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Truthdigger of the Week: Judge Jed Rakoff

Posted on Dec 2, 2011
Composite image: Handout / Mary Altaffer, AP

There are those occasions when the choice for Truthdigger of the Week is so clear that our tribute practically writes itself. This is one of those times, as this installment is about U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who consistently demonstrates that he’s game to take on some of the country’s most powerful and corrupt institutions and policies.

Judge Rakoff’s most recent action to grab our attention amounted to a very public, and deserved, embarrassment for both Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission. As we summarized Monday, Rakoff rejected Citigroup’s attempt to evade culpability for swindling customers out of more than $700 million by selling them on bad investments in the mortgage market. Here’s how Forbes explained Citi’s initial offense.


The charges Citi is [facing are] related to bets made by investors on the housing market that went bad when the bubble collapsed. In the years since the financial crisis, details have come forth about institutions that carefully selected securities in a portfolio, or allowed a client to do so, without notifying investors of the short bets made by those who picked the composition.

Read more

This was bad enough, but strike two for Citigroup happened when the financial giant tried to take an all-too-familiar way out, with the SEC’s complicity, by agreeing to pay a settlement of $285 million and calling it a day. Although the proposed payment is substantially hefty, what this response doesn’t include is an actual admission of guilt.

Clearly, Judge Rakoff was well aware of the significance of this attempted solution, and he called out both Citi’s sketchy gesture and the SEC’s part in supporting corporate corruption by serving them notice in an eloquently worded rejection on Monday. The full text of Rakoff’s ruling is well worth a read, but here’s a teaser in the meantime:

Finally, in any case like this that touches on the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives, there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth. In much of the world, propaganda reigns, and truth is confined to secretive, fearful whispers. Even in our nation, apologists for suppressing or obscuring the truth may always be found. But the S.E.C., of all agencies, has a duty, inherent in its statutory mission, to see that the truth emerges; and if fails to do so, this Court must not, in the name of deference or convenience, grant judicial enforcement to the agency’s contrivances.

The significance of Rakoff’s decision wasn’t lost on University of Denver law professor J. Robert Brown Jr., who told Bloomberg, “It’s a frontal assault on the ‘neither admit nor deny’ approach.” Not surprisingly, both the SEC and Citigroup disagreed with the judge’s reasoning, and we particularly enjoyed the careful wording of an email by a Citigroup spokeswoman quoted in that same article: “The settlement fully complies with long-established legal standards.”

That may be true, but when the standards themselves are the problem, that’s when someone needs to summon the chutzpah to call them into question, which is just what Rakoff did. As Truthdig’s own Robert Scheer pointed out in a recent column, Citigroup has ties to key players in President Obama’s, as well as President Clinton’s, economic advisory teams (see: Robert Rubin), once again underscoring the cozy relationship between Wall Street and the White House. As Rakoff’s background demonstrates, he has made a long and storied career of chasing down white collar crime and taking on big banks (not to mention the death penalty, while he was at it), and he had some practice for this latest case from his previous dealings with Bank of America and the SEC. For his commitment to finding the truth and using his gavel to drive it home, it’s Judge Rakoff for the win this week.  —KA




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By ReadingJones, April 2, 2012 at 5:06 am Link to this comment

The 1% are all for “Tort Reform” because they well
understand that lawyers are one of our few bulwarks
against their accumulation of power. “Tort Reform”
should be retitled “Lets Castrate All the Lawyers.”

I have been defended by lawyers in a variety of
actions. I have been blessed by finding men of great
integrity, intelligence and energy. One reason the
rabid right wing conservatives hate them is that
tortlawyers are a big source of money for progressive

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By Harold May, April 2, 2012 at 12:23 am Link to this comment

I am sure many lawyers are behind this man because we firmly believe that the law is above all and should not be mocked with such ridiculous actions. The neither deny nor admit method should not be condoned.

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By Doubtom, December 5, 2011 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

homogrey,, is that how we got to the present situation, by patiently changing
things for the better with a totally dysfunctional Legislature, a totally compromised
Supreme Court which is in the forefront of making things better with ‘Citizens
United” and “money is free speech”, and a President sponsored and financed by
Wall Street? Might I add to the mix, an Attorney General who decides against
prosecuting war criminals, even self-admitted ones?  Or maybe it’s the militarized
police departments who face unarmed protestors with ten times the protection
that I was afforded when facing a real and ‘armed’ enemy?  What is it that you see
as indications of things having profited from a “change for the better”?
If you imagine for a minute that the entrenched powers are about to give in
amicably after having amassed unparalleled power you are naive; each new day
presents more ‘in your face’ legislation and brazen attempts to suppress any input
by the people as we are led once again into accepting yet another illegal war with
Iran as being in our best interests.  How many wars must we engage in before you
get the idea that the people are largely without a voice in changing things?

