Thursday, November 17, 2005

What's wrong with Florida's Sixth Circuit




"I said, 'let them eat cake . . .
. . . and ice cream. I know I included ice cream.' "
Mrs. Ambassadorable Betty Sembler, from her Magic Kingdom, Villa Taverna in Rome.

In 2002 the Columbia Law School released a study finding that the 6th Circuit leads the nation with an 89% error rate of death sentences. This means that Pinellas County Florida is more likely than any other county in the land to send an innocent man to death. Former 6th Circuit Chief Justice Susan Schaeffer was part of that court before she retired. She personally sentenced so many people to their death (8) that she is known as "Ms. Death." She even wrote a handbook on how to sentence people to death which is required reading for all circuit judges in the state. In 2003 The Reader's Digest named Judge Charles W. Cope as one of the worst judges in the land after he tried to break into the motel room of a woman. Yet Chief Judge Schaeffer stood by him during his tribulations publicly declaring, "He has one of the best work ethics of all our circuit judges." The 6th Circuit's current Chief Justice David A. Demers was another Cope enabler. In 2002 former Chief Judge David Patterson committed suicide. In 1980 former Sixth Circuit judge Richard Kelly turned US Congressman became the only Republican Congressman to be convicted in the FBI Abscam sting.

Two years ago attorney Leonard Englander convinced 6th Circuit Judge Walt Logan to issue a gag order to silence a man from sounding off about consumer issues with a major furniture company. USA Today did that story. Next year Englander got Judge Logan to sign a gag order to keep a man from sounding off about his client Ambassador Mel Sembler--parts of that story made it to the Washington Post. Later Logan, Englander, the CEO of the furniture company and the son of Mel Sembler served together on a social committee. There's the misrepresentation by Circuit Judge John Renke III; the endorsement of the controversial Narconon™ program by some justices; and the partnership of the 6th Circuit and Operation PAR, PAR's ties to Betty Sembler, and Betty Sembler's and the 6th Circuit's ties to Straight and The Seed--two defunct juvenile drug rehab programs that closed under charges of child abuse.

In 2000 Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer lamented that her 6th Circuit had only two black judges. Now Judge George Greer is running for chief justice. There were race riots in Pinellas County in 1996. Perhaps the riots could have been avoided had George Greer (back when he was chairman of the county's Charter Commission) taken actions to give blacks better representation on the county commission.

With its perennial mild climate Pinellas County Florida is one of the most beautiful places in the country. There are no real blue bloods in the land down under; almost anyone of importance has migrated in. Its climate and beaches have attracted its share of millionaires. It's natural beauty notwithstanding, Pinellas County Florida clearly demonstrates a dual municipal and judicial system of government where its rich Republican elite is judged and governed by different standards than the rest of its citizens.

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