Dear VT and Messrs. Morrison, Shiffman, and Berens
I read with interest your investigative report “The Teflon Robe”, published by Reuters on June 30, 2020, which “exposes hardwired judicial corruption” whereby “[t]housands of U.S. judges who broke laws or oaths remained on the bench” even though they “have made racist statements, lied to state officials and forced defendants to languish in jail without a lawyer – and then returned to the bench…sometimes with little more than a rebuke from the state agencies overseeing their conduct”.
In fact, your “findings reveal an “excessively” forgiving judicial disciplinary system”. Despite judicial conduct review commissions, “state and local judges have repeatedly escaped public accountability for misdeeds that have victimized thousands….the system tends to err on the side of protecting the rights and reputations of judges while overlooking the impact courtroom wrongdoing has on those most affected by it”.
Teflon Robe: Thousands of U.S. judges broke laws, oaths remained on the bench
By Michael Berens and John Shiffman Reuters
MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Judge Les Hayes once sentenced a single mother to 496 days behind bars for failing to pay traffic tickets. The sentence was so stiff it exceeded the jail time Alabama allows for negligent homicide.
Marquita Johnson, who was locked up in April 2012, says the impact of her time in jail endures today. Johnson’s three children were cast into foster care while she was incarcerated. One daughter was molested, state records show. Another was physically abused.
“Judge Hayes took away my life and didn’t care how my children suffered,” said Johnson, now 36. “My girls will never be the same.”
Fellow inmates found her sentence hard to believe. “They had a nickname for me: The Woman with All the Days,” Johnson said. “That’s what they called me: The Woman with All the Days. There were people who had committed real crimes who got out before me.”
In 2016, the state agency that oversees judges charged Hayes with violating Alabama’s code of judicial conduct. According to the Judicial Inquiry Commission, Hayes broke state and federal laws by jailing Johnson and hundreds of other Montgomery residents too poor to pay fines. Among those jailed: a plumber struggling to make rent, a mother who skipped meals to cover the medical bills of her disabled son, and a hotel housekeeper working her way through college.
Hayes, a judge since 2000, admitted in court documents to violating 10 different parts of the state’s judicial conduct code. One of the counts was a breach of a judge’s most essential duty: failing to “respect and comply with the law.”
Despite the severity of the ruling, Hayes wasn’t barred from serving as a judge. Instead, the judicial commission and Hayes reached a deal. The former Eagle Scout would serve an 11-month unpaid suspension. Then he could return to the bench. Read more:
Commissions may take years to start investigating a judge; have “special rules for judges” because “[m]ost states afford judges accused of misconduct a gentle kind of justice” while other “rules can leave lawyers and litigants fearing retaliation” so that they “intimidate anyone with a legitimate complaint”; drop a complaint after having “raised questions about whether proper procedures had been followed”; and allow judges to ‘return to the bench virtually unscathed’, while ‘victims of judicial misconduct are left uncompensated’, ‘“really losing sight of what a justice system should be all about”’.
Teflon Robe Takeaways
Thousands of state and local judges across the United States were allowed to keep their positions on the bench after violating judicial ethics rules or breaking laws they pledged to uphold, a Reuters investigation found.
For its “Teflon Robe” project, Reuters reviewed 1,509 cases from the last dozen years — 2008 through 2019 — in which judges resigned, retired or were publicly disciplined following accusations of misconduct. In addition, reporters identified another 3,613 cases from 2008 through 2018 in which states disciplined wayward judges but kept hidden from the public key details of their offenses — including the identities of the judges themselves.
The Reuters report focuses on a longtime Alabama judge who once sentenced a single mother to 496 days behind bars over unpaid traffic tickets. That judge, Les Hayes, plans to resign this week, years after the judge admitted to failing to “respect and comply with the law.”
Since 2000, Hayes has served as a municipal judge in Montgomery. According to the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission, Hayes broke state and federal laws by jailing hundreds of Montgomery residents, many of them Black, who were too poor to pay fines.
In 2016, Hayes admitted in court documents to violating 10 different parts of the state’s judicial conduct code. Despite his admission, Hayes reached a deal with the Alabama judicial commission to serve an 11-month unpaid suspension. He subsequently was rehired as a judge by the Montgomery City Council despite a community outcry.
