the dominant forms of modern political ideology. The progressives believe government is more humane and efficient than the market, and if a system of checks and balances, due process protections, and unanimous jury verdicts has failed so utterly in protecting the rights of the innocent, it only demonstrates why we might not trust it with running education, protecting the environment, or guaranteeing health care to all. Modern conservatives, on the other hand, believe that, while government deserves suspicion in the areas of welfare and regulation, the criminal justice system is a proper role of government and that liberal criticisms have served to coddle criminals and weaken the state’s ability to protect the people from crime. Thus, they trust government with the unparalleled powers of execution and imprisonment where they would distrust it to run the economy or care for the needy. Yet on all fronts, government deserves much less trust, not more.

It is no wonder that almost any other issue is more likely to be discussed in the national debates than the horrible state of our criminal justice system. Countless innocent people are being abused and have had their lives stolen from them by overzealous prosecutors and police, biased judges, and jurors willing to give the state the benefit of the doubt. This one of the greatest injustices in modern American life and exposes the immoralities in pro-government ideologies that have come to dominate modern politics.

So long as this is the system we have, jurors concerned with actual justice need to become far more vigilant. The presumption of evidence means that prosecutors and police should not be given the benefit of the doubt, as they typically are. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs’s rule of thumb is: “whenever any government functionary, especially one connected with the so-called criminal justice system, makes a statement, presume that it is a lie. It may not be, of course, but unless overwhelming independent evidence is adduced in support of it, the odds are that it is a lie.”
This might seem cynical, but that is the proper attitude with which to approach the legal system. Only a principled skepticism can possibly keep the system functioning anywhere close to the ideal, where people are treated as innocent until proven guilty.

PA Supreme Court Nominee Got the Message

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wecht_david-Vert-201502091704Wecht Issues Plan to Revamp the State’s Judiciary

P.J. D’Annunzio, The Legal Intelligencer

February 10, 2015

As part of his bid for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court bench, Superior Court Judge David N. Wecht issued a five-point plan aimed at clamping down on judicial corruption.

Wecht’s plan for “revamping judicial conduct and transparency” issued Monday outlined five ethics-oriented measures from an outright ban on all gifts to judges to televised courtroom proceedings.

A Democrat from Allegheny County, Wecht told The Legal the goal of the plan is to address both the realities and perceptions of the state’s judicial system.

“I think the perception of the Pennsylvania courts is very low and there is a need to assure the public that the judges, and those that work for them, understand that this is a public trust and that the work is taken seriously,” Wecht said.

While Wecht said he wants Pennsylvania residents to know that the courts have left “the Dark Ages,” his impetus for developing the plan came from those same dark times the court has endured in recent years.

“It’s not any one incident in isolation, it’s incident after incident, event after event,” Wecht said. “Cumulatively all of these things have led us to a low point in our judicial history.”

The first point of Wecht’s plan calls for a ban on all gifts to judges, no matter how small. Judges should not use their positions to “reap profit,” according to the plan, and “gifts to judges, be they golf junkets or trinkets, should be banned completely.”

Nepotism is also targeted in Wecht’s initiative: point two states the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct’s existing regulations on judges hiring family members aren’t good enough.

“While the code bans judges from hiring their relatives in the future, it says (and does) nothing about the fact that many judges already have their relatives on the public payroll, and that this nepotism continues unchecked,” Wecht’s plan said. “This has to stop. Our Supreme Court should impose a reasonable sunset period (perhaps five years) to allow judges’ family members to find other work—work outside the chambers and courtrooms of their judicial kin.”

As for cases when a judge’s impartiality is in question, the third point of Wecht’s plan requires judges explain in writing their rulings relating to calls for recusal.

“The code,” the plan said, “should be revised to require judges whose recusal is sought to state on the record their reasons for granting or denying the motion, so all circumstances can be viewed in the light of day, both by the reviewing court and by the public as a whole.”

Mandatory ethics classes for all judicial candidates, the fourth point, are also prescribed for curbing potential misconduct.

“Recent events have shown that those to whom this power is granted can go seriously astray,” the plan said, adding that a knowledge of best practices can go a long way.

Lastly, the plan recommends that all court proceedings should be televised to promote openness. But the public’s access would not be unlimited.

According to the plan, judges would have discretion as to whether sensitive aspects of cases would be aired, including issues involving “child abuse, certain sexual offenses, matters requiring a measure of confidentiality, and other special situations.”

Wecht said he expects his plan to be met with a certain measure of resistance, but added that reform does not occur overnight.

“Dripping water wears away rock,” Wecht said. Pointing to his reform efforts on the Superior Court, he added, “Many of my reform proposals have met with some resistance and that’s to be expected. Encountering resistance should never discourage people from speaking to reform.”

G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, said the creation of a plan like Wecht’s represents a departure from typical judicial campaigns—a departure that could go on to influence the theme of the race.

“We could have one of the most reformist Supreme Court elections in modern history, simply because what Wecht has done conceivably forces other candidates to address these issues,” Madonna said.

In fact, Madonna said the issues presented in Wecht’s plan could spark a full-scale debate on court reform.

Whether Wecht’s five-point plan bears fruit is another matter. According to Madonna, it’s difficult to tell what the sitting justices as well as the candidates will think of the proposed reforms.

“Where the court’s concerned there is no certainty,” Madonna said.

He added, “We’re going to end up with six people running, three from each party; let’s look at the debate and see how many of them come on board and with what intensity.”

P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or pdannunzio@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.