Thursday, February 14, 2008

Part II: Why is Doug Butts auditing Judge Rodney S. Page?

By Doug Butts

My name is Doug Butts and for the last year I have been spending my free time compiling an audit on Second District Court Judge Rodney S. Page. One might ask why anyone would take on such a project, and I will answer that question in a future post, but for now I would like you to know that this audit, when finished, will contain almost a thousand pages of evidence that will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Judge Rodney S. Page legislates from the bench.

The evidence and examples compiled in my audit were taken from approximately 3500 domestic cases involving children between the years 1995 and 2006. From those cases 366 were ruled on by Judge Rodney Page. Of those 366 cases Judge Page correctly applied the statutes in question 315 times. In the other 51 cases Judge Page ignored the statues on the books. One might argue that a judge can rule anyway they see fit, but the law is very clear that judges are governed by statute to apply the law, or be held accountable. Statute 78-8-103 1( c ), and Canon 3b(2) reads as follows:

78-8-103 1( c ) Willful and persistent failure to perform judicial duties.

Canon 3b(2) A judges shall apply the law and maintain professional competence. A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.

The following statutes have been on the books since 1995 and yet twelve years later Judge Page is still changing them at will, without any accountability.

78-45-7.15(3) The order shall require each parent to share equally the out-of-pocket costs of the premium actually paid by the parent for the children’s portion of insurance.

78-45-7.15(6) The order shall require each parent to share equally all reasonable and necessary uninsured medical expenses, including deductibles and co-payments, incurred for the dependent children.

78-45-7.16(1) The child support order shall require that each parent share equally the reasonable work-related child care expenses of the parents.

These are the statutes on the books and unless Judge Page doesn’t know how to add the law says, "equal", which does not mean one party pays one-third of the cost while the other pays two-thirds, or even 100% of the cost. Isn’t it clear that the two parties involved are legally bound to share the cost equally which means a 50/50 split? I think it‘s pretty clear, that is unless you don’t know how to add.

Let’s say I told you that the judge who was going to make a ruling on your case only applied the law correctly 98% of the time, or even 95% of the time on statutes that are very clear. Would you have confidence in that Judge? What if I told you that you had a ten percent chance that your judge would not apply the law correctly possibly resulting in a appeal that could cost you anywhere from ten to forty thousand unnecessary dollars, or more, depending on your personal situation? Would you want to take that chance? In my audit I discovered that Judge Page rules correctly about 86% of the time.

Is this a red flag? You bet it is.

Here is another interesting fact that I discovered during my audit. From 1995 to 2006 my search of appellate court cases in the Second District showed that Judge Page had almost twice as many cases as his colleagues in the same time period. In addition, those results showed men almost always had to pay all, or a higher percentage of the attorneys fees as compared to those cases where Judge Page applied the statutes correctly.

Like most branches of government our court systems are paid for by our tax dollars. We have a state auditor, and county auditors, so why is it that we don’t have a judicial auditor? Why is it that every other form of government is subject to an audit and accountability, but not our judicial branch? It’s true that we can vote a judge out, but that rarely happens except in extreme cases, and that quite frankly doesn't help insure justice. I believe that most judges are honest people, but I also believe that a lack of accountability is why Judge Rodney Page only gets it right 86% of the time, and that’s just on the few statutes I covered in my audit. Since we seem to hold judges to a higher standard shouldn’t we expect them to follow the law and not legislate from the bench?

If this audit does anything I hope it helps others to not have to go through the additional loss of time, money, and emotional stress caused by an unnecessary appeal. It seems that my only course of action is to attempt to have Judge Page removed from the bench, but if judges were audited, and held accountable, people would have a greater confidence in government as a whole, and I wouldn't have to go to such extreme measures to make sure that Judge Rodney S. Page, or any other judge doesn't harm your family due to a lack of accountability.


Oldenburg said...

Again, I am going to say that I still think by in large, the judicial retention system works well as is.

Mr. Butts is well within his rights to convince voters that Judge Page should not be retained. If he wanted to address his personal concerns about his own cases, he should contact an attorney to seek an appeal or maybe a civil suit against the judge. Or he could contact Sen. Buttars et al and hold hearings on the matter.

The last post on this topic got nasty and fast, including an anonymous poster who called me an idiot even though it is pretty clear the commenter doesn't know the first thing about the law.

Again, if the statute is so obviously misapplied, then an appeal should be easy (and you get the losing side to pay your attorney fees and costs if you win on appeal).

I am not going to get into the business of giving Mr. Butts legal advice, because it is unethical and unwise. If collecting piles of data makes him feel better, that's great, but if he wants to do something about it, I would suggest he contact his legislators and an attorney (and maybe a financial planner).

But to the heart of your post, I really disagree with your that we need an auditor for state judges. They are accountable via appeals, the judicial council, the legislature (embarressing hearings, changing the laws etc.), and retention elections.

Thad said...

My first thought on this, is that it sounds like Person A is upset because Judge Page has ordered Person A to pay 100% of insurance. If Person A were still married in a household where only Person A works, Person A would be paying 100% of insurance.

Anonymous said...

I can see why Mr. Butts is doing this. Why should citizens have to spend their money appealing a ruling if a judge has not followed a statute? Citizens should expect judges to follow the rules each time and not need to waste their own money and court time in needless appeals.

Anonymous said...

“We have a state auditor, and county auditors, so why is it that we don’t have a judicial auditor?”

Please don’t miss-understand what I’m about to say; I really believe you are doing a great public service.

But, the reason we do not have judicial auditors is that we have courts of appeal which are acceptable remedies for all parities.

Anonymous said...

The appeals process is lengthly and expensive. Why can't the judges just follow the law? Can anyone offer a reasonable, inteligent reason why a judge would deviate from such a simple statute? Maybe I’m missing something, but it doesn’t seem like the particular statute leaves any room for interpretation. If we can't count on a judge to follow the law, why do we have a legislature? Judges should be held accountible, just like everyone else is in their job. If they are not audited, then how do we know that they are following the law? Do we not expect judges to follow to law?

WatchUtahJudges said...

I have given the appeals question some thought. I could say a lot of about this having gone through the process myself and know first hand the trauma, cost.. etc associated with it and my family.

Personally I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy…

My answer is this:
Tell that to someone who barely has money for food let alone fight to see his children.

Tell that to someone who has to live in an RV on the corner parking lot.

Tell that to someone who had to get up in the middle of the night RV propane runs out, zero degrees outside dumping his sewage at Flying J, with his children still in the RV.

Tell that to someone who's ex wife says they can do what they want because the judge will always rule in their favor no matter what they do. So they have to end up calling the police to get their children.

Yup, the system works just appeal.. Don't try and make the system better and let the poor sap in the RV and his kids suffer because some rich guy said they should appeal.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? the solution to judges legislating from the bench is the appeals process? Come on! The appeals process, if after thousands of dollars spent and countless hours, is succesful, only reverses a judges decision it does nothing to audit a judges conduct on any level. Has any judge ever been disaplined after losing an appeal? The only thing the appeals process benefits is to line the pockets of money hungry lawyers and what ultimately keeps some of them in business.