LA RECALLS-In at least two appearances in front of Judge Michael Convey, he continued to state on the record (only in my case) that anyone audio recording the proceedings would be held in contempt.
I thought it was quite odd and believe the threat was directed at me -- as though I would be stupid enough to record a judge in his courtroom. The odd thing was, the proceedings were already being recorded as I brought in a court reporter due to my distrust of him, so why the concern that his tone would be recorded?
This made me think: Why can’t a public proceeding be recorded? And why did I have to pay to bring in a reporter? The answer? Supposedly the County no longer had money to provide reporters in civil cases. We know the County has plenty of money for the issues that are important to them, but apparently monitoring judges is clearly not one of them. Even Mr. Dresser from the CJP at his appearance at the 2019 Audit hearing, stated that he too thought reporters should be brought back since that was the only way to truly investigate judges. The irony is, I sent motions and transcripts to the CJP when I filed my complaint against Judge Paul Bacigalupo on July 9, 2018, and they did not even respond to me. As we all know, the CJP issue has little to do with transcripts but what’s happening in our courtrooms all over California should be recorded for appeal purposes -- and to let the judges know they are being watched.
Why is the burden on a litigant to provide proof of what is taking place in LA Superior Court? Most self-represented litigants can’t afford to pay those fees and one cannot rely on the Minute Orders. Judge Convey started to bring in reporters only after I filed a Motion to Disqualify him in June 2019. Prior to that, I spent over $3,000 on reporters just in appearances alone. Defense counsel wanted their carriers’ money in their own pockets, so they never once arranged to have a reporter.
I can’t even begin to stress upon you how important it is to have your proceedings recorded. There are even appellate judges who will deny your appeal because there are no transcripts.
I was told by a friend who appeared in Federal Court that there is an audio recording of his proceedings. I do not know if this is true in all Federal courtrooms but why not have it in every courtroom in LA Superior Court? Just imagine if judges knew that their tone was being recorded and that every word they spoke could come back to haunt them -- many of them might change their ways. I can assure you, Judge Bacigalupo would have thought twice before yelling at me the first time I appeared before him and at another appearance when he reduced my case to a case about a “terrifying family of deer” -- as though a home renovated without permits, a carbon monoxide detector and County inspections, is something to mock.
I recall when I sent a letter to Supervising Judge Cotton about Bacigalupo’s conduct and his insane sanctions (that I referenced in my last article), Judge Cotton blew off my complaint but even he acknowledged that tone is not reflected in a transcript.
Los Angeles County has the money, so why not do it? They could pay the judges a little less and use the extra money for court reporters. If they won’t provide court reporters, why not install audio equipment in every court? How many times do we call a credit card company, a bank, Amazon or PayPal and are told that our calls are being recorded? These tapes are archived. I know this because I was impersonated at my bank by a corporate landlord and the bank kept the calls for years.
If proceedings are taped, when a litigant or counsel wants or needs the transcript, they can purchase it from the court or a court reporting company. The courts could even implement a small fee just like they do for e-filing. This can easily be done. Why would the CJP, the CJA or the Senate Judiciary Committee not make this a priority? This is not an archaic concept. We can send people to the moon, so why can’t we install audio equipment in courtrooms? Is this intentional? If those in power want to change public opinion, they must use their power to implement change.
This is just another step in the Judicial Reform that we at LARecalls are determined to implement. We must police these judges, or we will never see change. People can protest and send angry emails complaining about their cases, but to get the reform we need, there must also be workable ideas and a way to implement change or we will be forced to live with the status quo.
I agree with Richard Lee Abrams comment to my first article when he stated that the courts have deputies to protect the judges as their rulings are so outrageous, but I think it’s also to protect litigants from each other. We litigants need to be protected as well from biased and angry judges who ignore Rules of Court, decades of precedent, and who berate and humiliate us self-represented litigants simply because we want to be made whole and for those that harmed us to be held accountable.
Alert: The judicial primaries are just around the corner, March 3, 2020 (see above). This is an amazing opportunity to get real reform. Not only is Alison Mackenzie on this list but I noticed that both Judge Elizabeth Lippitt and Judge Virginia Keeny are up for reelection as well. I personally experienced the wrath of Lippitt on my first day in court and due to Keeny’s horrible reputation, I filed a peremptory challenge on her after Bacigalupo went off to the CJA. These judges also need to be removed from the bench.
To all the lawyers with aspirations of being a judge - this is your time! Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.
If you truly want change and new judges join or recall efforts and contact us at [email protected].
(Shelly Hart prevailed in one of the largest settlements in CA and quite possibly the nation as a self-represented litigant. She is uniquely qualified to write on this topic and is one of the handful of individuals who is heading up LARecalls, the recall of several LA Superior Court judges. You can contact her at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.