EVOLUTION OF JUDICIAL TYRANNY:

"If the judges interpret the laws themselves, and suffer none else to interpret, they may easily make, of the laws, [a shredded] shipman's hose!" - King James I of England, around 1616.

“No class of the community ought to be allowed freer scope in the expression or publication of opinions as to the capacity, impartiality or integrity of judges than members of the bar. They have the best opportunities of observing and forming a correct judgment. They are in constant attendance on the courts. Hundreds of those who are called on to vote never enter a court-house, or if they do, it is only at intervals as jurors, witnesses or parties. To say that an attorney can only act or speak on this subject under liability to be called to account and to be deprived of his profession and livelihood by the very judge or judges whom he may consider it his duty to attack and expose, is a position too monstrous to be entertained for a moment under our present system,” Justice Sharwood in Ex Parte Steinman and Hensel, 95 Pa 220, 238-39 (1880).


“Because the law requires that judges no matter how corrupt, who do not act in the clear absence of jurisdiction while performing a judicial act, are immune from suit, former Judge Ciavarella will escape liability for the vast majority of his conduct in this action. This is, to be sure, against the popular will, but it is the very oath which he is alleged to have so indecently, cavalierly, baselessly and willfully violated for personal gain that requires this Court to find him immune from suit”, District Judge A. Richard Caputo in H.T., et al, v. Ciavarella, Jr, et al, Case No. 3:09-cv-00286-ARC in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Document 336, page 18, November 20, 2009. This is about judges who were sentencing kids to juvenile detention for kickbacks.


"The legal profession must take great care not to emulate the many occupational groups that have managed to convert licensure from a sharp weapon of public defense into blunt instrument of self-enrichment". Walter Gellhorn, "The Abuse of Occupational Licensing", University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 44 Issue 1, September of 1976.


This case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of
not affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for
admission. For this record shows that [the rejected attorney candidate] has
many of the qualities that are needed in the American Bar. It shows not only that [the rejected attorney
candidate] has followed a high moral, ethical and patriotic course in all of
the activities of his life, but also that he combines these more common virtues with
the uncommon virtue of courage to stand by his principles at any cos
t.
It is such men as these who have most greatly honored the profession of the law.
… The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and its glory if it is
not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become
a group of thoroughly orthodox, time-serving, government-fearing individuals is
to humiliate and degrade it.”


In Re Anastaplo,

18 Ill. 2d 182, 163 N.E.2d 429 (1959), cert. granted, 362 U.S. 968 (1960), affirmed over strong dissent, 366
U.S. 82 (1961), Justice Black, Chief Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan, dissenting.







Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Attorney disciplinary proceedings - a way for prosecutors to get rid of competition?

In New York, Appellate Division 3rd Department, the attorney disciplinary committee consists of 21 members, 18 out of 21 are practicing attorneys.

How tough the market for legal services in the country really is may be seen in the news of an attorney who was turned from a paralegal position as "not meeting the minimum requirements" - for a paralegal.

Now, the members of the disciplinary committee, including attorney members, are unpaid.

Their income, unlike the income of other public prosecutors, does not come from a salary, it comes from their practice of law.

In other words, the disciplinary prosecutors depend on their practice of law for their livelihood, and in that practice of law they are direct competitors to attorneys they investigate and prosecute (for free) on behalf of the Committee.

In my husband's case it already resulted in the situation where three attorney members of the committee had pending cases with Mr. Neroni while prosecuting him, and one attorney, John Casey, chose to not prosecute attorneys who Mr. Neroni turned in for John Casey's prosecution, accept those attorneys as paying clients and instead prosecute and disbar Mr. Neroni, the whistleblower against those paying clients.

So, the fight for the shrinking market of legal services causes unpaid attorney members of the disciplinary committee to accept financial incentives in exchange for a certain exercise of their prosecutorial discretion and a certain outcome of a disciplinary case.

At least, what it appears to be.

And the public is supposed to be protected by such process?  What a travesty.

The rules of law for sons of judges - and the billing practices of sons of judges which so far escaped public review

Recently, I participated in a hearing for attorney's fees against me and my husband in the Mokay saga.

 
Our alleged fault was to make a motion to vacate the sanctions imposed upon us by the previous presiding judge, Judge Becker, after we sued the judge twice, in state and in federal court.

