EDNA JANE FAVREAU AND CHARLIE CRIST
The Victim and the Impotent Lawyer
By David Arthur Walters
“Law is what powerful people do, and they do it to legalize their crimes against humanity.”
Edna Jane Favreau’s case is familiar to many public officials although they would rather not hear about it. She was disabled by her former husband’s murderous attack, for which he was convicted for domestic violence and let off easy with probation. The judge in the criminal court ordered restitution to be paid to the victim for liquidated damages, but Florida’s State Attorney neglected to follow up despite Jane’s pleas and complaint, so she filed a lien with the court herself. She was entitled as well to half the marital property. She had expected justice in the Brevard and Volusia County Courts, including accommodation for her disabilities, but what she received was re-victimization by attorneys on both sides and by the judges. Her former husband had already grabbed the cash, and then she was stripped of what little cash she could borrow from her kids to retain attorneys, so she had to represent herself pro se, as nearly 80% of one party in family law proceedings have to do in Florida. She was told her self-filed lien against the property was not good. The court with the help of its abusive officers turned over control of her property to her former husband, and then, when he died, to his new wife. Jane was left with her disabilities, now including LAS (legal abuse syndrome), and thoroughly pauperized by the court. The Florida Bar disciplined attorneys on both sides, but the judges continued the legal abuse with the violation of her civil rights including her rights as a disabled victim under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Her complaints to the Judicial Qualifications Commission fell on deaf ears – one of her complaints about judicial abuse of power was returned to her the very same day she made it, denying its responsibility and stating that the Commission did not have the budget or support to handle such complaints.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist received a copy of Jane’s story, ‘Fraud on the Court – Who Will Listen’ on 28 August 2010, with the advice that “being independent has it virtues.” Governor Crist is an independent candidate for United States Senator because he abandoned the Republican Party shortly after swearing he was faithful to it; a poll had indicated that he might win the election as an independent. The Governor asked his assistant Dustin Fusillo to respond to Jane’s predicament, and he did so on 31 August:
“Thank you for contacting Governor Charlie Crist on behalf of Edna Jane Favreau. The Governor asked me to respond on his behalf. The Florida Constitution limits the Governor's intervention in matters that should be resolved through the court system. Questions about guilt or innocence, or the procedural fairness of convictions must be addressed in the courts. Those who wish to contest judicial rulings may wish to speak with an attorney about what appellate procedures may be available. I encourage Ms. Favreau to continue working with her attorney's to address her concerns. Please understand the Governor's inability to intervene is due to a lack of jurisdiction, not a lack of concern. Thank you again for contacting the Governor's office. We hope this information is helpful.”
The information Governor Crist received made it clear that one of Jane’s main complaints is that she had been stripped of her means of support and deprived of representation in Florida’s courts, so she could hardly “continue working with her attorneys.” I responded to the governor on 1 September 2010:
“Thank you for your response. As you can see, I am currently reviewing evidence of a pattern of judicial abuse of women and children in the State of Florida, and will mention your letter in my coverage. Of course, citizens have naturally thought that that subject would be of pressing concern to the heads of their state, and were chagrined to learn that governors have their hands tied by policy hence the governor's office is good for nothing when it comes to that subject.”
Again, the governor stated an inability to intervene; this time he said that he may not lack concern, to which this response was made:
“I have alerted Jane to your statement that Governor Crist may not lack concern for her predicament, which is, unfortunately, the predicament of many similarly situated women…. Perhaps candidate Rick Scott or Alex Sink will be able to effectively contradict the judiciary if s/he becomes head of your executive branch. I am attaching for Governor Crist's perusal a one-page article Jane just wrote, about how the door to justice is closed to many poor people. Since he is an attorney, I am certain that he is fully aware of that fact, and may be concerned by it, perhaps if he becomes a U.S. Senator.”
The message to Governor Crist also referred to another woman, Florence Berger nee Paton, who had had similar experiences with the Brevard County Court, and had personally appealed to then Governor George Bush:
“She said she personally delivered some of her documents to Governor Bush some time ago, and he expressed his concern and promised to look into the matter, but when she appeared at his office to follow up and see if he honored his commitment, and asked to see him, she was presumed to be mentally ill for showing up, and was escorted out of the office by personnel who insinuated that she was crazy - the same sort of behavior she and other litigants became aware of in Brevard County courtrooms, the most egregious person being the late Rambo-tactic lawyer Henry Martocci, who was disbarred all too late.”
When Jane was shown the correspondence with Governor Crist, she responded simply: Florida’s Constitution requires the governor to see to it that the laws are faithfully executed, she insisted.
Of course the branches of government are purportedly independent, and the executive branch may not directly interfere with the judiciary’s exercise of its “inherent” powers; the executive branch’s function is to enforce the laws enacted by the legislative branch, and, when appropriate, to pursue violations in the courts. That is not to say, for example, that the police may not arrest a judge for violations of law.
The downside of constitutional independence of branches and the departmentalization within government is that is allows for a great deal of hypocrisy, as one branch or department can blame others, over which the chief executive officer may preside as a sort of president of hypocrisy. The truth of the matter is that the branches do not actually function as independently as constitutionally conceived. The legal profession dominates all three branches, and that profession is largely beholden to the power elite at the apex of the power pyramid.
Governor Crist could have referred Jane to his Office of Civil Rights. In fact, she had already gone down that path when it was headed by Attorney General Charlie Crist. Jane addressed the Office of Civil Rights about the persistent violation of her rights by the judges, lawyers, and staff, averring that she was a disabled woman being discriminated against – it is obvious from the case files that the discrimination also appertained to her gender and poverty. On July 14, 2003 Mary Ann Clark responded impertinently, on behalf of Attorney General Charlie Crist, advising her to “consult a private attorney” because “The Office of Civil Rights is dedicated to prosecuting civil rights violations that occur in this state. We are empowered with the ability to bring lawsuits when there is evidence of a pattern and practice of discrimination or when the issue of great public interest. By law, we are not allowed to represent individuals in their personal legal matters; therefore we are unable to assist you at this time.”
One of Jane’s foremost complaints is that she was being deprived of representation. And the fact of the matter is that the Attorney General’s Office had ample time, for example, to hound former attorney Mark Adams all the way up to the Supreme Court, trying to have him jailed on a pretext, according to Mr. Adams, because he alleged judicial corruption – the State ultimately lost the indirect criminal contempt case against him, on a technicality, to rid the executive and judiciary of a persistent thorn in their side. Mark Adams was at most due for a wrist slapping and strong warning. Indeed, his misbehavior was trivial in comparison to the longstanding pattern of misconduct of several attorneys evident in Brevard County and elsewhere. But he would not be cowered, and was permanent disbarred. The Attorney General of the executive branch relished working together with The Florida Bar, an arm of the judicial branch – the monopolistic Florida Bar, responsible for disciplining lawyers as well as representing the profession’s interests, is hierarchically organized like most of society; attorneys depend on the good will of its most influential members for their livelihoods; the bulk of the Bar will stand monolithic when confronted by errant knights. The general public may be ignored by The Florida Bar, which is part and parcel of the Florida Supreme Court, with impunity given the self-conceived inherent powers of the conceited court. May heaven forbid if an attorney goes too hard against the grain – s/he will be hounded to the gates of hell and beyond. Remember, the power of the legislative and executive branch is in the hands of attorneys beholden to the Bar for their fortunes. The most that can be hoped is to slightly change its course by finding independent-spirited attorneys willing to use jujitsu technique, employing the Bar’s own weight to alter its grinding course.
The fact of the matter is that Attorney General Charlie Crist’s office had received numerous complaints about the justice system in Brevard County. And the more current fact of the matter is that Charlie Crist as Governor of Florida has been well advised by the press about the allegations of incompetence, neglect, abuses, and corruption in Brevard and other Florida counties.