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By heterochromatic, December 5, 2011 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment

TT~~~ if you think I’m a flag-waver, you ain’t thinking well…....

I would have considered waving a flag if Reagan was indicted and will consider it
again if Cheney gets jugged…..other than that .....

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By heterochromatic, December 5, 2011 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment

TT~~~  “If you see no reason to change the way this nation is operating,  you’re a
big part
of the problem”


I see plenty of reason to change things, but I’m picky and not about to choose to
employ any old idiot methods.

I try to opt for ones that might work and might induce change for the better.

I recommend that you take that into consideration.

Report this

By Doubtom, December 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm Link to this comment

Homogrey, I’m quite likely better positioned to comment on the state of our sitting
army than you are, having spent an entire career, over 30 years, within that
screwed-up establishment.  I know the difference between being employed in
honorable service in the “defense” of the nation and as simple cannon fodder in an
“offensive” action based on lies.  Now go wave your———- flag where it will be
better received.

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By Carl Street, December 5, 2011 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment

Revolutions, even the “successful ones,  never work because revolutions are only an overtly violent method of changing those in power.

BUT, whether the change of those in power results from so-called peaceful means or violent means, the basic paradigm remains the same…

No matter the method or who wins, the government ALWAYS wins.

Simply put, exchanging one set of paranoid psychotic power mad psychotics for another will NEVER result in freedom.  Oppressors may change; but oppression does not.

In 5,000+ years of recorded human history there has NEVER been a government that has NOT ultimately turned upon its populace.  Think about that—NOT ONE in 5,000+ years. 

And even that dismal record is probably even worse than stated because it has almost certainly been sanitized by pro-government “historians”.

You would think the implications of that 5,000+ years of a failed human experiment called “government” would be obvious to even the most casual and ignorant observer.

REAL freedom can only come when the human race grows up and gives up its absurd belief that we need supervision.

Once people get it through their heads that there are NO humans with the wisdom to direct the lives of others—ALL are flawed, and ALL will ultimately become oppressors, regardless of their original intent—Then, and only then, will governments go the way of the dinosaurs.

One can only hope that such maturity will arrive prior to the destruction of our species and planet by the psychotic ambitions of those in power and their vast array of mass destruction weaponry.

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By heterochromatic, December 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

TomTom~~~~ if you think that the folks in our armed forces don’t contain several
of the best small-unit fighters in the world haven’t a clue.

make out a will before picking up your slingshot.

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By Doubtom, December 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment

Homogrey do you seriously think our standing army is equipped for anything but
remotely controlled warfare?  Remotely detonated devices and remote drone
warfare pretty much establish that our standing army prefers sitting down.

The army is not what it use to be and neither is the nation;  that’s what the more
sentient element is trying to get across to dunderheads like you with their protest
If you see no reason to change the way this nation is operating,  you’re a big part
of the problem and more of a fantasist than I am.

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By heterochromatic, December 5, 2011 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

sorry TomTom, but we keep a standing army to deal with the tiny pricks that the
Anarchists pull. We don’t rely on delusional fantasist fools such as Limbaugh to
deal with other delusional fools bent on biting ankles.

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By Doubtom, December 5, 2011 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

homogrey, get your fly swatter and support from the apologist gasbags like Rash
Limpbag and Coulter,  see how effective you are against the real anarchists.

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By heterochromatic, December 4, 2011 at 8:13 pm Link to this comment

Doub, you get the other kids in your Occupy PeeWee’s Playhouse Anarchist cCub
to run home and get their slingshots and go at it.

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By Doubtom, December 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm Link to this comment

Revolution is the only solution!  Nothing will change until we change it forcibly.

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By heterochromatic, December 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm Link to this comment

bobby~~~I’m sending you a clue so that you don’t have to buy one for yourself.

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By mrfreeze, December 4, 2011 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

bobbyndallas - I’m glad you listened to that Diane Rehm program…...more of the commentators on this thread should check it out. And…Carl, you would certainly find “historical” relevance in that programs…..History is replete with examples of corrupt politicians, merchants and, unfortunately, regular folk who simply have little power to change things.

