The First Amendment to the United States Constitution absolutely guarantees protection to the Press and to whomever, for that matter, decides to investigate, report or simply to render an opinion (within certain, specific boundaries). Especially when that opinion is directed toward questionable practices or more specifically, corrupt practices of elected officials (Judges, Politicians, etc.). While such freedom mostly implies the absence of interference from an overreaching state, its preservation may be sought through constitutional or other legal protections. Moreover, a presiding judge may ONLY follow certain specific statutory guidelines and narrowed discretion even when deciding to limit access to a court of law. Certainly imposing a fine or imprisonment upon a citizen, much less a journalist must also be accompanied by strict scrutiny and adherence to statutory requirements, while absolutely avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.
On January 31, 2012 Judge Lori Christian took matters into her own hands and without hesitation decided to ATTACK this very principle. ABUSE OF POWER is an understatement when it comes to Judge Lori Christian’s actions against father and husband Ronald Reale (the Executive Director of this website and others). This is my story…
THE UNLAWFUL DETENTION/INCARCERATION…
On January 31, 2012 at the Wake County District Courthouse in Raleigh North Carolina I was observing a hearing in Courtroom 9B, Judge Lori Christian presiding. During this time Judge Lori Christian found me to be in contempt of court and ordered that I be detained and held for a period of 48 hours in the county jail for “interrupting the court process.” At that time the Bailiff immediately took me into custody and I spent the next 48 hours in processing and ultimately in lock-down on the fifth floor, in the RED POD of the Wake County Jail for a period of 48 hours.
To be clear, I was NOT officially before the court on this day. Although I have appeared before this judge on several occasions over the past 20 months for various matters, motions, etc., I was strictly an observer following up on a story reported on my website.
This was my third such opportunity to observe Judge Christian in the past two months. My previous two visits to Judge Christian’s courtroom were uneventful.
I took a seat in the front row of the gallery in courtroom 9B at a little after 9:00am. Court was already in session and Judge Christian was in the process of calling the calendar. The purpose of this visit was to follow up on a specific story involving a man and his ex-wife; the wife was pursuing a renewal of a Domestic Violence Protective Order against her husband. The husband had made contact with me through my website and was making claims of being treated unfairly and even unlawfully by Judge Lori Christian. One such specific claim was that she shouted at him through most of the hearing, intimidated him, made threats of jail, and even referred to him as a “sperm donor” during the hearing. This was eerily familiar as I had experienced similar treatment in her courtroom several months ago (see history below). I decided it was important for me to see for myself and cover the story in person.
As the election season is rapidly approaching I have dedicated much of my time to reporting on Judicial Abuse of Power and various similar topics in an effort to inform and educate the public of the same.
After a little over an hour, while quietly minding my own business, I was checking my email on my Samsung Tablet. I had previously disabled the sound as I normally do when I enter any courtroom.
It is also important to note that the witness at this time (the wife) was referring to me during her testimony by mostly expressing her discontent for the fact that her husband had been in contact with me. At one point Judge Lori Christian even stated for clarification; “the man in the front row with the shirt that says ExposingTheRecord.org – Tell us about your Judge?” Judge Lori Christian knew me well from my prior appearances in her courtroom and from my prior visits in the capacity as a journalist, but had never previously had any direct confirmation that I may be following her cases or her conduct, etc.
The bailiff quietly and politely approached me, and softly asked that I turn off my device. I immediately acknowledged and agreed. It should be noted that my device was not making any noise (set on silent) but that the bailiff simply observed that I was using it.
While I was in the process of performing the shutdown on my device Judge Lori Christian addressed the bailiff asking him if I was using the device. He quickly answered, yes.
Judge Christian then demanded that he confiscate the device and then Judge Lori Christian turned to me to say that I could have it back at the end of the hearing. I responded to her that I would be happy to leave the courtroom. She immediately said OK and almost simultaneously I stood to leave the courtroom.
During this brief exchange, and as I approached the door to exit the courtroom which was only three to four feet from my seat, Judge Lori Christian seemed to have a change of heart and immediately demanded that the bailiff take me into custody and that she was ordering I be arrested, detained and confined for 2 days in jail.
