Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Neil Gorsuch shows that judges' primary interest is to side with their colleagues, and Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins is exhibiting such behavior in Alabama now

Virginia Emerson Hopkins
Trump SCOTUS appointee Neil Gorsuch stated during his confirmation hearings that he had participated in 2,700 appellate cases, and 97 percent of those resulted in unanimous rulings. “I was in the majority in 99% of the cases,” he added.

Gorsuch meant this to sound good. But a leading judicial critic says it actually is bad for the public, "Gorsuch values getting along with his 'brothers and sisters in the robe' higher than getting justice done," says Dr. Richard Cordero, Esq., founder and director of New York-based Judicial Discipline Reform (JDR). The Web site is described as "A study of judges' unaccountability and consequent riskless wrongdoing; how to expose it and bring about judicial reform."

We now are seeing behavior in the Northern District of Alabama that suggests Cordero is on target -- and the self-protective behavior he describes goes way beyond the 10th Circuit, where Neil Gorsuch once resided.

Consider what has happened in our "House Case," involving wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham, multiple constitutional violations, and state-law claims such as defamation and tortious interference. District Judge R. David Proctor, with documented and long-standing ties to perjurious Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions, summarily dismissed our case (meaning no discovery was conducted) in a memorandum opinion that includes violations of black-letter law on roughly a dozen key issues. Proctor's ruling, at least for now, has given a free pass to a number of Alabama's right-wing political operatives, several of them, like Proctor, closely tied to Sessions -- plus a number of deep-pocketed corporate entities, including Chase Mortgage and Hearst Corporation.

After issuing his dismissal order, Proctor admitted that he had a conflict. (One of his sons had worked for new U.S. Senator Luther Strange, a defendant in the case; the same son also had worked for Sessions, the man Strange replaced.)  But Proctor claimed, contrary to available evidence, that the conflict arose only after he had dismissed our case.

"The House Case," a term we use to distinguish it from "The Jail Case" (re: my wrongful arrest and five-month incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama, because of my reporting on uncomfortable truths about the state's GOP political machine), wound up in the lap of a Proctor colleague, U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins.

In the few weeks she's had the case, Hopkins has proven to be a female version of Neil Gorsuch -- her interests clearly are in protecting R. David Proctor, and they have nothing to do with justice. We had filed a Rule 59 Motion to Alter or Amend Proctor's dismissal, and Hopkins dismissed it with virtually no explanation. We filed a Rule 60 Motion to Vacate Proctor's orders because evidence shows he had conflicts that disqualified him from hearing our case, from the outset. Hopkins dismissed that, with a ruling that was as sloppy as it was void of any legal reasoning.

How alarming is this judicial back-scratching behavior? How does it harm the public? Dr. Richard Cordero answers those questions, and much more, with a recent article titled "How Judge Neil Gorsuch and his peers dismiss 99.83% of complaints against them and dispose of 93% of appeals with reasonless decisions." (The full article can be read via a link at the end of this post; also, Cordero participated in a 2015 international symposium on justice issues, and a related video can be viewed at the end of this post.)

Dr. Richard Cordero
Gorsuch, Cordero writes, confirms Administrative Office of U.S. Courts (AO) statistics "that show that circuit judges dispose of 93% of appeals in decisions “on procedural grounds [e.g., “for lack of jurisdiction or jurisdictional defect”], by consolidation, unsigned, unpublished, without comment.”

We've experienced this in the Eleventh Circuit, where both "The House Case" and "The Jail Case" are pending on appeal. We've also experienced what tends to happen with cases that wind up in appellate courts. Writes Cordero:

The majority of these decisions are reasonless, fiat-like summary orders. They fit the front side of a 5¢ form, with one rubber stamped operative word, mostly ‘the decision below is Affirmed or the motion is Denied’. They express the morphed judges’ pro-forma justice: 'However things were, we leave them so. Next!'

The rest of those 93% decisions have an opinion so arbitrary, ad-hoc to reach a convenient result, or unlawful that they may not be relied upon in other cases; so they too are marked “not-precedential,” which is anathema to our system of common law based on precedent. Only the remaining 7% of decisions are signed, published, and intended to pass the scrutiny of the media, be discussed in law journals, and included in law school casebooks to establish the author’s reputation.

How does this affect human beings, especially those parties who go before the courts without being connected to corporate, institutional, or other moneyed/powerful interests? They get cheated -- and many of them probably don't even know it. Writes Cordero, of Gorsuch's behavior on the bench:

What criteria does Gorsuch use to treat parties so unequally: dumping their appeals with a meaningless decision or sweating it out on a meaningful one?

In fact, he also bragged that in 99% of his cases he had been in the majority. This means that in only 1% of them he felt so strongly about the issues or the parties to go to the trouble of dissenting, thus being in the minority. Nevertheless, he remained a typical judge within the norm, for the 2% of cases where it was one of the other two panel members who dissented can be distributed equally by allocating 1% to each of them.

