9th Circuit Pulls Judge Off Case, Accusing Him of 'Biased Interventions'
Pamela A. MacLean
The National Law Journal

A federal appeals court removed a controversial judge, U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real of Los Angeles, from another case, accusing him this time of "excessive and biased interventions" that denied two defendants a fair trial.

In an unpublished order dated March 19, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said, "Taken together, the trial court's biased evidentiary rulings, disparaging remarks, and lengthy interrogations of witnesses, 'created an atmosphere in which an objectively fair trial could not be conducted.'" U.S. v. Hall, 06-50356.

Real, 84, has run afoul of the 9th Circuit for his handling of cases for years, dating back as far as 1986. In April 2006, he faced a possible impeachment hearing in Congress over allegations that he interfered in a bankruptcy case to help a woman whose parole he supervised. Congress dropped the impeachment without action.

The complaint against him in that case was thrown out twice, although a public reprimand was ultimately issued.

In January 2008, the federal judge discipline review body, the Conduct Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, disclosed that Real had been accused of a pattern -- in 72 cases over many years -- of not providing reasons for decisions as required.

The committee said private reprimand by the 9th Circuit was insufficient and sent the case back for further action.

Real has been removed from at least seven other cases in the past, beginning with U.S. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 785 F.2d 777 (1986).

Jerome "Jeru" Hall and Taansen Sumeru were charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and in Sumeru's case money laundering conspiracy and tax evasion. A jury ultimately convicted both. The ruling overturns the convictions and sends the case back for retrial before a new judge.

The four-page decision says, "the catalog of inappropriate behavior by the trial court is long, so we merely summarize it here." It states he "persistently interrupted" the defense presentation of evidence, imposed adverse evidentiary rulings so often the government was "effectively relieved of its responsibility to make objections," and admitted evidence offered by the government that he had previously excluded when offered by the defense.

"The court aggressively questioned two witnesses in a manner that crossed the line between clarifying the evidence, which is permissible, and aiding the government, which is not," it states.

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