By Donna Westfall
On May 10th, we published an article, “Do Court Documents ‘Disappear’ From Court Files?” What if the “missing” documents weren’t missing at all, but were intentionally pulled from the files?
Judge Follett has authorized that I (Jamie McCubbin, Judicial Assistant, Del Norte Superior Court) release the following statement to you on his behalf:
As presiding judge, I have confidence in the integrity of the court’s files. I have never received, to my recollection, a complaint from an attorney or another judge about documents “gone missing” from court files. As to be expected due to tens of thousands of documents being processed every year, occasionally due to human error, documents are misfiled in the first instance. But this is usually easily corrected due to the redundancies built into our system. For almost any document to be filed with the court, written proof has to be provided under oath that a copy was provided to all attorneys and unrepresented parties in the case, and the person filing the document usually receives back a “file-stamped” copy proving that the document was filed with the court. In addition, when each document is received, the clerk logs the document into the court computer system. So when a document is misfiled, whether due to the document preparer transposing a court file number or a clerk accidentally placing the document in a file with a similar number, the parties or attorneys will have copies to provide to the court, and its original filing can be confirmed in the court’s computer document management system.
The court staff is under the direct supervision of the Court Executive Officer, Sandra Linderman, who is clerk of the court.
However Judge Follett has failed to address the fact that documents cannot simply disappear and reappear as Follett suggests when the act looks to be quite intentional.
These are the questions I emailed Sandra Linderman, CEO; and her answers are in BOLD italics:
Q. What positions are you in charge of?
A. Court Clerks, Court Room Clerks, Judicial Assistants, Accounting, Human Resources, Mediation, Court Reporters, Court Managers.
Q. If a complaint comes in with evidence that documents were pulled before a hearing and then replaced after the hearing, what is your responsibility and procedure?
A. I would conduct an internal investigation and if necessary the Judicial Council would be brought in.
What’s the next step? To look at the court docket. Here’s what the copy shows:
4/03/15 POS FILED
FILED: Declaration of Service of Summons and Complaint: RE Defendants Del Norte County Sheriff’s Department, Bob Barber, and Steve Morris.
4/15/15 PHONE CALL RECEIVED
RECEIVED PHONE CALL from law firm requesting information on any POS to Barker and Morris – Clerk Advised of Declaration of Service to Barker and Morris filed on 4/3/15.
(NOTE: Misspelling of Barker which should be Barber is on the part of the court.)
According to Dave Egan, on May 7th, opposing Attorney John Vrieze brought up to Judge Nichols the fact that there’s no POS on record nor has there ever been a POS on Barber and Morris.
According to Egan, then Judge Nichols looked shocked and asked Attorney Vrieze if he had a copy of it?
Also according to Egan, Attorney Vrieze replied, “No, I don’t have a copy of it and there’s nothing on file with the court.”
Dave Egan states that he noticed court room clerk, Lori Robson, give a wink and smile to Attorney Vrieze, and Attorney Vrieze started laughing.
It seems apparent that not everything is kosher in the Del Norte County Superior Court system.
A COMPLAINT AND REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION will be submitted to CEO, Sandra Linderman this week. I’ve been told that if Linderman has not concluded her investigation with any substance in 15 days, Dave Egan intends to notify the Judicial Council in San Francisco.
My investigation shows a history and pattern of this happening in the past in other cases. Egan states that he intends to file a complaint with the California State Bar against Attorney John Michael Vrieze,#115397 admitted to the Bar on 12/31/84.