For him and his peers getting along with each other and taking it easy with 93% of appeals are more appealing attitudes than a principled discharge of their duty. The latter requires reading the briefs, doing legal research, and coming to the panel conference prepared to advocate “a result compelled by the law”, which he said a good judge pursues.

No wonder he shied away from the exacting and socially lethal action of denouncing any of his peers or even protesting publicly their systematic dismissal of complaints against them, which would have entailed a lot of controversy and led to his peers outcasting him as a traitor.

The U.S. Senate proceedings that led to Gorsuch being seated on the nation's highest court mostly involved philosophical questions that the nominee neatly sidestepped. Senators asked almost nothing about "back scratching" issues that rob the public of judges' honest services. Writes Cordero:

The Senate’s debate should concentrate on the pro-forma justice that Gorsuch and his friends provide to parties and the rest of We the People.

So the question for the senators to ask before voting on Gorsuch is not whether what got under his skin in that 1% of cases in which he stood up for something other than his camaraderie with his peers was a big corporation or a little guy.

Rather, it is how he could claim commitment to rule of law results, never mind integrity, although during the past 11.5 years on the bench he has seen his peers dismiss on average one complaint a week of those 573 against them, but has simply looked the other way or even joined the other bullies in abusing their judicial power to silence complainants by resorting to false pretenses to dump their complaints.

Why did he tolerate, or participate in, the cheating of parties out of the meaningful appellate service to which their payment of the filing fee entitled them contractually?

By ensuring his and his peers’ unaccountability, they have abused their independence to provide themselves an irresistibly tempting and impenetrable cover for their riskless wrongdoing.

Close to home, here are the questions: Were we deprived of Judge Proctor's "honest services"? Absolutely. Is Judge Hopkins covering for her colleague's corrupt actions, with no regard for justice? There is no doubt about it.

We will show you in upcoming posts exactly how she is doing it.

(To be continued)

Full article: How Judge Neil Gorsuch and his peers dismiss 99.83% of complaints against them and dispose of 93% of appeals with reasonless decisions


Anonymous said...

Sounds like judges are in the habit of playing "go along to get along."

Anonymous said...

So, I take it Hopkins issued an order you didn't like?

legalschnauzer said...

It's not a matter of whether I like it or not. It's a matter of whether her ruling squares with the written law. In this case, it doesn't, and I will show why in upcoming posts.

Anonymous said...

This Cordero fellow speaketh the truth.

Anonymous said...

I'm still guessing that the main problem is Hopkins issued an order you didn't like.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:01 --

You can guess all you'd like. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know it's primary purpose is to show that judges frequently issue orders that run contrary to established law. If you think you're up for it, try to find a case I've reported on and show how my analysis is incorrect. Let us know what you find. I think you'll be looking for a while.

Anonymous said...

It's been reported many places that federal judges often do not even write their own opinions. Clerks do most of that work, so it's hard to see what purpose many federal judges serve.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:08 --

You are correct. We have written about that subject several times. The whole purpose of lifetime appointments is to give federal judges the freedom to rule fearlessly, even in the face of public opinion or powerful interests. But the evidence is clear that judges don't tend to do that. If they are like Gorsuch and Hopkins, they just try to maintain the status quo. It's an elaborate scam.

Anonymous said...

The Northern District of Alabama is a cesspool. Most lawyers who practice there know it, and even admit it, in private circles. The Eleventh Circuit is no better. You are ahead of the curve in writing about this. The MSM certainly won't do it.

Anonymous said...

Between lifetime appointments and judicial immunity, federal judges can do anything they want. Most of them come from corporate law firms, so that is where their interests lie. They don't serve the constitution, they serve corporate interests. Hopkins' husband is a lawyer with ties to U.S. Richard Shelby. You can guess where her interests lie.

e.a.f. said...

"the boys" wanted another "boy" who would not rock the boat and G. is it. They wanted some one younger so they would be there to protect their interests for years to come. it is most unfortunate some American judges are appointed for life. At one time that would have been important, given the nature of the country and people didn't life that long.

In Canada we retire Judges at 75.

The American Supreme Court it is difficult to see why some were appointed. it appears to be without rymne or reason. In Canada, Supreme Court Justices must come from specific areas of the country with special back grounds. So yes we do have Judges on our Supreme court who have specialized in maritime law. provinces such as Quebec, have specific seats on the bench. Makes sense that populated parts of the country are represented.

legalschnauzer said...

SCOTUS has become increasingly politicized over the years. The whole American "justice" system has very little to do with justice. In my view, citizens deserve a good bit of the blame because we've sat back and let it happen, without paying attention.

Mark Hayden said...

Study the Pharisees in the gospels of Matthew and John. Then you will better understand the "learned elders".