Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunlight May Not Be Enough To Disinfect A Corrupt Missouri Judiciary

Posted by CultureVigilante on December 20, 2011

Better Courts for Missouri released a statement, today, outlining a judge’s dereliction of duty as reported by the St Louis Post Dispatch. In the Post’s investigation, they found that Judge, Barbara T. Peebles took a two-week vacation to China, without reassigning her docket, and left her clerks in charge to make judicial decisions. Apparently, this was not the first time something like this has happened in Judge Peebles’ court, and the St. Louis Public Defender was quoted as saying that it was common knowledge the Peebles’ clerks acted on her behalf in the past. At least 350 cases were handled by court clerks in her most recent two-week absence.

What is even more disturbing is that no one, lawyers, clerks, officers of the court system felt the need to report this behavior to the proper authorities of the Missouri Bar Association. It is obvious there is a brotherhood among the judicial network that covers for its own.

Supreme Court rules state: A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.

It looks as if the passing of the buck now begins in the St. Louis Circuit Courts. While its presiding judge blamed Peebles and her lack of management over her own court, what of his own decision to sweep any disciplinary action, in this case, under the rug? While cases such as this should be reported to the Commission of Retirement, Removal and Discipline for investigation, it appears that Ohmer will just reassigned Peebles to another court. Apparently because discipline of this type, not having been administered to another judge in over 30 years, was deemed as too harsh a punishment to do so in this case.

St. Louis Circuit Court Presiding Judge Steven Ohmer called the conduct of both Peebles and her clerks “wrong.” He blamed an “overall lack of management and supervision.” …

… Ohmer said he considered — but decided against — removing Peebles from that division after the full scale of the problem was revealed. It would be the kind of action he said has not happened in 30 years. Next month, she will move to a civil trial division as planned.

Better Courts for Missouri, ”a coalition of Missourians from all walks of life, dedicated to fixing the method by which Missouri judges are selected.” as described on their web page, was formed to bring “Openness, Accountability, Independence and Excellence in our Judiciary,” and has worked to inform citizens of the dishonor and corruption in the Missouri Plan, which is the method now used in Missouri to select judges.

At the end of BCfM’s Get Involved page, they state:

The judiciary is too important to leave in the control of unaccountable special interests who stand to gain from picking judges in secret. Please join us as we fight to protect the rule of law.

The work of BCfM has been to promote openness and accountability in the selection process, which is absent from the current plan. However, there seems to be no mention, on their website, of the provision in the Missouri Constitution, that provides the power and authority of the State Legislature to impeach judges who are derelict in their responsibilities. While sunlight would certainly provide the public with ability to identify the corruption that has been allowed to mutate in the judiciary over the decades, there still seems to be no catalyst to provide discipline to those who have abused their power and authority.

Article 7: Section 1. All elective executive officials of the state, and judges of the supreme court, courts of appeals and circuit courts shall be liable to impeachment for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.

Article 7: Section 2. The house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried before the supreme court, except that the governor or a member of the supreme court shall be tried by a special commission of seven eminent jurists to be elected by the senate. The supreme court or special commission shall take an oath to try impartially the person impeached, and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of five-sevenths of the court or special commission.

It would appear that the brotherhood among the judicial network has extended to the legislature since there has been no judge impeached, in Missouri, since the civil war according to the Missouri Court’s website:

Before the commission was created in 1972, an impeachment trial was the only means by which a judge could be removed from office. Since the Civil War era, however, the House has impeached only two Missouri judges – both St. Louis County circuit judges and both in the 1960s. In both cases, the judges resigned from office before the Supreme Court held their trials. While the impeachment mechanism is still available, the commission serves as a more efficient method of ensuring judges adhere to the code of conduct and remain subject to disciplinary review even for ethical lapses that may not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

Would this be the same commission that is charged with oversight of the St. Louis Circuit Courts? It would also appear that the commission, and any other form of authority, from the circuit court to the legislature, has worked very hard to cover for their own since we all know there is much corruption in the judicial branch of government, and there has been very little, if nothing at all, done to stop its escalation of corruption.


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