Here’s a judge who took an oath of office, and lives up to it. An anonymous guest post.

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Justin Maxon / The New York Times

The judges name is Jed S. Rakoff, and he “sits” in the US District Court of Manhattan.  He’s a man I could address as “Your Honor,” and sincerely mean it.  He isn’t shy about stating that the public must be able to “see” what our court system is doing if they are to have any confidence in it at all.  He’s adopted strict rules limiting what sort of materials may be kept confidential in cases before him.  He calls this “transparency,” but what he’s really saying is this . . . every time a court does something under the table, (like sealing State Farm’s documents without any basis whatsoever), it demeans the justice system and destroys people’s belief in their government. 

We all know how corporate defendants constantly game the system with their pseudo “trade secret” claims.  Good God, think of the horror stories posted on this blog alone.  Sadly, these shameless lies presented in signed court papers governed by Rule 11 honestly standards are rarely subjected to the mandatory test for excluding discoverable information: (1) the movant has the burden of proving everything they withheld is a bona fide trade secret; and (2) a record finding must be made, based on facts and/or testimony, and the controlling law in discovery cases; and (3) all of this must be preserved in a public court record, susceptible to appellate review. 

Contrast Judge Rakoff’s “transparency” with what happened in Birmingham, corporate rat’s nest of the South.  Not only were documents concealed, hell, the entire case against Cori and Keri Rigsby was ginned up to keep evidence of federal flood program fraud a secret, and at the same time persecute and defame the Rigsbys and Dick Scruggs as document thieves.  Imagine that.  What would people like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Benjamin Cardozo do if they were alive to witness an Article III Tribunal, a United States Federal Court involved in this sordid and illegal mess?  Imposing personal jurisdiction over persons not even within the court’s constitutional power . . . for the purpose of concealing a multi billion dollar fraud upon the US Treasury?

Sealing documents is now endemic. A recent event in our state court comes to mind.  In Chip Pickering’s case in Madison County Chancery Court, the judge tried to keep Pickering’s scandalous C street diary from getting in the court record.  Pickering, another family values pimp was screwing a Jackson cellular communications heiress, and at the same time using his committee seat to channel 156 million in government telcom grants to her company.

Honorable Jed Rakoff says:  Everything needs to be public . . . [t]he legitimacy of the courts comes from the fact they reason openly, on the record, based on facts.”

Judge Rakoff has an important Bank of America (BOA) case before him right now.  You’ll remember BOA took over Merrill Lynch in a rescue merger last year.  Well, just before the merger, Merrill handed out 3.6 billion dollars to its executive thieves but BOA kept quiet about all this, then turned around and sought bailout funds from the US Treasury.  Apparently, BOA got with the repulsively corrupt SEC and cooked up an order, actually a “fix,” to present to Judge Rakoff.  The fix was BOA would agree to pay a (trifling) fine of 33 million, and then the entire matter would be concluded without further investigation.  One little problem: there’s a bona fide judge involved here, who swore to an oath, and guess what corp-o-thugs, this guy follows it.  Judge Rakoff is ordering the parties to disclose who lied to conceal the bonuses, (he wants names), and why the SEC is colluding with this proposed order, to keep this all secret.

7 thoughts on “Here’s a judge who took an oath of office, and lives up to it. An anonymous guest post.”

  1. I’d be honored to call Judge Jed S. Rakoff “YOUR HONOR” as well.

    Too bad he doesn’t live “down here” instead of “up there.” How refreshing to have a Judge that ensures the public’s right to “see what’s going on” in cases so that their view of the judicial system doesn’t get more jaded than it already is.

    SHIRLEY HEFLIN

  2. Great post! I think I guessed the identity of the anonymous author about two sentences in. This is “calling it like you see it” at its best . . .from both Judge Rakoff and the nameless author. Well done.

  3. We need more Judges like the author of the post if he is an attorney. Great post. I might add that our good friend Hank Greenberg did make a push to get pay raises for every federal judge. You have to wonder what back room deals Hank and others have made to get business favorable appointments to the federal bench.

