Oh Dear God, here comes that Weidner again….coming into a courtroom making all these arguments about The Law and what the banks did wrong and fraud and all that…blah, blah, blah…doesn’t he know….we’re all over it?
That’s certainly what I think the internal dialog sounds like when I walk into a courtroom these days.
And so, just to mix things up a bit…and out of respect to the judges, I’m going to switch gears….back to the basics….back to law school and a little thing called, The Constitution.
You see, when I went to law school, one of the first classes I took was Constitutional Law. I thought that it was a required class for every lawyer, going back for decades. And while we didn’t study Florida’s Constitution specifically, the same principles articulated in the US Constitution are found in Florida’s.
One of the bedrock, black and white principles articulated in both…and hell, it’s so basic it’s taught to every American kid in elementary school…is that the three branches of government are separate….and equal. I thought this applied in Florida’s courts, in fact I was certain that it did….but I’m apparently mistaken.
I know I’m mistaken based on what’s happening right now in Florida’s Foreclosure Courts, a subset, a subversion of the larger court systems. You see, Florida’s entire judicial branch…from one end of the state to the other are jumping up and down and falling over themselves to dance to the tune called by the legislative branch. Now, for years the Florida Legislature has been beating and whipping our elected circuit court and county court judges. Well, not actually whipping them, not exactly….but the Legislature has indeed been wagging their big legislative finger at them and cracking the entire black robed gang of judges into shape…..and well, whipping them into moving faster…and doing more with less and less money.
The legislative and the executive branch whipping the judicial branch…who are not doing enough to fight back.
Year after year, session after session, the Legislature tightens up the budgets and the purse strings of our state’s court system and our judges…telling them they must do more and more with less and less. Less money. Less staff. Less paperclips. Less resources. And Florida’s judges…who largely have lifetime appointments, just sit back and take the abuse.
More budget cuts? Thank you legislature may I have another?
No more law clerks? Thank you legislature, may I have another?
Remove our staff work and workers? Thank you legislature, may I have another?
Cut the pay of our remaining staff? Thank you legislature, may I have another?
And one of the craziest things about the legislature versus the entire court system dynamic is that while the legislature (thankfully) changes every few years….and they all completely cycle out every six years or so….one part of the legislative culture and the power does not change from one regime to another….the part of the collective legislative mindset that decides that it can continue to choke, abuse and hold hostage though financing the entire judicial system.
This dynamic truly is amazing and disturbing. What’s most amazing about this is it just should not happen. The balance of power in this perpetual battle is clearly in favor of our elected judges who are largely held in high regard by the voting public and who are basically protected politically by the voting population…very few are ever voted off the bench. With this dynamic in mind, I wonder why more of them do not stand up, speak out and protect the third branch that needs not just protecting and defending, but shoring up and being made more powerful in these times.
The juxtaposition of our state’s mature, deliberative and highly respected judges to our state’s elected leaders is obscenely dramatic. There is precious little newspaper ink spent on judicial scandals, but every day we read about one political scandal after another.
Our state’s judges are the elder statesmen and women. The adults in the room while the legislative and executive branches are…well….how should one put this….well. Tell you what. Just read the newspaper headlines. Just do your own catalog of corruption investigations and cases…but don’t stop there. Consider all the campaign cash and bribes and payoffs and think of all the investigations that do not occur. Democracy is broken, we don’t elect legislators and executive officers in this state….they are auctioned off. And The People don’t win those auctions, The Corporations do.
I remember being in Tallahassee during session a few years ago and watching the Representatives bounce around the halls. So many of them were so young, it reminded me of a frat party at a university. That’s what makes it all so disturbing. Florida’s judges, the bulk of them, are brilliant and totally protected. They have nothing politically or economically to worry about. All they’ve got to do is sit up there on that bench and do the job they were elected or appointed to do…and they’re not going anywhere. Meanwhile, Florida’s elected Representatives and Senators just rotate right on in and out of Tallahassee. I wonder what Florida’s judges would think if they took time off and went up to Tallahassee to see all the people that have been pulling their strings and abusing them all these years?