It’s truly disheartening to know that even a seemingly sane ruling by this judge will probably have little to no effect on the way business is conducted by the uber-wealthy that own this country today.

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By bobbyndallas, December 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm Link to this comment

let’s see. Is america the most corrupt country on the
What other country has 430+ elected officials in one
house, 100 in the other. who are all indebted to
large corporations, who can control elections, very
legally now, lie about, have the supreme court
protect them?
What other country has a government sponsored system
which is designed to allow for trillions of dollars
to be stolen from its citizens, and not one single
person is held accountable, in fact all of the above
mentioned elected officials are 100% complicit in the
theft. Does any country even come close to these
numbers? In this country it is illegal to trade on
insider information - except for the above mentioned
elected officials, they have exempted themselves from
the law they prosecute ordinary citizens for. But
fear not! as long as we have a population who
supports them and seeks to be garrisehed,
(hectocheome) then why should we change?  Let’s hear
your response and I bet it sounds more like an
accusation or at best a limbaugh like diatribe.

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By heterochromatic, December 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

Dear Street—-politicians as a group will never long be more honest and less
grasping than the general mass of humans, and there never will be a
government that will not present problems….......

what does the 5,000 years of recorded history teach us about the possibilities
of societies of millions of people existing together without governments.

thanks for the giggle, Carl, with that gasbagging.

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By Carl Street, December 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment

Thanks bobby,

Unfortunately, believers in the political system are like heroin addicts.  No matter how much they suffer they continue to believe their next fix will solve all their problems.

These poor deluded fools are in an advance coma of denial and, despite over 5,000 years of recorded history showing that governments have ALWAYS been the largest liars, thieves, and murders they just cannot give up their romantic addiction that somehow, someway, if ONLY they could get the “right” person into office all will be well.

2,000+ years ago the historian Flavius Josephus said, “All politicians are liars and thieves—only the dishonest ones deny that”—gives you some idea how little has changed in over 2,000 years…

But, of course, the REAL reason things have not changed is the romantic idiots who will not give up the notion that the human race needs adult supervision and continue to cling desperately to the historically demonstrable false idea that “they” are endowed with the wisdom to choose who those rulers are. 

William Shakespeare said it best, “What fools these mortals be…”

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By heterochromatic, December 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment

bobby, when you say stuff as dumb and as unsupported as “America IS THE
MOST CORRUPT NATION on the planet.”

there’s no need to make a reply beyond responding with the same level of
gibberish and a horselaugh.

you don’t wanna be treated as a silly schoolboy,  don’t blow gas out your bumper.

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By bobbyndallas, December 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment

Dear Mrfreeze thanks for your link to the radio
broadcast with one of the former criminals from the
aiding and abetting commission. All of her guests who
have made money by lying to “the people” defend the
indefensible quite eloquently. This should be
required listening by all grade school children - to
hold their own parents accountable.
Dear Carl
Your comments are right on the money. Seems like the
trouble is that well as americans we are all to
addicted to hate and criticizing others while the
bandits take everything we have.
And to others(hetrochromatic): 1. PLEASE take rick
perry with you!  You can have him! He is of no use to
anyone anywhere, except the lobbyist. Make him your
own personal chia pet.
And, please, go to school and try to learn the basics
of making a point. If you have one to make. Really,
just incoherent gibberish is indicative of a serious
lack of   well   anything.

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Carl Street's avatar

By Carl Street, December 4, 2011 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment

Before getting too excited, keep in mind that the powers that be often create/use events like this to lull the public back into their romantic belief in the political system.

Sort of like how Las Vegas Casinos do all they can to publicize the occasional large scale winners.  But the reality is, occasional winners have NO real negative effect on Casino fortunes, and, in fact are a necessary “cost of business” because it keeps the suckers coming back to the games.

The REAL answer, of course, is to STOP being suckers and stop supporting the system.  Stop being naive romantic idiots who continue to believe the absurd notion that those who will lie, cheat, steal, maim, murder, and kill on and industrial scale will somehow become honest at the door of the voting booth and/or respect court rulings, Constitutional laws, Bills of Rights, etc.

Even a cursory reading of history shows they never have, and they never will.  Governments have ALWAYS done just as they damn well pleased—public opinion, votes, Constitutions, laws, notwithstanding.

And, they get away with it through a combination of lies, fraud, and periodic tricks like this ruling that lull people who might be waking up back to sleep. WAKE The hell up and stop being fools…

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By camipray4peace, December 4, 2011 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

Finally a brave judge. Matt Tiabbi did a very good piece on this as well. I hope Democracy Now does a piece on this in the coming week. It’s an important story, in my opinion.