Charlie Crist’s responses have been superficial and conditioned by his flighty perception of their effect on the polls during his run for the U.S. Senate. Journalist Glenn Garvin’s independent opinionated investigation of Governor Crist’s behavior concludes that “Charlie’s only firmly held belief is that he should be a U.S. Senator.” The Governor, who is called Senor Chancleta (Mister Flip-Flop) in Hialeah, is notorious for changing his mind according to how the political wind is blowing at any given hour – we might think that an attorney should have some principles consistently abided by. The Orlando Sentinel reported that, on one morning, Mr. Crist demanded an investigation of wrongful felony convictions in Brevard County, but reversed his demand in the afternoon.
It appears that Charlie Crist is the sort of sophist Plato disparaged, one who would make the worst cause look like the better one if it were to his own advantage to do so. Even so, he appears to be a better candidate than his Republican opponent, who sums up the ideological faults of the anti-intellectual neoconservatives who brought the nation to the brink of ruin, and who are now capitalizing on the American electorate’s normal desire for instant success to replace right with wrong. As many of us observed of President Richard Nixon, hypocrisy can be a good thing if the wind blows your way – just keep your office well secured.
Judges are normally elected in Florida, but given certain conditions of vacancy, governors of Florida have a Constitutional hand in appointing them to the courts, as well as appointing electors to the Judicial Nominating Commission – Governor Crist, for example, appointed his professional colleague and political funder, the now notorious fraudster, attorney Scott Rothstein, to the Judicial Nominating Commission.
Women often complained about the misconduct of Brevard County Court Judge Bruce Jacobus, whose peers elevated him to Chief Justice of that Court. Ironically, given the allegations of misconduct and gender bias against Bruce Jacobus, Governor Chris was careful to kick him upstairs to the appellate court over the objections of the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers; alas, the lawyers, always loath to criticize judges for fear of losing their licenses, did not mention Judge Jacobus’ gender bias. The story was covered on 7 August 2010 by Florida Today, a news source that has been diligently exposing official misconduct in Brevard County for several years.
“For all his righteous indignation about the lack of diversity among judicial nominees, Gov. Charlie Crist passed up an excellent opportunity this week to repair that problem with his appointment to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach. But perhaps in the governor's mind, diversity isn't a gender thing. How else to explain Mr. Crist passing up two women who were among the six nominated for the post? Instead, Mr. Crist chose Bruce Jacobus, a 65-year-old circuit judge from Brevard County. Keep in mind that this is the same judicial appointment that Mr. Crist was willing to go to war over to make a point about diversity. Even though he didn't have a legal leg to stand on, the governor rejected that list of nominees late last year because it didn't include any black candidates. One troubling detail: Mr. Crist doesn't have the authority to reject such a list, which is compiled by a nominating commission. The commission correctly refused to produce a new list of candidates more palatable to the governor. The standoff prompted Robert Pleus of Windermere, the judge whose resignation created the opening, to file a lawsuit that would force the governor to choose. Along the way, the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers filed a legal brief, which made the interesting observation that the last woman appointed to the 5th District Court of Appeal was nearly 20 years ago. The 12 appointments to the court since then have all been men, the brief said, one of whom was African-American. The dearth of female appointees to that court stands in sharp contrast even to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose ultra-exclusive ranks will include two women following Thursday's Senate confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor. The association's brief also noted that Mr. Crist himself had declared early on that the nominees "should reflect the racial, gender and geographic diversity of the people they serve." The governor was only partially correct in contending that the list he later received didn't have that diversity. It lacked racial diversity, yes, but it cleared the gender bar. Last month, the Florida Supreme Court sided with Mr. Pleus and ordered the governor to do his duty and pick a judge. Did Mr. Crist choose diversity? No. He chose Mr. Jacobus, a longtime circuit-court judge. In doing so, he bypassed Belle Schumann, a Volusia County judge and former assistant attorney general; and Angela Flowers of Ocala, a board-certified appellate lawyer.”