Here are five key takeaways from our investigation, the first comprehensive accounting of judicial misconduct nationally:
Nine of every 10 judges were allowed to return to the bench after they were sanctioned for misconduct.
At least 5,206 people were directly affected by a judge’s misconduct. The victims cited in disciplinary documents ranged from people who were illegally jailed to those subjected to racist, sexist and other abusive comments from judges in ways that tainted the cases.
Each state has an oversight agency to investigate charges of judicial misconduct. But the clout of these commissions is limited, and their authority differs from state to state. To remove a judge, all but a handful of states require approval of a panel that includes other judges. And most states seldom exercise the full extent of those disciplinary powers.
In many states, the system of handling judicial misconduct allegations errs on the side of protecting the rights and reputations of judges, not on the concerns of the complainant.
One longtime Alabama judge who concurrently served on the state’s judicial oversight commission remained on the bench for three years after being accused of violating the same nepotism rules he was tasked with enforcing. After Reuters repeatedly pressed the judge and the state judicial commission about the matter, the judge retired from the bench as part of a deal with Alabama authorities to end the investigation.
Read the full investigation here https://reut.rs/2VwSmAQ.
No charge sticks to judges. Their Teflon robes cloaks them in impunity…while the public is exposed to misconduct by the complained-against judge and all the other members of the judicial system. Judges are unaccountable. The public is at their mercy and their victims are uncompensated. And state judges are not the only ones to wear Teflon robes.
A. Proposal for a joint investigation of federal judges and its justification
1. This is a proposal for a joint investigation extending yours of state judges to federal judges, the only ones with national jurisdiction so that their decisions and orders are apt to affect and even harm everybody in our country.
2. The target of the investigation is not misconduct that can be explained away as limited to individual rogue judges, whose removal and punishment would suffice to deal with the problem.
3. Rather, its target is forms of abuse of power so pervasive and necessarily coordinated among federal judges as to constitute their modus operandi: abuse that has been institutionalized in the Federal Judiciary. Their motive is grabbing illegal gain and convenience. Given that their abuse is so organized and influences all aspects of their activity, federal judges run the Federal Judiciary as a racketeering enterprise.
a. In fact, no lesser a politician than Senator Elizabeth Warren dare denounce in her “I have a plan for the Judiciary too” the systematic failure of federal judges to recuse themselves from cases in which they hold shares in the company of one of the parties before them and resolving the ensuing conflict of interests by favoring that party so as to maintain or increase the value of their shares. Sen. Warren has identified the circumstance enabling federal judges to commit such abuse to be their unaccountability. She has named it abusive self-enrichment.
b. Federal judges’ self-enrichment by abusing their power necessarily includes the crimes of:
1) concealment of assets
2) tax evasion
3) money laundering
4) fraud on the parties through intentional frustration of judicial process predicated on fairness and impartiality
5) breach of contract for judicial services entered into with no intention to perform it and thus, in bad faith
6) breach of their oath and of public trust causing injury in fact.
c. Federal judges have the means of committing those crimes:
1) The Federal Judiciary has a nationwide computer network run by expert personnel. It maintains a database that stores hundreds of millions of briefs, records, motions, applications, letters, decisions, orders, etc., and carries out electronic filings, retrievals, docket entries, daily schedule updating, database searches, etc.
2) It also has leverage over the intelligence agencies, which run even more extensive and sophisticated networks and whose secret requests for secret orders authorizing secret surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act must be approved by its judges.
d. Would you and the rest of the public trust federal judges to care about administering to you “Equal Justice Under Law” although they have no qualms about breaking the law to ensure their abusive self-enrichment?
4. The exposure of institutionalized abuse of power in the Federal Judiciary that has turned it into a racketeering enterprise will have a much substantial financial and journalistic impact. “Scandal sells”, and it can sell for years. Thus, it can render the investigation more cost-effective. Also, it can lead to a permanent increase in a media outlet’s audience and reputation.
5. Moreover, the exposure can provoke such public outrage as to insert the issue of judges’ abuse into the presidential campaign. By journalism having such impact, it can set in motion transformative change in both the administration of justice and the rest of government, as discussed below.
