Judge Posner's truth

Richard A. Posner, a 35-year member of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, has retired from the bench earlier than he had planned because of clashes with his fellow judges over the way the 7th Circuit treats litigants who represent themselves.  Posner, 78, stated to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that he intended to stay on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit until he turned 80, but "difficulty" with his colleagues moved up that date.  Posner said, "I was not getting along with the other judges because I was (and am) very concerned about how the court treats pro se litigants, who I believe deserve a better shake."

In another interview, he said he began looking more closely at pro se cases, including one that involved an inmate who died after repeatedly falling from a top bunk even though a doctor had said a brain tumor required that he sleep in a bottom bunk.  His request was allegedly ignored.  Posner said he noticed that pro se cases tended to get casual treatment by the staff attorneys who prepare a memo recommending disposition of the appeal.  He said the recommendation goes to a panel of judges, and they usually "rubber-stamp" the staff attorney's memo, which is often to dismiss the appeal.  He said he was on the panel with two other judges and they agreed with the district judge and voted to dismiss, but he dissented.  He said it was ridiculous to dismiss the family's appeal, as the guard and warden were aware of a serious danger.  Posner went on to say, "I think I was just going along with the culture of the court.  None of the judges paid any attention to the pro ses, and I just never woke up to it until I saw this case[.] ... I gradually began to realize that this wasn't right, what we were doing."

If what Posner is saying is true, then we have a serious problem in the 7th Circuit warranting the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, as these judges are violating the civil rights of the pro se litigants, who are constitutionally entitled to their day in court.  By law, 28 United States Code Section 453, every federal judge must take an oath affirming to "administer justice without respect to person, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich" and to "faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as judge under the Constitution and laws of the United States.  So help me God."  If what Posner is saying is true, the judges are engaged in an unlawful systematic dismissal of pro se appeals for the sole reason that the people are representing themselves.  This is a blatant form of discrimination that violates federal law.  As the Judiciary Act of 1789 states, "in all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally."  Posner stated that one of the former staff attorneys that he talked to recently said the staff attorneys in recommending dismissal of the pro se cases "are doing what the judges want."

Posner was quoted in an interview as saying, "The basic thing is that most judges regard these people as kind of trash not worth the time of a federal judge."

These are very strong statements from a 35-year member of the court and are clearly indicative of systematic civil rights violations by the judges of the 7th Circuit against the people.

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