Monday, May 24, 2010
Is Richard Fine, J.D. "Fine" With Wearing Stripes Behind Bars? Update Indiana Lawyer Incarcerated For The Right Reasons!
Reader: I have been reading about the Richard Fine story, why have you not covered it?
Legal Pub Editor: We have not made a conscientious decision to not cover the story, we simply don't know much about it.
Reader: Ignoring the story only adds to the conspiracy theory. This is a real life lawyer being deprived of due process here in the United States. Richard has been imprisoned for 14 months despite never being charged with a crime. Richard has nearly lost everything standing up for his principles. (Fine's home was foreclosed upon and he has been disbarred.)
Legal Pub Editor: As is often the case, no one knows a 100% of the story. From what we can learn, Beverly Hills attorney Richard Fine has been held in solitary confinement at Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail for 14 months. Fine is not charged with any crime. However, the 70-year-old taxpayer's advocate is being held for contempt of court.
Reader: Who is Richard Fine and what does he stands for?
Legal Pub Editor: We would love to interview him but that does not seem likely unless he or his representative contacts us. (Legalpub@legalpub.net) In the mean time, Richard Fine is a taxpayer advocate attorney who once worked for the Department of Justice. Fine claims that the real reason that he is confined in jail is that he is a political prisoner. However, Superior Court Judge David Yaffe believes he properly found Fine in contempt of court after Fine refused to turn over financial documents and answer questions when ordered to pay an opposing party's attorney's fees.
Reader: So just why is he held so long on contempt charges?
Legal Pub Editor: I can't see any reason other than a continuing failure to follow the judges orders. But Fine continues to contend that his contempt order is just a means to confine him as a political prisoner. According to CNN, Fine stated: "I ended up here because I did the one thing no other lawyer in California is willing to do. I took on the corruption of the courts."
Reader: Is Fine right? What is the status of the legal wrangling?
Legal Pub Editor: Well one thing is clear. Fine is definitely persistant and doesn't take no for an answer. For the last decade, Fine has unsuccessfully filed several appeals of Los Angeles County's Superior Court judges claiming that the judges each accept yearly "bribes" from the county in addition to their $178,789 annual state salary. (The county payments are considered "supplemental benefits" in order to attract and retain quality judges. This is common practice in California but not other states.)
Reader: But Judges in Los Angeles County have the highest state salaries in the nation. They should not need thousands of dollars in county benefits. Fine claims that judges paid by the county will be reluctant to rule against the county in lawsuits. Can Fine be right?
Legal Pub Editor: Los Angeles County won all but one of the nine recent bench trials. But that does not automatically mean that Fine is right. Furthermore, it appears that Fine has gone about it all wrong. Two wrongs never make a right. Unsubstantiated claims and disrespectful actions lead to disbarment and the legal profession turning their back upon a comrade. (Fine has been disbarred. Apparently when Fine lost a case, he would argue in each appeal that the judges were corrupt. This results in delays and led to false accusations against judges who were just trying to do their job. It is hard to have any other opinion based on the eventual finding that these lawsuits were found to be "frivolous and meritless.")
Reader: Not everyone agrees with your commentary. So what does the future hold for Fine?
Legal Pub Editor: Fine can free himself from jail by handing over the documents as ordered. While Fine has done more jail time than a lot of criminals, he knows how to obtain his own release. While Sterling Norris of Judicial Watch may be right when he advocates that enough is enough, the ultimate release date appears to be in Fine's control. Opinions by Norris hold some weight as he is no stranger to the issues involved. ( In 2008, Norris obtained a judicial ruling that county payments to judges was unconstitutional. The California Legislature then overturned this decision by passing a law that enabled counties to continue the practice of paying extra benefits to county judges.)
Reader: Norris apparently believes that the time Fine has spent in jail is out of proportion to the misconduct, how can you not agree?
Legal Pub Editor: If that is truly Norris' opinion, one can see why. The Los Angeles County's jails have recently released hundreds of inmates before their release dates due to budget constraints. (Heck, someone has to make room for the Lindsay Lohans of the world. LINK.) Despite attempts to purge the jail population to make room for violent offenders, Richard Fine remains locked up in solitary confinement. And while the release date may be in Fine's control if he accepts defeat, he is not ready to give up just yet. In fact, Fine is attempting to get the U.S Supreme Court to hear his case. Any day now, the Supreme Court may decide whether Richard Fine's voice will once again be heard. In the mean time, expect the prison diet to continue a bit longer.
Update 5-28-10: See comments for a comparison to Russian Sergie Magnitsky.
Update 6-10-10: Here is a link to a prominent Indiana civil defense lawyer who we can all agree has been voluntarily incarcerated for the right reasons: LINK.