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Plaintiffs’ Lawyer Accuses Judge Of
Extreme Bias in ‘Sham’ Trial
Prominent Lawyer Compares
Trial to Those Held by Nazis

By David Houston
Daily Journal Staff Writer

A prominent plaintiff’s lawyer on Wednesday accused U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real of displaying extreme bias that caused jurors to side with Los Angeles Police Department Rampart officers accused of falsely arresting and roughing-up two immigration agents.

The attorney, Howard R. Price, said Real appeared to favor the LAPD officers throughout their federal civil rights trial last week. “Some judges put their finger on the scale (of justice). He put his knees on it!” Price fumed.

Veteran Immigration and Naturalization Service agents Shawn Butler and Ezequiel Garcia sued the LAPD after they were arrested during a stakeout and allegedly roughed up so badly that Garcia went to the hospital.

Butler, who is black, and Garcia, who is Latino, were working undercover in the Pico-Union district of Los Angeles in February 2000 when they were arrested by what they described at the time as a swarm of mostly white LAPD officers.

The arrest came at the height of the scandal sparked by former anti-gang Officer Rafael Perez’s concession that fellow officers in the Rampart division routinely abused suspects and planted evidence on them.

Butler and Garcia contended that they were targeted because they are minorities. They said the officers ignored them when they produced INS badges and requested that their superior be called. The officers never explained why the agents were arrested.

After the case went to trial last week, Real dismissed all of Butler’s claims. He also dismissed Garcia’s claims of false arrest and told the jury they could decide only whether the LAPD used excessive force and owed Garcia compensatory damages. The jury took less than one day to find in favor of the LAPD.

Rod Fick, the deputy city attorney who represented the LAPD officers, was taking a deposition and could not be reached for comment.

Real was named to the federal bench in 1966 by President Johnson. Lawyers who practice in the federal court often have complained privately that he exhibits a bias. But few of them have been bold enough to go on the record with their grievances.

Price of Brodey & Price in Beverly Hills was seething Wednesday as he issued a lengthy statement that he insisted he hadn’t prepared in advance.

“The trial was a sham, and I use that word advisedly in that it took place in Judge Real’s court, who is probably the most-reversed judge in America and possibly the history of America,” he said.
“The trial as to my client,” Price said, “consisted of the judge sustaining almost without exception every objection made by the defense and overruling almost without exception every objection that I made.

“Additionally, he only questioned the plaintiffs witnesses and always with a mind to strengthen the defense case. He never questioned any LAPD officer.

“With that travesty as a background,” Price said, “Real gave judgment to the defendants as to plaintiff Butler even though there was an obvious conflict in the testimony between the plaintiff and the defendants that could only be resolved by the jury.
“In effect, in all respects, he denied plaintiff Butler his right to trial by jury, let alone a fair trial by a jury.”

“As to the second plaintiff,” Price said, “he conducted the trial exactly the same way, demonstrating his bias for the LAPD Rampart officers in his ruling on objections and his selective questioning of witnesses.

“Once again, despite the blatant conflict in the testimony, Real denied a major claim of plaintiff Garcia from going to the jury, denied the right of the jury to decide if punitive damages should have been awarded and then allowed the rump of the case to be submitted.”

“Even then,” Price said, “it took the jury the entire day before rendering its verdict for the defendants.”

“I close by saying, and I’m not reading anything to you, that the only trial that I’m aware of that was more unfair was the Nazi trial of the conspirators who attempted to assassinate Hitler or the Communist show trials in Russia in the ‘30s,” Price said. “The experience sickened me to be a lawyer.”

“Real’s defenders said that he is a decisive judge who doesn’t tolerate less-than-straightforward behavior from lawyers.
Asked if he planned to appeal, Price responded, “In an Alabama second.”

Real’s secretary said the judge was not in his chambers and was unavailable for comment.

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