ISN'T THERE ONE HONORABLE JUDGE IN CALIFORNIA?
Judges Callously Ignore Plight of Californians
May 29, 2009
By Christian Carangas
Los Angeles, California -
California's unemployment rate is 11%. Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger is proposing health cuts that would deprive 930,000 children of insurance and slash care to the elderly and sick. 80% of state parks might have to close. Thousands of teachers, firefighters and nurses are getting pink slips. And court workers are being asked to take an unpaid day off every month. But there is one group of workers who will not suffer.
For example, the 400 judges of Los Angeles County receive an annual compensation package of just under a quarter of a million dollars a year - $249,113.00 to be precise. $178,789.00 of that is their state salary. Destitute Los Angeles County pays them an additional $46,000.00 a year. The rest is a health and retirement benefits package paid by the state.
California's judges are the highest paid in the nation - without the extra payments which 55 of California's 58 counties pay to them. Los Angeles County's payments are the highest. None of the counties were required to make these payments. They were paid completely voluntarily by the county supervisors.
Richard Fine who exposed this, said the payments were a bribe. Los Angeles County is the biggest user of the courts in Los Angeles. It has the largest jail system in the world. Mr. Fine stated that in the last 3 years, no judge has ruled against the county of Los Angeles.
But the situation is even worse
For more than 20 years, counties have been using taxpayer money to make these payments. BUT THESE PAYMENTS WERE ALL ILLEGAL. In October 2008, a Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled that these payments were unconstitutional. In December 2008, the California Supreme Court upheld that decision.
The illegal payments by Los Angeles County during those 20-plus years exceeded $300 million. It is estimated that all of the counties probably paid at least $1 billion in illegal payments - all on the blood, sweat and tears of the taxpayers.
Judges are supposed to be honorable people. They swore to uphold the constitution. Did even one judge offer to pay back all those illegal payments? No. Did one judge even offer to refuse future payments? No.
Instead, Ronald George, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court, and the other judges immediately hired a lobbyist, a former California lawmaker Burt Margolin, at $9,000 a month from taxpayer money, to get a bill introduced into the California legislature to legalize those payments, and to grant them immunity for taking them in the past.
They had an ally in the California Senate - Darryl Steinberg (D-Sacramento) - a former judge. Even though the legislature was mired in a desperate attempt to fund a $42 billion deficit, he introduced a bill (SB 11)that did exactly what Ronald George wanted, and had it passed within 72 hours in both houses without any debate or discussion. The governor promptly signed it. Such is the nature of corruption among all branches of government. Taxpayers in California will pay for this for years to come - if not forever.
In order to pay the estimated $20 million in extra payments to the judges, Los Angeles County had to plead for extra money from the Economic Stimulus Bill. That is a gross abuse of that bill.
California's judges have shown a flagrant and callous disregard of the plight of Californians. While millions in California struggle to put food on the table, its judges are soaking the citizens for every last penny. 50% of every fine levied by a court goes into a special fund to build new court houses for themselves.
Not one judge has had the integrity and honesty to come out and say that he/she will not take the extra payments by the counties, or to donate those payments to people who are starving and cannot afford health care. This is unjust, and judges are supposed to do justice.
All this is but one more sign of the corruption that has seeped into the entire system. Like a building infested with termites, such a system cannot long survive. Those entrusted by the people with the responsibility of taking care of the people, have simply used the opportunity to aggrandize themselves at the expense of the people.
It is time for a complete cleansing of the stables. America needs people who are not greedy, selfish and corrupt to run its government. The time for that change is now, and among the first to go should be its judges.