You’re a celebrity and/or you’re just rich, and you don’t want to deal in open court where the pro pers, pro ses, and other poor folk go, and you don’t want the whole world to know your business – especially if you have a lawyer who is known to have hired the alleged and indicted wire-tapping spy Anthony Pellicano. You want to be able to control the outcome, that is if you can persuade the other party to go with you, like by paying the cost.
So what do you do?
Why, you go to “Rent-a-Judge”, where you can get a legally enforceable judgment.
And who might that judge be, and where will you find him?
Alternative Resolution Centers, a Limited Liability Company, is one such place, here in California (ADR Services, even bigger, is another). There you will find around 38 retired judges, like my old judge, Arnold Gold, for example. You will pay maybe 7 hundred dollars an hour for his services, and if your private judge violates state judicial rules and bends the public court system to your personal ends, what’s so bad about that, could you or the judge get into trouble from some oversight board? The answer to that is no, because there is no oversight over private judges.
The State of California (probably typical of all states) maintains such a public body (the Commission on Judicial Performance), and guess what, privately hired judges are totally immune and safe from their scrutiny.
And if you go to the District Attorney with a complaint, chances are you will receive the curt reply that they don’t get involved in private disputes, especially those involving divorce and custody matters.
Of course, if you, the underdog, feel you have been manipulated, you are free to sue in the court you should have insisted upon in the first place. Sue who? Perhaps the judge, who cannot plead judicial immunity, perhaps even the alternative resolution center for providing tainted services (is that a consumer problem? Don’t know.) If you forfeited your right to sue, then perhaps your only course is to allege fraud.
And who are typical litigants in this system? Try Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston; Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards; Michael Jackson and his custody fight with ex-wife Debbie Rowe. Billionaire Ronald Burkle and his wife Janet. But since it’s all kept private, you won’t always know who else went that route. [An aside here, I tried to disqualify Judge Gold with a Motion during my trial, because in a slip, he revealed his intentions to retire and make lots of money from celebrities, as a retired judge for hire – unbelievable! Denied, by him, of course. Download file]
April 2
Reassuring letter in today’s paper from Terry B. Friedman, President, California Judges Association, in response to a sweeping article on the subject by Michael Hiltzik in the L.A. Times who said there is no oversight of private judge’s behavior.
He says Hiltzik is quite wrong with his information, that because retired judges and justices are lawyers, they are subject to the disciplinary powers of the ABA, as are temporary judges.
I believe I am right in saying that Chief Justice Ronald George last year issued an order that Judges active on the bench can’t have it both ways. That they cannot “retire”, and then come back in as a temp. to earn even more money, this time public money. Surely Friedman knows that.
As for the enlightening news that private judges abusing their position are subject to discipline, O.K. not by the Commission on Judicial Performance, but by the California Bar Association, the ABA, well, that news deserves a good, tears in the eyes, belly-aching, laugh. We live in the real world, and Friedman should not try and mislead the public.