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'L.A. Law' Meets 'Jail' -- Disbarred Attorney 14 Months Into 'Coercive Confinement'

Fine Today, CNN is scheduled to air video of its interview with Richard Fine, a (now disbarred) attorney who has spent more than 14 months in the L.A. County Jail for contempt of court after he refused to provide certain financial documents pursuant to a court order in connection with a fee award in a case Fine lost.

Fine considers himself a political prisoner, because his raison d'etre over the past several years has been exposing the alleged corruption inherent in the courts of Los Angeles County resulting from the county's practice of tacking on an additional $57,000 in "supplemental benefits" to the $178,000 state salary of Superior Court judges. A California appellate court actually ruled those payments unconstitutional in 2008, but the legislature then reportedly passed a law legitimizing them. To Fine, this mission was just a natural extension of his chosen role as a taxpayer advocate, challenging your typical "waste, fraud and abuse." But, says Fine, the judges don't see it that way, and that's why he's still locked up.

The notion of coercive confinement, is, of course, to coerce someone to comply with a court order. Once it becomes clear that it's not gonna work, the contemnor (yes, spell-check, it is a word) is supposed to be released. Though Fine's 14 months behind bars is far from the longest such confinement on record, it does seem a bit excessive, especially considering the L.A. County Sheriff's Department spokesperson's statement that they could use the cell for someone who actually committed a crime.

Constitutional or not, it's fairly incredible that these state judges are making $235,000 per year when federal district court judges make only $174,000. Fine's habeas petition has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and was considered in conference last week.

Posted by Eric Lipman on May 24, 2010 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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