Friday, May 06, 2005

Proof that courts are run by the rich and powerul

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Judges' Outlandish Secrecy
Judicial branch ordered cases sealed to provide privacy for well-connected.

Anyone who thinks that the judicial branch in Connecticut metes out justice even-handedly has only to look at the secrecy imposed by the courts for well-connected people to know better. Thanks to a lawsuit brought by the Hartford Courant and joined by the Connecticut Law Tribune, the public has learned that judges were going beyond sealing records of cases. They were taking steps to hide even the existence of such cases. In other words, there were no public records even of the existence of the cases, never mind the settlement results.

Simply put, the judges can't be trusted. This is why the legislature should pass a law banning Level 1 cases in which there is not even a docket notation that the case exists.

The judges were in the active business of keeping secret cases which the public had a right to know about. The judges hid from the public record cases, particularly divorces, involving business executives and entertainers. They hid divorce proceedings involving judges of their own court and other individuals with the financial or political clout to get to the friendly ears of state judges.

One such case involved the divorce of Philip Austin, the University of Connecticut president.

Indeed, this little culture of secrecy became official court policy, as the judicial branch actively organized a system for instructing court employees how to hide the records and how to keep them from ever surfacing. The department wrote memos giving specific directions for hiding these cases. One memo even warned the court staff never to bring a secret case out of the records vault.

This conduct is offensive to the public on two levels:
One, of course, is that the judicial branch deliberately set up a two-tier system for administering justice. Those who had power and influence could benefit from a special set of secrecy rules established by the courts. Under this system, the question was not so much whether there was a legitimate and compelling reason to hide the files from public view, but rather a general policy to keep from the public the legal dealings of someone who had connections.

But on a more basic level, the judicial branch was being unprofessional. If the law matters and if justice is blind, what was the court system doing in hiding these documents from the public's view?

By what laws did the court system choose how to hide the very existence of cases and to seal them without providing anything but the most specious reasoning?

This is raw arrogance, pure and simple. It is the kind of outlandish conduct that just may force the General Assembly to deal with judges whose conduct suggests they think they have become a law unto themselves.

The above came from theday.com

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