 
Previously, the federal court refused to reach the merits of the issue whether such sanctions were imposed in retaliation based on the concept of judicial immunity/lack of jurisdiction; and the Appellate Division did the same based on the claim that the pattern of sanctions was from other cases and thus outside of the record of direct appeal and the Appellate Division similarly lacked jurisdiction to review it.

 
So - I made a motion directly in the Mokay case and incorporated that pattern in that motion, so that it would be part of the record on appeal now.

 
Yet, for the judge who recused from presiding over a related case, but is nonchalantly presiding over the Mokay saga, and who is consistently ruling in favor of the plaintiffs where there is no way to do it, decided that the motion was somehow frivolous and ordered a hearing on attorney's fees.

 
Ok, I come to the hearing on attorney's fees.   Normally, a party/attorney against whom attorney's fees are sought, has a right to receive a written application for such fees beforehand, in order to be able to research the legal grounds and the factual issues pertaining to the claimed fees.

 
I received nothing in advance from Mr. Harlem.  That was the same Richard Harlem whose prior shenanigans I described here and here and who, together with his now late father (the retired Supreme Court Justice Robert Harlem, the former Chief Judge of the 6th Judicial District) have escaped responsibility by a clear and shameless trick of hiring the prosecutor's firm who was supposed to investigate and disbar them.

 
So, I received nothing from Mr. Harlem in terms of application for attorney's fees before the hearing.

 
I come to the hearing, the hearing starts, and THEN Mr. Harlem seeks introduction into the evidence of his attorney affirmation and billing statement.  I object and ask for a reasonable adjournment to review the written submission of Mr. Harlem.  Judge Kevin Dowd overrules me by stating to me that I had a notice of the hearing and the hearing will proceed. 

 
Of course, Judge Dowd came to Delhi, NY from Norwich, NY over the mountains and did not want to come another time - but that should not be a legitimate reason not to give me a reasonable time to prepare for the hearing, should it be?

 
Judge Dowd simply tells me that I have a right to "ask Mr. Harlem questions".

 
Mr. Harlem testifies under oath, I start crossing him and then simply tell the court that I need to be given additional time to at least read the affirmation/billing statement to be able to intelligently ask these questions, otherwise it is a complete ambush.  

 
I am given 15 (!) minutes to read Mr. Harlem's application for attorney's fees.  That's all Judge Dowd thinks I need to prepare for a slap of legal fees from Mr. Harlem.

 
Then, under cross-examination, the following interesting things start to transpire.

 
1/  Mr. Harlem does not know whether he did or did not file the original of the retainer agreement and statement of his clients' rights signed by his clients, in compliance with 22 NYCRR 1400.  The case he is enforcing is the contract to make a will out of a judgment of divorce, and 22 NYCRR 1400 applies to all enforcement actions of the judgment of divorce.  In New York, if an attorney failed to file a retainer in a case like that in a case requiring such a filing, and a specific retainer at that, specifically showing consent of the clients on multiple issues, the attorney who failed to do that is not entitled to ONE PENNY of legal fees from his clients - and, of course, if he cannot charge his clients, he cannot charge opponents of his clients.

 
Mr. Harlem is mumbling that he is not sure whether such a retainer was or was not filed with the court.  I know it was not.  I ask the court to take judicial notice of all proceedings and filings in the case.  Judge Dowd says it is irrelevant, it is not a divorce proceeding.  22 NYCRR 1400 does not apply exclusively to divorce proceedings, but also to any enforcement proceedings of judgments generated by divorce proceedings, and this is clearly such an enforcement proceeding.

 
So - Mr. Harlem has failed to file a retainer agreement in an action he filed 7 (seven !!!) years ago, where the only relief sought is his legal fees.  Thus, it is pretty clear as a matter of law Mr. Harlem is not entitled to any fees whatsoever.  Right?  Wrong!  It is a son of a judge, and we are dealing with Judge Dowd who was dreaming of urinals built in his honor by a law school during a divorce proceeding.

 
Judge Dowd rules 22 NYCRR 1400 does not apply and lets the proceedings go on.

 
2/  I ask Mr. Harlem whether he was ever investigated by the New York State Attorney General for inflating legal fees.  I know he did, and he knows he did, and here you can see the actual document, NYS AG's "Objections to account" where the New York State Attorney General has stated, item by item, exactly how Richard Harlem, together with his father Robert Harlem, inflated their legal fees.

