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08-06-10 Beyond voting machines - case management systems of the courts - Sustain and the Los Angeles Superior Court Part I

08-06-10 Beyond voting machines - case management systems of the courts - Sustain and the Los Angeles Superior Court Part I

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Documenting large-scale fraud in the Los Angeles Superior Court's case management system.

Documenting large-scale fraud in the Los Angeles Superior Court's case management system.

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Published by: Human Rights Alert, NGO on Oct 18, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Rapid Communication
Public-policy concerns based on review of a court’s central computer system Joseph Zernik, Los Angeles
Voting machines focused the computing community’s attention on its critical duty in thesafeguard of democratic institutions in the transition to a digital society. Here we review,possibly for the first time ever, a
Case Management System
), which is thecornerstone of any court today
. Sustain
, the Los Angeles Superior Court’s CMS, introducedin the early 1980’s, and based on dBase or one of its derivatives, today reveals a system thatcombined with human neglect and abuse, contributes to the production of contradictory,false and misleading records, that are deliberately hidden from the public, under the claim of 
” status
. Circumstantial evidence also strongly suggests that such records fromSustain are directly available to the California Court of Appeal without the knowledge ornotice to the parties involved
. Our analysis is based on limited records since Sustainrecords are typically not accessible to the public (in what appears as defiance of 
CRC 2.500et seq
), and mostly explored internal inconsistencies and incompleteness of the recordsamong various paper and electronic sources:
Minute Orders -
are written by the judge after each proceeding – in open court orchamber, and the clerk is required to have them mailed to each party and entered into thecourt file; with Clerk’s Certificate of Mailing and Entry, bearing his/her hand signature, allon same day as the proceeding.
2) Case History
- a report, which in Los Angeles Superior Court also serves as
Register of Actions -
the definitive formal concise record of all transactions in a given court case, andtogether with
Indexes of All Cases
– one of the two primary documents that allow oversightof the integrity of the courts.Our findings can be summarized as follows:a. Inherently Invalid Data Entries- Case History report listed documents as filed on datesthat were at times years prior to the date of filing of the claims - the start point of thecase (
Fig 1
). Such obviously invalid data entirely undermined the validity andreliability of the record as a whole. Additional data provided conclusive evidence that
entries in this record were critically modified later than the date which appeared asintended to convey the date of entry of such data.b. Routine back-dating of minute orders to date of the proceedings - Minute orders thatwere retrieved from memory, invariably showed different dates as the “Date MinutesEntered” compared to copies of respective records that were retrieved from paper file.The copies from the paper file were back-dated and without exception were preciselydated on the date of the proceedings, as required
(Fig 4a)
. The records from electronicmemory, showed that the true entry date was at times months later (
Fig 4b
). Suchfindings undermine the validity of any dates recorded in this system, and the validity andreliability of the system as central depository of the court’s litigation records.c. Reversing orders with no notice to parties in a case - Certain minute orders that in papercourt file carried valid values for entry (
Fig 2a
), carried invalid dates , such as“00/00/00” or “33/33/33”, in the copies retrieved from memory (
Fig 2b
), which wereotherwise identical in their text. Such invalid entry date invalidates a legal record, andindeed, it appears that such invalidation was intentional, since 00/00/00 is listed as theday the records are to be disposed (
Fig 1
), indeed - the common feature of theinvalidated records was that they were unusual, and if valid, would have likely raisedconcerns upon review. But the paper file does not include any evidence that suchinvalidation, if indeed intentional, was ever noticed to the parties in the case. Possibly,this specific field was programmed to accept dates as data, and also as an invalidationcommand, the latter – formulated in a date format, in order to reduce memoryrequirements.d. Contradictory recordings of critical data- In one extreme case, the electronic recordalone includes recording of a Demurrer - a decisive action, which can nip a litigation inthe bud - as both “Granted”, “Overruled” (Denied), and vacated (
Fig 3
). Again, there isroom for concern that such ambiguity was introduced to camouflage a decision (here overruling of the demurrer) that if clearly recorded, would have raised concernsregarding integrity of the proceedings.e. Partial recordings, discriminating against the paper/public record - Certain minute ordersthat appeared in copies retrieved from memory were altogether missing fromcounterparts retrieved from paper files. The opposite appears to never happen. Suchdiscrimination against paper – which in this case is also the only public record – wasapparently intentional – beyond the one sidedness of the omissions, certain court
proceedings were marked in electronic records as “
 Proceedings not recorded 
” and thenindeed were missing from the paper file.f. Critical legal records that fail to comply with any standard at all - In one extreme case, a judge who was requested to disqualify for a cause (- served with a Statement of Prejudice) responded with a combination of a Strike and Answer (a combination that isnot allowed per
 Judge’s Bench Guide
of the
California Judicial Council
), later than the10 days allowed by law (CCP §170.3), back-dated it 11 days - to day 1, then added animprovised judge’s certificate of mailing for self (not allowed), addressed to one partyonly (not allowed), unsigned (unverified), never mailed out at all, and yet entered intothe electronic record, but not the paper/public record.The operation of such CMS’s as Sustain puts at peril any notion of Due Process - a basicright, presumably guaranteed by the 1
, 5
and 14
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.The next generation of such systems must distill and mimic the essence of some older courttraditions. On his own, neither a Clerk, nor a Judge, could mail the minutes out. The Judgecould rule, order, adjudicate, but had to rely on the Clerk, who had the sole authority toincorporate such pronouncements into the formal records and thus make them actions.
Nosuch segregation of authorities appears to have been implemented in Sustain. A newgeneration of such systems, introduced under public comment and challenge (pursuant to theRule-Making Enabling Act, which was entirely defied in setting up Sustain, on more aspectthan one) must help enforce the safeguard of court records that are coherent, consistent andtransparent, in all respects, including exact timing of "birth" (at the bench or in chambers)true time and form at “entry” (by the Clerk), with adequate due notice and service to parties,after which further read/write actions by any party must notbe allowed. This is not the casewith Sustain.--and other systems currently in use
. Contemporary encryption, protection,transaction–handling, and security methods, can provably implement such procedures atvery low cost [at least if 99.9999 ...% security is acceptable]. Supported by re-indoctrinationof court personnel regarding their duties to the public at large – a CMS could be a guardianof Due Process. Yet, full transparency of Public Records is possibly the most cost/effectivelong-term security measure. Sustain must be an extreme – a data entry and a legal depositsystem with what appears like effectively no quality assurance measures whatsoever.Sustain, the CMS reviewed in here, allows the generation and propagation of court recordsof quality that is far removed from any standard that would reasonably support Due Processof the Law.

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