UPDATE MAY 17, 2013: My exhibits are finally replaced.
UPDATE FEB. 1, 2013 regarding story below about documents missing from the Stutz v. Larkins case file:
Court supervisor Denise Jones called me today and confirmed that documents were, indeed, missing from the case file, as I had told her two days ago.
The next thing she said was, "We have no proof that the exhibits were ever filed."
I asked, "Do you mean they might never have been placed in the file by the court, or are you suggesting that the submitted pleadings never had exhibits attached?"
"We have no proof that the exhibits were ever submitted."
I said, "It taxes the imagination to come up with a scenario where both Plaintiff and Defendant failed to notice that their pleadings were missing attached exhibits that were a couple of inches thick."
"There's nothing we can do. We don't have the files."
"Actually, you do have proof that the court had the exhibits. It's in the court reporter's transcript for July 27, 2012. Judge Hayes talked about the first exhibit on my list of exhibits that's in the court file."
"There's nothing we can do."...
Why is she so sure that the documents won't show up? She never mentioned any efforts to find the documents, such as going over to Department 68 and asking the staff to search for them.
I am beginning to suspect that she knows that the exhibits were destroyed. I'm sure that destruction of documents at the court is a much more formal process than it is at a place like Enron. There would be a record made when the exhibits were destroyed. So why was Ms. Jones so defensive about the missing exhibits? If they were destroyed, why claim that the exhibits might never have been submitted?
Secrecy is the enemy of justice.
The court administration is beginning to remind me of another institution that I read about in the LA Times today. That other institution "fought all the way to the state Supreme Court to keep many of the records secret" and "abandoned a plan make the documents public with the names of the [most powerful individuals] blacked out only after media organizations, including The Times, sued in court. The judge sided with the media..."
I suspect that some powerful individual at the court filled out a form to get the Stutz v. Larkins exhibits destroyed, and falsely stated on the form that 60 days had passed since the case was finished. (In fact, no judgment has been entered in the case.) Wouldn't that form be a public record? Perhaps I should request it.
ORIGINAL POST JAN. 30, 2013:
Today I went to Central Records to get a document for my appeal regarding an injunction in a very active case, the Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz defamation lawsuit regarding this blog.
I was amazed to find that all 18 of my exhibits were missing for my special 8-page brief to defend myself against Stutz law firm's Motion to Strike my Answer, which was granted by Judge Judith Hayes.
The missing documents are extremely important since they concern the striking of an answer after five years during which I was denied a jury trial for damages. It's not an insignificant action when a court strikes an Answer AFTER SUMMARY ADJUDICATION has occurred. It is, in fact, shocking. Perhaps the judge is angry that the Court of Appeal threw out her injunction that banned me from mentioning the name of Stutz law firm. I suspect that someone in Department 68 is concealing the exhibits supporting this crucial decision that will definitely be appealed if there is ever a final judgment in this case. I can't appeal the decision to Strike Answer until a final judgment is entered.
See all posts regarding Stutz v. Larkins defamation case.
See pleadings and depositions in the case.
Just a week ago a woman in a probate case told me she was worried that documents might go missing from her case file. I told her that I had never had that experience. She was relieved and happy. I guess I should tell her that I can no longer vouch for the integrity of San Diego Superior Court files.
The clerks were not at all interested in the fact that exhibits were missing. They told me that exhibits are always thrown out 60 days after the end of the case. I said the case is still active. Then they said the exhibits might be in the Exhibit Room.
The clerk named Laura was particularly uninterested in the missing documents. She came up with excuse after excuse for the exhibits not being in the file. The only thing that concerned her was that I not use my cell phone. It's good to know what the priorities are for court personnel. Perhaps she didn't like me telling someone outside the courthouse what was going on.
Laura's supervisor Yolanda Casey was very professional. She collected information, checked in the exhibit room, and when she did not find the missing exhibits. she went to talk to a Manager, Denise Jones.
Apparently, if you ask enough questions about who the supervisors are, they take you seriously.
I waited a long time while Ms. Casey went to talk to her supervisor. I spent the time looking through the case file.
I next found that all 11 exhibits attached to my Request for Judicial Notice regarding the Motion to Strike Answer were missing.
Then I discovered that the Plaintiff's exhibits for its special 8-page pleading were missing, too!
I believe my exhibits were removed because they so effectively prove that the judge's decision was a shocking abuse of discretion, and Plaintiff's exhibits were removed because they did not adequately support the judge's decision.
Interestingly, after a total of SEVEN pleadings regarding one motion, the judge COULD NOT FIND A SINGLE SPECIFIC STATEMENT on my blogs that justified her decision to throw out my Answer and grant a default to Plaintiff. Judge Hayes simply claimed that violations of the injunction existed, and therefore she was striking my Answer. She erased all her "findings" from her 4-page tentative ruling. Her "findings" consisted of:
1) statements that had long ago been erased, but Judge Hayes stated that they were "currently" on my site;
2) third-party comments that had been erased;
3) public records in the case.
Clearly, the judge does not want the public to have access to the records in this case.
I went up to Ms. Jones' office. Ms. Jones made a list of the missing documents, and said she would get back to me. I suspect the documents are in a drawer in the office of the Department 68 research attorney, Monica Barry, who seems to drink coffee when she's reading the case file.
I have seen very little evidence that the judge reads the pleadings. A few months ago she said she couldn't tell if the statement "Daniel Shinoff trains school attorneys" was a violation of her injunction because she needed to consider the "context". The context in which this statement occurs has been part of the case file for almost four years. I trust the exhibits will reappear very soon so that the public and investigators from the Commission on Judicial Competence will be able to see them.
Sadly, the Central Records office has changed for the worse since the woman who used to be in charge retired not long ago. The atmosphere in the Central Office used to be remarkably positive, even though it's a basement office that doesn't seem to have been refurbished since it was built when I was about twelve years old, in 1962.
Denise Jones' director is Terry Brewton. Brewton's supervisor is Steve Cascioppo, who reports to Michael Roddy.
Michael Roddy is actually employed by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the support staff of the Judicial Council. The State Court System is governed by a 27-member Judicial Council led by the State's Supreme Court Chief Justice. The Judicial Council is the policy-making body of the California Courts and is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial and accessible administration of justice.
Michael Roddy is currently on the faculty of Judicial Administration at Sacramento State College of Continuing Education.
Who is harmed when certain judges wrap the chief executive of the court around their little fingers when they want to undermine one litigant in favor of another? For one thing, it encourages judges who are so motivated to make improper decisions, because they have so much help in getting away with bad behavior. Who is harmed, besides the targeted litigant? The taxpayers have to pay for the Court of Appeal to examine cases that could easily have been properly decided. The Court of Appeal should be used for difficult decisions in cases where the law is unclear.