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Judge Jacqueline A. Connor retired on Thursday. Connor spoke with The Mirror at Urth Caffé on Main Street in Santa Monica about her career, flaws in the California legal system, and how she will continue her practice by becoming a mediator with a new goal of keeping people out of court.
Photo by Roger Morante
Judge Jacqueline A. Connor retired on Thursday. Connor spoke with The Mirror at Urth Caffé on Main Street in Santa Monica about her career, flaws in the California legal system, and how she will continue her practice by becoming a mediator with a new goal of keeping people out of court.

News, Santa Monica, Courts

Retiring California Judge Jacqueline A. Connor Exposes Flaws In Legal System

Posted Feb. 24, 2012, 12:50 am

Roger Morante / Sports Editor

Judge Jacqueline A. Connor was born in Michigan, but grew up in Japan of parents that met during the MacArthur reconstruction period in the late 1940-50s.

As a teenager, Connor returned to the United States and went to USC to study law eventually moving up the ranks to become a Superior Court judge in California.

In the late 1970s, Connor became part of the American legal system serving as a trial lawyer with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office for a decade before she served as a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge for two years.

Connor initially became a trial lawyer because she didn’t see herself working with big firms and lawyers who seemed to be in constant cutthroat competition with each other. She found the people who worked in these firms “depressing,” and “working their butts off,” and “hating” their jobs.

Connor’s decision to become a trial lawyer and work with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office shaped the future of her career as a judge. She described being a trial lawyer as “a little performance and a little detective work.”

Working alongside people who were excited with their role in law afforded Connor the ability to advance her understanding of the practice of law and she soon became adept in understanding morality and in making the right decisions.

“These people were happy, funny, having fun with their job, and they liked what they were doing,” Connor said. “I thought to myself, this is for me, and so I went to start my dream job with a jury trial (even though) I had no idea what I was doing.”

Connor soon learned the ropes of the legal system, and said her time spent as a trial lawyer was “the best job in the world.” This career choice influenced her later decision to become a judge.

In 1988, Connor continued her rise in the legal system. She joined the Superior Court of California and was appointed by then California Governor George Deukmejian who was looking for “common sense” judges to be part of the Californian legal system.

Connor fit right in and served the public to the best of her abilities throughout the late ‘80s, ‘90s, and well into the early 21st century.

After working for 25 years as a judge, Connor retired yesterday, Feb. 23, but said she will continue her practice by becoming a mediator with a new goal of keeping people out of court.

“It seems to me that if you end up in court, you get in a lawsuit and it ends up lose-lose,” Connor said. “People are looking for deep pockets and are staying sick longer because they might get more money.”

The current system of Californian law is flawed, according to Connor. She said she is staying vigilant inside of the legal system by helping to redefine her position in the legal system as a mediator to prevent cases from going to trial.

“You never know what the jury is going to do,” she said. “Maybe they don’t like the way your eyebrows look or the car you drove in on, or you remind them of your brother-in-law. I think it (California Legal System) is a great system, but you never know what is going to make a difference.”

Connor plans to go beyond her role as a mediator and she will soon add classes to her agenda so she may teach others how to succeed in the current judicial system.

“There is a real problem with the integrity of the trial system and I wonder if it can survive,” she said. “You’ve got young people who are looking up everything, Googling things, and teaching themselves stuff. Some are interested in doing their best, they want to do the right thing, and they want to make sure that they are voting the right way. If a guy is a bad guy, they want to convict him, and if the guy is a good guy, they don’t.”

Connor added that many people don’t necessarily trust the lawyers that they have been given because trial work to them feels like a publicity stunt.

“There are rules about what you are allowed say and there are certain moves you can make and certain moves you can’t,” she said. “You don’t just walk in there and say this is what happened. It just doesn’t work that way.”

In the past, defense and prosecution lawyers had a good deal of control over the information that was presented inside of the courtroom and juries made due with what the prosecution and the defense handed them as factual evidence when making decisions in a case.

Today what’s happening with jurors is that many are Googling everything, and the parties trying the case have no idea what type of outside influence is impacting the decisions of the jury.

“It’s like this pernicious change in the collection of information that nobody has access to and no way to control it,” Connor said. “We tell the jurors that they can’t do that. It isn’t fair.”

But many of the jurors do it anyway.

Looking back at her time as a former referee in the judicial process, Connor explained the reasons why jurors shouldn’t have access to the current supply of online information available on the web as some may think that Googling somebody’s name for information or public records may help their decision making while being a juror.

“If you’re charged with running a red light or a burglary or whatever and you didn’t do it, they’re looking you up and checking you out,” Connor said. “(Maybe) they get a guy with a different name that sounds like you or maybe they find your rap sheet, they shouldn’t have that information.”

