I have had many clients come to me and say, either jokingly or for real, can’t I pay someone to “take care of this?” I always laughingly say, “This isn’t Chicago with Al Capone and gangsters running the courts”. Apparently, I was wrong. At least 600 cases involving traffic citations, DUI arrests, and other assorted cases being “fixed” are being investigated in the Orange County court system.
Many defendants in Orange County are being called into court to explain how their cases were either dismissed, fines suspended, charges reduced, or otherwise resolved all without anyone actually appearing on their matters. The answer appears to be that a clerk in a supervisorial position in the Orange County court entered into the record fraudulent transactions resolving the cases in return for lots of money.
From many defendants’ point of view the idea of paying someone to handle their case is in line with their cultural beliefs. Many in our community have recently immigrated from countries where paying money to government officials to resolve their matters without going to court is a way of life. Coming to the United States and continuing that practice is not something that is seen as criminal but is a normal manner of dealing with the government. A large segment of the community is not educated in the law and as long as they don’t have to go to court and face a judge, paying more than would be required to a third party is a small price to pay.
With the court unraveling the hundreds of cases that the criminally minded clerk touched, all those defendants have to revisit old cases that have been long closed. The advantage for them is that when cases date back years the likelihood of successful prosecution for minor offenses is small. So, in the end, while the defendants may have paid someone to “handle” their cases in the beginning, resolving them now may be easier than it would have been had they gone to court originally.
One complication for these defendants is that they are now being targeted by the FBI for possible prosecution for Federal crimes of corruption. However, it would appear all these defendants would be much more valuable as witnesses than defendants in a Federal corruption case. In fact, to prosecute them Federally may very well perpetuate the fear in the immigrant community of the government. Time will tell but it appears likely that these folks who took advantage of an offer to have their cases “handled” by the truly criminal clerk will end up paying not only the clerk but the court too.