The problem with judges for life- national and local

There has been a lot of discussion about changing the rules for the United States Supreme Court where judges are given lifetime appointments. This was supposed to be a way to guarantee that they would act in the best interests of the law and country, as opposed to being engaged in partisan politics or being able to have their decisions auctioned off to the highest bidder. The practice of lifetime appointments also applies to Federal judges, although back in 1954 the Senate passed legislation to limit the age to 75, but it never became law. In many states, there are mandatory retirement ages for judges, including Ohio, where Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is now aged out of running again. She’s the Republican who just sided with the 3 Democrats on the Ohio Supreme Court to call the Redistricting maps unconstitutional. She should be nominated for a Presidential Medal of Freedom for this brave act.

We can blame Alexander Hamilton for the odd quirk of law in terms of lifetime appointments:

The question of judicial retirement goes back all the way to the early days of the republic. In the Federalist No. 79, Alexander Hamilton argued forcefully against mandatory retirement for jurists, citing “the imaginary danger of a superannuated bench” and insisting that few “outlive the season of intellectual vigor.” At the time, Hamilton’s home state of New York had a retirement age of 60 for judges, and Hamilton thought that was ridiculous.

His argument made sense. The average life span of Americans at that time was about 40, so even though age 60 was 20 years beyond that, there were few cases of superannuated judges turning senile. Average life span plus 20 to 30 years came to be a retirement standard that most American states considered reasonable.

It isn’t reasonable now, though. The average American now lives to be 78, so life span plus 25 would give us a retirement age of 103, which not even the legendary F. Ray Keyser Sr. was able to reach, although he came close, passing away in 2001 at the age of 102.

Source: When It Comes to Judges, How Old Is Too Old?

Now, it’s not just a question of senioritis in judges that should be discussed, our politicians are also getting progressively older, and holding onto power longer. The last 2 presidents were well past retirement age when starting their terms in office. Joe Biden has been a politician since he was first elected County Counselor in 1970 at age 28, elected to the US Senate 2 years later- age 30 for the tiny state of Delaware. He’s been a politician for 52 years and still has 2 more to go.

It almost seems that politics in America is the only place where being ancient helps your hire-ability.

I’ve spent the last week, watching the last trial in the “Culture of Corruption” investigation in Dayton Ohio. It’s been a learning experience. Federal Court is very different from Common Please or Municipal court- but, in Montgomery County, one thing is the same- in all courts, judges once seated, become dictators of fear to the legal community. Opposing a judge amounts to insurrection. It is believed that judges will be vindictive to any lawyer who challenges them either in an election, or questions their decisions. It makes it hard to find representation to challenge the political establishment in the county. It’s why a lawyer as bad as Aaron Hartley was allowed to continue to practice law– long beyond the time he should have been.

It’s why the County Prosecutor for life, Mat Heck, can make sure anyone who questions the establishment is made to pay- by his failure to prosecute a crime. It’s how a judge like Dick Skelton can ignore clear and convincing evidence that the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education held an illegal private meeting to inspect school buildings for closing. It’s how Judge Gerald Parker can mock a citizen and refuse to grant his attorney fees in a public records case– as punishment.

If you call these folks out, like has since 2005, you can guarantee “special treatment” when you even attempt to observe a case in Federal Court, under the rule of Judge Thomas Rose, a 74-75 year old judge. I’ve attended multiple hearings leading up to the trial of USA vs Brian Higgins. At no time was I told where to sit, when it’s ok to go to the bathroom or been addressed in court. That changed this week.

On Monday morning, I attempted to get an answer from the judges chambers on why Roshawn Winburn, who was sentenced to 6 months in prison over a year ago by Judge Rose, was again delayed in his report date to prison. What made it even more of an insult was that despite pleading guilty to accepting a bribe, Mr. Winburn was starting a new job that day, according to my Linkedin notifications. Coop Dayton btw is the holding company for the Gem City Market- and run by (my neighbor) a union lawyer who is a big Nan Whaley supporter and a sociology professor at Sinclair.

Roshawn Winburn new job announcement

Winburn was supposed to report to prison that very day. I’d called Rose’s office and left a message, I’d sent an email, and wrote a post asking for an answer. Last I checked, Judge Rose works for the people of this great nation. Why is a convicted criminal, who used his governmental position for his own enrichment, being allowed to start a new job, before he’s served his time? Reasonable question. Apparently, Federal Judges, with their lifetime appointment, their ability to surround themselves with patronage employees, and Court Security Officers- don’t have to answer to us little people. I was told “He can’t talk to you about this case”- but, this wasn’t about the Higgins case, it was about the settled Winburn case.

