Groups Appeal to U.N. for Alleged Prisoner of War on Judicial Misconduct

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Joined by Disclosure Watch and other legal reform advocates, the grassroots nonprofit known as POPULAR (Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored) lobbies the U.N. for leverage following the arrest of California judicial whistleblower and international legal scholar, Dr. Richard Isaac Fine. POPULAR representatives describe Fine as a "prisoner" of the metaphorical war on judicial misconduct.

On the day President Barack Obama became America's 44th President, a U.S. nonprofit known as POPULAR, Inc. wrote the United Nation's High Commissioner for Human Rights in care of his "Special Rapporteur On The Promotion And Protection Of The Right To Freedom Of Opinion And Expression".

POPULAR is an acronym for "Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored". The legal reform advocate is an association of public interest attorneys and law school graduates advised by a board of nonlawyer community leaders. According to its Vice President Dr. H. Christina Pak, "POPULAR is a good government advocate committed to helping poor and other disadvantaged people access affordable and competent legal representation, appropriate judicial oversight, and important civil and criminal justice system reforms".

Through case profiles, a related White Paper, and the insights of renowned civil rights activist attorney Thomas N. Todd, POPULAR reportedly proposed to the U.N. a need for federal protection in America "as the First Amendment activities of its lawyers are too readily suppressed through state regulated, professional disciplinary processes." Pak claims "direct appeals of such matters to U.S. officials by POPULAR constituents generally prove unavailing." She adds, "such has been the case even when complainants have impeccable credentials", a fact to which Dr. Richard Isaac Fine of Los Angeles County, California can now attest.

It is difficult to both summarize and adequately portray Dr. Fine's extensive and distinguished background. His many prestigious degrees and certificates include a Ph.D. in international law from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has been a lawyer in multiple government antitrust divisions including that of the U.S. Justice Department and another he created and led for the city of Los Angeles, California.    

On March 4, 2009, California state judge David P. Yaffee sentenced Fine to jail for contempt where he remains indefinitely under what is known as the Marina Strand case, cause number BS 109420 before Department 86 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. In a 21 page, February 1, 2009 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Dr. Shirley Moore detailed events prompting Fine's ongoing confinement and purported disbarment. Moore is president of the judicial monitoring group known as "Disclosure Watch". Fine is the organization's national spokesperson.

According to Disclosure Watch, a June 2007 petition Fine filed for the Marina Strand Colony II Homeowners Association placed him in a now well publicized dispute over questionable payments by Los Angeles County to certain California state judges. The Honorable David P. Yaffee is among those judges and presides over the referenced Marina Strand case against Los Angeles County among other defendants. Disclosure Watch's referenced criminal complaint to U.S. Attorney General Holder accordingly requests an "Investigation for Violation of the Implied Right of Honest Services and Other Appropriate Charges". Fine later reported to Holder that California "Senate Bill SBX2 11 responded directly to the 'Criminal Complaint' by granting state immunity to governmental entities and judges who engaged in the illegal acts of paying and receiving county benefits throughout the State of California."

Anticipating the kind of predicament Fine faces, attorney Thomas N. Todd personally called on House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich) in 2007 to move towards federalizing the regulation of speech among lawyers. Todd explains by recorded interview that the reality of 50 different states providing "various interpretations of the federal standard" for a lawyer's free speech is a problem that "cries out for a solution which is one that is uniform." He projects that in some communities, lawyers are likely unwilling to accept cases that may place them in "bad standing with the judiciary." Distinguished law professor Monroe H. Freedman confirmed that reality, noting "some judges forget about the First Amendment when free speech is directed at them and take disciplinary action against the lawyer."

In making its 2006 report, the "Judicial Conduct and Disability Act Study Committee" chaired by Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, acknowledged that lawyers generally fear retaliation for alleging misconduct or disability on the part of any judge or judges. Unfortunately for America's poor and otherwise disadvantaged, judicial "(c)orruption generally comes to light only through a partnership between courageous (journalists and lawyers)." According to the prestigious anti-corruption coalition known as Transparency International, "(i)t is the poor and disadvantaged who suffer disproportionately from judicial corruption due to their marginalized status and inability to pay bribes". Transparency International reached that conclusion, but stopped short of recommending measures to protect lawyers whom authorities have identified as judicial critics or judicial whistleblowers.

In its cause number 04-O-14366, California's State Bar Court certainly characterizes Dr. Richard Isaac Fine as a judicial critic; an intolerable one. Under somewhat similar circumstances, POPULAR's President Dale Nathan was himself jailed for seven (7) weeks. The organization now uses Facebook and its website to network with current and former lawyers arguably subjected to retaliatory professional discipline.

POPULAR has proposed federal legislation to protect lawyers and judges attempting to expose judicial misconduct. Joined by Disclosure Watch and others, POPULAR is lobbying the U.N. for leverage in Fine's situation. Pak remarks, "in the meantime, lawyers willing to publicly challenge what they contend are knowing, intentional violations of law by judges are more likely to look through than be part of bars; that is jail and prison bars, not the state and federal bars of licensed attorneys."

Pak adds, "imagine jailing government critics and taking their law licenses in America when its jails and prisons are bulging with inmates, and our poor among others desperately need zealous representation." POPULAR and Disclosure Watch are part of a growing coalition systematically tackling that problem. Pak concludes, "we urgently need reform before there are more prisoners like Fine in the metaphorical war on judicial corruption."

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