By this time I was in the hall outside the courtroom. The bailiff came out and politely asked that I return to the courtroom. I agreed.
Once back inside the courtroom Judge Christian said she was holding me in direct contempt for interrupting a court proceeding. I then offered that I did no such thing, reiterating that I was asked to turn off my device and ultimately agreed to leave the courtroom in response to her addressing me. She said that no response was needed.
Judge Christian then asked the bailiff if there was a sign on the door entering the courtroom referring to the use of electronic devices. He said yes noting that the sign was on the wall, not the door. I did not observe the sign nor did I know it existed. It should also be noted that I have never been asked to turn off my devices; they are always set to silent. I frequently use my devices (cell phone, tablet, and even my laptop), even during court proceedings while representing myself in previous matters. I always disable the sound on any devices.
Judge Lori Christian then addressed the bailiff telling him; he is in your custody for 2 days. The bailiff escorted me to the holding cells adjacent to the courtroom. He asked Judge Christian if she was going to complete a “blue sheet” A.K.A. “order of release” and she responded affirmatively.
I do not dispute the right or the authority of a judge to control the courtroom and/or to regulate issues such as monitoring electronic devices being used in the courtroom; but I absolutely dispute that Judge Lori Christian had the authority to impose a punishment of 2 days in jail (as in this case), or any other punishment without Due Process, more specifically without a hearing.
I would also like to note that I have NEVER faced anything like this before. I was not aware of my rights in that very moment (specifically with regard to requirements for a hearing and/or other rights according to Due process as pertains to contempt of court allegations); I was not advised of my rights in that moment or at any time after the fact. Since my release from custody, I have looked into the matter appropriately.
THE MORAL/LEGAL CONCERNS…
Regardless of the alleged offense, North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 5A which governs and defines contempt has very specific requirements and addresses two very different Articles, namely criminal contempt and civil contempt, with regard to adults.
Judge Christian filled out a “blue sheet” A.K.A. “order of release” which also states the offense. She indicates that I was found guilty of “criminal and civil” contempt. This is contradictory and it is prohibited by statute.
§ 5A-12 (d) A person held in criminal contempt under this Article shall not, for the same conduct, be found in civil contempt under Article 2 of this Chapter, Civil Contempt.
Judge Christian clearly asserted that I was guilty of direct criminal contempt both in open court on the record and on the “blue sheet.” This in itself presents quite the conflict since an allegation of criminal contempt requires a hearing be held, that I be afforded the right to be heard, and afforded other elements of Due Process. Judge Christian made no attempt to conduct a hearing in accordance with the relevant statute. In fact, Judge Christian’s first words were simply to announce her guilty verdict and imposed a punishment of 2 days in jail.
The relevant statute provides that the presiding judicial official may punish summarily for direct criminal contempt according to the requirements of G.S. 5A‑14 or may defer adjudication and sentencing as provided in G.S. 5A‑15.
§ 5A‑14 (b) Before imposing measures under this section, the judicial official must give the person charged with contempt summary notice of the charges and a summary opportunity to respond and must find facts supporting the summary imposition of measures in response to contempt. The facts must be established beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are also issues with regard to the statutory requirements when imposing a punishment of fine or imprisonment for criminal contempt.
§ 5A 12 (b) …a fine or imprisonment may not be imposed for criminal contempt, whether direct or indirect, unless:
(1) The act or omission was willfully contemptuous; (beyond a reasonable doubt) or
(2) The act or omission was preceded by a clear warning by the court that the conduct is improper.
The end result is a real tragedy. Judge Lori Christian took two days of my life from me. Judge Lori Christian (and other judges) has been trusted and empowered with unrivaled authority in many regards. It is imperative that this authority be monitored under strict scrutiny. I also lost two days’ pay and incurred various other expenses as a result of this unlawful detention. It is nothing less than a miracle that I still have a job. My car was cited with 3-$20 parking tickets as it was left abandoned at a parking meter downtown with my cell phone and laptop at risk. I was fortunate that it had not been towed to a storage lot.