 
In answer to my question Mr. Harlem first objects to the relevancy of my question.  My question is, of course, relevant because (a) we are in a hearing where Mr. Harlem asks to award legal fees to him and his clients;  (b) Mr. Harlem has already asked Judge Dowd to take judicial notice of the case where NYS AG raised that issue.  So, I simply asked Judge Dowd to take judicial notice of proceedings he already took judicial notice of at Mr. Harlem's request previously.  Judge Dowd agrees to take judicial notice of the Blanding case.  

 
Mr. Harlem then says - under oath - the word "No", and the judge cuts off my further questions by saying - Mr. Harlem said that no, he was not investigated by the NYS AG.  I am recalling this from memory, I ordered a transcript and then I will be able to show exactly how it happened.

 
So - there are "Objections to Account" by NYS AG in the Blanding case, Mr. Harlem denies ever being investigated by the NYS AG for inflating his legal fees, under oath, the presiding judge takes judicial notice of the Blanding case, together with the Objections to Account, and still rules for Mr. Harlem, without imposing any sanctions on Mr. Harlem for lying under oath. 

 
3/ My next question.  Mr. Harlem, you mention here your hourly rate of $200/hr.  Is it reflected in your retainer agreement with your clients?  Mr. Harlem mumbles "I do not recall".

 
4/ My next question. Mr. Harlem, you put into one billing entry several services, how much time was attributable to each of them - I am just asking why the billing statement was not properly itemized, which is a disciplinary violation.  Mr. Harlem says "I do not know".

 
5/  My next question.  Mr. Harlem there are abbreviations mentioned in the billing statement, RAH, POD and ZLS.  What do they mean?

 
Mr. Harlem replies:

 
RAH - that's his code, Richard A. Harlem;
POD - that's the code for his employee, and answering a follow-up question, no, the employee is not admitted to practice law;
ZLS - that's a code for the legal secretary

 
Mr. Harlem charges $100/hr for services of his legal secretary, including for "notary services".  Now, I am a notary and I know that I cannot charge for my "notary services" at $100/hr, I can charge 1 dollar per notarization, and usually notaries in New York notarize documents for free, which is what I do.  Mr. Harlem puts into a billing statement a charge for his legal secretary's "notary services" at $100/hr - and Judge Dowd happily endorses it.

 
It is not allowed for an attorney to charge for services of auxiliary personnel unless there is a written authorization from clients for him to do so in a retainer agreement.

 
Mr. Harlem does not know whether there is a written authorization in his retainer agreement for ZLS or POD, which would require the court to strike services of ZLS and POD from the billing statement.  I asked for it, Judge Dowd denied my request without an explanation of grounds.

 
Now, the question about the POD guy.  Mr. Harlem charges for his services at $100/hr, including for his drafting of an affirmation and a memorandum of law.  To draft such documents constitutes a practice of law.  Mr. Harlem charges for such services, once again, at $100/hr.  

 
I know the Committee for professional conduct grilled both Mr. Neroni and myself as to whether Mr. Neroni even talks to my clients in my home law office (and Mr. Neroni's own home), much less drafts affirmations and memorandums of law, at a charge to my clients.  Mr. Neroni had to sue the Committee in federal court to stop this harassment.

 
Had my husband drafted any such things, both my husband and I would be in jail - my husband for unauthorized practice of law, me - for aiding and abetting unauthorized practice of law.

 
There is no difference why a person does not have a license - because he lost it (like my husband, through Mr. Harlem's shenanigans in the Mokay saga which continue to this day), or because he never had it to begin with, like Mr. Harlem's employee POD.  No license is no license, and the crime of unauthorized practice of law punishes for practicing without a license.

 
Yet, my husband, a person without  a law license, is not allowed to even talk to my clients, much less draft documents that I would charge to my clients, and to Mr. Harlem, the son of a late Supreme Court justice, Judge Dowd magnanimously allows to not only have a non-attorney draft affirmations and memoranda of law, but also to charge them to their clients - and to me and my client - at $100/hr.

 
In his "closing speech"  Judge Dowd stated that the issue of unauthorized practice of law that I raised is "bizarre" and went into de facto unsworn testimony on behalf of Mr. Harlem and his clients reminiscing how Judge Dowd was interning at a DA's office before he was admitted, and was drafting indictments.  From his own experience and unsworn testimony Judge Dowd drew an inference that what Mr. Harlem was doing was ok.

