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United States Justice System

By Pat Foster

During the French Revolution, the concept of communism first arose as equal treatment under the law by all classes of society. If a nobleman’s son and a serf’s son each injured another person, both should be treated equally under the law for the same crime.

The first and most important reason people first got together to create a government was to establish an equitable system for handling disputes between people. When we are in a court of law, we address the judge as “your honor” denoting a special place in our society that deals with justice. Does our system live up to these high ideals we place on our courts to render justice to its’ citizens?

Any system of justice must always weigh more heavily toward the law, than the ability of one party to use their financial resources to the detriment of their opponent. Judges must be forced to rule based upon the law with few exceptions.  

There is a major conflict of interest within our state laws that largely prevents an ideal system of equitable justice and actually promotes a system of unequal treatment based upon who can pay the most to the judge. This conflict of error can be remedied by the people with full knowledge of the conflicts involved and a way to correct it.

Michigan Election Law, MCL 169.235(2) allows all elected judges to opt out of filing their campaign finance reports. This provides the judges with a tax free account for large contributions that can sway decisions while they are on the bench. This law creates a possibility that you can have corruption within the legal system.

Your next logical question is that these campaign finance accounts are all public documents open to public inspection through the Freedom of Information Act known as FOIA. All public documents are specifically subject to a FOIA inspection unless they are specifically exempted under the act. MCL 15.243(1)(r) specifically states: “Records of a campaign committee including a committee that receives money from a state campaign fund”  is one of the exemptions under this act. Since the judges are the only persons exempt from filing campaign finance reports, the state legislators have specifically exempted them public inspection through the Freedom of Information Act. This provides an almost impenetrable tax free account for judges to receive large contributions from parties that come before them including law firms.

While Michigan has a high probability for  a corrupted system of justice, what does it say for the other states? If you are a judge taking bribes as campaign contributions, it usually means that the party bribing him does not have the law on their side of the argument. When a judge makes a decision on a case in direct opposition to the law, it is called an abuse of discretion. If you want to disqualify a judge for an abuse of discretion, you cannot do it. The United States Supreme Court in Caperton v. The A.T. Massey Coal Company established a standard for disqualification of a judge. You must prove not only an abuse of discretion, but an “extraordinary circumstance” that goes along with it. Prior to Caperton, there was no real way you could get a judge to disqualify themselves, but apparently so many judges have abused their campaign finance accounts for even the U.S. Supreme Court to accept it.

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Is Justice for Sale in Our Country?

Continued from home page

Judge Cronin was again silent and did not reply to my request to see his campaign finance statements, so I served him a second Motion to Compel him to do so. Judge Cronin had the reputation in Allegan County during the eight years he held his seat on the circuit court of never recusing or disqualifying himself from any case. I now had him in a position were his only choices were to show me those bank statements for his campaign finances or to recuse himself. Just days before the hearing on my motion, he called a special meeting between the attorney’s for the township and me to recuse himself from hearing my petition. This was a very important action toward my quest to prove that judges and justices were selling their decisions.

Court of Appeals (COA)

My civil case against the defendants was now before the COA, and after Judge Cronin denied my motion to show me his campaign accounts, I brought the same motion with a brief in support on May 21, 2016 before the COA. Two weeks later, the COA denied my motion with no explanation. They sere silent. A definition for “silence” in Black’s Law dictionary is “a failure to reveal something required by law to be revealed.”  

The COA knew exactly what I was doing, because on April 28, 2016, I filed Request for Justices Hearing Oral Argument on this case to produce their Campaign Finance Reports.  September 19, 2016, I filed a motion and brief to compel the Justices to show me their campaign finance reports. The brief detailed that Judge Cronin’s recount was possibly stolen by Jason Watts, the son of the County Clerk, and Judge Cronin campaign manager. This allegation was made to the Attorney General by two retired judges, Corsiglia and Beach. My photograph of the seal for Wayland Township clearly showed that someone had possibly gone inside the ballot container and changed the votes corroborating the two judges allegation. After Judge Cronin was assigned to my civil suit, I did motions for him to change the venue and for him to disqualify himself. Both were denied. He then found that my law suit against the defendants for blocking a storm drain and placing a fence in a private road that had been used for over 40 years was frivolous, and sanctioned me for $44 thousand dollars. The only option I had was to see if he had taken money for his decisions.

Final Proof’s:

To prove your case you must attack the problem from multiple perspectives, and if your theory holds up under each perspective, then you can say with a high degree of confidence, that your theory is correct.

Secretary of States filings:

Once you are elected as a judge or justice, you sign a waiver with the Secretary of State saying that you will only file campaign finance reports if your contributions or expenses exceed $1,000 cumulative from the date you sign the waiver.

“The reporting waiver will be lost if the committee exceeds the $1,000 threshold. Funds leftover from one election count toward the ‘amount received’ for the next election.”

Judge Cronin won his seat to the Circuit Court in the 2008 General Election. His waiver was dated 01/27/2009 right after he took office. In the 2008 General Election contributors gave him $9,987 that he reported on his Amended Pre-General filing, and $3,750 on his Post-General filing. He received $13,737 in one election, yet failed to exceed $1,000 in all of the next 8 years.

Justice Deborah Servitto prior to being elected as a judge to the 16th Judicial Circuit filed  campaign finance reports in 2002 for her circuit court seat. The Pre-General Contribution report showed a total of $41, 657 of which 44% or $18,450 was from attorneys. Her Post-General report totaled $2,792 of which $2,350 was from attorneys. Her total contributions in 2002 $44,007 of which 48% was from attorneys. Since 2002, Justice Servitto ran for the Court of Appeals in 2006. In 2006, when she ran for the Appellate Court seat, the SOS sent her a letter stating: “The Michigan Campaign Finance Act allows a candidate for a judicial office to use his or her judicial Candidate Committee to seek another judicial office if the contribution limit for the new office is the same or greater than the contribution limit for the previous office. In view of this, the Candidate Committee you registered with our office for the 16th judicial Circuit Court may be used to seek election to the 2nd District Court of Appeals. No campaign finance reports were filed by Justice Servitto, so from 2002 to 2016, she is living by her waiver that says she never made more than $1,000 in contributions during that period.

Justice Douglas Shapiro ran for Judge of the Court of Appeals in the 3rd District in 2010. His Pre-general contribution report showed a total of $18,471 of which 44% or $8,200 was from attorneys. Six years later, he again ran for the same position, but filed no campaign statements which under Michigan law he is not subject to filing any if his cumulative total since 2010 did not exceed $1,000. He signed a post-election compliance statement on December 1, 2010 that he had filed all that was required under penalties of perjury. On February 24, 2012 he signed an amended statement of organization where he requested a waiver from filing.

Justice Joel Hoekstra indicates on his Michigan Committee Statement of Organization no official depository for campaign contributions and expenses. His campaign statements go back to 1994, and they listed as “Not Available”. His reporting waiver for the Court of Appeals was accepted on 7/23/2004.

Conclusion:  Is it reasonable to assume that judges and justices are not going to receive campaign contributions in a system that requires them to run every six years for their position on the court? The answer lies between transparency and secrecy. Because judges and justices hold a very special place in any society to determine the truth based upon facts, then a judge or justice must be impartial in their decision making process, so transparency should be required. That can be simply done by having judges and justices produce their campaign finance bank statements, and if they do not show contributions exceeding $1,000 from the date they stopped filing the required reports, we can accept them as a fair and impartial decision maker.

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