I sat through jury selection in Judge Rice’s courtroom. It’s considerably larger than Rose’s. I was told to sit in the rear which was fine. Come Tuesday morning- I again try to get an answer from Rose’s office- without any response. A woman hears my question on her way in- and doesn’t come back. I go into the court room and sit in one of the two spots that allow unobstructed views of the bench. It’s where I’ve sat in at least 3 previous hearings. I’m asked to move to the other side of the room “away from the jury.” I comply. When the judge anounces the first break, I start to get up to head to the bathroom- a CSO sitting right near me barks “SIT DOWN.” I sit. Wait for the all rise, wait for the judge to leave and move promptly to the pisser. Coming out, I ask the CSO if I’m getting special treatment? I had seen lots of other people come and go as they please. He said “I thought you were just standing up”- to which I told him I was going to the bathroom- and that as a service disabled veteran, I actually have a disability related to my need to pee. He apologized. Well OK then.

After lunch- I again go to the Judges office door- where I am threatened with physical removal from the courthouse for knocking on the door by a Court Security Officer. I go into the courtroom and sit down. The Judge enters- no jury- and then I get called out, I stand, and he begins to threaten me, “Don’t come to my door, don’t talk to my staff, don’t interrupt our proceedings, or I’ll throw you out of my courtroom, the courthouse, are we clear.” I sit my ass down. He hath spoken. The next time the All Rise command comes, I don’t know if I should sit or stand. I decide not moving is the best idea. The CSO who looks like a cross between Lurch and the Night Court bailiff Aristotle Nostradamus “Bull” Shannon (I think half the force has shaved heads) gives me the evil eye for sitting. I’m almost sure that come Wed. morning, they are going to rewind the court security tape and charge me with disrespecting the court and lock me up. I choose to stand from now on. 

The question about why Roshawn has a job is still stuck in my head. Local lawyers tell me this is an everyday thing. I do some research on the Internet Wednesday afternoon (a court emergency postponed the trial that day). I find a post from an attorney in Wisconsin about reporting to prison after being sentenced in Federal Court. I put in a call to the author, Marcus Berghahn, he calls me back. The only reason for a delay like this, according to Berghahn, is that the convict is still needed to testify in another case. Had I asked the prosecutor? I sent an email to Brent Tabacchi, the rumpled suit AUSA who is prosecuting Higgins asking him. I don’t expect to hear anything back until after this trial. Tabacchi was already blaming “trial fatigue” on day 3. Probably because in 99.9% of his cases he works out a plea deal. Court actually takes work- something he’s not used to doing.

I’ve got 42 pages of notes already on the trial. I’ve started to write the story of the only trial in the “Culture of Corruption” case- but will refrain from saying anything about it, other than it’s a colossal waste of taxpayer funds. The amounts discussed in this case are less than $150,000 of insurance money that was paid to a mortgage servicer on a force placed insurance policy on a million dollar home that was upside down. What would normally be a beef between the mortgage company and the person they distributed the funds to, has somehow become a “Federal issue” and worthy of this expensive trial. I say expensive because you have no less than 7 lawyers being paid for with our tax dollars, everyday, plus court security officers, FBI agents, and court employees, who’s collective pay for 2 weeks is more than than the amount in question. Never mind the millions they spent trying to round up criminals like Joey Williams and Roshawn Winburn (collective time assigned in prison, 1.5 years, actual time served, 3 months).

At some point, we’ll find out who’s next in line for the governments wrath. Guaranteed, it won’t be anyone who lost $130M at Wright State. So far, only Black folks are corrupt in Dayton. Hopefully, the next round of indictments will come out Tuesday morning, January 25 2022- after Mr. Tabacchi has recovered from his “trial fatigue.”

In the meantime, it’s hard to say who these judges and prosecutors work for- other than to keep their government jobs going. I certainly haven’t seen anything remotely close to a massive defrauding of the taxpayers or protecting us from danger. Just a fall guy and their FBI Confidential Human Source competing in a game of who can lie and get away with it. I feel safer already.

and BTW- no other news organization has had a reporter in the courtroom.


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