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By heterochromatic, December 4, 2011 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

bobby~~~~That America IS THE
MOST CORRUPT NATION on the planet. ~~~~

you all go and get that good ol Governor Perry to
secede for you.

maybe you can become the Texan Ambassador to the United
Nations ..... rub elbow with a bunch a folks that r a
fur piece more CORRUPTED.

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By bobbyndallas, December 4, 2011 at 8:15 am Link to this comment

What a terrific read the ruling is. So well describes
how the criminal network in wash D.C works. I recall
obama election and he made such a feeble stab
at(lobbyist rules)recognizing the anger and disgust we
all had after the highly criminal bush years.
I can only hope that this will become center stage in
the media during the next election cycle, but I am sure
that NO american corporation will allow our media to
focus any attention on the truth = That America IS THE
MOST CORRUPT NATION on the planet. This should be
required reading in ALL Schools.

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By DancingLaughter, December 3, 2011 at 11:56 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Judge Rakoff!

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By ReadingJones, December 3, 2011 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment

Judge Rakoff reminds me of St. Thomas More. Brains can
be rented or bought but personal integrity is
priceless. When we vote or advocate in a political
arena as we are all doing here I think we all should
strive for integrity. Sometimes I fall far short but
not always. I hope to always give my honest best. I
think the survival of our nation and millions of lives
depend upon our mutual efforts Above all what our
country needs is a revival of integrity and things like
duty and honor and a sense of community. Please extend
to me your pardon if I have been too preachy.

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By Jerry Leslie, December 3, 2011 at 8:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Christian96, soon those “Made In China and “Made In USA” labels will be replace by “Made In The World”...
European Technocrats May Soon Deprive Americans Of Knowing Where Everything They Buy Is Made

“The World Trade Organization, the OECD, the International Chamber of Commerce and the European Commission are moving aggressively to eliminate “Country of Origin” labeling, claiming that it does not reflect the current structure of global trade. The Europe-based organizations instead want to adopt a “Made in the World” logo for all products on the grounds that global supply chains have rendered country of origin labeling inaccurate and obsolete.

The intent of the proposal is to reduce public pressure on politicians for protectionist trade policies…”

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By justmiming, December 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you or I, or the bottom 90% ran afoul of the government we would be
screwed. Didn’t pay that $25 parking ticket? Well that might cost you $300 out
the door a months later, if you didn’t deal with it right away. As you get older
you realize that you don’t mess with City Hall. Pay the goddamn thing cause
they will tag on so many fines and penalties. I have gotten over the urge to
fight them.
Don’t mess with the IRS. I worked for them for a spell. Those bastards are
dicks. The IRS is a crude, heartless bludgeoning weapon that will pound your
ass into the dust. If they think you tried to cheat them forget about it. They rule
through fear.
But Wall Street live in another world. Steal a billion and you might have to fork
over 200 million. And they don’t have to apologize or admit wrong. They are
capitalists and this irritant is just the expected risk of doing business. They are
the JC’s… the Job Creators.
That is today’s reality.

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By ardee, December 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment

christian96, December 3 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

Ardee—-Have you solved any problems yet?  Didn’t think so.

Hey christian ( in name only apparently), seen a good psychiatrist as yet? I didn’t think so.

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By IMax, December 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

Excellent choice this week. Next week I would like to nominate Judge John D. Bates.

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By mrfreeze, December 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

This last Wednesday, Diane Rehm had a panel discussion regarding the judge’s ruling and how this may signal some changed in the way Wall Street is held accountable…..

Oh my, before you all get too excited about Rakoff’s ruling, you should listen to this show:

One of the guests is/was a SEC regulator and the former head of the SEC was on the phone…...Their comments are both chilling and profoundly disturbing…As I listened it sounded as if the regulators actually work FOR the banks…They act as if the rest of us are a bunch of dumb-shits who obviously can’t understand “how complicated” and how difficult it is to “prove” wrongdoing. They tortured the English language and logic so badly that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

No my friends, there isn’t going to be ANY change in the oversight of Wall Street or any of the other financiers who helped tank the world economy. They OWN our government, our regulatory agencies…etc.. Without sounding like a conspiracy theorist (I am not), I’d say we have lost the war against this sort of corruption. The game is rigged, the winners will continue to win and there’s not a goddamn thing we can do about it.

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By Doubtom, December 3, 2011 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment

If I had to gage the wit and intelligence of posters I would pick M. Henri over Emile
Z and his preoccupation with the nether regions of the human specie.

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By EmileZ, December 3, 2011 at 11:58 am Link to this comment

@ caped amigo

moi aussi (that is french for “me as well”).

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By caped amigo, December 3, 2011 at 10:42 am Link to this comment

A great choice. I just wish he wasn’t the exception.

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By Donna, December 3, 2011 at 10:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“When the standards themselves are the problem” We have generations now that have grown up seeing lying, cheating and stealing as the way to get ahead or just to protect ones good name. If people can so easily be led astray with anybody waving a flag and a altruistic said cause when in actuality only doing more harm than good, I can only hope there are more like Judge Rakoff and may God bless him and all the more appreciate publications such as this.

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By M Henri Day, December 3, 2011 at 9:08 am Link to this comment

Thank you for your constructive and on-topic comment EmileZ ; most typical ! But do you really think it wise to make your interest in one particular region of human anatomy a matter of public knowledge ?...


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By christian96, December 3, 2011 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

Ardee—-Have you solved any problems yet?  Didn’t
think so.

This week I watched Diane Sawyers on ABC News
twinkling those blue eyes as she encouraged Americans
“to buy American.”  When you buy a product with the
label “made in America” on it the label won’t tell
you who owns the company.  I’m reading a book titled,
“The Late Great United States.”  The author, Mark
Hitchcock discusses “sovereign Wealth Funds,” a
phrase to depict the number of American Corporations
and assests owned by foreign investors.  On page 65
Hitchcock states, “Think about the list of investors
who recapitalized Citigroup in recent months—SWFs
from Singapore, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi governments.
Incredibly, Asian investors bought a net $50 billion
of U.S. stocks and bonds in January 2008 alone, up
nearly 30 percent from the previous month.”
Michael Schuman, writing for “Time,” describes what’s
ahead at “America’s coming garage sale.”
“As the financial crisis in the U.S. persists, the
combination of decreasing asset prices and a weakening dollar will make the U.S. cheaper and cheaper to foreign investors….The U.S. will become
one giant garage sale, where the buyers are Japanese banks, Chinese state-run investment funds and
oil-rich Arab sheikdoms.”

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M Henri Day's avatar

By M Henri Day, December 3, 2011 at 3:40 am Link to this comment

Wonder how many bottles of beer are left on the wall ? But a good decision by this judge, whom I sincerely hope doesn’t harbour any ambitions for advancement in his judicial career. He has made a lot of important - and implacable - enemies….


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By zatso, December 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’d vote to retain this type of JUDGE!

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By heterochromatic, December 2, 2011 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

Bravo to the judge and thanks to the site for crediting the judge with the award.

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By Terri, December 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have been reading, on the Internet, all day today.
This is the only article, I read today, that gave me any kind of hope.

Thank you Sir.

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By ardee, December 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

This Clinton appointee is a refreshing change from the usual collusion and hand slapping that is the norm in such cases as these. I have to wonder what the end result will be on appeal however.

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By Doubtom, December 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Much as I despise lawyers as a group and by extension their promoted brothers,
the judges, I’m forced to admit, (damn this is difficult!) that there are a few good
ones—damn few!  Leaving aside the judge’s motive in rendering his
opinion/decision, I’d say it’s about time the ‘law’ started working for the people.  I
don’t know if we should applaud the judges action or collectively wonder, out
loud, why it has been so long in coming.  Why now judge?  The “banksters” have
been stealing from the public for years and a great many have already paid
themselves million dollar bonuses with the taxpayer’s money.

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By gerard, December 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment

Great choice—timely and centered!

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By Outraged, December 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment

Well, if the experts are correct, we only have 999,999
more cases to go!

(maybe Cain should revise his 999 focus, he seems to be
999ing the wrong folks)

Great choice for “Truthdigger”.

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By adrienrain, December 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

I, too, fear for his safety.

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By Carl Street, December 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The settlement fully complies with long- established legal standards.”

Could be summed up as either:

* Everyone else is doing it..


* But we’ve always done it that way…

Better yet: BOTH of the above…

And, viewed in this light the legal fiction and fallacy becomes clear.

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By jdean, December 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

About time. Wonder how long it will take before he is shipped to Guantanamo as a terrorist of the corporate elites.
Sieg heil

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By pundaint, December 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm Link to this comment

Well chosen, and kudos to the Judge.

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