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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Lawyer Sues for Right to Sue Judges

SACRAMENTO (CN) - A law office claims in a federal class action that a section of a bill proposed in a state Senate bill unconstitutionally prohibits citizens from taking legal action against judges.

Lead plaintiff Nina Ringgold, filing for herself and on behalf of her clients, claims that Section 5 of Senate Bill X2 11, which was filed in February, "purports to grant retroactive immunity notwithstanding the United States Constitution or federal law, and in disregard of whether the relief sought by the aggrieved person is under the United States Constitution or federal law, and it purports to amend or revise the California Constitution without the required constitutional procedures."

Ringgold claims there is a "constitutional conflict and dispute between state and local agencies and the Commission on Judicial Performance, which prohibit the plaintiffs and citizens of the State of California from taking action to preserve their legal and constitutional rights."

She claims that the "fact that the proceedings are being conducted without a valid or authorized judicial function in accord with the California Constitution should be disclosed to the litigants and they should be afforded an opportunity to decline to participate in the unconstitutional condition. Currently the courts where supplemental payment by the county without constitutional authority leads to a private organization housed in facilities owned and operated by the state. It would be one thing if this was a theoretical exercise, however, citizens who have been forced to participate in this unconstitutional enterprise (without disclosure) have been deprived of equal protection, due process, and fair proceedings consistent with the law."

Ringgold claims there have been an "overwhelming number of grievances arising in the probate department and other areas. This is not just about budget matters but rather involve existing and severe constitutional structural problems. The probate department of the County of Los Angeles has a direct economic stake in the operation of the probate department (including through attorney fees, estate administration fees by the County Public Administrator (not an elected official), and other fees.

Ringgold and co-plaintiff Justin Ringgold-Lockhart, her adult son and a client of her office, say they "have a constitutionally protected legal and property interest in the persons designated as owning the intangible property right in the power of appointment and discretion in a private family trust."

They claim the state Senate bill "is being applied as a penalty for raising legitimate grievances concerning discrimination and operation of the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles, concerning the discriminatory operation of the probate department, and to impair Ringgold's ability to practice her profession."

Ringgold's complaint states that both she and her son are African-American.

The complaint states: "Through a nonappealable order the Los Angeles Superior Court appointed a trustee without bond who is liquidating a private family trust. The primary unencumbered and revenue generating real estate assets of the trust were sold in one of the worst real estate markets in United States history. While and [sic] the named trustee and counsel of record, plaintiff Ringgold used proper procedures to attempt to prevent the adverse sale she was determined to be a vexatious litigant in the first instance in the California Court of Appeal [sic]. The determination was made when no motion was ever filed in the state trial court in accord with the statutory due process procedures mandated by statute and it was made in the first instance in the appellate court to a named trustee and counsel of record when there would be no opportunity for appellate review."

Ringgold claims it is unconstitutional for a "single justice of the state appellate court to render a determination of whether an appeal has merit and has been filed for purposes of harassment or delay when no statutory due process motion has been filed."

Ringgold claims that after she "encountered a medical emergency and although acting as counsel of record, in order to penalize Ringgold for exercising her First Amendment rights and limit the legal issues which could be raised by clients of the Law Office, the court imposed a pre-filing requirement ... in order to seek an accommodation for disability." In cases that she was counsel of record, her clients "have been required to obtain court approval to file pleadings in pending litigation," the lawsuit claims.

Ringgold sued Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris, the Commission on Judicial Performance of the State of California, and State Auditor Elaine Howle.

She seeks to "establish a grievance procedure (including with respect to ADA requests, civil appeals, court reporter's department, an other matters), and method of monitoring and that the procedure be transparent to allow input from the public." She also seeks a special investigation into the Los Angeles County Superior Court probate department, and a "performance, financial, and investigative audit of the courts impacted by self-effectuating resignations."

Ringgold, of Northridge, filed the case pro se.

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