The Taylor Henderson Act
I worked on a story with a New Hampshire woman going through a divorce nightmare in Oklahoma. In this story, I found the judge, Tulsa Special District Judge J Anthony Miller, refused to recuse himself even though he went to law school with a litigant and acted as an informal mediator earlier on in the case, forced a pro se litigant, Tanya Hathaway, to continue even after suffering a panic attack, forcing her appearance while she recovered from the panic attack with a subpoena, and finally, in a most Orwellian manner, he made a ruling on the case before he heard testimony.
Along with writing the article, I submitted a formal complaint against him with the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Conduct (COJC). The COJC Administrative Director then wrote a letter stating in part, “Although the allegations you’ve detailed are of great concern, it was the Council’s determination that the conduct you described does not fall into the statutorily provided categorizes it is authorized to address.” When I asked Ms. Taylor for an explanation, she repeated the three-member panel did not find any violations of the Oklahoma Code on Judicial Conduct.”
It’s a tactic used by bureaucrats so often I refer to it as “name, rank, serial number.” I realized then and there that the COJC is corrupt and in desperate need of a full audit. I believe that most states judicial oversight boards are equally corrupt and equally in need of an audit. The evidence suggests that in Florida that’s the case; the Judicial Qualification Commission (JQC) rarely holds judges accountable; here’s part of a 2015 story from The Orlando Sentinel: “Central Florida judges are rarely suspended.”
According to a December 2015 white paper by the Florida Legislature Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, in fy 2010-2011, there were 621, 2011-2012 659 complaints, fy 2012-2013 618 complaints, fy 2013-2014 684 complaints, and fy 2014-2015, 771 complaints, and formal action was taken in 4,4,2,4,9 in each of those years. Either there are a lot of frivolous complaints, or the Florida JQC protects bad judges from litigants.
Call for a Full Audit of Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission.
The audit- with subpoena power- would be run out of the State Legislature, specifically originating from the Florida State Senate Judiciary Committee and Florida House Judiciary Committee.
In California, that state’s legislature approved a historic audit of its Council on Judicial Performance. “The CJP admits that less than 2% of all complaints filed by average California litigants or their family and friends have resulted in the discipline of our state’s judges, in a 20 year report. This is a disturbing statistic that proves the need to reform the state’s only judicial oversight agency, which was created back in 1961 in large part to “protect the public.” The CJP is clearly failing in its mission.” Said the Center for Judicial Excellence, one of the chief proponents of the audit.
Ms. Henderson also noted of the Freedom of Information Act: “The Oklahoma Open Records Act is the State of Oklahoma’s equivalent to the federal Freedom of Information Act to which you reference.
The audit there was created by the legislature and that would be a model.
The audit will look at several things, Florida’s budget, rules, standards and procedures. specifically:
1) complaint review process,
2) case outcomes, and
3) how it evaluates evidence and witnesses.
4) How many complaints each judge had
5) How often action was taken for each judge
The auditor will be created by a joint committee of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The auditor will have subpoena power and will have access to each complaint and investigation over the last ten years.
The Taylor Henderson Act.
Pursuant to Title 51, Section 24A.3.2 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the Council on Judicial Complaints is specifically exempted from the Oklahoma Open Records Act and its records are not subject to public inspection.”
The Florida JQC will be governed by applicable Florida FOIA laws.