 
Thus, Judge Dowd further aggravated his display of, how to put it mildly, lack of knowledge of the applicable law, because it was not unauthorized practice of law for him to draft those indictments at the DA's office. 

 
22 NYCRR 805.5, the rule of the New York State  Supreme Court Appellate Division 3rd Department allows eligible law students to practice law in governmental organizations like the DA's office. 

 
I know for a fact that many students in my law school class who interned in the DA's offices got such preliminary admission and even tried cases in courts.

No rule allows non-lawyers to practice law in a law office of a private attorney.

 
It is not allowed for a private attorney to bill services of his auxiliary staff to the client without the client's express permission, much less to bill for drafting of affirmations and memorandums by a person not admitted to the bar.

 
It was clear as day.

 
An attorney submitted to the court an application for legal fees, and then claimed to the court under oath that certain legal services in that statement were provided by a person who was not licensed to practice law.  The court had to deny attorneys' fees for the services of POD and sanction Mr. Harlem for engaging his personnel into unauthorized practice of law.

 
Yet, for Judge Dowd it was "bizarre" that I made such an argument against Mr. Harlem, because Judge Dowd stated that I should have settled instead of going into a hearing in the first place. 

 
I guess, that was the rationale why Judge Dowd denied me the adjournment, too - because I should have settled in the first place.

 
6/ I also asked a question whether the $100.00 hourly rate for POD and ZLS was authorized by clients in the retainer agreement.  Mr. Harlem could not recall or did not know.

 
7/ I asked whether Mr. Harlem's clients authorized him to bill them for services of a person who was not admitted to the bar.  Mr. Harlem could not recall or did not know.

 
8/ I asked whether Mr. Harlem's clients authorized the billing statement presented to the court, because it is their ultimate obligation shifted to my client, and if they disagreed with it, it could not be passed to my client.  Mr. Harlem said that he showed the statement to them, but they did not say "yes" or "no", so obviously he did not seek their approval.

 
So, to sum it all up, here is an addition to the billing practicing of the law firm Harlem & Jervis of Oneonta, NY partially belonging to Richard Harlem, son of a judge.

 
  1. Lack of itemized billing - to all other attorneys in New York State it is a disciplinary violation;
  2. Billing for services of auxiliary personnel without authorization of the client;
  3. Billing for legal services of an individual who was not licensed to practice law - which is a disciplinary violations, if not a crime, for all other "mere mortal" attorneys in the state of New York;
  4. Billing for notary services at $100/hr;
  5. Billing for postage, copying and mileage - that the NYS AG's office claimed back in 1999 is usually absorbed by law firms, but Mr.Harlem did not learn the lesson and continues to bill for it;
  6. Failure to comply with the requirements for a specific retainer agreement and clients' bill of rights under 22 NYCRR 1400 while bringing a case of enforcement of a contract to make a will out of a judgment of divorce;
  7. Failure to have proper retainer agreements justifying hourly rates of attorneys and law firms' personnel;
  8. Failure to get approval of legal fees from the clients before presenting them to the court.

 
I think, other clients of Harlem & Jervis should be aware of these practices.

 
Mr. Harlem made a statement at the hearing that it was not an enforcement of a matrimonial judgment because it was "just" an enforcement of a contract to make a will.


Yet, the entire judgment of divorce was submitted to the court by Mr. Harlem as part of his 2nd Amended Complaint.


Moreover, if it was "just" an enforcement of the contract to make a will, which is what Mr. Harlem argued to the court in 2007, before joining the Estate as a co-plaintiff, and arguing AGAINST giving the properties to the Estate, Mr. Harlem's first-in-time client (an outrageous conflict of interest), why the Estate was even joined?


I keep asking this question, and I keep getting sanctioned by the court for asking this question.



 
Mr. Harlem, throughout the Mokay litigation, failed to reveal any theory of prosecution on behalf of the Estate, stated that the decedent's children are enforcing their late father's and mother's contract to make a will out of a judgment of divorce.

