By: R.S. Errol
Monterey County, California – Eugene Forte’s struggle for justice from the Monterey County Superior Court continues for more than five years. Mere mortals would capitulate to the beating and lick their wounds, all the time hating themselves for running from a fight. Forte, apparently, is another breed of cat that in spite of being handed defeat after defeat at the hand of the Monterey Judiciary he seems to gain strength and solace knowing that he is exposing the demons with every adverse ruling. Judge Robert O’Farrell continues to block Forte’s every move or seems to be at least instrumental in the orchestration of the cabal against him. An example of this treatment by O’Farrell is James Cook being allowed to ignore the local rule of meeting and conferring with Forte on exhibits because Forte would make further accusations against Cook. Poor baby!
Two months ago we briefly discussed Stephanie Crabb’s, of Alain Pinel Realty, complicity in this case as the person representing Gene in the purchase of the Powell property. Due to her alleged malpractice in neglecting to inform Forte of a deadline to release the contingencies in the real estate contract, she provided the Powell’s a reason to cancel the deal at the expense of Forte. Gene has proof that Crabb perjured herself and he accused her attorney, Dennis McCarthy with suborning perjury. Larry Lichtenegger tries to convince Gene that he should lose this evidence (taped conversations) because there could be serious repercussions against Forte. In a telephone conversation transcript between the two, Gene refuses to destroy the tapes because they revealed the truth. Forte’s question is; why would an attorney suggest to his client to hide to truth, especially since it would help the client? Was Lichtenegger in ex-parte communications with the defense attorney, Dennis McCarthy (Ex Parte according to Black’s Law 6th Edition. “On one side only; by or for one party; done for, in behalf of, or on the application of, one party only.”)? In addition Lichtenegger refused to subpoena key witnesses including Ms. Crabb in a timely fashion so that her sworn and alleged perjured affidavit could be impeached in the courtroom. Due to this negligence the false affidavit was read into the record as fact. Crabb’s role in Gene’s story will continue, much to the chagrin of two defense attorneys, James Cook and McCarthy, for many months to come.
A year later in March 2002, Forte vs. Loop was scheduled to be heard by Judge Silver after Forte’s peremptory Challenge for Cause was denied by Stanislaus Superior Court Judge William Mayhew. When O’Farrell appears on the bench, Forte asked why Judge Silver was absent, but O’Farrell interrupted him and finally stated that if he felt he should recuse himself, he would. Subsequently O’Farrell takes on the persona of the defendants’ attorney and argues against Forte’s motions that were properly served on the defendants’ as per the suggestion of Judge Silver at an earlier hearing. When Gene comments of the uneven playing field due to O’Farrell’s bias he is given a contempt warning. How dare a commoner question a man in black robes.
In November 2002, Forte filed a motion to compel Lichtenegger to testify at a deposition in the Forte vs. Lichtenegger case. Forte was suing Lichtenegger for both nonfeasance and malfeasance stemming from his antics in sabotaging Gene’s lawsuit against Powell. The hearing was originally scheduled for September 26, 2002, but was continued twice until November 15th at which time Judge O’Farrell suddenly appeared on the bench once again and denied Forte the motion to compel. It is also peculiar that the assignment of judges and the subsequent changes in presiding judges are without “minute orders” in the files of all of Forte’s cases. It is important to remember the key issue in this case is Lichtenegger’s leaked confidential information about the conduct of the Monterey County Superior Court. If he is forced to testify at a deposition this information, that must be suppressed, would show up in court records. Thus, it is imperative that Lichtenegger be silenced through chicanery and judicial deception. Judge Silver was also subpoenaed to testify as to his conversation with Gene’s ex-attorney Jim Rummonds (listen to Rummonds conversation with Forte) when he said, in Rummonds words, Gene had been, “Victimized by a number of attorneys on a number of occasions.” O’Farrell trying to appear neutral assigned this hearing to another judge, but it ended with O’Farrell signing Judge Silver’s Motion to Quash. See no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil seems to be the catch phrase for the hunkering Superior Court.