Judge Bruce Jacobus and his colleague, a “Rambo attorney” named Henry Martocci, are described by Florence Paton, formerly Florence Berger, in a book she is writing about her experience in the Brevard County courts:
“Judge Jacobus was jolly as he entered the courtroom for the first time on this case. ‘Good morning, Henry,’ he greeted his colleague Henry Martocci, attorney for my estranged husband Francis Berger. ‘How are you? Nice to see you,’ he remarked as he sipped his mug of coffee.
“And then Judge Jacobus allowed Martocci to proceed with his lies and submit false documentation to the court. Jacobus refused to enforce the orders of Judge Warren Burke, and allowed my husband to continue to disregard child support orders I was surprised; I didn’t know courts were like this.
“Due to my husband’s failure to pay support, I was forced to sell my home. Judge Jacobus ordered half the proceeds to go to him although the money belonged to my parents as a home loan. Jacobus then continued to allow perjury, false documentation, and the frivolous and fraudulent proceedings initiated by Martocci. And the judge continued to allow the outrageous, intimidating, vulgar and abusive behavior of my husband and his attorney to proceed.
“Judge Jacobus did not follow the laws; he denied me and my children due process and protection. On many occasions he laughed loudly when Martocci screamed in open court that I was a ‘nutcase’ and ‘nothing more than a vindictive woman.’ He also demonstrated humor in the fact that my husband Francis Berger was being proceeded against in another court on charges of grand theft, violation of an injunction for protection, and other charges. The judge was well aware that his good friend presiding over that case, Judge Tonya Rainwater, would quickly dispose of the charges.
“And Judge Rainwater disposed of the charges, Francis Berger and his attorney Henry Martocci acted with a vengeance, battering me in the courts and abusing the children while informing the community that I was a ‘nutcase.’ They screamed at me in the court’s hallways, threatened me as I approached the court room or deposition room.
“Not only Judge Jacobus, but the bailiffs and clerks found humor in the awful behavior. Rather than intervene and end the abuse, they would simply stand by and laugh. They could see that I was frightened by it all; however, their response was to say, for example, ‘Oh, that’s just Henry Martocci. Don’t worry about it.’ It was unbelievable to me that the judges would run a courthouse this way, allowing such unethical, obnoxious and violent behavior to be exhibited within. One bailiff, ‘Wilson’, enjoyed the show so much that he would sometimes pat Martocci on the back while they laughed together... My attorney said Martocci’s behavior could be reported to The Florida Bar, but advised me that I should not do that until the case was over.”
Edna Jane Favreau was also continually battered by the crude “bomber tactics” of Walter Favreau’s attorney Henry Martocci, behavior that was allowed, condoned and encouraged by Judge Bruce Jacobus – we shall report the full extent of this abuse elsewhere, including disparaging remarks targeting a female Puerto Rican attorney. Not only did Jane suffer mental and physical disabilities of her husband’s abuse culminating in his attempt to murder her by strangulation, she was re-victimized by the legal system she thought she could rely on for protection; she was abused by the judges and by the attorneys on both sides, who stripped her of her cash, marital property and civil rights, pauperizing her and leaving her to fend for herself pro se while she was further incapacitated by their malicious misbehavior. In addition, then, to her original post-traumatic stress, she suffers to this very day from Legal Abuse Syndrome, a syndrome that many legal-system patriarchs find laughable although they have learned to laugh in private. Karin D. Huffer, in Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS), chronicled twenty years of research and clinical work with LAS, a form of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). LAS is a psychic injury, not a mental illness. It is a personal injury that develops in individuals assaulted by ethical violations, legal abuses, betrayals, and fraud. Abuse of power and authority and a profound lack of accountability in our courts have become rampant, compounding an already stressful experience.
Jane always wanted a good attorney, and she still wants one, but she cannot find one to stand up against the judges, to assert her claim that there has been a fraud on the court by the Bar hence her cases should be reopened. While having several strokes, she found herself involved in divorce, tort, and probate court, with judges playing musical chairs. It is no wonder that she was thoroughly confused, but she still put up quite a fight for over a decade. Now she is left to nurse her wounds and do the best she can to warn others of what is really going on in the court system.
