Ignorance is bliss in some scenarios, and as a father having been involved in a contentious divorce and custody ordeal it was a luxury I found myself longing for at times. Facing a situation where one’s back is against the wall, in a court environment overtly hostile towards those who represent themselves, as a pro se litigant is a place parents should venture with extreme caution. In my situation it came to a point where in keeping up with my own case at times I began to become curious and observe what I knew to be odd behavior and activity within the court and its players.
Flipping through the channels one evening, while taking a break from preparing for a hearing, I stopped on the movie The Untouchables starring Sean Connery (Jimmy Malone) and Kevin Costner (Elliott Ness) where a scene was playing out where Ness wants to stop Al Capone by finding the booze and busting him. Malone takes Ness to a post office across the way from a police station indicating it was where the booze were thus the law being broken in plain, and obvious, sight. Ness responds with utter disbelief to which Malone replies,
“Mr. Ness, everybody knows where the booze is. The problem isn’t finding it, the problem is who wants to cross Capone.”
While thinking about that scene, so much was there that echoed many stages of what goes on in divorce and custody cases as pertaining to the roles of lawyers, judges and players in the industry. Narrowing down on this aspect of these ordeals and investigating a Judge’s campaign dollars can reveal a treasure trove of information in ascertaining which attorneys perform in different ways with different outcomes in front of different Judges. The examining of this type of data exposes who knows who and most importantly identifies the “regular” players of the courts as they tend to contribute not to only one, but several campaigns with varying amounts on a regular basis.
Once the picture starts to emerge as to the courts “regulars” and their patterns of making contributions to specific judicial campaigns it starts to beg the question of whether these contributions influence behavior and treatment akin to favoritism and preferential treatment within cases. In making these contributions, it is curious that sometimes these lawyers do it as individuals, or if they want to find loopholes on contribution limits, they make them under the firm’s name as a separate entity.
In seeing who contributes to whom the next step is to access and examine the court’s docket system online to determine the number of cases, per election cycle, contributors were assigned to judges each year. What is interesting are those trends of observing those who contribute higher amounts of money having a larger number of cases before that judge they contributed too! While a lot of curious anomalies can be observed when examining this type of data in this way, the next element is to tabulate the data to include the numbers of hearings and motions filed.
Most interesting is when you have an attorney with the same type of case (i.e. contested matrimonial) and approximately the same number of such cases before a Judge they contributed a lot too, and by comparison one they didn’t give a lot too. By examining one can see the long and lucrative drawn out motion practice and hearings in front of those Judges they have supported and by contrast much shorter and more abrupt litigation history before the judge they didn’t contribute anything too.
CHART: Follow the Money, cross-referencing campaign dollars with numbers of cases assigned to judges and average number of motions filed.
When this type of data and information is scrutinized (keeping in mind family courts do not make this type of information readily or easily available) and these occurrences happen once, it is curious. When these incidents repeat a second and third time, perhaps that’s a coincidence. When it is happening a lot more than that and among the same players and judges…that indicates something else!
In trying to figure out why this type of thing isn’t investigated much or brought up for public consumption I defer back to the movie, The Untouchables, where the following dialogue transpires:
Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I’m saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Ness: Anything and everything in my power.
Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way…