Lichtenegger files a Motion for Demurrer, thereby hoping to avoid a deposition that could be used by Forte to uncover the abuse that he is being subjected to by the legal establishment as stated above. In early 2003, O’Farrell issued a ruling for the demurrer thereby preventing Lichtenegger from testifying. Very legal and very crafty maneuvering by some cunning scoundrels in robes one would think. Alas, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” one distinguished Monterey resident, John Steinbeck, once said. Going awry happened in these modern times when Forte filed an appeal in California’s Sixth Appellate District and O’Farrell’s ruling on the demurrer was overturned on August 30, 2004. The genie was finally out of the bottle.
Due to a clerical error by Lichtenegger’s staff a letter written by Lichtenegger to Judge Robert O’Farrell ends up in Forte’s documents that were sent to Gene. The opening paragraph is very revealing to the casual observer. “Sometimes integrity can be a fleeting thing. I often think that is the only thing some attorneys have that separates them from what the public often thinks of us…It is one thing to not have the respect of the public, but quite another to lose it to the court.” Is Lichtenegger telling us that integrity can be turned on or off to fit the occasion? Is he inferring that kissing up to a judge takes higher precedence over dealing with the truth and protecting the client? Knowing that this attitude exists in the legal profession is daunting at best.
The most blatant example of judicial misconduct in this writer’s opinion occurred on December 19, 2003, in no other than, O’Farrell’s courtroom. The hearing was for Forte vs. Albov regarding a lawsuit against Michael Albov for malpractice in providing Gene poor advice in his real estate deal with the Powell’s. Up popped Stephanie Crabb’s alleged perjury and the need to subpoena her for deposition in that case. Crabb had her attorney file a motion to quash the deposition which was set to be heard on this date. Forte is happy to find that Judge Michael Fields is assigned to hear the case. A few days later Gene is informed that Judge O’Farrell had assigned himself to hear the case instead. When he asked the clerk the reason for the change he is told that he should ask O’Farrell. For the record Judge Fields had not disqualified himself.
Armed with this knowledge Forte prepared and filed a Peremptory Challenge in accordance with California Civil Procedure section 170.6 to disqualify O’Farrell on a belief of bias. When a 170.6 is filed with the clerk or in open court the judge has no other option but to step down and forgo all efforts to influence the case at hand. However, O’Farrell attempted to start the proceeding when Forte politely interrupts him to ensure that O’Farrell is aware of the peremptory challenge. O’Farrell cuts him off time and time again in a transparent attempt to hear the motion and rule against Forte. Due to his insistence on preventing O’Farrell from running roughshod over him, O’Farrell had Gene arrested, handcuffed and taken to a holding cell. .
After Forte is removed from the courtroom O’Farrell in a blatant display of ex-parte communication tells Crabb’s Attorney Dennis McCarthy the following, “It appears he is desirous of filing a 170.6. I assume that will happen. It will have to be reassigned to another judge, the motion itself. That is not going to happen today.” Judge O’Farrell then proceeds to bring Forte back into the courtroom and adopts the roles of judge, jury and executioner by sentencing him to jail for eight hours, which on its face deprives Forte of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. In addition Forte was remanded to jail that same day without the obligatory three judicial days of a petition for extraordinary relief testing the lawfulness of the court’s order as provided for under CCP 1209 (c). Gene states the following regarding O’Farrell knowing about the 170.6. “At this point in time, for all intent and purposes of Plaintiff, Judge Robert O’Farrell became Mr. Robert O’Farrell, a private citizen.” He did not actually become a private citizen in fact, but his authority over someone who challenged him becomes non existent due to lack of jurisdiction. O’Farrell was obligated to recuse himself and he refused to do so in yet another prejudicial act against Forte.
Now that O’Farrell has openly exposed his hand regarding his bias for Forte, return to this continuing saga next time to hear about Gene’s lawsuit against O’Farrell and how the State of California becomes embroiled in Forte’s efforts for justice in a very antagonistic and threatening way. Take the time to visit: www.usobserver.com and read the entire series of articles on Gene Forte and his continuing battle for justice in the Monterey Superior Court system.