How Bias Works
Commissioner Alan H. Friedenthal gave the appearance of bias against me when he made important decisions concerning the custody of my two children. You may notice that I left out my usual careful qualifiers, such as “allegedly”. It was proven and determined by the California Supreme Court, Commissioner Friedenthal did show bias.
When there is an appearance of bias, no decision made by the biased judge can be trusted. There is not due process.
Today in court, I had the opportunity to witness how my own biases keep me from coming to an objective opinion.
You see, Judge Thomas Trent Lewis was presiding over a motion for change of venue on my family law case. Judge Lewis was considerate, gracious and patient. Not just with me, but with all the litigants who came through the courtroom.
He did his best to guide a middle-class couple to try to settle their differences in an informal setting, rather than court. He detailed an estimate of how much a court trial would cost them in dollars, an amount in the six figures.
He helped a Spanish speaking mother figure what her day in court cost, and showed a commitment to have the other litigant reimburse her $25 for the bus ride. He also scheduled her next hearing for a Monday, her day off, so it would not conflict with her work schedule.
Unfortunately, I previously heard that Judge Lewis separated a wonderful mother from her children and then had some kind of hanky-panky with the mother’s finances. And I saw where the entire 2nd district of the court of appeals recused itself from a case where Judge Lewis was the defendant.
Now, no matter what I see in court with my own eyes, I distrust Judge Lewis. Even when he rules in my favor, I wonder what ulterior motive caused his largess.
I have a bias against Judge Lewis.
I have had the opportunity to watch good judges practice. I have seen the way they handle potential bias.
For instance, Judge Richard Strauss in San Diego was hearing a trial on a property dispute. The plaintiff’s attorney was presenting opening arguments and projecting copies of documentary evidence onto a screen. Suddenly, Judge Strauss said he would need to disclose a potential bias. He noticed one of the documents was signed by an attorney who had done some work for the judge personally. None of the litigants thought the relationship would cause a problem. The signing attorney played a miniscule role in the case at bar and was not being called as a witness.
It was ethical and proper though, that Judge Strauss divulged the potential for bias. Our biases affect our judgment. Due process demands that litigants know before a case is heard, if there is some chance the scales of justice are tipped against them.