The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates once famously said, "Nothing is to be preferred before justice." Former attorney Richard Fine seems to share more than a belief in this maxim with Socrates. Like the philosopher, Fine too believes he is unjustly imprisoned and refuses to take the easiest way out. Is Richard Fine crazy, or simply passionate about justice?
We now know that the U.S. Supreme Court will not be answering this question, after declining to look into Fine's petition on Monday. Fine remains in coercive confinement.
It is all part of a bizarre legal battle between Fine, a 71 year-old former Beverly Hills attorney and the judges of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Fine believes that the judges receive "bribes" when they accept $57,000 in supplemental benefits each year. These benefits are paid in additin to their $178,789 salary. The county says that the benefits are paid to create an incentive to retain top judges in a city where the cost of living is high.
The fight has landed Fine in solitary confinement in Los Angeles where he has remained for fifteen months after being found in contempt of court in March, 2009.
Despite all of the legal challenges, Fine effectively holds the key to his own cell, though he refuses to use it. His wife of 27 years supports his decision, "My husband has always been the straightest arrow, hardworking, very successful attorney, and for this to happen to him is unbelievable," says Maryellen Fine.
Fine's problems began over 10 years ago, when he began waging a war against the Los Angeles judicial system. He believes that because of the supplemental benefits, or "bribes" as he characterizes them, judges refuse to find against the county. When he lost cases against the county, he would file appeals based on charges of corruption. His appeals were denied and he was ordered to pay attorneys fees.
His challenges eventually led to his disbarment, where it was ruled that Fine's accusations were frivolous and unfounded and delayed proceedings. The finding of contempt which now has him in confinement stems from Fine's refusal to pay attorneys' fees or hand over information about his finances.
Fine has continued to file habeas corpus petitions from solitary confinement, and despite the U.S. Supreme Court passing on his case, he is unlikely to stop. This despite the fact he can go free as soon as he hands over documents pertaining to his finances, the issue that originally led to the contempt charge.
Fred Bennett, counsel for the Superior Court seems dumbfounded by the matter: "Every court has looked at this...I don't know what his strategy is, or what he has in mind .... Nothing has changed. Anytime he wants to be released from custody, he answers the questions and he's gone." However, there is nothing to indicate that Fine is ready to compromise his beliefs in order to obtain his release from jail.