Written by Administrator
May 3rd, 2010 at 6:34 am

Good lawyers know the law; great lawyers know the judge.  — Author Unknown

Justice is defined as “the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards or law.”   In other words, in a county run by scoundrels, justice is hard to find.

In part one of this series we are going to examine the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, District Attorney Michael Ramos, and the relationships the office and its elected leader enjoys with the county’s criminal justice system.

Let’s start by defining the role of a district attorney in California.  California Government Code section 26500 states:

The district attorney is the public prosecutor, except as otherwise provided by law.

The public prosecutor shall attend the courts, and within his or her discretion shall initiate and conduct on behalf of the people all prosecutions for public offenses.

As you can see, the definition is simple, yet broad.  The ability to “initiate and conduct on behalf of the people all prosecutions for public offenses” makes a county’s district attorney one of the most powerful positions at the local level.  And when that ability is mixed with politics, it becomes one of the most dangerous.

So, in San Bernardino County, have we allowed our district attorney to entwine justice and politics?  To answer that question, let’s first look at our current district attorney’s, Mike Ramos, Form 460.  A Form 460 is a document that must be filed semi-annually, more often during the election cycle, by any candidate for office that accepts donations or makes expenditures to assist in his or her election to public office:  Ramos 460

Among the most notable contributions for the period of January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2010, are $10,000 each from the Carter, Spring, Schank and O’Conner and San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA).  Carter, et al., are the attorneys for the county’s Conflict Panel.

Conflict Panel attorneys are used when there is a conflict of interest for the Public Defender, such as two or more indigent co-defendants, or more recently in the instance of former Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Bill Postmus who was involved in disciplining Public Defender Doreen Boxer due to her indiscretions with Mike Ramos.  In other words, Conflict Panel attorneys are attorneys who represent defendants in criminal matters against the District Attorney.

However, since Mike Ramos began his first run for District Attorney eight years ago, these same attorneys have donated over $100,000 to Ramos’ campaigns.  One has to wonder why.  It doesn’t seem to be for the best interest of defendants as the plea bargain rate in this county is over 90 percent.  So what is Carter, Spring, Schank and O’Conner getting in return?  Lucrative contracts?  Easy caseloads?  Both seem likely.

And the same question can be asked of SEBA.  Of course law enforcement has an interest in seeing crooks punished.  But their job ends with investigating and presenting the facts.  They are not responsible for determining guilt or meting out punishment.  With a district attorney beholden to law enforcement, can an innocent man find justice or will a district attorney err on behalf of law enforcement to pay back a debt?  The current scenario certainly blurs the boundaries of right and wrong.

But one of the most egregious aspects of San Bernardino County’s system of justice, the significance of which has been totally lost on the county administrative officer and Board of Supervisors, is the personal relationship between District Attorney Mike Ramos and Public Defender Doreen Boxer.  I mean, seriously, in any of the other 57 counties is the district attorney banging the public defender?  Any other county administration would see the conflict and recognize the potential for ten of millions of dollars in payouts in lawsuits by defendants who can claim, and rightfully so, that they did not receive adequate legal counsel because the county’s Board of Supervisors helped to cover up the relationship between the two supposedly opposing counsel.

Finally, we are also witness to personal relationships between Ramos and members of the San Bernardino County Superior Court Bench.  Last week a golf tournament was co-sponsored by Presiding Judge Douglas Elwell, Sheriff Rod Hoops, and District Attorney Mike Ramos: Stull Fundraiser ACC.   The purpose was to raise money for Victor Stull in his bid to become a superior court judge in this county.  Stull is currently a deputy district attorney serving under Ramos.  If Stull is elected, where will his loyalties be?  To the citizens waiting to be judged in his courtroom?  Or to those who got him elected?

It is said that no new judge is appointed without Ramos’ blessing.  In our county we see a plethora of deputy district attorneys appointed who have no civil, family law, probate, or juvenile law experience whatsoever.  This is a grave disservice to the citizens of our county and to the legal community which is forced to practice before unskilled judges who lack the legal knowledge to make well reasoned decisions on complex legal matters.  But they are experts at putting someone away for 25 years for stealing a pizza, or setting a half million dollar bail for a white collar crime, while violent predators are given much lower bails.

And that, of course, leads us to the county’s current corruption scandal.  We have watched as our district attorney, in concert with several members of the Superior Court bench, have thrown the Constitution of the United States to the wind.  Yes, there has been a conspiracy in San Bernardino County.  Maybe even bribery.  The problem is it has been committed by those whose duty it is to prosecute and judge criminals.

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