Attorney Stuart N. Ratzan on Corrupt Judges
The recent conviction of Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella, who accepted cash in exchange for his sentencing children to serve time at a local, privately owned prison, sends shockwaves through our justice system. Lately, I have wondered whether it should be called a “justice” system or, instead, a “legal” system or “court” system. The truth is our system is loaded with injustice. But that is exactly why I believe the role of the trial lawyer is so vital. When we act honorably, and we pursue justice on behalf of our clients with candor and zeal, we force the system to operate in a fair and decent manner. In this way, we make our system just.
But when a judge acts in a corrupt manner, by taking the law into his or her own hands, by putting his thumb on the scale of justice, by favoring one side or the other and failing to act impartially, we lose all faith in the system. I have seen firsthand how a corrupt judge, incapable of divorcing his personal passions and prejudices from a case, can do great damage to the proceedings. Parties, lawyers, and jurors come away from an interaction with a biased jurist feeling dirty and corrupted. Our system faces so many burdens in today’s world: lack of funding, misleading propaganda, and the politicization of the judiciary. We cannot endure corrupt, biased judges. Judge Ciavarella will get what he deserves: time behind bars. We should never tolerate a corrupt, biased jurist. We should do everything in our power to identify and eliminate such behavior.