What is the most under-reported crime in the United States? My guess would be judicial corruption. The mainstream media tends to ignore the issue, except when the FBI launches an investigation. And FBI scrutiny of a corrupt judge is a rarity.
So imagine our shock to learn of two judges--one state and one federal--getting nailed recently in Georgia. Both cases present signs that justice might not truly have been achieved. But could these cases at least be baby steps toward cleaning up bad actors on the bench? Could they be enough to cause some judges to think twice before violating their oath to uphold the law? We can only hope.
Former U.S. District Judge Jack Camp has surrendered his law license, and the Georgia Supreme Court disbarred former state circuit judge Brooks E. Blitch III. How did Camp and Blitch step in deep doo-doo? Here is how the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains it:
Camp pleaded guilty in November to aiding and abetting a felon's possession of cocaine when he bought drugs for a stripper. He also pleaded guilty to possession of illegal drugs and illegally giving the stripper his government-issued laptop.
Camp stepped down from the bench and agreed to cooperate with authorities looking into cases he handled while he was being investigated.
In 2009, Blitch pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge and was sentenced to three years on probation and a fine of $100,000. He resigned after Georgia's Judicial Qualifications Commission brought charges against him.
They sound like a couple of swell guys, don't they? Based on my experience, I'd say they have plenty of bad company on the bench, spread around the country.
The Camp story has received national attention--largely because of the involvement of a stripper--and we've reported on it several times here at Legal Schnauzer. Here is a link to one of our stories about Camp:
Will Federal Judge Get Off Easy for Snorting Coke With a Stripper?
Trust me, you can't go wrong with a headline that includes the words "federal judge," "snorting coke," and "stripper." If that doesn't draw readers, nothing will. But that headline doesn't even capture the ugliest part of the Camp case.
This one does:
Did Drug Abuse and Racism Affect a Federal Judge's Rulings
Ample evidence suggests that Camp displayed favoritism on the bench, often based on racial animus. The U.S. Department of Justice reportedly is investigating Camp's rulings for signs that parties were mistreated. No word on the findings, so far.
What about the question raised above: Did Camp get off easy? You probably will not be surprised to learn the answer is yes. He will receive all of 30 days in prison. How could that be? Well, it helps that federal prosecutors dropped weapons charges. Without that, Camp would have been exposed to a more severe sentence.
As for Blitch, he sounds exactly like some of the arrogant pricks I've encountered wearing robes. Check out this description of his behavior, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The ethics charges facing Judge Brooks E. Blitch III include collecting money from criminal defendants and using that money to make illegal payments to county employees, and ordering the early release of six imprisoned felons. . . .
Blitch is also accused of "improper decorum" and "inappropriate judicial temperament" during legal proceedings, and giving "preferential treatment" to the son of Life of the South Corp. founder Norman George Houston III, a personal friend of Blitch.
During a 2005 pretrial hearing in which Houston's son, "Bo" Houston, was facing felony charges including burglary, Blitch allegedly stated: "You know 'Bo' is my best friend's son. I'll tell you right now, I am not sending him to prison."
An investigation launched by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) included employees in the county where Blitch served. In fact, this sounds very much like the kind of sleaze I suspect is present in Shelby County, Alabama, where I live. From the Fulton County Daily Report:
The JQC’s action follows an investigation that began earlier this year when revelations surfaced at a Clinch County Commission meeting about a secret bank account. Commissioners were told that Blitch had issued a series of orders authorizing Clinch County court clerk Daniel V. Leccese Sr. to levy a $10 court fee on defendants in criminal cases and deposit the money in a secret bank account.
At Blitch’s direction, Leccese had paid more than $60,000 in supplemental wages to himself, his deputy clerk and a deputy sheriff, county commission vice chairman Barry Hart told the Daily Report in July. Those fees were paid for administering a county program that had been outsourced to a private business in 2001, Hart said.
Hart told the Daily Report in July that Blitch has routinely withheld funds from traffic fines, some of which should have flowed into county coffers, and doled those funds out to courthouse offices.
The feds wound up nailing several public employees in the case. From an FBI press release:
In prosecutions connected with this matter one sheriff, a court clerk, and a Clinch CountyState/Juvenile Court Judge, in addition to other individuals, have pled guilty to criminal charges, as well.
We do have one concern about the Blitch case. The prosecution was initiated by a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney, and Blitch is a member of a prominent Democratic family. That raises the specter of a prosecution that was politically motivated--and that is unlawful.
As we have written previously, judicial corruption is not a partisan issue limited only to Republicans. I've witnessed sleazy Democrats on the bench myself.
The Justice Department should be investigating all Bush-era prosecutions that had political overtones, to make sure they were conducted properly. Based on what we know so far, it appears that citizens are better off without Jack Camp and Brooks Blitch on the bench.
[Photos: ticklethewire.com; lawlessamerica.com]