I know people who have been involved in Probate court abuse which is a nationwide epidemic for over a decade.
Out of control judges and lawyers conspire to defraud anyone with savings. I used to think more laws, bills, money
and lawyers was the solution but victims who have played the game for a while know none of that works because
everything is controlled by one person the judge.
In the past dozen years, state and local judges have repeatedly escaped public accountability for misdeeds that have victimized thousands. Nine of 10 kept their jobs, a Reuters investigation found – including an Alabama judge who unlawfully jailed hundreds of poor people, many of them Black, over traffic fines.
Judge Les Hayes once sentenced a single mother to 496 days behind bars for failing to pay traffic tickets. The sentence was so stiff it exceeded the jail time Alabama allows for negligent homicide.
Marquita Johnson, who was locked up in April 2012, says the impact of her time in jail endures today. Johnson’s three children were cast into foster care while she was incarcerated. One daughter was molested, state records show. Another was physically abused.
“Judge Hayes took away my life and didn’t care how my children suffered,” said Johnson, now 36. “My girls will never be the same.”
Fellow inmates found her sentence hard to believe. “They had a nickname for me: The Woman with All the Days,” Johnson said. “That’s what they called me: The Woman with All the Days. There were people who had committed real crimes who got out before me.”
In 2016, the state agency that oversees judges charged Hayes with violating Alabama’s code of judicial conduct. According to the Judicial Inquiry Commission, Hayes broke state and federal laws by jailing Johnson and hundreds of other Montgomery residents too poor to pay fines. Among those jailed: a plumber struggling to make rent, a mother who skipped meals to cover the medical bills of her disabled son, and a hotel housekeeper working her way through college.
Hayes, a judge since 2000, admitted in court documents to violating 10 different parts of the state’s judicial conduct code. One of the counts was a breach of a judge’s most essential duty: failing to “respect and comply with the law.”
It’s that bad
Secretive and cozy judicial oversight systems enable judges to subvert accountability in many states. Exhibit A: Oklahoma, where not a single judge was publicly disciplined in 14 years. When the state finally did charge a judge with wrongdoing, he was allowed to resign, his record pristine and his pension intact.
By MICHAEL BERENS and JOHN SHIFFMAN in BARTLESVILLE, OKLAHOMA
Filed July 9, 2020, 10 a.m. GMT
District Court Judge Curtis DeLapp was renowned for his hair-trigger temper. Mispronounce his name, come to court a few seconds late, fail to rise as quickly as he’d like – no slight was too small to set him off.
For almost a dozen years, DeLapp used his power to terrify people who appeared before him, pressing contempt charges against defense attorneys, prosecutors and even a prospective juror who brought children to court when she couldn’t find daycare, court records show.
Another juror was fined $340.70 after she objected to how DeLapp was treating people who appeared before him. “I never want to be a juror or ever go back to court again,” said Carolyn Duffey Love, now 68. “He treated me like a dog.”
In 2015, DeLapp grew incensed when he learned someone had dropped sunflower seeds in his courtroom, according to witnesses. After scouring footage from a courtroom security camera, the judge summoned a spectator to his chambers, charged her with contempt and ordered her jailed for four days.
Local attorneys had grown convinced that DeLapp was violating the state’s judicial conduct code by abusing his authority. But they felt it would be futile to file a complaint with the Oklahoma agency that investigates judicial misconduct, because the state hadn’t filed charges against a judge for misconduct since 2004. The lawyers also say they worried that crossing DeLapp risked retaliation against both them and their clients.
Not until 2018 – after DeLapp sentenced courtroom spectator Randa Ludlow to nearly six months in jail for talking to her boyfriend during court – did local lawyers find the courage to act.