From "Addendum 2 to Federal Corruption"
by Harry V. Martin
Copyright Napa Sentinel, 1991
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Federal Judge George F. Bason, Jr., ruled in favor of INSLAW against the U.S. Department of Justice. He awarded INSLAW $6.8 million and lambasted the Justice Department by stating he believed it was guilty of deceit, theft and trickery. The judge's decision was upheld in another court. Recently, a higher court has thrown the ruling out, not because it was right or wrong, but because of the technical question of jurisdiction.
After ruling against the Justice Department, Judge Bason was denied reappointment to the bench for another 14 years. "I have come to believe that my nonreappointment as bankruptcy judge was the result of improper influence from within the Justice Department which the current appointment process failed to prevent," Judge Bason stated to a Congressional hearing into the INSLAW matter. Ironically, the man who prosecuted the INSLAW case in Judge Bason's court for the Justice Department, was appointed to succeed the judge when he was not reappointed.
Judge Bason was the only bankruptcy judge for the District of Columbia from February 8, 1984 through February 7, 1988. He was the trial judge who heard the INSLAW case. "The judicial opinions that I rendered reflected my sense of moral outrage that, as the evidence showed and as I held, the Justice Department stole INSLAW's valuable property and tried to drive INSLAW out of business. Those opinions were upheld on appeal by Judge Bryant in a memorandum that noted my attention to detail and mastery of evidence," Judge Bason further told Congress. "Very soon after I rendered those opinions, my application for reappointment was turned down. One of the Justice Department attorneys who argued the INSLAW case before me was appointed in my stead. Although over 90 percent of the incumbent bankruptcy judges who sought reappointment were in fact reappointed, I was not among them."
Judge Bason told the Congressional hearing that Congress required equal consideration to that given all other candidates must be given to incumbent bankruptcy judges. "Under that mandate, my qualifications were so far superior to my successor's that, on the merits, no rational person could have chosen him over me," the judge stated. "Merit must of course be judged both from the written record, my resume and opinions, and from my reputation amongst the judges and bankruptcy practitioners who knew me. My resume speaks for itself; my opinions have been cited often and reversed seldom; my successor had scant bankruptcy experience and, of course, no opinions. Despite a regulation requiring that at least one member of the Merit Selection Panel be "an attorney with a predominantly bankruptcy practice in the District of Columbia, so far as I know, no member of the panel had ever appeared even once in the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia. Hence, no member of the panel had first-hand knowledge of my capabilities as a judge."
Judge Bason added, "The panel failed to interview District Court Chief Judge Aubrey Robinson, who exercises general supervisory authority over administrative aspects of the Bankruptcy Court and whose name I specifically suggested to the panel. Every year during my tenure, Chief Judge Robinson praised my performance as a bankruptcy judge. For example, in his May 1986 annual report to the D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference, he noted that despite 'increased case load...the Bankruptcy Court is basically current' because of Judge Bason's 'extraordinary efforts, perseverance and hard work'."
The panel also never notified Judge Bason of any adverse comments nor was he given any opportunity to address any adverse comments. "I have repeatedly sought and repeatedly been denied any official explanation why the decision not to reappoint me was made, " he added. "A number of the district judge members of the Judicial Council, when they received the Merit Selection Panel's report, were so dismayed at the panel's failure to recommend my reappointment that they caucused to see if there was anything they could do to reverse the process. They concluded that there was unfortunately no time left. When the chairmen of the bankruptcy committees of the two largest Bar Associations in the District of Columbia found out about the decision not to reappoint me, they too looked for ways to reverse the decision, and they too concluded there wasn't time."
In March 1987, Justice Department officials were talking with an important witness about the subject matter of his testimony. Then it developed the witness had recanted his testimony favorable to INSLAW. One of the Justice Department's lawyers apparently commented, "We've got to get rid of that judge (referring to Bason)." In May 1988, a news reporter with excellent contacts within the Justice Department states that the Justice Department could have procured Bason's removal. The reporter believes that the chairperson of the Merit Selection Panel was approached privately and informally by one of her old and trusted friends from her days in the Justice Department. The friend is believed to have told her that Bason was mentally unbalanced, as evidenced by his unusually forceful "anti-government" opinions. Her persuasive powers coupled with the fact that other members of the panel or their law firms might appear before her as litigating attorneys may have caused the vote against the judge. The reporter later stated that a high Justice Department official had boasted to him that Bason's removal was because of his INSLAW rulings.
"If Justice Department officials were willing to steal from and try to liquidate INSLAW and then to lie about it under oath, there is every reason to believe they would not hesitate to do whatever was necessary and possible to remove from office the judge who first exposed their wrongdoing. I can no longer escape the conclusion that most knowledgeable lawyers in Washington reached long ago. I would not have lost my job as bankruptcy judge but for my rulings in the INSLAW case. I have been told by legal search firms that I am now considered to be too controversial a figure to be employable by any of the large law firms. I am paying the full price for doing my duty to render equal justice without regard to rank or position. As a judge, I could not and would not do otherwise," Bason told Congress. "The independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers are among the glories of our form of government. It strikes at the heart of those principles for the Justice Department to retaliate against a judge by causing his removal. Such retaliation is the mark of a police state, not a democratic America."