New Report Suggests Judicial Reform is a Stimulus America Needs

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May 7, 2009 is the official release date for the much anticipated Report with Recommendations of the Citizens' Forum On Judicial Accountability (CFOJA) that took place May 15, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. While the CFOJA report makes clear that the forum's presiding panel heard compelling arguments for both maintaining and reforming America's judicial oversight methodology, those panelists who helped draft the report seem most persuaded by the contention that restoring the Rule of Law when breached is an obligation of and should directly involve all Americans. According to Zena Crenshaw, executive director of National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc., a CFOJA co-sponsor, "anyone calling for more government regulation or chastising its past failures during this time of economic crisis should consider that some of America's best regulators are private litigants, cut out of oversight processes by the rulings of judges who themselves may be part of the problem."

Today is the official release date for the much anticipated Report with Recommendations of the Citizens' Forum On Judicial Accountability (CFOJA) that took place May 15, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The report recounts why the CFOJA was convened and many things tending to serve or hinder that goal as the forum's first anniversary approaches. Ultimately the report concludes that "(a)dequate judicial oversight is not generally available in America through well-established government processes, but contrary to a popular sentiment, the inadequacy is not due to corruption."

Various public policy thought leaders from America's public and private sector will be formally invited to critique the CFOJA report according to Zena Crenshaw, executive director of National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc., a CFOJA co-sponsor. "An online blog has been created so the general public can critique and comment on the CFOJA report as well", she adds. The report is sixteen (16) pages long and includes an appendix of real stories about the court battles of six (6) U.S. citizens: Mrs. Evelyn Johnson, Mrs. Nancy Swan, Ms. Katherine Moore, Mrs. Betsy Combier, Mrs. H. Christina Pak, and attorney Michael R. McCray.

While the CFOJA report makes clear that the forum's presiding panel heard compelling arguments for both maintaining and reforming America's judicial oversight methodology, those panelists who helped draft the report seem most persuaded by the contention that restoring the Rule of Law when breached is an obligation of and should directly involve all Americans. Crenshaw, who made the related arguments, now links them to a finding by Transparency International (TI), a prestigious anti-corruption coalition.

TI defines corruption as 'the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.' Its executive summary of the problem as it relates to judicial systems in general explains:

It is difficult to overstate the negative impact of a corrupt judiciary: it erodes the ability of the international community to tackle transnational crime and terrorism; it diminishes trade, economic growth and human development; and, most importantly, it denies citizens impartial settlement of disputes with (neighbors) or the authorities. When the latter occurs, corrupt judiciaries fracture and divide communities by keeping alive the sense of injury created by unjust treatment and mediation. Judicial systems debased by bribery undermine confidence in governance by facilitating corruption across all sectors of government, starting at the helm of power. In so doing they send a blunt message to the people: in this country corruption is tolerated.

Noting that judicial corruption accordingly undermines the tremendous policing that can be accomplished through private litigation, Crenshaw proposes that effective judicial oversight should be among America's highest priorities.

Crenshaw says "anyone calling for more government regulation or chastising its past failures during this time of economic crisis should consider that some of America's best regulators are private litigants, cut out of oversight processes by the rulings of judges who themselves may be part of the problem." Retired Chief Deputy Marshal Matthew Fogg committed two (2) decades of his life proving that law enforcers sometimes break the law. Through a landmark, four million dollar jury verdict in 1998, Fogg established "the entire U.S. Marshal's Service to be a racially hostile environment for African American deputy U.S. Marshals nationwide." Among many related endeavors, Fogg is founder and national president of CARCLE, Congress Against Racism and Corruption in Law Enforcement, a CFOJA co-sponsor.

As president of the E-Accountability Foundation, another CFOJA co-sponsor, Betsy Combier credits the CFOJA with looking "at one of the most important issues in America right now: whether or not judges with their accompanying power should continue to be given the immunity that is currently almost absolute." She contends this first inquiry leads to a second, namely "whether or not there are sufficient safeguards against the abuse of that power and supportive judicial accountability." Attorney Michael McCray adds as Chair of The 3.5.7. Commission which addresses the proliferation of summary judgments in employment discrimination cases and co-chaired the CFOJA:

President Obama's election campaign proved that grassroots community organizing combined with new technology has the potential to shake the very foundations on which once unassailable ivory towers stood. What was true for his presidency will be true for the courts. The justice system in America must take notice - May 7, 2009 could very well be the "Iowa Caucus" that begins an avalanche of judicial reform.

All participants seem to share Betsy Combier's sentiment that the CFOJA is "an important step towards the renewing of public trust in America's judiciary." The CFOJA report itself sets forth "Next Steps" as recommended by presiding panelists James Holzrichter, Co-Founder of the Taxpayers Against Fraud Mentoring Project; Marcel Reid, Chairperson of The ACORN 8 and; Matthew Fogg, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal (retired), International Human Rights Advocate, and EEO/Diversity Counselor.

To download and/or comment on the Citizens' Forum On Judicial Accountability Report and Recommendations, please visit http://cfoja.wordpress.com/

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