B. Proposal for publishing one or a series of my articles
6. An investigation takes time and Election Day is fast approaching. The nominating conventions offer a national digital or physical venue to force some politicians to address in their own defense the issue of judges’ abuse of power or to enable others to address it voluntarily to position themselves as leaders of those who demand that such abuse be detected, punished, and prevented and that the victims be compensated.
7. Therefore, since time is of the essence, I propose the you publish upon payment to me one or a series of my articles exposing institutionalized abuse of power in the Federal Judiciary. They are already written and available through the links hereunder for you to review.
8. The foundation of the proposed articles as well as of the proposed joint investigation is my two-volume professional study* † of judges and their judiciaries. Its originality lies on its pioneering analysis of the courts’ official statistics and reports annually submitted by law to Congress, whose politicians have a vested interest in disregarding them, the detriment to the public notwithstanding. The study is titled and downloadable for free thus. The study is titled and downloadable for free thus:
Exposing Judges’ Unaccountability
and Consequent Riskless Wrongdoing:
Pioneering the news and publishing field of
judicial unaccountability reporting* †
* Volume 1: http://Judicial-Discipline-Reform.org/OL/DrRCordero-Honest_Jud_Advocates.pdf >all prefixes:page number up to OL:393
† Volume 2: http://Judicial-Discipline-Reform.org/OL2/DrRCordero-Honest_Jud_Advocates2.pdf >from OL2:394
i. Download the volume files using MS Edge, Firefox, or Chrome; it may happen that Internet Explorer only downloads a blank page.
ii. Open the downloaded files using Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available for free at https://acrobat.adobe.com/us/en/acrobat/pdf-reader.html.
iii. In each downloaded file, go to the Menu bar >View >Navigation Panels >Bookmarks panel and use its bookmarks, which make navigating to the contents’ numerous(* †>blue references) very easy.
9. For instance, those statistics show that the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, 28 U.S.Code §§351-364, (the Act) entrusts federal judges with the exclusive authority to self-discipline. This means that any complaint against a federal judge must be filed, not with any alleged ‘independent’ judicial performance commission, but rather with the respective chief circuit judge, whose decision is reviewable only by his or her peers and colleagues in the circuit’s judicial council. All of them have abused their authority year after year by dismissing 100% of complaints and denying 100% of petitions to review those dismissals. They have turned their robes of Teflon into the wings of birds of prey to fly high above their bench and perch themselves as Judges Above the Law and well above the people in the courtroom and everywhere outside it.(*>jur:10-14; †>OL2:548, 748)
10. Other forms of judges’ abuse of power provide the subject for proposed articles, hereunder reduced to blurbs(with more details at †>OL2:1097§G; and with articles downloadable through their respective links):.
a. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s denunciation of judges’ abusive self-enrichment(†>OL2:1003)
b. The plan for the investigation of federal judges, which contains many leads for a focused and cost-effective investigation(*>jur:194§E);
1) Cf. program of activities(†>OL2:978§E) for exposing judges’ abuse by the proposed multidisciplinary team(*>jur:128§4).
c. Judges’ bankruptcy fraud scheme(*>jur:9; †>OL2:614)
d. How Covid has ushered in a new legal market(†>OL2:1066)
e. How Covid-caused bankruptcies will allow judges to take advantage of, and aggravate people’s financial and emotional distress(†>OL2:984)
f. “The math of abuse” demonstrates judges’ failure to read most briefs, each of which costs a party $Ks and even $10Ks to produce and becomes a compensable waste(†>OL2:760)
g. The sham hearings in the Federal Judiciary and Congress on judicial accountability, involving judges/politicians’ connivance and their fraud on witnesses and the public(†>OL2:1056)
h. The Chief Justice’s presiding over Trump’s removal trial with disregard for “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” can on grounds of equal protection of the law and privileged communications be invoked by anybody as precedent for refusing discovery(†>OL2:1040)
i. The abuse of power committed or tolerated by Supreme Court justices provides the grounds for petitioning President Trump to authorize the release of the FBI vetting reports on them(†>OL2:1095§D). The petition itself will open avenues of investigation, not to mention any report released.
j. Judges’ interception of people’s emails and mail to detect and suppress those of their critics This is the form of abuse likely to outrage the People the most because it affects directly the largest number of persons and deprives them of their most cherished rights, to wit, those guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of “freedom of speech, the press, and to assemble [on the Internet or by letter] to petition the government [of which judges constitute the third branch] for a redress of grievances”(OL2:1081, 781).
k. Other proposed articles are listed at †>OL2:719.
