kanBARoo Court. 30A Installment. Collateral Estoppel as a Tool of Judicial Bias in the Richard Fine Matter
Although Richard I. Fine’s supposedly corrupt motive for filing motions deemed frivolous formed the crux of the State Bar's case against him, the
Judge Honn claimed the Superior Court judge had clearly made a “typographical error.” The characterization is curiously inaccurate, and it reveals how Judge Honn wears his bias on his sleeve. This is a most strange "typographical error," a term that "includes errors due to mechanical failure or slips of the hand or finger, but excludes errors of ignorance." (Wikipedia.) If the Superior Court judge successfully maintained his mistake was clerical in nature, he is entitled to correct it sua sponte, but the source of his mistake, if it was a mistake, looks to be his confusing the meaning of "partial" and "impartial," not a clerk typing the wrong alpha-numeric. Small gestures, such as mislabeling one contender's errors, are often key to detecting judicial bias. Although respondent Fine was entitled to a clear and convincing evidence standard of proof, Judge Honn tilted the playing field in the opposite direction, when he used a euphemism for the supposed error.
But wait! Did the court even have to evaluate the evidence? In evaluating the typographical error matter, the
Two considerations should have led the court to decline to collaterally estop Fine: incomplete finality of judgment and differential motive to defend. Collateral estoppel requires finality in the collaterally applied judgment, but criminal judgments necessarily lack a civil judgment’s degree of finality, because they are subject to collateral attack for reasons intrinsic to the case. Reasonably, if you suffer a criminal conviction, it may be reversed, if say, witnesses condemned you by committing perjury, whereas, in a civil case, you must attack the perjury in the case itself. Fine's allegations of de facto bribery of Superior Court Judges amounts to an allegation of intrinsic and extrinsic fraud, which warrants collateral attack, since Fine's conviction is only as strong as his underlying civil case against the County is weak. Since Fine was still contesting the civil action, the contempt conviction lacked the requisite finality. The other implicated criterion, equal incentive to defend, requires that Fine have the same motivation to litigate the contempt conviction as the disbarment. Unlike disbarment, contempt is not inherently ignominious. Disbarment, moreover, is a more serious penalty than spending three days in the local jail. Fine lacked the same motivation to defend the contempt action as the disbarment, and the contempt conviction, consequently, was not probative for his disbarment case.
The court offered no analysis of whether applying collateral estoppel to the contempt conviction served the interest of justice. The court would then have to consider Fine’s contentions. The