CaseLoad's mate Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit — the "Hollywood Circuit" — reminds folk it's unwise to challenge someone equipped with a badge, handcuffs and a gun to "arrest me".

But that's what happened when Los Angeles deputy sheriff Wai Chiu R. Li handcuffed deputy public defender Florentina Demuth and dragged her through a courthouse in 2010. (Source: New Zealand Law Society LawPoints Online Bulletin)

What began with Ms Demuth's wounded pride ballooned from a tiff into a federal case estimated to cost Los Angeles taxpayers US$1 million.

Judge Kozinski, and his unanimous fellow judges, ruled that Deputy Li may be held liable for wrongfully arresting Ms Demuth after she failed to respond to a judge's page to come to court.


The judges chastised all those involved, including Los Angeles judges and the public defender, for allowing a tiff to erupt into a full-blown lawsuit, trial and appeal that lasted five years at a cost that will dwarf the $US40,000 Ms Demuth sought in damages.

Ms Demuth, working on an assignment elsewhere in the building, did not respond to pages and telephone calls for her to come to Los Padrinos Juvenile Courthouse, so Deputy Li was despatched to find her and bring her to court.

Ms Demuth wasn't ready to go and sarcastically told Deputy Li he would have to arrest her if he needed her that instant — so he cuffed her and dragged her forcibly to the courtroom.

No-one in the case "covered himself with glory", said Judge Kozinski.

"Not the lawyer whose lackadaisical response to a judicial summons and disrespectful retort to a fellow court officer set off this unfortunate chain of events; not the supervisor who did not urge the lawyer to comply promptly with the deputy's repeated requests that she come to court or admonish her for her tart response to the deputy; not the deputy who took the bait and abused his power; not the judges of the Los Padrinos Juvenile Court, who, doubtless aware of the incident, failed to mediate a minor dispute among court officers and allowed it to metastasize into a federal case."

CaseLoaders will recall Romanian-born, Ronald Reagan appointee and highly entertaining Judge Kozinski — widely praised for his plain language commonsense judgments — dropped by the Ladies & Escorts' Lounge in 2011 en route to deliver the keynote address at an intellectual property conference in Sydney.

His humour, disarming frankness and candid views of the US legal system were refreshing.

A couple of years later, in another unanimous decision with fellow judges, Judge Kozinski overturned a Seattle trial judge's earlier decision siding with Sea Shepherd whaling protestors, declaring the anti-whaling group and its eccentric founder Paul Watson pirates.


"You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch," Judge Kozinski said on that occasion.

"When you ram ships, hurl glass containers of acid, drag metal reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders, launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks, and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate — no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be," he said.

Meanwhile, sources say no such Draconian methods as are used in Los Padrinos are employed in New Zealand courts to round up absent or bolshie lawyers.

"We find the electric cattle prod very effective, humane and relatively dignified - and we can always dock their legal aid accounts," a Ministry of Justice spokesman said (name withheld for obvious reasons).

More on Gordon Vette and Erebus inquiry

Gordon Vette. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Gordon Vette. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Paul Monk, of Manurewa, writes:

"Thanks for being the first Auckland journalist to bring Gordon Vette's remarkable persistence to the fore ... " (CaseLoad August 21)

"Congratulations to Jock Anderson for being the only journalist to direct public attention to the amazing task that pilot Captain Gordon Vette undertook in reversing the initial bad decision regarding the Air NZ Erebus crash.

Air crew were being blamed without any recourse as they all perished in the crash.
Gordon was one of the few who disagreed with the original inquiry.

He travelled the country demonstrating in a clear and concise way how aircraft flight programming staff, the then Air NZ management, in cahoots with the CAA and the government of the day, effectively conducted a huge cover up.

He did this knowing that his career with Air NZ would be at an end and this was a great personal sacrifice for him to make.

His recent death went largely unheralded by the media so thank you, Jock, for your efforts in recognising Gordon's dedication to the truth."

Meanwhile, Dennis Mahony, of Parnell, who says he knew Justice Mahon and he was an honourable man, invites CaseLoad to look again at the aftermath of the Erebus royal commission of inquiry.

Justice's Mahon's conclusions, based largely on the research of Gordon Vette, cleared the crew of blame and found that the major cause of the crash was the reprogramming of the aircraft's navigation computer without the crew being told.

In a judicial review of Justice Mahon's finding in1981 the Court of Appeal noted that the proceedings were not related to the inquiry's findings on the cause of the crash but the conduct of certain officers of Air New Zealand.

The court concluded that in that regard Justice Mahon had breached natural justice by not allowing those accused to respond to the allegations.

The court also concluded that he acted outside his jurisdiction with the accusation regarding "an orchestrated litany of lies."

The government paid for Justice Mahon to appeal that judgment and in 1983 the judicial committee of the Privy Council "very reluctantly" agreed with the Court of Appeal that he acted in excess of his jurisdiction and in breach of natural justice by going on to make findings of a conspiracy by Air NZ to cover up the errors of ground staff.

None of which changed the finding that the crew were not to blame.

The Privy Council placed on record a tribute to the "brilliant and painstaking investigative work done by the judge".

His conclusions that documents were suppressed and witnesses lied were not set aside.

Justice Mahon's book, Verdict on Erebus, won the New Zealand book awards prize for non-fiction in 1985.

In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Jim Collins Memorial Award by the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association for exceptional contributions to air safety, "in forever changing the general approach used in transport accidents investigations world wide".

Many words have been written about the Erebus crash and folk will still be divided on how it happened ... maybe this snippet helps to clarify things.

Best not to say too much

Thank you "AW" for your candid views on the Ashley Madison adultery site hacking, which you describe as the first ray of sunshine for family lawyers since Judith Collins introduced what you claim were her disastrous reforms...

(More in a similar critical vain follows.)

Best we don't use your name AW because if, as you fear, JC wants to be PM, you would be done for in that scenario.

Curious cruiser

A news item on cruising caught CaseLoad's eye the other day.

Apparently cruising contributes millions of dollars to the economy and continues to grow at record-breaking levels as more and more folk — particularly foreigners — get on board.

Which may explain why police have eased up on clamping down on folk driving darkened downtown streets at below 15kmh.

How to beat Ashley Madison hackers

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Ladies and Escorts Lounge speed-dating evenings continued to prove popular over the winter months.

Their Honours and other legal hangers on need not be concerned about their details being hacked and appearing unpixellated in slavering Sunday newspapers.

CaseLoad's fool-proof card and photo-index box is impervious to electronic attack and never leaves his side — except during loin-girding intermissions at the QF on Queen ...

Next Time

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