    Here are some state efforts of Mr. Greenberg and others—

    Buying Justice
    Robert Lenzner Matthew Miller, 07.21.03

    For years the trial lawyers had state courts wrapped around their fingers. Now big business is striking back. It is waging a secret election-campaign war on judges who favor plaintiffs in tort cases.
    Justice C.P. (Chuck) McRae is adored by trial lawyers–and reviled by business. A colorful, cocky figure who drives a motorcycle to the courthouse and dresses in cowboy boots, blue jeans and lots of leather, he was once president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association. Nearly all of his $700,000 campaign fund in 2000 came in the form of $5,000 gifts from plaintiff attorneys who stand a chance of appearing before him. McRae says he is proud of “defending the have-nots against the haves for more than 11 years,” a populist sentiment that unsettles business execs. He was “the dominant force on the court and in line to be the next chief justice,” says Chip Reno, director of Stop Lawsuit Abuse, a local pro-business lobby.

    That is, McRae was, until voters threw him out of office last November. Chuck McRae, 57, ends his 11-year tenure next January, passing the gavel to a pro-business corporate lawyer and Republican named Jess Dickinson. Dickinson was swept into office on a down-and-dirty, name-calling campaign bankrolled by $1.2 million he raised from doctors and small-business owners–an unheard of sum for a judicial election. But he also had a hidden helper: Unbeknownst to some Mississippi voters, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pumped $1 million more into anti-McRae ads, funneling it through local groups such as Mississippians for Economic Progress.

    McRae’s ouster is part of a secret war on judges now being waged by the chamber. It has spent $100 million since 2000 and will spend $50 million or more this year. The prime objective: to vote out judges supported by trial lawyers, labor unions and the Democratic Party and install new judges sympathetic to insurance companies, multinational corporations and the Republican Party. The chamber also is taking aim at state attorneys general, trial lawyers and state legislators.

    http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2003/0721/064_print.html

  4. It is called our political system. Special interest groups contribute to candidates that they feel will be favorable to them. Nothing wrong with that.

    Why should the Chamber be criticized when the trial lawyers and labor unions spend millions to support their preferred candidates?

    I welcome any honest judge. Unfortunately, what we have seen in MS recently certainly does not do much to increase our confidence of the system being transparent.

  5. Hmmm, a REAL judge, not a corrporate rubber stamper. I wonder how he got to be a judge at all, as our corporate legal system usually gets the politicians to put their legal hack rubber stampers on the bench to do their bidding. Some of the best hack rubber stampers reach the very top, and you end up with people like Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, and Scalia making the decisions to benefit the corporate crime syndicate. As it turns out, Bill Clinton appointed Judge Rakoff to his post. I bet Clinton is getting a lot of curses now. As for Obama, he should be actively putting the heat on BoA, but he won’t. Obama is just a Wall Street puppet and another hack rubber stamper of sorts. Obama, in fact, will likely be putting the heat on Congress to try to ram the corrupt SEC-BoA settlement through. At any rate, it IS refreshing to see a REAL judge making REAL opinions and for the public benefit. Judge Rakoff’s work took brains, savvy, and balls. Yes, BALLS. It’s about time.

  6. how refreshing Jed Rakoff. And Andrew Cuomo.
    at one time Merrill Lynch put almost all my investments into ARS, were it not for Cuomo I would have lost at least $120 k. on ARS when i complained to my Merrill Lynch as how he had put be into every questionable investment his reponse
    move on get over it looking for someone to blame
    followed by letter 30 days to clear out of Merrill.

    there are too few men like Rakoff and Cuomo willing to do battle for the shareholders . I doubt if one shareholder would agree to a $3.6 billion bonus for such a corrupt lot as Merrill . Hope fully shareholder reform. Obama should have listened to the french
    a cap on earning for financial executives to stop them pilferring from their sharlholders
    give shareholders the power where it rightfully belongs.

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