A few years ago, I was involved in an extended bit of litigation before Judge Herbert Barall, and he made the comment in open court stating, "I am God." Being a fairly scrupulous litigant, I then purchased the transcript of that hearing in the hope that I could get that interesting remark memorialized on paper. However, when I received a copy of the transcript it had been excised from the record of the hearing.
A similar situation occurred when I was in a hearing with Judge Constance Epstein who very memorably presided over my divorce and denied me some of my most basic constitutional rights.
One of my attorneys lied in order to wiggle his way out of representing me because I had run out of the money necessary to pay his fee and Judge Epstein gave him free rein to do so. Of course, as we all know, without any money you are highly unlikely to be able to hire another attorney, so I asked her, "How am I going to hire another attorney. I don't have any more money." Judge Epstein responded, "Go get it where you got it before."
Again, I purchased the transcript in order to capture that lovely piece of advice, but again, it has been excised from the record of the hearing. This is why litigants such as myself are beginning to put considerable pressure on the CT Judicial Branch to provide us, upon request, with copies of the audiorecordings of the legal proceedings in which we take part.
If Judges are going to make outrageous remarks, if they are going to berate us, harass and threaten us, or otherwise humiliate or demean us, we want that on the record so these judges can be held to account, and we would like access to that record.
Naturally, we are facing considerable opposition in this regard. Recently, the "Connecticut Law Tribune" reported, or rather publically mocked (which makes sense since it is the tool of the CT Bar Association) Connecticut citizen, Adam McNiece, who is suing the Connecticut Judicial Branch for refusing to provide him with audiorecordings which he needs in order to obtain equal access to legal proceedings based upon his disability of migraine headaches.
At this point, I am not sure if this litigation is justified on either side, and I will tell you why. There are three ways in which audiorecordings become important. They are important as the official record of what took place in court. The parties in the case, as well as judges when they make their decisions, can cite this official record, the audiorecordings, in making an argument in support of their positions.
Then there are non-official audiorecordings of legal proceedings which do not make up the official record. These can be produced by members of the media in support of their note taking, and they can also be produced, based upon 1-10b of the CT Practice Book 2015, with advanced permission by a judge, by members of the public, also for note taking purposes.
I am assuming that this section of the Practice Book allows any of the parties to ask permission also to make his or her own audiorecordings, but again those would be for note taking purposes only and could not be quoted as part of the official record.
My question is, when Mr. McNiece submitted his request for the audiorecordings of the legal proceedings in his case, was he asking for the official record or was he asking for the opportunity to make his own audiorecordings? My best guess is that like many Judicial Branch litigants, Mr. McNiece was not informed of the fact that he could ask the judge for the opportunity to make his own unofficial audiorecordings of the proceedings according to the Practice Book rules.
Plus, because the court officials who handle the requests for ADA modifications are so hostile to the implementation of the ADA and won't provide any more information than they have to, in violation of the obligation to provide an interactive process, it is highly unlikely that they informed Mr. McNiece that this was an option.
You would think they would want to be as cooperative as possible, simply to avoid the kind of litigation that Mr. Adam McNiece has now engaged the CT Judicial Branch in, but this is not the case. The CT Judicial Branch is so adamantly opposed to the implementation of the ADA, that it will literally invite litigation and obstruct the ADA whenever possible, even when there are very simple solutions to the issues that litigants with disabilities approach them with.
Of course, I see that the CT Judicial Branch has this negative attitude towards the ADA, and in the minds of court officials this might justify inviting litigation against the Judicial Branch. On the other hand, what this means in real terms is that we, the Connecticut taxpayers, are forced to pay for their intransigence by financially supporting all of the litigation!
Now, the reason, ostensibly, that court officials are saying litigants shouldn't have access to the audiorecordings of legal proceedings is because we might cut and paste them or in some way alter them to bring embarrassment down upon the Connecticut Judicial Branch and its employees. But the reality is that the only folks that have done this so far are the Connecticut Judicial Branch's employees themselves. So what this pretty much adds up to is the kettle calling the shiny pot black contrary to the evidence.
The Connecticut Judicial Branch wants to reserve the right to alter the record as it pleases, but it will be darned if litigants or members of the public do the same thing.
Of course, I am not clear that the public has ever done such a thing, whereas there is clear evidence that employees of the Connecticut Judicial Branch have indeed altered the official record somewhere along the way as the contents of the audiorecordings have been translated into transcripts.
The bottom line is that this website exists, as does many others, because people such as me have been denied our constitutional rights in court. We have seen court procedures subverted, witnesses improperly barred from coming to court to provide their testimony and seen evidence used against us that was created by fraud. We have seen GALs, attorneys, and judges conspire against us, and as a consequence we believe the system to be completely corrupt.
The only way to combat that corruption is to make sure that the courts throughout the State of Connecticut are open and transparent. The only way you can do that is to make audiorecordings fully available to citizens of the State of Connecticut who request them. In fact, most of us are convinced that it will not just require open access to audiorecordings--the time is going to come when videocameras must become omnipresent in all courtrooms.
Members of the audiorecording subcommittee expressed concern about such access exposing vulnerable populations to scrutiny, for example, juveniles and victims of sexual crimes. In those cases, I can see that the Court might wish to reserve the option to restrict audiorecordings of such proceedings to the parties in the case, or to individual members of the media who agree to restrict their use of such recordings to making sure their notes are accurate. Nonetheless, we all know anyway that in the majority of cases most of the people requesting audiorecordings are going to be the parties in the action. Most court actions just aren't that interesting except to the people involved in them.
Other than that, the only people who have objected to providing those audiorecordings are court reporters who have ulterior motives since they currently charge litigants thousands and thousands of dollars for transcripts of those recordings. So what matters more? The greed of court reporters or the citizens of the State of Connecticut who pay their salaries and still have to pay extra for court transcripts.
In contrast, audiorecordings shouldn't cost more than the cost of the disk which is what--five dollars or so?
The reason we have such corruption in the courts throughout the State of Connecticut is because there is so little accountability. Audiorecordings provide a considerable amount of that accountability. For anyone in the State of Connecticut who is concerned about justice, who might conceivably one day end up being the focus of a legal proceeding, your access to these audiorecordings is essential to preserving your legal and constitutional rights. Media members of the subcommittee on audiorecordings expressed their view that these audiorecordings are inherently the property of the general public. I absolutely agree to that sentiment and so should anyone who is concerned about fairness and justice in courts throughout the State of Connecticut.