11. I have posted some of my articles to my Judicial Discipline Reform website at http://www.Judicial-Discipline-Reform.org. They have elicited such a positive reaction in its many visitors that as of this writing 32,608 and counting have become subscribers(†>OL2:Appendix 3). That website can be enhanced to attract a much larger segment of the public as proposed in my business plan(†>OL2:1022), which is guided by the principle, “Making money while doing justice”.
C. Proposal for the media and academia to hold unprecedented citizen hearings on judges’ abuse of power
12. I also propose the holding of unprecedented citizen hearings(†>OL2:1053§E; 1078§F). They are to be:
a. conducted jointly by journalists, professors, and other experts rather than the politicians who have connivingly elevated their judicial candidates to judgeships and justiceships and since then protect ‘our men and women on the bench’ despite the harm that they cause parties, the rest of the public, and the integrity of judicial process;
b. held at universities and media outlets;
c. intended for people to testify to the abuse by judges that they have suffered or witnessed;
d. broadcast nationwide through interactive multimedia so that witnesses and the public can participate inexpensively and in the largest number wherever they are; and
e. summited at the first-ever and nationwide conference on judges’ abuse of power, where the findings will be presented. The conference can lead to three events that can bring about transformative change(†>OL2:1069§E) in the administration of justice and the rest of government here and abroad:
1) the grassroots formation of a constitutional convention, such as the one called by 34 states since April 2, 2014, thus satisfying Article V of the Constitution, but that the leaders in Congress have no intention of ever convening, lest they lose their position of power and privilege. In fact, the convention can run away from the given agenda as did the one called in 1787 only to amend the Articles of Confederation, but which ended up tearing them up and drafting the current Constitution of 1789. The convention can end up reasserting the People’s status as the sovereign source of all political power and the masters of all public servants, including judicial public servants, whom the People are entitled to hold accountable for their performance and liable to compensate the victims of their abuse(*>jur:158§§6-8);
2) the formation of local chapters -similar to those that eventually coalesced into the national Tea Party, which in less than 10 years came to be unified enough to dominate American presidential politics- where parties will collectively demand from courts and their judges the refund of court filing fees for services not rendered and compensation for wasteful briefs required but not read, and other abuse inflicted on them;(†>OL2:1074§C).
3) a MeToo!-like worldwide movement can be launched that terminates the millennial impossible of holding judges accountable by eliminating their immunity as representatives of their appointers, “the king[, who] can do no wrong”, and subjecting them to the current reality that all other officers and everybody else are accountable for their acts and liable to compensation for even the accidents that they cause unintentionally, never mind their abuse, as are police and their departments, doctors and their hospitals, lawyers and their law firms, priests and their churches, journalists and their media outlets, pharmaceutical officers and their companies, etc.
D. Inserting the issue in the 2020 campaign and sparking transformative change
13. The objective of the proposal is to inform the national public of abuse of power by federal judges due to their unaccountability and so to outrage the public as to stir it up to demand of every politician, whether incumbent or running for election, to take a stand on the issue at every digital or physical rally, townhall meeting, interview, and press conference.
14. An outraged People can insert that issue in the 2020 campaign as a decisive one and thereby set in motion transformative change: what emerges from the change is substantially different from what was initially subjected to it.
a. Until the nature, extent, and gravity of judges’ abuse has not been fully exposed, no discussion of what to change and into what to change it is opportune. The outrage provoked by the exposure will turn change inconceivable today into necessary and unavoidable measures to ensure transparency, accountability, and liability.
