Michael Volpe Investigates
Michael Volpe Investigates
Michael Volpe Investigates Podcast The Impromptu: Episode 43 an Interview with Susan Bassi

Michael Volpe Investigates Podcast The Impromptu: Episode 43 an Interview with Susan Bassi

She talks about private judges.
A screenshot from JAMS, one of the premiere private judging organizations

The latest guest on the podcast is Susan Bassi.

Susan has spent about seven years investigating private judges, a unique endeavor in California.

Private judges have popped up in a couple cases in the Orange County investigation so far.

A private judge was used in Bill Sardi’s case. As Bill told me, his attorney told him that the private judge would speed up the case. That did not happen.

In Sardi's case, he said rather than streamlining the process, the private court only made things even more complicated. 

He said rulings by the private judge stopped him from seeing his son at all, even though everyone was still living in the same home. 

"I can't be in his room at nighttime," Sardi said, "I don't know where all this comes from. All of a sudden, everything is turning around against me."

Sardi said he advises people to stay away from private judges. 

Donna McCracken, another Orange County case, also had a private judge: Judge David Weinberg.

As Donna described, Weinberg used the threat of jail to force her to turn her daughter over to her ex-husband, a multi-millionaire, despite her daughter’s refusal to go.

In another case, Weinberg moved forward with proceedings despite one of the litigants telling him they did not agree to a private judge.

Lawyers will tell their clients, Susan said, that a private judge is cheaper and faster, but that’s not so.

“They are not cheaper or faster,” Susan said.

Instead, it is less transparent and wealthy people, like Google founder Sergei Bren, use them to hided details from their divorces.

Susan has had some tussles with private judges which she put on YouTube.

Susan also told me that while a regular judge makes approximately $200,000 yearly, a private judge could make $500,000 and several million dollars per year.

As such, many judges see being a regular judge as a stepping stone to being a private judge.

Because lawyers often refer business to private judges, this often causes judges not to sanction bad lawyer behavior or risk future business.

Finally, private judges handle all sorts of arbitration, including Chris Cuomo’s dispute with CNN.

Many media companies use arbitration, and as such, it’s unlikely any of them will run an investigation into these private judges.

Susan described working for three years with the New York Times on a story which never ran.

Post Script

Check out the previous articles in the series on Orange County: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, and Part 14.

To support the continued investigation into Orange County please find the fundraiser here.

Michael Volpe Investigates
Michael Volpe Investigates
I give voice to the voiceless with true original reporting on topics the rest of the media is too afraid or lazy to cover.