In a way it would seem that this easy access to information has made jurors even more determined to get it right if they think that the jury got it wrong. It makes jurors more intent on looking up stuff and getting their own information because they don’t trust lawyers or the judge.

Hearings may also take longer to become an actual trial due to economic factors that have led to deep cuts in the judicial sector in recent years.

“It used to be 70-80 percent of our legislators started out as lawyers and they kind of understood the legal system,” Connor said. “Now I think most of them are not. I think that is part of what is happening with the court budget.”

Initially the California legislative, executive, and judicial function were all supposed to be co-equal but recent cuts to the California budget has taken its toll on the judicial process exasperating things for people who attempt to have their cases solved in a courtroom.

“They (the legislative and executive branches) aren’t slashing the budget of the executive or legislative but they are squeezing the judicial side of it like it’s another DMV,” Connor said. “That’s a real problem. If you have a lawsuit and you can’t get into trial for a year or two years or you can’t even get on the system, where do you go? It’s going to shut down businesses. It’s going to shut down the ability for people to resolve disputes.”

Many cases last for years and even after a verdict, it is difficult to collect a settlement from the guilty party. Compounding the problem is the reality of jurors being able to “look up anything they want even though we tell them they can’t.”

Even with this obvious conundrum affecting the legal practice in California today, Connor is still hopeful for the future of law and seems to currently be doing her part in order to resolve disputes before they go to court.

“The world is changing really fast,” Connor said. “And it’s impacting some of our institutions in ways that no one could have anticipated.”

Post a comment


Feb. 24, 2012, 11:27:43 am

Ensenada Al said...

The judiciary has lost one of its stars. Good thing this fine judge will still be involved in a meaningful way. Thank you Judge Connor for your years of service and your dedication to making the jury trial system work for everyone involved.

Feb. 24, 2012, 11:29:07 am

Kate Arnott said...

We need more retired Judges like Judge Connor to give back to the system . Its a personal decision but a good way to combine judicial experience and practical with assisting people who really need help at times.

Feb. 24, 2012, 1:06:49 pm

Gary Clouse said...

The judiciary's loss will be ADR's gain. I predict Judge Connor will be an excellent mediator in private practice.

Mar. 12, 2012, 6:04:53 am

Joseph Zernik,PhD, Human Rights Alert (NGO) said...

Jacqueline Connor was a key figure in the 2010 Human Rights Alert submission to the United Nations. Consequently, the official UN report noted: "Corruption of the courts and the legal profession in California". She is allegedly one of the leaders of the LA-JR (Los Angeles Judiciary Racket). LINKS: [1] 10-08-09 Complaint for Public Corruption and racketeering against Judge JACQUELINE CONNOR and Others at both the Civil and Criminal Divisions of the SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA, County of Los Angeles [2] 10-04-19 Human Rights Alert (NG0) submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2010 Review (UPR) of Human Rights in the United States as incorporated into the UPR staff report, with reference to "corruption of the courts and the legal profession". [3] 12-01-03 The Los Angeles Superior Court - Widespread Corruption, Patronized by the US Government [4] 10-10-15 Proposed Organizational Chart of the LA-JR (alleged Los Angeles Judiciary Racket)

Aug. 21, 2012, 6:05:17 am

Joseph Zernik, PhD said...