“No local attorney was willing to help me with the tort case against my former husband,” Jane stated, “allowing Judge Jacobus to do many things that were clearly wrong. The good attorneys in town said they were too busy to take my case. They were afraid to deal with the attorney on the other side in Judge Jacobus’ court, and the paper had published my account of how the court was mistreating crime victims. I wanted and needed a good attorney. Except for Edward Tietig, who really tried to help me but whom Judge Jacobus would not listen to, the attorneys I did get took my money and abandoned me, finally forcing me to represent myself. I can point out on the transcript where the opposing attorney laughed at me, a woman impaired by her former husband’s violent crime. The attorney emphasized the “if” when saying, “IF she can get an attorney to represent her,” and then chuckled knowingly, knowing about the expose in the newspaper.”
“Judge Jacobus violated my rights as a victim of domestic violence in the domestic violence tort case when he refused to allow my attorney, Mr. Tietig, to show that an order to disclose the value of the family assets had not been given to me and the order had not been complied with. Judge Jacobus just ignored my attorney! In fact, the dissolution of marriage case was still not finished lawfully because the assets were never valued or dispersed to the parties.”
“Judge Jacobus signed deficient orders leaving me vulnerable and unprotected against the whim of my abusive former husband and the unethical attorney, Henry Martocci, leaving me without my half of marital property. And he met ex parte with Attorney Martocci; together they allowed my former husband to walk away with money that should have been given to me.”
“Judge Jacobus said he was allowed mediate my case while he was still my judge in the case. He said he would give me an order of protection. I wanted that protection made permanent and perpetual, but that never came! Judge Jacobus helped my former husband’s attorney trick me. He promised an order for protection would be issued after the hearing. The order issued and written for the judge by the opposing attorney did not reflect what was said in the hearing.”
A transcript of the Proceedings of the court verifies Jane’s account in respect to the judge acting as mediator:
THE COURT [Judge Jacobus]: So what we’re doing here we’re just trying – I’m being a mediator instead of a circuit judge. Like I said, you still have other options. You can have other options. We’re going to do it today. I mean, we’re going to be done with that part.
MS. KALBAC: She’s going to bring up something else.
MS. FAVREAU: Your last order said my option to recover what was really mine was to bring a tort.
MS. KALBAC [laughing - Ed.]: IF she can and an attorney to represent her.
THE COURT: We want to dissolve the divorce, period.
MS. FAVREAU: Can I have the order of protection that I’ve asked for?
MS. KALBAC: You can have it.
THE COURT: Tell me what you want.
MS. FAVREAU: The one that’s in the file that’s permanent and perpetual, forever, that I put in before.
“Ms. Kalbac” was Melanie M. Kalbac-McMannis, Walter Favreau’s attorney prior to Henry Martocci. According to Jane, Ms. Kalbac altered what the Judge Frank Pound had ordered in the divorce case, in reference to the division of marital properties: the Transcript of the Proceedings reads, “Now as to the joint property which consists if the home place down in Melbourne, as to the rental property, the three mortgages and notes from Mr. Ingram, that’s all joint property and it will be partitioned and the Parties will share equally in the proceeds; which is not a satisfactory method to dispose of it, I understand, but that’s the way it is.” The ordered division was not satisfactory because a trade between two of the properties would have left everyone better off; ultimately Jane would be cheated in that regard.
“When his attorney wrote the judge's orders,” Jane said, “she changed that and wrote in that my half would go to her client, Mr. Walt Favreau. I never agreed to that at all. Never; in fact, there was never any settlement done, not even started. There was no hearing about this being changed and no copy came to my side or to me.
“I discovered the judge was mistaken about mediation. Judges are not supposed to be a mediator from the bench, for the Florida Supreme Court said they can’t do that. But the judge did it anyway. Here judges seem to make their own laws from the bench. When I informed the Judicial Qualification Commission, they just ignored my letter as they had done in the past, and sent me a form letter saying they would not be investigating anything I mentioned. The JQC failed to even address the fact the judge said he was going to take off his black robe and be a mediator from the bench. See the transcript and you will see how Judge Jacobus mislead me into thinking he would be a mediator and protect me. If judges are not allowed to take mediate from the bench why did my judge do that? He did harm to my case that day. He also sent away the court reporter I hired to take notes of what went on in the room. I had to pay her for just showing up but he banned her from the room. That was wrong but the JQC failed to look at the evidence I sent to them.
