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Above the Law

Crooked L.A. Judges Try to Slide Marina Del Rey Project By: Residents Await Courts To Stop Developers From "Sprucing"

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Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 3:30 PM

click to enlarge L.A. County Judges don't like illegal bonuses pointed out
  • L.A. County Judges don't like illegal bonuses pointed out
As reported yesterday through very rose colored glasses by the L.A. Times, Marina Del Rey is in a process of "renewal." "Leaseholder Jerry Epstein will raze his 202-unit Del Rey Shores apartment community on Via Marina and replace it with a 544-unit complex in fewer, taller buildings, that will be called simply Shores."

The Times forgot to mention this detail: The residents of Marina Del Rey vehemently oppose this method of "sprucing up." And they fought it in court - only to have the attorney representing them taken down by a judge being bribed by the County - the County is partner with the marina developer.

Now L.A. judges (who have all accepted illegal bonuses from the County) are throwing around the follow up case like a hot potato:

State Superior Court Judges in L.A. County have been accepting massive illegal bonuses from the county since the 80s. The law states that judges cannot accept money other than from their employer - which in this case, is the state.

The people of Marina Del Rey sought former U.S. Prosecutor Richard Fine to represent them against the developer behind "sprucing up" their neighborhood in a way very unwelcomed by the community:

Fine pointed out that the judge overseeing the case, Judge David Yaffe, had accepted $850,000 in illegal bonus money from L.A. County. And the county is a partner of Del Rey Shores.

Fine found himself behind bars, in solitary coercive confinement, for 18 months. Yaffe's method to get him there? He slapped a $46,000 fine on Fine for filing a notice to the court one day late. Although the fine is legal, it actually isn't:

Fine had miscalculated the days, due to a holiday: Forgiveness for unintended error is the law. But the court used this as an opportunity to smear Fine - posing him as a debtor.

Fine refused to pay the sum, refused to disclose his personal assets and was told he was in contempt of court.

Fine had been disbarred during this process -- while the developer's attorney was serving as president of the State Bar Association.

Full Disclosure got wind of the incident and was able to interview Fine at the courthouse, before he went to jail. This gave much needed exposure to what was going on.

The very judge that had been responsible for locking Fine up, Judge Yaffe, ultimately was the one who released Fine.

Back in 2008 during Fine's contempt trial, Judge Yaffe testified in court -- in a very unusual situation: while he was sitting on the bench and testifying as a witness at the same time. He testified that he accepted payments from L.A. County, is not under contract with L.A. County and is not employed by L.A. County in any way.

In his release order to free Fine, he made a rather astonishing admittance:

"By keeping him [Fine] incarcerated for 18 months, the court has deterred others from defying its orders ..."

Yaffe then resigned from office before his term was over.

"I did disqualify him," Fine says of Yaffe. "And he didn't get off the bench. He stayed on even though he was disqualified, so he broke the law. That means everything he did in that case was void and null."

Which means there should legally be no "sprucing up" by Del Rey Shores quite yet in Marina Del Rey.

March 10, Dr. Fine headed back to court to continue his struggle to nullify and void all of Judge Yaffey's rulings. Other L.A. County Judges are afraid to touch it, as they are all guilty of the same bribe taking. The case is being handed off like a hot potato - five judges have refused to give him a hearing.

They are all afraid to meet the fate that Yaffe did.

Contact Mars Melnicoff at mmelnicoff@laweekly.com / follow @marsmelnicoff

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