Wednesday, July 19, 2006
House Moves Toward Impeaching Judge Manuel Real
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis, filed a resolution yesterday which could lead to the impeachment of Manuel L. Real, U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California.
Real, 82, allegedly seized control of a bankruptcy case involving a defendant he knew, then allowed the defendant to live rent-free for years in a house she’d been ordered to vacate.
Sensenbrenner said in a statement:
“When the judicial branch has failed to address serious allegations of judicial misconduct, as the Ninth Circuit arguably has in this matter, the Constitution provides the Congress only one course of action: opening an impeachment inquiry.”
The congressman apparently was referring the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council’s decision last October to end its inquiry into a complaint filed against Real regarding the bankruptcy case, and the Judicial Council of the United States’ 3-2 decision in April that it could not sanction Real because Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder did not properly investigate the complaint.
Rush to Judgment
Real’s attorney, Donald Smaltz of Spiegel, Liao & Kagay in Rancho Palos Verdes, condemned Sensenbrenner’s resolution as “an obvious rush to judgment” and described Real’s record of public service as “unblemished and exemplary.”
Smaltz responded, “Damn right,” when asked by the MetNews if Real was surprised by the resolution, adding that Real was given no advance notice of it.
“We look forward to these proceedings and are confident that they will demonstrate overwhelmingly that Judge Real has committed no criminal violations and that there is absolutely no basis for this inquiry whatsoever,” he said.
The allegations against Real arise out of the bankruptcy case of Deborah M. Canter, the estranged wife of an owner of Canter’s Deli in the Fairfax District.
Real placed Canter on probation in 1999 after she pled guilty to loan fraud and making false statements under oath. One of the conditions of probation was that Canter and her probation officer meet personally with Real every four months.
Canter and her husband Gary had separated two months before the plea, and Gary Canter had moved out of the family’s Los Angeles home, which was owned by a trust set up by his parents. Deborah Canter continued to live in the home, but did not pay rent to the trust, which sued to evict her.
Deborah Canter filed for bankruptcy on the day of trial, thereby temporarily halting her eviction. She later agreed to move out, but just days before her scheduled departure, she sent a letter to Real asking for his assistance in keeping her in the house.
Real denied ever receiving the letter. But he subsequently exercised his statutory authority to assume jurisdiction over Canter’s bankruptcy case, which had been assigned to Bankruptcy Judge Alan Ahart, and reinstated the previous order staying the eviction.
After the Canter Family Trust appealed, the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that Real lacked good cause for taking control of the case and re-imposing the stay.
Soon after the ruling, Deborah Canter and the Canter Family Trust settled, and she moved out of the house.
Venice civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman, who has been feuding with Real for years, then filed a complaint against the judge under the Judicial Council Reform and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980. The act allowed Yagman, who once accused Real of suffering from “mental disorders,” to file a complaint regarding the judge’s actions in Canter’s bankruptcy case, even though Yagman played no part in those proceedings.
Yagman, who earlier this month pled not guilty to federal charges of tax evasion, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud and awaits an August trial, accused Real of having placed a “comely” defendant on probation “to himself, personally” and of having taken over her bankruptcy case because he wanted to “benefit an attractive female.”
The majority on the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council accepted Real’s acknowledgment that he should have explained his reasons for taking jurisdiction over the bankruptcy and staying the eviction, and his assurance that “[h]e does not believe that any similar situation will occur in the future.” It explained that the purpose of the statute is not to punish judges, but to assure the fair administration of the laws.
Federal judges, who are appointed for life, are subject to the same type of impeachment proceedings for “high crimes and misdemeanors” as presidents: if impeached by a majority vote of the House of Representatives, a trial would take place in the Senate, which could remove the judge from office by a two-thirds vote.
Thirteen federal judges have been impeached over the years, according to the Federal Judicial Center. The first was in 1803, when John Pickering, serving in the District of New Hampshire, was impeached on charges of mental instability and intoxication on the bench.
Most recently, Alcee L. Hastings of the Southern District of Florida was impeached in 1989 on charges of perjury and conspiring to solicit a bribe. The same year, Walter L. Nixon of the Southern District of Mississippi was impeached on perjury charges. Both were convicted by the Senate and removed from office.
Hastings is now a Democratic congressman from Florida.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company