Sacramento Bar Association Officer Repeatedly Violates State Law, Attorney Ethics Rules - Maintains Clean Bar Record
Whistleblower leaked records from a Sacramento Family Court case indicate that criminal acts were committed by family law attorney and temporary judge Paula Salinger against an indigent, unrepresented, pro per family court party. The pro per was a victim and witness in a family court criminal contempt case filed against a Salinger client, and the pro per also is a domestic violence victim, according to court records. Family court reform advocates say the case is another example of the complete lack of oversight and accountability of attorneys who engage in egregious misconduct against disadvantaged, pro per litigants who can't afford legal representation.
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As Sacramento Family Court News previously reported, Salinger has been caught in several scandals including filing counterfeit documents in court, violating state laws and court rules, illegally attempting to obtain a final divorce judgment while an appeal in the same case was pending, and obtaining a questionable waiver of the requirements to become a temporary judge. Salinger also obtained from controversial Judge Matthew Gary an illegal order for more than $10,000 in attorney fee sanctions against the same contempt and domestic violence victim.
To benefit Salinger, Gary also illegally attempted to use fee waiver law to obstruct an appeal of several orders he issued for Salinger in the same case. Salinger's firm, Woodruff, O'Hair, Posner & Salinger Inc., previously was sued for legal malpractice in a case alleging more than $1 million in damages. The new, criminal allegations first surfaced last month on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, where several posts linked to supporting documents posted at Docstoc and Calameo. Due to the serious nature of the claims, SFCN did not report on the assertions pending authentication of the records. SFCN has now verified the accuracy of the documents and posted the complete set at our Scribd account. The Scribd document set is embedded below.
Obstruction of JusticeThe records indicate that Paula Salinger, a Sacramento County Superior Court sworn temporary judge and officer of the Sacramento Bar Association Family Law Executive Committee violated California Penal Code sections prohibiting witness intimidation and deceit of a witness. Under California law, both offenses are designated as obstruction of justice crimes. The circumstances also reveal new collusion between Salinger and Judge Matthew Gary. As reflected by page one of the document set, at an unrelated court hearing held three weeks before the date calendared for the contempt case, in open court Gary disclosed to Salinger that he would deny the contempt claims, even though Salinger had yet to file a response to the contempt pleading. Gary’s prejudgment of the contempt matter was a clear violation of the California Code of Judicial Ethics, the state laws governing judge conduct.
The state Commission on Judicial Performance has publicly disciplined several judges for “acting in a way that manifested prejudgment…A trial judge should not prejudge the issues but should keep an open mind until all the evidence is presented to him.” In one CJP judicial discipline case, Judge Bruce Van Voorhis was disciplined for creating "the appearance of prejudgment in your discussion of the case in open court by improperly predicting the outcome of the case," according to CJP records. Click here for a compilation of CJP disciplinary decisions about prejudgment. Salinger then used the judge's unlawful disclosure in a threatening letter to the unrepresented opposing party:
"As the court indicated at the hearing on October 27, 2010, your Order to Show Case (sic) Re: Contempt does not contain sufficient factual basis to sustain the contempt. At the hearing on November 17, 2010, I intend to request the court dismiss the matter and order sanctions pursuant to Family Code section 271 for proceeding with the contempt...Should you provide written proof (a copy of a confirming letter to the court) by Monday, November 1, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. that the above matters have been dropped, I shall withdraw my requests for sanctions pursuant to FC § 271," Salinger wrote in a letter to the contempt victim and witness. Page one of the document set below is an authenticated copy of the threatening letter.
|State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim has been |
criticized for not enforcing state attorney ethics laws
against lawyers - like Paula Salinger - for misconduct
against pro per litigants.
As page one of the document set reflects, Salinger illegally threatened the victim and witness with financial harm in the form of attorney fee sanctions if they did not drop the criminal contempt case. As page three and four reflect, Salinger concurrently filed an illegal responsive declaration in the contempt case with a demand for $1,000 in attorney fee sanctions against the contempt victim and witness.
As the page two legal reference reflects, under California law the response to a contempt allegation may only be used to answer the contempt charge, or move to discharge the contempt on appropriate grounds. Requesting "affirmative relief," including attorney fee sanctions, in response to a contempt allegation is prohibited by law. As page five of the document set shows, Salinger's threat coerced the victim and witness to drop the contempt matter.
Witness Tampering LawAs reflected by pages 6-16 of the document set below, Penal Code §133 makes it a crime to use fraud or deceit to affect the testimony of a victim or witness. Penal Code §§136.1(a) & (b) make it a crime to maliciously prevent or discourage a witness or victim from giving testimony at a judicial proceeding. Salinger has not been charged with either crime, disciplined by the State Bar, Supreme Court or Judicial Council, or otherwise held accountable for the misconduct. Pro per advocates call the absence of accountability more proof that attorneys are effectively immune from punishment for egregious misconduct against unrepresented pro pers who can't afford a lawyer, and make up 70 percent of family court litigants.
Civil law statutes, including wrongful use of civil proceedings, and abuse of process may also apply to Salinger's lawbreaking acts. In addition, an attorney who intentionally deceives a party to a court case is subject to misdemeanor criminal prosecution under Business and Professions Code § 6128.
Family court reform advocates say the latest revelations are additional proof that the court operates effectively as a racketeering enterprise that deprives the public of the federally protected right to honest government services. Court watchdogs assert and have documented that judge pro tem attorneys receive kickbacks in the form of rubber-stamped orders and other preferential treatment from family court judges and employees. The divorce lawyers who also hold the Office of Temporary Judge operate the family court settlement conference program in exchange for the kickbacks and emoluments, watchdogs charge.
California Penal Code § 94 makes receipt of an emolument by a judicial officer a crime, and several federal criminal statutes prohibit similar conduct. The 2014 documentary film Divorce Corp designates Sacramento Family Court as the most corrupt in the United States. For our complete coverage of the movie, click here. Click to visit Sacramento Family Court News on: Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Scribd, Vimeo, and Twitter. For additional reporting on the people and issues in this post, click the corresponding labels below the document set: