I nodded to the court reporter and to the clerk. Then I sat myself on the same chair I used throughout the trial, at the defendants-counsel’s section.
It felt woefully lonely. The two attorneys I hired to protect my interest—Roy Chang and Harvey Demetrakopoulos—were not seated beside me. Instead, they were outside the room as the ready witnesses for my opponents and the judge, and waiting to be called.
I was alone, for myself. That feeling kept coming back—a chicken surrounded by foxes. We waited for the judge to come out from her chambers and hear my motion, the only schedule on the court calendar. I wondered how the hearing would begin, how it would be handled, how it would end.
Then, Judge Marks entered the courtroom. She was stone-faced. The calendar was called. I greeted her and entered my appearance as the defendant and my own attorney, pro se.
The hearing was for her to step aside because of her severe undisclosed marital conflict. She was married to a silent partner of the Pohl law firm that I had sued. I requested that another judge would preside then decide the motion. My request was quickly denied.
I objected to my attorneys testifying and invoked my attorney-client privilege. I was overruled. Judge Marks ordered the testimonies to proceed. I had to prove my motion and I was entitled to choose the sequence of my witnesses. The opposing counsel O’Brien, was my first witness.
The judge looked at me with disdain. She ordered that my attorneys would testify first, as my opponent wanted. She reversed the proper judicial procedure as easily as she reversed the burden of proof during my trial.
The transcript of the recusal hearing shows verbatim, word for word, as follows:
Harvey proceeded to the witness stand. His oath for truth was administered. He continuously smiled to cover his fear of testifying. He would glance at the judge then back at the opposing counsel, as if to sense their approval of his performance. He followed what the opposing counsel said in his letter. But he testified that there were two pre-trial disclosures by Judge Marks of her marital relation with an attorney in the Pohl firm.
Harvey accommodated both the opposing counsel and the judge. Thus, the disclosures had to be two, a math computation without the need to think. That was his safety net.
I was tempted to yell, “You are a liar, Harvey. You said that the judge never disclosed that she’s the wife of an attorney in Pohl’s office before the trial. Now, she made two such disclosures?”
Harvey had completely transformed himself into a hostile witness in favor of my opponents. It was a strange scenario that I had to overcome—an ugly and immoral situation where a lawyer was testifying against his present client without fair warning.
I questioned him on dates and people present when any of the two disclosures happened. He couldn’t say. I questioned him on all responses he made to the alleged disclosures of the judge. He mentioned two words of American slang—“No problem!”—That was all.
The judge looked at me with a cold face. I imagined her saying, “You are bound by your lawyers’ ‘No problem.’ You should know what those two words mean. They mean, you agreed. Can’t you understand American English? You should. You are practicing law in America!”
I questioned Harvey if he had any note of the judge’s two disclosures—a line or two, a word or more. There was absolutely none. The court minute texts and transcripts were with me. Harvey couldn’t point to any page where the judge disclosed her spousal conflict before the trial.
I came to an immoral realization. I was surrounded by attorneys who took the vow of integrity and honesty but did not fear perjury. They were above the law.
On the witness stand, Harvey was increasingly agitated. It was midway into his testimony when he asked Judge Marks for a recess. He claimed that he had to speak to his attorney who happened to be Roy Chang whom he described as his partner.
Roy—his attorney? I thought Roy was my attorney! These two lawyers were playing deadly games. Or, they were showing their repugnance to ethics and procedure without the least effort of sophistication.
The hearing transcript shows verbatim, word for word:
“THE WITNESS (Harvey Demetrakopoulos):
Any possibility that I can have a short moment? Because this is an issue I need to discuss with my partner acting as my attorney.
THE COURT: Sure. We’ll take a break.
MS. DOMINGUEZ: Excuse me. Just a moment, your Honor. These two people are witnesses.
THE COURT: Excuse me. We’re taking a break.
MS. DOMINGUEZ: I’m just objecting, Your Honor, that he will contact the other witness in this case.
THE COURT: I will allow him to do that. There are sensitive issues obviously about attorney-client…”
The judge claimed that we were going for over an hour then she quickly stood up. She wouldn’t hear further objection from me and was making up her own judicial procedure as we went along.
She disregarded her order of exclusion of witnesses. She claimed that Harvey had the right to speak to Roy who he retained as his attorney right there on the witness stand.
I thought, “What a mockery of justice! I am with people who are making their own laws and rules.”
I quickly ended the testimony of Harvey. He had no chance to change his answers. He left the courtroom without looking at anyone. He was visibly terrified. I was sending him my thoughts—that’s what you get when you lie, lie, lie!
My opponent, O’Brien, did not present Roy Chang. And he decided not to call on me to testify. Or, I would expose all the lies occurring in a Hawaii State court.
I had no desire to present Roy either, or he could correct and even enhance Harvey’s testimony. Besides, the judge may grant all the recesses he would need to polish his answers. So, what was the point?
It was my turn to present my only witness. I called upon the opponent, O’Brien. Again, he was extremely reluctant. But he was in the room. There was no need for a subpoena. That was basic.
The judge hesitated. But O’Brien said no more. I knew what he was thinking—“Don’t worry, Judge. I’ve heard Harvey’s testimony. Thanks for changing the sequence of presenting witnesses. I just love your procedure…really love it!”
O’Brien walked over to the witness stand.
His testimony was a mirror image of Harvey’s testimony: Two disclosures before trial, no recollection of dates and people in attendance, and all agreed for the judge to preside in my case, only with those two words, “No Problem.”
I thought to myself, “My office parrot could do better than that! How humiliating that a parrot could perform better than how my lawyers defended and protected me.”
No problem, that’s it? What happened to the strict rules of procedure for conflicts of interest? “Look at the problem I am going through now, Judge”—but I wouldn’t scream that thought and compound the No Problem into a gargantuan problem.
Portion of the hearing transcript shows my cross-examination of the opponent verbatim, word for word:
“Q. (BY MS. DOMINGUEZ) Mr. O’Brien, you have represented the plaintiffs in this case, the Barnedos, true?
Q. Okay. And, of course, you are still their attorney?
Q. And you were here all the while listening to the testimony of the previous witness, Harvey Demetrakopoulos, and you heard all he said, true?
My questions were answered with one word, yes or no. Then, it was time to get to the main issue of any pre-trial disclosure of the judge’s marital conflict of interest and mandatory disqualification.
The witness showed anger and his face turned red. His word, yes or no, disappeared. I had to finish my cross-examination before he completely lost his composure.
Appearing on the transcript, verbatim, word for word, my questions and the answers of the witness, Mr. O’Brien, were as follows:
“Q. (BY MS. DOMINGUEZ) You know that that’s important, don’t you?
A. I consider it exceedingly important.
Q. Okay. Since you consider that disclosure and recusal, all of those exceedingly important, as an attorney, did you remind the Honorable Judge Marks, Judge, let’s put this in writing, it’s very important, it might decide the outcome of the case? Did you say anything like that?
A. There was no reason to.
Q. You did not in other words.
A. No. I did not.
Q. Even if you thought it was very important.
A. I did not think it was necessary.
Q. That’s your best answer?
A. That’s my only answer.
I gave the witness a quick time to catch his breath, then I proceeded with my cross-examination. He had regained his composure and relaxed his guard. A portion of the transcript reads verbatim, word for word:
Q. “Okay. I’m not going to breach your privilege with your clients ‘cause I know better than do that, Mr. O’Brien, but did you ever, ever, ever, put down in your notes, as an attorney, that Judge Marks disclosed her spousal relationship?
A. No, ma’am. I knew it anyway. I knew it—I’ve known Bob Marks for a long time. I knew where he worked.”
Then, the closing arguments began. O’Brien argued his exhibits—copies of my lawsuit against Pohl where the husband of the judge was a partner.
I thought, “What’s he doing?” He was actually proving my motion—the intense conflict of interest of the judge of being married to my legal enemy. His arguments could provoke repulsion, even more hate against me. The transcripts would be read by the Supreme Court who shall decide my appeal.
The intended message of my opponent to the judge was so clear—I was going against high political figures including her husband who was a recent State Attorney General. I was so barbaric, uncivilized, or unprofessionally misbehaving in an American court.
My argument was simple. There was no note of any attorney, court minute text, transcript, record of any of the two pre-trial disclosures. What did not exist in a Court of Record never happened.
In short, the judge never made a pre-trial disclosure that she was the wife of my legal enemy. Those two casual words of NO PROBLEM—without an iota of written proof —were never moral and just. Nor was it a valid procedure that the judge would preside in the case. Even in countries who look up to America for its standard of justice.
I stared at the judge and wondered how she, of all judges, suddenly replaced Judge Del Rosario, who was originally assigned to the case. There was no reason provided by the court. It just happened. And I was sending her a silent message—“How can you allow atrocities, as the testimonies of the lawyers before you, to happen? Please remember the vow you took to follow the Rule of Law and impart justice.”
Judge Marks quickly denied my recusal motion. Opposing counsel expressed his gratitude. “Thank you, Your Honor.” Then he threatened to submit his request for his fees and costs because of my frivolous motion.
I gathered my files, walked out of the courtroom, and remembered what Harvey said on the witness stand—they were withdrawing as my attorneys.
In a couple of days, I couldn’t believe what I saw. A court document was by my fax machine. My case was transferred from Judge Marks to Judge Gary Chang, no known relation to Roy Chang.
Something must have happened. I quickly ordered the transcript of the recusal hearing. At the very end, Judge Marks announced that she was voluntarily stepping aside.
Was that really said? Was it just inserted? I didn’t hear her say that. Perhaps, even opposing counsel did not—or he wouldn’t thank the judge when she denied my motion for her recusal.
The tape of the hearing was not available. “Ms. Dominguez, it’s normally discarded after the transcript is ordered and completed unless you officially preserve it earlier,” said the court reporters’ supervisor. “Your transcript was already done.”
There was no need to pursue my concern. It was enough that a new judge was taking over. An unexpected relief from the pits of hell.
Judge Marks could have simply walked over to the administrative judge—from one chambers to the other. They socialized, discussed my case, socialized some more, then the order for a new judge was filed. Just like that!
The new judge, Judge Gary Chang, was a partner in a personal injury firm before his appointment. I was always for the plaintiffs and he was for the defense. Our relationship was adversarial, often very bitter. But we maintained a restrained professional courtesy.
Still, I felt uneasy. Before his appointment, I won huge fees when a federal judge from California decided that the defense of Judge Gary Chang’s law firm was borderline bad faith. Then the judge said, “In all of my years on the bench, this must be the most interesting case I tried.” He was referring to a fierce battle of psychiatrists as witnesses to prove the proximate causation of my client’s death.
Judge Chang also reported me to the Disciplinary Counsel before his appointment. He claimed that I breached ethics by representing a husband and wife in a car accident. But I had no conflict of interest and his report died a natural death when he did not pursue. My worry was his pre-judgment.
Judge Chang was now in the judiciary. We were no longer antagonists. My hope was for his fair discretion and to follow the law as we moved forward. I would just pursue my legal rights in his court. It would be hell many times over if my case was thrown back to Judge Marks, the wife of the recent Attorney General after Warren Price—a silent partner of the law firm I sued.