There was an unusual gathering of 110 lawyers and former criminal defendants in Santa Ana, California last week, described by the Orange County Weekly as a “hell of a scene… in the West Orange County Municipal courtroom of Judge Thomas James Borris”.
All had been summoned to appear before the Court in light of a FBI investigation that revealed errors in the court records with regards to 600 court files.
“You are here to convince me there is not a mistake in your case,” Judge Borris said to the assembled throng of shocked attorneys and clients, as he began calling forward and questioning defendants and lawyers.
He asked one attorney whether he had represented client X as the court file indicated. He said he had not. Judge Borris immediately issued a bench warrant for X’s arrest.
To a female defendant he queried whether she had completed the three-month jail sentence that was recorded in her file. She replied in the affirmative, but Judge Borris instructed the court clerk to call the institution to confirm she had served her time. An answer came quickly. She had not and was remanded into custody, without bail.
In some cases the Court called both a lawyer and a defendant to approach the bench at the same time and asked whether they had ever met before. Many had not, despite court files that recorded a client/attorney relationship.
As the morning progressed and people were free to leave, they were approached by FBI agents who took them aside to ask what they knew about their own court files and if they could shed any light on the unfolding corruption scandal.
Defendants whose court files did not reflect the actual results of a case’s disposition were given the option of negotiating a settlement with the prosecutor, the presiding judge, or hiring a private attorney.
The FBI alleges that rogue court employees had been paid cash to “fix” impaired driving and other traffic violations by recording fake sentence reductions and dismissals for drunken driving and other misdemeanor traffic offences.
As of late last week, no arrests have been made. The court file audits continue.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang