California: When the Judge is the Guilty Party

CORRUPTION WATCH-Should California judges put personal self-interest and loyalty to other judges ahead of their duty to support the Constitution? 

In ancient days, loyalty to one’s own family or tribe predated concepts of justice. Early societies realized social cohesion could not exist without people knowing that power was not the controlling factor in all matters. From the start of civilization, all societies have had some institution to apply the laws. 

Hammurabi’s famous code found perjury highly offensive (3,745 to 3,703 years ago.) We all know about the commandment “not to bear false witness against one’s neighbor.” Because one’s own may be guilty, there is an inherent conflict between loyalty to one’s own and telling the truth. 

After the Fall it was pretty much downhill as far as truth-telling is concerned. However, as mankind settled into an agricultural mode, populations expanded, and people became more interdependent, mankind at least had the sense to recognize that falsehood was a serious problem. As Sissela Bok puts it in her study of lying, "trust in some degree of veracity functions as a foundation of relations among human beings; when this trust shatters or wears away, institutions collapse." An ethic of loyalty to kith and kin may be enough for an extremely primitive sort of existence. [“False Witness,” 1993, by Richard H. Underwood, Univ. of Kentucky)

The civilized world’s legal codes have realized that society’s survival depends upon trust in institutions and that trust requires honesty. The point which most people miss about the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah is that, according to the rabbis, the extreme offenders were the judges themselves, who were named Liar, Habitual Liar, Deceiver, and Perverter of the Law. While everyone can grasp the troubles that came for regular people who lied in individual cases, it was when the judges themselves are the culprits that the existence of society itself became imperiled.

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.