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General News    H2'ed 5/21/10

For Biased Judges Even White Doesn't Make

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Message Linn Washington

On the second anniversary of their winning a historic $10-million verdict the largest ever for a discrimination lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department three men staged a protest outside the city's federal court house criticizing an unusual roadblock keeping them from receiving the fruits of their justice.

The three protestors, all former policemen, had sued the City of Philadelphia for savage, career-ending retaliation they received from Police Department personnel, including top officials, for their reporting of racism, corruption and other misconduct in the department.

In an unusual twist for such a discrimination suit, all three men are white,

This trio suffered severe retaliation during the late 1990s for opposing the vile racism heaped upon black police officers and minority citizens in the precinct where they worked.

Additional retaliation resulted from their reporting misconduct such as officers fraudulently obtaining over-time-pay by falsely claiming involvement in arrests that enabled them to testify in court while off-duty.

Fellow white officers harangued the trio as "rats" and snitches, failed to assist them and physically assault one trio member inside the precinct station.

Meanwhile, police commanders harshly disciplined the trio eventually discharging each on trumped-up charges, the jury determined.

The roadblock triggering that courthouse protest by Ray Carnation and twin brothers Michael and William McKenna is one of the most unusual elements in this legal saga that highlights deep deficiencies in America's justice system...

While the trio's lawsuit exposes the enormous rot of rampant lawlessness by law enforcers, the roadblock preventing them from collecting their jury award represents something more sinister: bias by judges bending rules requiring impartiality and doing so with seeming impunity.

The obstacle confronting this trio is a Philadelphia federal judge, Mary A. McLaughlin, whose years-long actions in this lawsuit evidences disturbing bias and unfairness against the trio.

Federal law Section 455(a) of Title 28 states that federal judges "shall disqualify [themselves] in any proceeding in which [their] impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Yet Judge McLaughlin has rejected repeated requests that she withdraw from presiding over the case.

"We have repeatedly asked [McLaughlin] to remove herself from our case because she's obviously biased but she refuses to do that," Ray Carnation said.

The 3rd Circuit Appeals Court in Philadelphia, which oversees the federal district court where McLaughlin serves, has stated with respect to recusal requests under Section 455(a) that "a party seeking recusal need not demonstrate that the judge is actually biased, but rather he would appear to be biased to a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts."


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Linn Washington is a co-founder of This Can't Be Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and problems in the news media. He teaches multi-media urban journalism at Temple (more...)

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