Wouldn’t it just be a hoot to see legions of Florida’s elected judges sashaying up and down the halls of Florida’s Capitol in their fancy, long black dresses? I just wonder how the commentary and tone of the legislative debate would change if, right in the middle of speeches about what Florida’s judges or courts are or are not doing, gangs of judges were peering back at them with those long-practiced judicial stares…..
Take the current foreclosure debate…the same one that’s gone on for years. The clowns up in the circus called Florida’s Legislative Session continuing to berate judges and misrepresent what’s really causing the foreclosure backlog….
MEMBERS OF THIS BODY, WE HAVE A CRISIS IN FLORIDA! IT TAKES 853 DAYS TO FORECLOSE IN FLORIDA. THESE CASES ARE DELAYED, THE JUDICIAL BRANCH IS BROKEN, THEY ARE NOT DOING THEIR JOB!
Now, what if judges marched up there and told them what was really happening in their courtrooms?
EXCUSE ME SENATOR, YOU ARE BEING MISLED AND YOU ARE MISTAKEN. THAT NUMBER THIS LEGISLATIVE BRANCH CONTINUES TO CITE IS BOTH FACTUALLY INCORRECT AND GROSSLY MISLEADING. YOU DID NOT GET THAT NUMBER FROM THE JUDICIAL BRANCH OR FROM ANY APPROPRIATE GOVERNMENT SOURCE. YOU ARE REPEATING INDUSTRY PROPAGANDA. AND IN DOING SO YOU ARE BEING DISRESPECTFUL AND INAPPROPRIATELY ATTACKING THE JUDICIAL BRANCH. PLEASE RETRACT THAT STATEMENT AND ALLOW US TO COME BEFORE YOU AND EXPLAIN WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING IN OUR COURTS.
But no. That’s not going to happen. In fact, quite the opposite is occurring. In fact, a formal Gag Order has been placed on our state’s elected circuit court judges. We elect judges in this state. Our Constitution demands that they live in and among us. They go to our churches and synagogues and schools. The walk in our neighborhoods, we see them in grocery stores and yet, they have all been told that they must not speak to us….the people that elected them. I find this most disturbing. But even more disturbing, I am disappointed that they are accepting this gag order. They are not ripping the duct tape off their mouths and speaking, collectively and individually, to their neighbors in the communities in which they serve.
Instead, they are dancing to the legislature’s tune. They are playing from a sheet of music that was bought and paid for not by the people of the State of Florida, but by the corporations who own the legislature. Florida’s Legislature has spoken, and Florida’s judges are whipping themselves into a frenzy….
YES SIR/MAM TALLAHASSEE! WE’RE GOING TO GET RIGHT ON OUR NEW MISSION! WE’RE GOING TO DO AS YOU SAY AND WE’RE GOING TO
CLEAR THIS FORECLOSURE BACKLOG!
In foreclosure, we hear it everywhere we go. It’s not just disturbing…it is fundamentally Unconstitutional….And it’s not just foreclosure defense attorneys, community activists and voters that are now rumbling about how outrageous this is. Why, even foreclosure plaintiffs are starting to rumble that all this legislative blackmail and extortion is impacting their business models….and worse, the legislative meddling…and the concomitant judicial bending is placing these plaintiffs….many of whom are banks regulated by the federal government…into direct violation of their federal mandates….judges all across this state forcing trials while the federal settlements demand that nothing move forward……
Where does Senate Bill 1666 fit into this? Well, in particular, the very first part of the bill that instills and reinforces the whole regime of senior judges into the foreclosure process. We should not be talking about more funding for senior judges…every dollar spent there is a dollar taken from our elected circuit court judges and their staff.
We elect judges in this state….and voters either retain them or they slide off the bench. That’s what the Constitution says….but no one seems to care about that anymore. After all..there’s a crisis in this state….right?