15. The objective of inserting the judicial abuse issue into the campaign has reliable and repeatable precedents:
a. The publication by The New York Times and The New Yorker on October 5 and 10, 2017, respectively, of their exposés of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse gave rise in a matter of days to the emergence worldwide of the MeToo! movement.
b. The news about the killing of George Floyd by white police officers provoked that very night protest demonstrations nationwide. Since then an outraged public has forced politicians at the municipal, state, and federal levels to take a stand on police brutality and even debate the adoption of the federal Justice in Policing bill and its state counterparts.
c. The People, outraged at lack of progress in racial equality, are now taking down the statues representing racial abusers.
d. The People will be all the more outraged upon being informed that even if a Justice in Policing bill were enacted it would be nothing but a sprinkle of black ink on white paper until it was enforced in accordance with its letter and spirit by the police, the prosecutors, and the judges. However, these are interdependent actors that need each other for their electoral survival, physical protection, and judicial exoneration, such as that enjoyed in effect by General Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort.
16. These precedents show that the present time is the most opportune to expose federal judges’ abuse of power: There is no better time to publish than when the audience is expecting avidly one’s publications. The public mood is receptive to the exposure of abusers. Actually, the People are shouting self-assertively the rallying cry:
Enough is enough!
We won’t take any abuse by anybody anymore.
17. Nobody has more power to abuse than judges, for they are the ones who issue the ultimate orders disposing of our property, our liberty, and all the rights and duties that frame our lives and shape our identities.. Among them, federal judges have the most ordering and staying power:
a. Federal judges are the only officers in the whole country to have a life-appointment. Historically, it has ensured them of irremovability in practice regardless of their abuse(*>jur>21§a).
b. The Constitution, Article III, Section 1, forbids the diminution of their salary while in office.
c. Their power of retaliation is devastating: While in theory Congress could take back the self-disciplining authority that it granted federal judges and replace it with a mechanism that effectively held them accountable, it would never dare do so:
1) A single district judge suspended nationwide President Trump’s Muslim travel ban, and a three-judge appellate panel upheld that suspension nationwide, although two panel members would have sufficed to achieve the same result.
2) Federal judges can hold any law passed by Congress –and even any state legislature- unconstitutional. One at a time, judges can void each of the legislative pieces of the political agenda of a party who allows any of its members to do what is anathema to judges: “Don’t you ever try to hold us accountable!…If you ever want orders to force your political opponents to produce documents or appear to testify, don’t even think of coming to us! They are already denied! denied! denied!”
d. The corollary is that federal judges wield power of self-immunization: In fact, the Supreme Court has held, “A judge will not be deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority”(*>jur:26§d). They can hold unconstitutional any act of Congress that tries to curb their power. By so immunizing themselves against the authority of Congress to apply checks and balances on judges a constitutional crisis could be set off, whose outcome is uncertain.
a. Only one entity has stronger power than federal judges: an informed and outraged We the People, especially when voting at a presidential election and all the more so if assembled in a constitutional convention…unless the Federal Judiciary loses the board of the racketeering enterprise: the justices of the Supreme Court.
E. Beginning at the top: exposing the Supreme Court justices’ commission and cover-up of abuse
18. The joint investigation(*>OL:194§E), publication of my articles(supra ¶10), and the citizen hearings(supra ¶12) will enable initially one courageous and nimble media outlet, such as Reuters, and subsequently ever more outlets to do what not even Congress dare consider: Expose the abuse of power that the justices of the Supreme Court have committed since they were in the lower courts and continue to commit as justices and to cover up reciprocally as peers and as circuit justices allotted to the several circuits under 28 U.S.C. §42.
a. Here applies a sobering aphorism: “The cover-up is worse than the original crime”.
b. Those who ‘only’ have kept silent have become accessories after the abuse committed by the principal and which they knew or could have known about but for their indifference and willful ignorance or blindness(*>jur:90§§b, c), for they had a legal and ethical duty to report it -18 U.S.C. §3057; Code of Conduct for judges, Canon 3B(6)-.
c. Likewise, they have become accessories before the abuse that the same principal or others will be encouraged to commit by the implicit or explicit assurance that they will not be reported by the co-conspirator by silence.
d. In either case, the silent judges contributed to the principal going unpunished while keeping the benefit of the abuse; the victim going uncompensated while suffering more abuse or its consequences; and the system of justice deteriorating through the erosion of public trust because “unchecked abuse festers”.