A BRIEF HISTORY & MORE CONCERNS
This is my third complaint against Judge Lori Christian for similar unethical, unlawful, even unconstitutional acts committed against me, and my family over the past 20 months.
I first came into contact with Judge Lori Christian in early 2010 when I filed a motion for temporary emergency custody of my children. Initially my motion was granted; on March 29, 2010 at 9:00am an Ex Parte Emergency Custody Order in 10CVD5477 was issued by Judge Christian stating in part, that I shall have temporary custody of my 7 minor children. On April 5, 2010 at 9:00am an amended Ex Parte Emergency Custody Order was issued stating in part, that I shall have immediate sole temporary physical and legal custody of my 7 minor children and my wife must immediately surrender the minor children to me.
My motion for custody stated in part that my wife had left the state of North Carolina with our 7 minor children on March 8, 2010 due to marital differences without notifying me, to avoid jurisdiction. She took herself and our children to the state of California. While in California, She obtained a Temporary Restraining Order, preventing me from executing my North Carolina Emergency Custody Order. Without the proper jurisdiction a California Commissioner issued a Temporary Restraining Order. My wife was ultimately ordered by Judge Lori Christian to return to North Carolina with our 7 children during a telephone hearing that took place between California and North Carolina on April 15, 2010; and to appear before her on May 3, 2010 at 9:00am for a temporary custody hearing. The California case was dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction.
On May 3rd, 2010 my wife and I appeared in courtroom 8B before Judge Lori Christian at 9:00am as ordered.
During the hearing Judge Christian entered a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) against me Sua Sponte in a manner inconsistent with Due Process while violating my Civil Rights on multiple occasions. Judge Christian assigned a new docket number 10CVD7386.
After 10 months of mounting a challenge against the entry of this order, it was ultimately set aside as void ab initio by Judge Christian on March 29, 2011 due to lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and subsequently lacking Personal Jurisdiction. Clearly this was not a happy day for Judge Lori Christian – especially with my wife by my side at the time…
During the hearing on May 3, 2010, in the absence of jurisdiction, Judge Christian clearly acted improperly and unlawfully by ordering that I be unlawfully detained in handcuffs and escorted to Bank of America by two deputies, in handcuffs, and was kept in handcuffs as I withdrew every penny from my personal bank account leaving $1.00 as a balance. This order from Judge Christian was not only in the absence of jurisdiction but also was in the absence of any legal or otherwise judicial authority. I was ordered to withdraw ALL but $1.00 from my personal account and surrender it to the court by threat of 30 days in jail. At a minimum I consider these egregious actions by a District Court Judge to be a clear violation of my rights and protections afforded me by an through the United States Constitution. There was no support order of any kind in place (neither child support nor spousal support). My wife did not request any support of any kind before or during the hearing on May 3, 2010.
Once again, in the absence of jurisdiction and continuing to act improperly and unlawfully; after the trip to the bank Judge Christian ordered I was to be held in handcuffs and later in a detention cell in the basement of the courthouse until 5pm, without cause and without provocation. There was no contempt order or any other supporting documentation. Yet again, this order from Judge Christian was not only in the absence of jurisdiction but also was in the absence of any legal or otherwise judicial authority. I was not provided any food, water and was without my diabetes medication during this unlawful incarceration from approximately 9am to 5pm. At a minimum I consider these egregious actions by a District Court Judge to be a clear violation of my rights and protections afforded me by an through to the United States Constitution. Upon my release I demanded documentation while refusing to leave the premises until provided some sort of justification for my unlawful detention. After approximately 20-30 minutes the bailiff appeared with a “blue sheet” that simply stated; “release at 5pm.”
Where is Due Process? How can this Judge so deliberately and continuously violate and/or ignore the Judicial Code of Conduct, the Laws of the State of North Carolina and the very precepts of The United States Constitution by and through her unethical, unlawful, and unconstitutional acts against me and the very many others?
As I have mentioned on countless occasions throughout my writings, these and other similar acts are not simply “mistakes of law” or “inadvertent,” but are rather deliberate and quite indicative of JUDICIAL ABUSE OF POWER and JUDICIAL CORRUPTION!