|Santa Clara County Superior Court whistleblowers allege that many wealthy judges convey explicit socioeconomic and pro per bias against indigent, disabled and financially disadvantaged litigants.|
A Santa Clara County government whistleblower has leaked the Statement of Economic Interests financial disclosure data for controversial family law Judge Mary Ann Grilli. The records reveal that Grilli enjoys a net worth substantially above seven figures. The 30-page document, embedded at the end of this article, shows a well diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, as well as an IRA and a revocable trust.
Indigent, disabled and financially disadvantaged "pro per" litigants who can't afford counsel report that Grilli routinely exhibits socioeconomic and pro per bias, and favoritism towards lawyers. Court dockets and records from cases reviewed by the Family Court Accountability Coalition indicate that Grilli also often disregards "level-playing field" laws that mandate both parties in a divorce be represented by counsel where community property and assets are sufficient.
Santa Clara County Superior Court reform advocates allege that Grilli exemplifies what one law review article refers to as institutionalized socioeconomic bias in the judiciary. Three separate subsections of canon 3 of the California Code of Judicial Ethics - the state laws governing judge conduct - prohibit judges from exhibiting bias based on the socioeconomic status of a litigant.
"[E]ven those judges who believe their wealthy backgrounds play no role in their judicial deliberations may be influenced by implicit socioeconomic bias. The Article verifies the existence of implicit socioeconomic bias on the part of judges through the examination recent Fourth Amendment and child custody cases. These cases reveal that judges can and do favor wealthy litigants over those living in poverty, with significant negative consequences for low-income people," according to the article by Golden Gate University School of Law Professor Michele Benedetto Neitz.