Corruption is rampant in the U.S. legal system. As we mention in our book, Stack the Legal Odds in Your Favor: Understand America's Corrupt Judicial System—Protect Yourself Now and Boost Chances of Winning Cases Later, it would take at least a multi-volume series of tomes to cover all cases in U.S. history. Last month, the Orange County Register brought to light one instance of the widespread corruption by publishing an article about an Orange County Superior Court clerk who ran an illegal network that collected bribes to fix more than 1,000 traffic cases over a five-year period. Federal prosecutors say Jose Lopez Jr. turned ticket-fixing into a profitable side business during an otherwise unblemished career as an Orange County Superior Court clerk. Sadly, stories such as this one are just the tip of the iceberg with respect to exposing unbelievable tales of corruption that span the entire system from local courts to the United States Supreme Court.
Some of the cases in which Jose Lopez Jr. accepted bribes for the purpose of altering their outcomes involved drunk driving, which is a serious crime. As a result, the individuals charged were not held accountable for their actions. The consequences of this clerk's even more serious crime effectively made the roads less safe and tarnished the reputation of the local courthouse. When the integrity of our judicial system is compromised in such a fraudulent manner, it's easy to see why many doubt its fairness.
Federal agents also arrested ten of Lopez’s eleven alleged recruiters-people who worked outside of the courthouse to spread the word that, for a price, tickets processed in Orange County Superior Court could be manipulated in the driver’s favor. Prosecutors believe that hundreds of people avoided jail time, paid lower fees, or otherwise received lesser punishment after Lopez tampered with electronic files while working as a clerk. In the indictment, Lopez and his alleged recruiters were charged with participating in a conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The charges carry a maximum sentence of twenty years in federal prison. Lopez was also charged with bribery and money laundering, which carry a maximum of thirty years in prison, prosecutors said.
Whether he or his co-conspirators are convicted or serve any jail time remains to be seen. Certainly, the mainstream media has neglected to mention one thing. If Lopez had strong enough political connections, investigators may have turned a blind eye to this crime ring. Furthermore, it's quite likely that similar schemes are occurring right now in other courts across America either undetected or willfully ignored. Because there are so few checks and balances within the system itself, this is one reason that corruption is systemic.
This recent story about a local Orange County clerk is only one example that gives the public an insider perspective on the depth of the corruption in the American judiciary. There are, however, various ways to curb it. We need to strengthen whistle blower laws to protect anyone who reports misconduct in the legal system. Those who work within the justice system have a bird’s eye view of what’s going on.
However, there is a reasonable perception that people who speak up will be retaliated against or harshly accused of seeking revenge for some other act. Everyone in this country should be concerned about trying to silence anyone who has the courage to report a corrupt judge or clerk. Additional ways to fight corruption, some more idealistic than others, include eliminating many of our wildly excessive laws, eradicating prosecutorial and judicial immunity, composing lawyer and judge overseeing bodies of mostly lay people instead of mostly lawyers and judges, and creating a parallel and equal competitor to our current judicial system-all of which we mention in our book and more.