Tuesday, April 27, 2010
U.S. High Court Denies Richard Fine’s Bid for Release
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday denied disbarred Beverly Hills attorney Richard I. Fine’s application for immediate release from custody.
The justices, without comment, rejected Fine’s effort to leave the Los Angeles County Jail, where he has been confined since March of last year. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe ordered the jailing after finding Fine in contempt for refusing to answer questions at a judgment debtor exam.
Fine’s petition for writ of certiorari remains pending. A response is due from the county May 17.
In a statement released on the website of The Full Disclosure Network, an organization supporting Fine, and attributed to a telephone conversation with Fine from jail, the attorney said his jailing violates the precedent established by then-Justice William O. Douglas in ordering the release of reporter William Farr after 46 days in jail.
Farr claimed that his continued imprisonment for refusing to disclose the sources he used for a Los Angeles Herald Examiner story about Charles Manson and his followers violated the First Amendment.
He subsequently won a ruling from this district’s Court of Appeal in In Re Farr, 36 Cal.App.3d 577 (1974), which ordered his release on the basis of the state Constitution.
The court held that a coercive contempt commitment for disobeying a court order becomes punitive, and thus subject to a five-day limit, “where disobedience of the order is based upon an established articulated moral principle” and there is no “substantial likelihood that continued commitment will accomplish the purpose of the order upon which the commitment is based.”
Fine predicted that the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in his favor, but said he “could be in jail [unnecessarily] all the way in to the next term” of the high court, which will run from October of this year to June of next year.
Fine turned to the nation’s highest court after being denied habeas corpus relief by U.S. District Judge John Walter of the Central District of California and by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Fine, 70, contends that he was denied due process and a jury trial when he was jailed. He also claims to be the victim of a vendetta by Los Angeles Superior Court judicial officers based on his litigation of suits in which he challenged Los Angeles County’s payment of benefits to Superior Court judges.
The judgment debtor exam was part of an effort to collect sanctions imposed on Fine by Yaffe in the case of Marina Strand Colony II Homeowners Assn vs. County of Los Angeles, BS109420. Fine has continually argued that Yaffe should have disqualified himself from the outset of the case because he, like apparently every other Los Angeles Superior Court judge, has received benefits from the county over and above his state salary.
Yaffe said the argument was waived because Fine was aware of the payments at least 10 months before he raised the issue.
Fine was a member of the State Bar for 35 years before his disbarment last year for filing a stream of disqualification motions and other papers containing what the State Bar Court found to be false and frivolous charges regarding members of the state bench.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company