“Judge Jacobus denied me reasonable accommodation for my disabilities. He even refused to look at or consider the American With Disabilities Act of 1990. I sued Judge Jacobus, but Judge Tonya Rainwater just dismissed the case without a hearing.”
Since Jane was confronted with many Brevard County judges playing musical chairs in her cases, I asked her to identify the worst judge of all. She said that, to be fair, she could not say which one was the worst, as the judicial culture at the courthouse had rendered them all bad. For example, she mentioned Judge Edward M. Jackson’s feeble attempt to maintain an appearance of propriety in his court. The courts certainly have authority to directly discipline errant attorneys on the spot. Judge Edward M. Jackson, sitting in Jane’s tort action against Walter Favreau, did find that Martocci had violated a previous Court order not to personally disparage Jane:
“The court finds from the greater weight of the evidence that Attorney Martocci expressed during the Deposition of his client in the presence of Plaintiff that either the Plaintiff was conducting the proceeding in a ‘crazy’ manner, or that the Plaintiff was herself ‘crazy’. Either context results in the Court finding a patent violation of the previous non-disparagement admonition the Court gave to Mr. Martocci as well as to the Plaintiff and Defendant.” On July 9, 1998 Martocci was ordered to post $200 surety with the court to be forfeited to the Plaintiff if he disparaged her again. If he had to forfeit, that would of course be a small price to pay for ripping off Edna Jane Favreau.
“Judge Jackson was supposed to report Mr. Martocci to The Florida Bar,” Jane said, “but he did not do so. Mr. Martocci continued to harass me, and he bragged that he was not afraid of The Florida Bar. I reported this to Judge Jackson and he did nothing.”
Furthermore, “Judge Jackson denied my right to a fair trial. For example, he denied my good evidence which was allowable. The opposing attorney was given that evidence, but he stood up and told the judge he could not take it into the record, and the jury was not allowed see the evidence. It was offered under Florida Statute 775.089(8) but the judge took advantage of me being ill and denied me my due process and violated my civil right to a fair trial.”
Statute 775.089(8) appertains to a crime victim’s right to restitution, and reads: “The conviction of a defendant for an offense involving the act giving rise to restitution under this section shall estop the defendant from denying the essential allegations of that offense in any subsequent civil proceeding. An order of restitution hereunder will not bar any subsequent civil remedy or recovery, but the amount of such restitution shall be set off against any subsequent independent civil recovery.”
Jane deserves credit for lodging complaints against several attorneys with The Florida Bar, and the Bar deserves credit for disciplining several attorneys on both sides. Yet those complaints made it ever the more impossible for her to obtain justice from the brethren in the courtroom. Although one of her damning complaints against Attorney Martocci was dismissed and all record of its existence was destroyed by the Bar, another complaint was instrumental in getting him disciplined if not disbarred.
Although the Bar is to be congratulated for taking attorneys to task, its failings must also be pointed out: As a matter of fact, multiple complaints had been lodged with The Florida Bar against Henry Martocci over the years. Many complaints and inquiries against various attorneys were ignored or discipline was deemed unwarranted, so investigations were not opened at all or the investigative files were destroyed along with all records of the existence of the complaints, pursuant to a Supreme Court policy that allows its “arm”, The Florida Bar, to conceal an apparent pattern of misbehavior, and, especially, to protect the practices of powerful attorneys by saying they have no history of disciplinary action. Nonetheless, some complaints against Henry Martocci, who was, after all, notorious throughout Brevard County’s legal community for his atrocious behavior, resulted in mild disciplinary action over the years, until the Bar had had enough, and Martocci was disbarred even though one investigating lawyer had said he was a good attorney.
