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Michael Hiltzik: A judge's duty

October 26, 2010 |  7:39 pm to call 'em as he sees 'em. That's why Administrative Law Judge George Painter's broadside at his brother of the bench, Bruce Levine, resonates so loudly: The idea of a judge vowing at the start of his career always to rule one way is a jarring dereliction of duty.

Whether Judge Levine of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission actually said the words attributed to him is of course unproved. As my Wednesday column observes, all we have to go on is the record, and it supports at least the impression that Judge Levine was generally hostile to the claims investors made against commodities professionals in his courtroom.

As for Judge Painter, he was by no means a pushover for the investor. The record brims with cases in which he dismissed claims filed even by abject investors, and even some who had been harshly abused by their brokers, because they didn't fall within the confines of the law. but when they had a case, he noticed.

My original article about Monex International and the episode in which I first encountered Judge Painter  is here.

The column begins below.

Cards on the table: When George H. Painter says the game is rigged against the small investor in Washington, I have reason to take him at his word.

Even when his word comes wrapped up like a bombshell.

Painter, 83, detonated that bombshell recently in the course of announcing his retirement as an administrative law judge for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, effective in January. In a public notice, he accused his lone colleague on the CFTC bench, Bruce Levine, of having made a vow nearly 20 years ago never to rule in a complainant's — that is, an investor's — favor.

"A review of his rulings," Painter stated, "will confirm that he has fulfilled his vow."

Read the whole column.

-- Michael Hiltzik