Judge (ret) Jacqueline Connor was one of the leaders of the LA-JR (Los Angeles Judiciary Racket). Joseph Zernik, PhD Human Rights Alert __________ * The 2010 submission of Human Rights Alert to the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations, regarding the United States, was reviewed by the HRC professional staff and incorporated in the official HRC Professional Staff Report with a note referring to “corruption of the courts and the legal profession and discrimination by law enforcement in California.” _______________ Widespread Corruption of the Los Angeles Superior Court - presented in the 16th World Criminology Congress, Japan Today the LA-JR (Los Angeles Judiciary Racket) is primarily involved in financial institutions, real estate and foreclosure fraud. Close ties with Countrywide and Bank of America have been documented. Together with a matching presentation regarding corruption in the US courts, the key role of the courts in the financial crisis was highlighted. The US is in the midst of an unprecedented constitutional crisis, which undermines civil society and socio-economic development worldwide. [pics] Frederick Bennett John A Clarke Jacqueline Connor Court Counsel Clerk of the Court California Judge Kobe, Japan, August 8, 2011 - expanding on a submission, which was incorporate into the United Nations 2010 Human Rights Council report, Joseph Zernik, PhD, of Human Rights Alert (NGO) presented in the 16th World Criminology Congress evidence that the Los Angeles Superior Court has been operating as a crime organization - the LA-JR (Los Angeles Judiciary Racket) - for at least a couple of decades. [] The Los Angeles Superior Court: * Is the largest county court in the US (>400 judges), serving over 10 million residents * Was the center of the largest court corruption case in the history of the US - the [i]Rampart Scandal (1998-2000s) The presentation provided quotes from government, expert, and media reports regarding corruption of the Los Angeles court, as well as detailed evidence that LA-JR is patronized by both the US courts and the US Department of Justice. Such ties were best documented in the perversion of the habeas corpus of the former US prosecutor Richard Fine. He was falsely imprisoned for 18 months (2009-10) in solitary confinement, after exposing widespread corruption of judges of the Court, under fraudulent arrest and booking records. The records stated that he was arrested on location and by authority of the non-existent "Municipal Court of San Pedro". [[ii]] The presentation suggested that origins of current conditions in Los Angeles County are in the decade-long drug trafficking by federal agencies to Los Angeles County (~1982-1992), [[iii]] which left such agencies not ready, willing, able to address corruption of the California justice agencies. Regardless of recommendation by the Blue Ribbon Review Panel Report (2006) that external investigation of the Court be instituted, no such investigation has been conducted to this date. In the 80's and 90's the LA-JR was involved in control of drug markets and large-scale false imprisonment. Today, the LA-JR is primarily involved in financial institution, real estate and foreclosure fraud. Close ties were documented of the LA-JR, the Los Angeles-based Countrywide, and later Bank of America. [[iv]] Accordingly, Los Angeles County is one of the hardest hit areas under the current financial crisis. A proposed organizational chart of the LA-JR [[v]] suggested that key figures are: Court Counsel Frederick Bennett, who operates secretive corporations controlled by the LA-JR; Court Clerk John A Clarke, who oversees the large-scale fraud in court records, and California Judge Jacqueline Connor, who was central to the Rampart corruption scandal and its cover-up. Combined with matching presentation regarding corruption of the US courts, [[vi]] the role of the courts in the current financial crisis, the main subject of the World Criminology Congress was highlighted. The presentations proposed that the United States has entered an unprecedented constitutional crisis, in which the executive and the legislative branches are undermined by the judiciary. The crisis is highlighted by unprecedented deprivation of life, liberty and property with no due process of law. [[vii]] Recent conduct of the Supreme Court, which blocked access to the US courts in a wide range of cases, [[viii]] and immunity provided to financial institutions for large-scale criminality against the People in return for "settlements" paid to the US government, [[ix]] were compared to the Robber Baron Era, where the Robber Barons were immune from prosecution. Accordingly, it was proposed that the current financial crisis is unlikely to be alleviated unless corruption of the justice system in the United States is addressed, and that the United States faces an increasing risk of social unrest. Conditions in the United States were pointed out as central to destabilization of civil society and socio-economic development worldwide. LINKS [i] 11-08-01 Zernik, J: Los Angeles Superior Court - widespread corruption and refusal of US government to take action, 16th World Criminology Congress presentation 11-01-07 Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California: Widespread Public Corruption and Refusal of US Department of Justice to Take Action [ii] 11-04-23 Habeas Corpus in the United States - the case of Richard Isaac Fine [iii] 97-12-00 US Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, December 1997 Special Report: CIA Drug Trafficking to Los Angeles, California s [iv] 10-05-05 Countrywide, Bank of America [NYSE:BAC], and its President Brian Moynihan: Compilation of Records, Evidence of Racketeering 10-05-05 Chairs of US Congress Committees of the Judiciary and Banking are Requested to Join Senator Feinstein's Inquiries on Comptroller of the Currency 11-03-20 PRESS RELEASE: Lomas v Bank of America (KC059379) - Bank of America Continues Racketeering in the Los Angeles Superior Court- [v] 10-10-15 Proposed Organizational Chart of the LA-JR (alleged Los Angeles Judiciary Racket) [vi] 11-08-01 Zernik, J: Fraud and corruption in the US courts is tightly linked to failing banking regulation and the financial crisis, 16th World Criminology Congress presentation [vii] 11-06-14 Corruption of the Courts and Failing Banking Regulation in the United States: Dred Scott redux? [viii] 11-07-06 Chemerinsky, Erwin: the Supreme Court Closes the Door to Justice, Los Angeles Times [ix] 11-07-21 Banks to Pay $25 Billion Bribe for Immunity _Information Clearing House_ ICH

Nov. 3, 2012, 4:00:21 pm

cimmereo said...

"People are looking for deep pockets and are staying sick longer because they might get more money" Really?! It appears that Ms Connor thinks that all Plaintiffs fall into the Romney-defined 47%. Good riddance to Ms Connor.

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