There is a geopolitical adage in civil rights circles, that Pennsylvania has Philadelphia on one end, and Pittsburgh on the other, and that in between lies Alabama. Harkening back to the civil rights struggles of the 60’s, and the role they had in changing the political and legal debate about civil rights, if central Pennsylvania is indeed like Alabama, then Harrisburg is its modern day Montgomery.
In the days of the civil rights struggles in the south, the federal courts stood as the bulwark against the abuses of individual liberty by state and local authorities that impeded progress in the area of equal rights for all, and our leaders had the courage to ensure those rights by sending in our armed forces just to ensure that little black and white boys and girls, and all other races and ethnicities would share in the virtue of equal rights for all. While racism remains a pressing civil rights issue in the 21st century in Pennsylvania, and will remain a focus of our effort, it is not the only issue that defines the modern civil rights landscape, but the one thing in common between and among all persons who suffer the abuse of their individual rights under the law is that they still believe that their federal courts stand as the bulwark against such abuses. They do not, however, and until they do, the climate of institutional oppression that exists, and that earns central Pennsylvania the dubious designation as the symbol of a backward way of thinking, will not be likely to change.
The federal courts have, to the contrary, become the vehicle by which the institutional oppression is fostered, largely through state courts and state and local governments that are not made to conform to rigid due process requirements, but instead are protected by the federal courts for political and even personal reasons. The result is a tremendous loss of confidence in our judiciary and political system, and the exploitation, frustration, and outright abuse of people’s preconceived notions of what justice in America is supposed to be.
The civil rights problems that exist do not, of course, exist in central Pennsylvania alone, but because of the geopolitical connection between the federal courts in Harrisburg and the center of state government, also in Harrisburg, the nature of the problem is made more prominent. Two of the three current regular status judges in the federal court in Harrisburg were appointed right out of their state-wide bureaucratic positions, and the third has risen through the Harrisburg legal community with strong state and local political connections. The administration of justice through those judges is very clearly driven by bureaucratic thinking and the protection of political friends and power bases, and there has been a demonstrable lack of fidelity to the rights of the individual.
One of the primary purposes of this site, at the outset, is to continue to reveal the exact nature of the problem that is leading to the denigration of the role of the federal courts in protecting and preserving civil rights, and to work to remedy the civil rights issues that exist by working to ensure that the federal courts, and, by extension, the state courts, perform the functions that every citizen expects its courts to do – provide equal justice under the law.
There are current efforts underway to eliminate what has become simply a corrupt federal court system in central Pennsylvania, and Harrisburg in particular, and there are a variety of sites that have been set up to address these immediate problems. Again, until there is equal access to justice for all, there is equal justice for none, and the courts have been permitted to keep the lid on the climate they are creating by implementing policies and practices which allow them to act with little or no transparency or public accountability, and it is essential to the civil rights climate to first shine the light on the problem and to try to create those conditions.
The longer term goal is for this site to become a resource network for civil rights lawyers, public interest groups, and individuals who are experiencing the deprivations of their rights across the spectrum of ways in which the government and its officials are involved in all of our daily activities. Overt racism and the lack of equality of opportunity in public contracting and in employment continue to pervade the culture of Pennsylvania, whistleblowers who try to expose public corruption have no protection against retaliation, and citizens continue to be subjected to the whims of rogue local politicians without recourse. The result, again, is local systems and cultural attitudes that the federal courts stood against a half-century ago. Through this site, we will work to create a more open, transparent, and enlightened political and cultural climate through the guarantee of equal access to justice. We will look forward to being your network of resources to achieve that end.
Please read on as we reveal the nature of the problem, the way in which it is manifest, and some of the possible solutions through the civil rights saga of decorated war veteran, former united States Congressman, former Pennsylvania Auditor General, and civil rights lawyer Don Bailey.