Following up on a brief comment left in another diary about whether we can trust the judicial system, here is a recap of the current state of affairs in California:
Los Angeles County citizens probably never even heard about it, but County Supervisors have been giving local superior court judges an illegal bonus (now an extra $57,000 a year per judge), even though doing so is plainly prohibited by California’s Constitution. (Judges already receive about $179,000 a year in salary from the State, plus another $30,000 in benefits, and they’ll continue to receive as much as 80% of the packages in retirement benefits.)
There are letters, reports and memos which prove there were no doubts the givers and receivers all knew and understood that the payments were illegal, but they’ve been doing it anyway for more than 20 years.
Why would the County pay out such a huge amount of money (about $300 million so far) when it didn’t have to? When it was illegal to? They’ve said it was to "attract and keep quality judges", but that explanation ignores the fact that judges are elected and We The People decide which ones we’ll keep, and it ignores the thousands of qualified lawyers who’d gladly fill the seats at the legal base pay rate. (And then there’s the fact that these judges are getting far more than any other group of judges in America, even more than the judges of the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court.) So the reasons given can’t possibly be true.
The Cost of Living Index bears this out: Los Angeles is rated 142.2 (the "average" city is rated 100.0), yet it costs 16% more to live in San Francisco, which is rated at 164.9. Yet LA judges have managed to get themselves 32% more salary than San Francisco’s judges.
Could the answer instead lie in the 2005-2008 reports analyzing the cost of lawsuits in which LA County was a defendant? It turns out that not one of those cases was lost by the County when decided by a judge who’d gotten the illegal bonus. Not one. (Update with newly discovered report: It turns out that the criminal conviction rate has doubled, while the actual crime rate has remained essentially the same.) (Update #2: LA County Board of Supervisors' salaries are set to match superior court judges' salaries, which were supposed to have only been paid by the State. But since the Supervisors paid them illegal bonuses, the Supervisors' own salaries increased as a result.)
Further details and the rest of this very complicated story available at website: Free Richard Fine
This story alone accounts for more than $1.3 billion of California's debt problem. After the courts were consolidated, superior court judges essentially became the LOWEST court judges in the state. But they're benefitting from a mutually-rewarding deal with LA County Supervisors, which even the state legislature had to admit was criminal, but rather than fix the graft, they were successfully lobbied to grant retroactive immunity and make it all legal? In what form of democracy is that allowable?
Worse, they're being aided and abetted by Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Congressman Brad Sherman, who've all been made well aware of the corruption yet refuse to get involved.
And nothing will change until the taxpayers themselves get tired of footing the bill enabling undeserved lives of luxury for the well-connected in L.A.
"One man with courage makes a majority." ~ Andrew Jackson