“I came to court expecting fairness, justice, rules to be validated and laws upheld,” Jane wrote. “I knew the officers of the court took an oath to uphold the laws, go by the rules of court, and abide by the Constitution; I found that, even though citizens are put under oath to tell the truth, and the officers of the court already took an oath to tell the truth, the court seems to have somehow overlooked these officers’ oaths. The attorneys do not seem to be under oath to tell the truth in court. They can say and do anything to win or confuse the issues. When I asked The Florida Bar about this, I was told, ‘Yes, it’s a dirty business.’ After being in the court system for over eighteen years now I am persuaded that the problem with the ‘system’ is that the judges do not do the things that should be done to their professional brethren, because they too are members of the same Bar. And this affects the poor of the state of Florida.”
Attorney Charlie Crist, either in his capacity as Governor, could have referred Jane to his Judicial Qualifications Commission instead of “attorneys” she did not have and could not afford because of the state’s systematic discrimination against poor and disabled persons, especially defenseless women and children. But she had already gone down that road several times, and she got the usual form letter in response – if only the medieval church had taught people how to think and therefore read and write for themselves instead of inventing form letters to cover their incapacity!
Now the Judicial Qualifications Commission is a purportedly independent agency, stacked with judges and other lawyers, created by the Florida Constitution solely to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges. It is not a part of the Florida Supreme Court or the state courts and operates under rules it establishes for itself. Neither the Supreme Court nor its Chief Justice has any authority to investigate alleged misconduct by state judges or to investigate the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
We understand the Legislature’s zeal to create yet another independent entity to curb abuses of power, but we rue the fact that its independence has rendered it arrogant to such an extent that it can callously ignore a poor elderly lady’s claims that she is being grievously abused by judges and judicial staff who are not providing her with due process according to the laws and court rules. Thus the deliberately underfunded Judicial Qualification Commission amounts to mere lip-service to the cause of justice.
For example, on September 17, 2004, Brook S. Kennedy, Executive Director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission responded to one of Jane’s complaints as follows: “Your recent correspondence is being returned to you with this letter. As we have advised on earlier occasions, your concerns relate to the legal and procedural aspects of court cases. Unfortunately the Commission also lacks the budget or support staff necessary to continuing correspondence about matters which are outside its jurisdiction.”
“She did not read what I sent,” stated Jane, “for it was back in the mail the next day at my mail box. I am sorry I cannot write well but I do try hard. I tried to explain to her it was misconduct of the judges but they pretend not to understand things.”
No, the unjust conditions of Brevard County’s justice system are nothing new to former Attorney General and now Governor Charlie Chris. On 24 November 2008 Florida Today called for investigation into Brevard County: “On Sunday, the editorial board of Florida Today called for Governor Crist to look into the actions of the Brevard County District Attorney’s office, which reek of misconduct and corruption. They called for: A state probe ordered by Gov. Charlie Crist into possible repeated miscarriages of justice at the State Attorney’s Office, including in the cases of Dillon and Wilton Dedge, convicted of rape in 1981 but freed in 2004 after DNA evidence proved the Port St. John man’s innocence… And of Juan Ramos, who was tried and sentenced to death for rape and murder in 1983 in Brevard, although no physical evidence linked him to the crime. Ramos was acquitted in 1987. The editors added: ‘Prosecutors’ mishandling of the cases follows an ugly pattern of incompetence and impropriety that cries out for investigation.” Florida Today correctly observes that there is ‘overwhelming justification’ for a probe. But the evidence goes beyond justification to the creation of an imperative: It would be negligent at this point for the Governor to ignore his duty to the public to make sure that the laws and the Constitution are faithfully enforced. Today, reasonable people are making the conclusion that Brevard County systemically engages in corruption and collusion. We previously called for an investigation when Dillon was granted a new trial. Governor Crist ought to step up and call for a thorough investigation of those practices that put Dillon and other innocent people behind bars. Justice demands it.’”
