CORRUPTION WATCH-The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) does not list a Sadistic Personality Disorder. But the DSM is a work in progress, so its on and off approach to sadism does not mean the problem is not real.
Sadism joins with subclinical psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism to form the so-called "dark tetrad" of personality traits that are being studied to gather more data for determining where and how to classify them.
Sadism is the deriving of pleasure, often sexual in nature, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others, a personality trait people may recognize in others but may not understand. The issues surrounding the DSM’s historical approaches to sadism are too complicated to discuss here.
Sadism in Psychopathy
Psychopathy has been renamed Antisocial Personality Disorder, DSM-301.7, in the belief that the term “psychopath” was too pejorative. The word “anti-social,” however, is ambivalent and could be referring to someone who is a wall flower at the high school prom. Thus, “psychopath” better conveys the dangers posed by people whose distinguishing feature is not merely the breaking of rules, but the lack of remorse for causing their victims’ pain.
The DSM-5 uses the psychopath’s “lack of remorse” as a diagnostic feature, implying that the psychopath acknowledges the pain that he or she is causing. One then needs to ask: what sort of person recognizes that pain but continues to cause it? That would seem to be a sadist.
Narcissists are Probably Not Sadists
In contrast to the psychopath is the person with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, DSM 301-81, who is distinguished by a grandiose sense of self-entitlement to the extent of believing “if he does it, then it is right.” (Richard Nixon told David Frost, “If the president does it, it is not illegal.”) Sadism does not seem to play a significant role in the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Many judges exhibit narcissistic traits. Lack of empathy is one narcissistic diagnostic criterion but is not a necessary element. Many Narcissists are consumed by their own grandiosity and to fly into rages if someone challenges their superiority – so much so that they actually lose control of their behavior. There is a difference between driving through a red light because one is completely distracted by inner turmoil and intentionally running down a mother and toddler in a crosswalk.
The Closer We Look, the Clearer We See Judicial Sadism
Considering the behavior of California judges and justices, sadism seems to be a common trait. How can a judge allow lying jailhouse informants to commit perjury knowing the result will be a defendant’s going to jail or even to the death chamber? How can a judge allow a crime lab which the judge knows is doctoring evidence continue to offer evidence without allowing the defense to even cross-examine the lab tech on his falsification of evidence?
How can family law judges hold children ransom until they have drained the parents’ bank account? It is one thing for a judge to reduce the award of punitive damages from $2 million to $50,000 in a business dispute, but it takes a sadist to place children with the unfit parent to extort money from the fit parent.
It may be greedy for an appellate justice to allow the unfit parent to refinance his properties without making interest or principle repayments, but it is an entirely different thing to use his judicial power to steal the home of a single mother. What sort of judge wrongfully evicts poor people from their rent-controlled apartments because the mayor’s buddies want to buy up cheap rent-controlled properties in order to build swanky, upscale projects?
Mistakes vs Intentional Pain
Judicial misbehavior runs the gambit from honest mistakes to vile sadism. Sadistic psychopaths, however, actively seek out judgeships. This phenomenon is seen in other parts of society. Child abusers are especially adept at placing themselves in power over children, be they priests, school teachers, or coaches. Sadists are highly motivated to gain positions of maximum power with minimum accountability. A judgeship comes with unaccountable power coupled with immunity.
Society’s Cowardly Way to Ignore Cowardice
When our society gets around to admitting the role that sadism plays in the conduct of predatory judges, we may also look at the cowards who enable that behavior to continue. When the sadist is a school teacher, his or her actions are more likely to be uncovered, but when the culprit is a judge, only the direct victims and other judges know. When victims complain, the response of other judges is not just mere silence; very often they too attack the victims.
Predatory judges realize they must all hang together, or they will hang separately. High on the hit list of predatory judges are attorneys who complain about judicial miscreants. Disbarment is common, being hounded into bankruptcy is likely, being thrown into jail is not common but it happens enough to terrorize other attorneys; and then there is the infrequently used Dexter Jacobson option. Surprise, surprise, they didn’t even look for the murderer!
Cowardice is lack of courage in the face of a challenge. All cultures condemn cowards. The odious stench of the coward may account for our reluctance to admit that it is one of the defining features of our judges and justices. At a minimum, judicial silence is the collective response to judicial sadism inflicted on the innocent. And often, they sign opinions that are designed to further the enjoyment of the sadists among them.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.