Thursday, November 17, 2011

Camera Causal Decisions

Judge Allen Baddour did not rule on a request to move accused murderer Barbara Clark from the Chatham County jail to a psychiatric institution in 2008. Instead, Baddour recused himself from the case, citing relationships with some of the people involved. He did say what those relationships were, however; choosing to keep that information close to his judicial vest. Baddour said presiding would not be a conflict of interest, (huh?) but he wanted to avoid even the appearance of bias. Public defender James Williams had asked to have Clark evaluated at John Umstead Hospital, citing a report from a forensic psychiatrist saying she "was suffering from a major depressive disorder ... sense of helplessness, cognitive distortions and suicidal thoughts." Clark eventually pleaded guilty in the of beating deaths of two elderly women at the Fearrington Village retirement community. In December of that year, Judge Baddour announced from the bench, that he had been made aware that the pro se litigant appearing before him that day had made comments on YouTube that he would campaign to defeat Baddour in the next judicial election. The indigent litigant immediately moved Judge Baddour to recuse himself from hearing the pending motions in light of the clear appearance of bias. However, there were no cameras rolling and the case would not be in the news, so Baddour denied the motion to recuse himself, heard the case and surprise, surprise...ruled against the man. Baddour has a clear disdain for pro se litigants. His writings have included papers such as his "Pro se Litigants: An Update and a Survival Guide" in which he essentially outlines how to screw over a pro se litigant and make it look legal. His purported "Survival Guide" is a series court decisions, judicial opinions and rules that help a judge dismiss a pro se litigant's issues and usher him out of court. He even includes a bunch of letters that he sent to inmates, where he seems to rejoice in turning them down for appropriate relief. He ends this "pat myself on the back" guide, with an example of a "gatekeeper order." A gatekeeper order is an order that says a litigant cannot file another motion, paper, lawsuit, etc. unless he gets permission from the court. Unfortunately, gatekeeper orders are supposedly based upon repeated violations of Rule 11 (basically you don't know what the hell you are doing and you're wasting the court's time). The problem with Rule 11, is judges like Baddour apply the rule overwhelmingly against pro se litigants and almost NEVER against lawyers. If you look at his rulings (and we have) you will find two things Baddour includes in almost every order. 1) "Based on its consideration of the matters noted above, the Court concludes that it has the requisite jurisdiction to address the matters presented in the Motions." and 2) "Plaintiff’s documents and filings were served or filed for the improper purposes of harassing defendants and unnecessarily increased the cost of litigation." Baddour proclaims that he has the requisite jurisdiction, even when the law would tend to say when he ruled that Judge Joseph Buckner violated a defendant's constitutional right to due process when Judge Buckner increased the defendant's bond without making any findings of fact, contrary to the United States and North Carolina Constitutions. Although we applaud that decision, in North Carolina, one Superior Court Judge cannot overrule another. It's kind of crazy, but that is the law in the state and Baddour violated it. Ironically, it's Baddour that refuses to give findings of fact when requested and required under Rule 52(b). He takes it as an attack on his robe-wearing authority and simply fails to include it in his order, although Rule 52(b) demands it. Next if an attorney moves Baddour to find that a pro se litigant filed a lawsuit or a motion to harass or for some other improper purpose, Baddour will so find EVERY TIME! Unfortunately, under the law, this rubber stamp ruling should be very hard to find, if Baddour was following the law. A review of his survival guide goes into great detail about pro se litigants but is curiously absent two critical elements. First, most courts recognize that they have an absolute legal duty to treat pro se litigants with special consideration; and must, BY LAW, treat pro se pleadings liberally. CONLEY v. GIBSON How could a judge draft a purported Pro se Litigants: An Update and a Survival Guide, without even mentioning the most critical element dealing with the protections for pro se litigants? Answer: Baddour views pro se litigants as a affront to his power as a judge over the big powerful attorneys that appear before him. That he has to deal with an unrepresented litigant simply upsets the power struggle going on inside his head. Finally, a review of the sample gatekeeper order within his Survival guide, written in 2010, includes a date: December 8, 2008. In a subliminal consciousness of guilt, that was the exact date when Baddour announced from the bench that he was aware the pro se litigant had publicly called for his election defeat, but still heard the case! Not exactly ready for his close-up Mr. Demille. Show Baddour the Door!

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