Massive Case-Tampering Scandal Breaks in West OC Municipal Court

Gavel because gavel
Gavel because gavel
Wikimedia Commons

A hell of a scene broke out this morning in the West Orange County Municipal courtroom of Judge Thomas James Borris. According to witnesses there this morning, Judge Borris opened his session by telling stunned lawyers and defendants that he believed there were "errors" in their court dockets, and that the court would be auditing hundreds of cases to ensure that the sentencings and other parts were right. Like, as in starting right there and then.

He began calling private attorneys, pro per attorneys, public defenders and others, and asked simple questions. To one attorney, Judge Borris asked if they represented the client that a docket said he did; the attorney did not. A bench warrant was issued for that defendant.

To another attorney, they asked if they had prepared a private jail order for a particular client; they had not. To a female defendant, he asked them if they had served the jail time that the docket said they had. The woman told Judge Borris she had indeed; Judge Borris instructed the court to call the jail to see if they had indeed served the time. The defendant had not, and the woman was immediately remanded into custody.

And as people left the courtroom, FBI agents asked nearly everyone to talk to them and see what they knew about their cases and the scandal in general.

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"Absolutely surreal," said a court onlooker, who requested anonymity. "Never had a day like this happen.

In some cases, according to the source, Judge Borris would ask a lawyer and a defendant to get up and ask each of them if they knew the other. In many cases, they didn't. Awkward!

So far, all the cases that are under review have been misdemeanors and infractions. Though Judge Borris didn't say how he suspected that hundreds of cases were tampered with, sources tell the Weekly that authorities think a rogue courthouse employee is behind it.

More--much more--to come...

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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