Experienced Attorney Charlie Chris could have referred Edna Jane Favreau to a court administrator, or even written a letter himself recommending that the administrator see to it that disabled persons such as Edna Jane Favreau are accommodated. But she had already been down that road: Her daughter Elizabeth contacted Mark Van Bever, Court Administrator for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, and he promised he would get back to her – he never did. Jane had been impressed by Mr. Bever’s published article on judicial ethics, and thought that he might have something done about the fact that she was being abused by judges and lawyers in his courts and denied her civil rights including rights under the ADA. We see that Mr. Bever has also had published in June 2002 an article on accommodating disabled persons, entitled, ‘Implementing the Americans With Disabilities Act.’
“Courts achieve equity,” Mr. Bever wrote, “by providing reasonable accommodations to disabled people in order to level the playing field.” He states that the Act significantly affects the state courts, and that the purpose of his paper is to discuss access to public services. The act provides, he says, that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by any such entity.”
He points out that one in five people have disabilities, and that the ratio will increase as the population enjoys longer lives. He goes on to describe the provision of wheelchairs, accessible telephones, ramps, counter heights, lapboards for writing, Braille etc, water fountains, disposal bins, diabetics can’t sit long. He claims that the Eighteenth Circuit “goes the extra mile” in that regard. Yet, “No matter how diligent a court is in its compliance efforts, a customer may have a grievance. To handle complaints, a court needs a written grievance procedure.”
And, “Courts should deliberately plan to provide for disabled persons the same access that is available to persons without disabilities. It is our responsibility to respond with expert help and humanity. Remember, a proactive approach is preferable to one that is reactive.”
He has suggestions: “Here are a few suggestions to help your court begin a successful compliance effort. Take time to plan. Invite all the appropriate courthouse players together to discuss concerns and uncertainties. Participants should include individuals from court administration, the local Bar Association, the state prosecutor’s office, the public defender’s office, the clerk’s office, the law library, and the sheriff’s office.”
His plan does not include receiving the advice of disabled persons outside of the legal system, disabled litigants, expert advocates for disabled people, psychiatrists, psychologists, and the like. But Mr. Bever said the court was lucky to get the advice of a disabled lawyer: “In addition to a survey by court staff, the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit was fortunate to receive the assistance of a local attorney who is disabled and knowledgeable about the ADA. His pro bono review of our facilities and services was very beneficial. The attorney’s expertise and first-hand knowledge of the barriers people with disabilities encounter provided a valuable perspective.”
Mr. Bever’s concept of disability is apparently limited to obvious physical disabilities. He does not mention dealing with the various psychological symptoms of disabilities associated with post traumatic stress syndrome suffered by battered women, who have been deemed “crazy” and “nutcases” and “hysterics” in his court; i.e. those psychological disabilities, which often have physical causes, are not “real,” thus the victims, given the inherent power of the court, may with impunity be discriminated against and re-victimized by the court, as was Edna Jane Favreau, who was stripped of her assets, pauperized and thus deprived of counsel, left to represent herself, and, ultimately, told that her filings with the court would by order of the court be shredded on receipt as a damn nuisance.
The only mention of a psychological condition, sometimes evident in persistently battered and therefore terrified women, in the court administrator’s report is agoraphobia: “The Eighteenth Circuit has assisted individuals who suffered from agoraphobia and were afraid to leave their homes. Their unique needs were met by sending a court official to their homes, where they were duly sworn and allowed to participate in court proceedings via telephone.”
Such is the physical extent of the “extra mile” paved in 2002 by the Brevard County Court Administrator, the court official who failed to respond to Jane’s grievances as promised, and who did not respond to our request for his side of the story.
Such is the arrogance of the powerful in the State of Florida, where the most respected and trusted lawyers and law firms in the state run roughshod over the laws, depriving the weak and poor of justice, providing a pittance for legal aid, while defrauding many wealthy people of hundreds of millions of dollars to boot.
In the final analysis, lawyers are no better than the people they represent, so there is plenty of blame to spread around, especially in this reign of greed. And there are many conscientious lawyers who do fight for the underdogs and win from time to time. Yes, there are improvements. Nevertheless, it can still be said by the positivists, that, “Law is what powerful people do.” And they still do it to legalize their crimes against humanity.