19. There are precedents supporting the expectation that an informed and outraged public can make holding on to office untenable, forcing resignations:
a. Public outrage at the conduct of Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas forced him first to withdraw his name as a nominee to the chief justiceship; and because the outrage would not subside, he had no choice but to resign from the Court on May 14,1969 (*>jur:92§d).
b. After the MeToo! movement erupted overnight and Chief Justice Roberts had received almost 700 letters from current and former law clerks informing him of the abuse that they had suffered or witnessed in their respective court, the Chief Justice was forced to take action by referring for investigation by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit a judge who had been known for decades to be an abuser: Former 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. He chose to resign on December 18, 2017(OL2:645§A) rather than be investigated.
c. One report of abuse of power, namely, that filed by the White House officer who blew the whistle on President Trump’s Ukrainian quid pro quo affair provoked public outrage that led the House of Representatives to impeach him and the Senate to hold a destitution trial.
d. The Washington Post was the first to report on the break-in on June 17, 1972, at the National Democratic Convention located in the Watergate building complex in Washington, DC. Initially, it was derided as “a garden variety burglary by five plumbers”. But reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, supported by editor Benjamin Bradlee and publisher Katherine Graham, kept digging in. Their findings pointed to political espionage and a cover up plotted and executed by top Republican officers working for the reelection of President Nixon. Soon every other media outlet was jumping on their investigative bandwagon. Eventually, the unthinkable happened: For their participation in those crimes, President Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, and all his White House aides were convicted and sentenced to jail.(*>jur:4¶¶10-14)
1) A question asked consistently of every witness by Senator Howard Baker, co-chair of the Senate Watergate Committee, became a guiding and productive investigative tool and can be rephrased here thus: ‘What did the justices know about justices’ and judges’ abuse of power and when did they know it’?
e. The Catholic Church is an institution profoundly rooted in society and protected by the First Amendment state-church separation clause.. Yet, due to its institutionalized condonation of abuse by pedophilic priests has had to pay its victims well over $2.2 billion in compensation. Outraged victims that had been left uncompensated by the running of the statute of limitations forced legislators in at least 15 states to enact lookback laws that allow the filing of sexual abuse claims stretching back decades. Some 5,000 new cases could force the Catholic Church to compensate the victims by paying them more than $4 billion. The Church runs the risk of going bankrupt.
20. A national public already outraged by abuse of power in the police can become so exacerbated by information about institutionalized abuse of power in the Federal Judiciary as to force the resignation of justices and even the Supreme Court as a whole. The Federal Judiciary, exposed as a racketeering enterprise run by a board of complicit abusers, can go morally bankrupt and face crushing financial claims. The justices may find it unavailing to attempt to brush away the outrage by simply invoking the doctrine of judicial immunity that they have self-servingly conjured up(*>OL:158).
21. A whole branch operated by judges abusing their personal and institutional unaccountability can be found so inherently defective as to warrant its dissolution. The form of government of which it is part can likewise be so defective as to need its replacement by a new form yet to be devised by We the People, the ones entitled to do so in “government of, by, and for the people”(*>jur:82fn172).
22. Informed of, and outraged at, all the abuse heaped on them, the People can bring about transformative change. They can ensure that justice is administered and government is operated by public servants who always remain accountable and liable to them. They will be grateful to the journalists and all the others who were instrumental in such transformation, honoring them with, among other things(*>OL:3§F), a Pulitzer prize, a bestseller, a blockbuster movie, the study of their feat at every journalism school, and the most valuable and lasting reward: historic recognition as Champions of Justice…not only of the People of this country, but of every country in the world where they can spark a civic movement for judges’ abuse of power exposure, compensation, and reform.
F. My offer to present this proposal
23. I respectfully offer to present to you and your colleagues and publisher via video conference or in person this proposal on how we can jointly engage in “Pioneering the news and publishing field of judicial unaccountability reporting”.
24. To help you decide whether to organize the presentation you may share this proposal and its link‡ with your colleagues and guests, and watch my video together with its slides(†>OL2:958):
G. Every meaningful cause needs resources for its advancement;
none can be continued, let alone advanced, without money
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which have produced articles like this one
and the study* † of judges and their judiciaries.
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