 


In my husband's order of disbarment the Appellate Division has already ruled that my husband "devised a plan with his client that would circumvent, in part, the intended purpose of a judgment of the Supreme Court that respondent had participated in constructing."That makes the Estate a Co-Defendant in the action.   It is a Plaintiff in the action, and is represented by Mr. Harlem, as well as the the decedent's children claiming that their father violated the contract to make a will together with his then attorney, Mr. Neroni.

 
Mr. Harlem continues to represent both the Estate and the children, and claims legal fees for such a representation, while in the cases of irreconcilable conflicts of interest like this one, normally attorneys forfeit legal fees.
 
You know how many judges reviewed the issue of the conflict of interest and did not find a conflict?
 
Let me count.
 
1/  Judge Elizabeth Garry of Norwich (now judge of Appellate Division 3rd Department);
2/  Judge Molly R. Fitzgerald of Binghamton, NY;
3/  Judge Carl F. Becker of Delhi, NY;
4/  Judge Kevin M. Dowd of Norwich, NY, and
the following appellate panels:
Disbarment panel:
5/ Judge Mercure (former acting Chief Judge of the 3rd Department);
6/ Judge Peters (current Chief Judge of the 3rd Department);
7/ Judge Spain;
8/ Judge Kavanagh;
9/ Judge McCarthy;


Panel who affirmed the partial summary judgment on liability upon which the order of disbarment was made without a hearing:


10/ Chief Judge Cardona (at that time);
Judge Peters (present Chief Judge);
11/ Judge Malone
12/ Judge Stein
13/  Judge Lahtinen


Recent sanctions decision which rejected the issue that Mr. Harlem and his law firm was disqualified and that the Estate had no standing


Judge Lahtinen
Judge Stein
Judge Spain
14/ Judge Egan


14 judges chose to consistently overlook the applicable law in order to allow for a retired judge and his son's frivolous lawsuit to proceed


Are these judges law school dropouts?
Yet, back to what happened at the June 23, 2014 hearing, and in view of that hearing it is interesting as to what will happen in the future of the Mokay saga.


At this time, Judge Dowd did not allow me to file any other motions in the Mokay action, including motion addressing the court's jurisdiction or validity of prior decisions based on new evidence, which are motions authorized by statute without leave of court.


I must make such motions only on an Order to Show Cause to Judge Dowd.


Judge Dowd has a history of ignoring my Orders to Show Cause.  He did that in a Supreme Court civil action where I was asking for an emergency relief, based on evidence that my client (not my husband) would suffer irreparable harm if at least a preliminary injunction is not granted.


Yet, since Judge Dowd was assigned to that case at the same time my husband sued him in a pro se federal action, my client had to suffer, and my application for an Order to Show Cause was simply ignored.


In other words, Judge Dowd expects me to pay $45.00 filing fees into court and have my show cause applications directing right into the garbage bin.  That is his concept of access to court for me and my clients, of course, after "searching his conscience" as he stated in his decision where he refused to step down from the Mokay case.


And of course, if Judge Dowd does sign an Order to Show Cause and allows the motion to proceed, since Judge Dowd disregards the law and instead regards his own reminiscences as evidence against my client and in favor of Mr. Harlem, Judge Dowd may (and, probably, will) sanction me once again for any motions that I may make to vacate the summary judgment because of Mr. Harlem's statements at the June 23, 2014 hearing.


But - Mr. Harlem did allow himself an important "slip of the tongue" in the hearing on June 23, 2014 that, in my view, does require a vacatur of the summary judgment of liability against my husband, and since I am effectively blocked from access to court on my client's and husband's behalf, I will air my opinion on what happened here, since what I raise here are issues of public concern, corruption in the court system.


When I cornered Mr. Harlem that he is enforcing a judgment of divorce while he did not comply with 22 NYCRR 1400 and thus is not entitled to one penny in legal fees (while legal fees is all that Mr. Harlem asks in actual and TREBLE damages in the action, under Judiciary Law 487), Richard Harlem claimed that he is "only" enforcing against my client a contract to make a will, not a judgment of divorce.


Yet, Mr. Harlem has so far obtained a partial summary judgment on liability against my client and husband for FRAUD UPON THE COURT - for defying a COURT ORDER, specifically, a judgment of divorce. 


Based on the partial summary judgment on liability under Judiciary Law 487, enforcing the judgment of divorce, my husband was disbarred WITHOUT A HEARING, after 37 years of practice and despite running a de facto free legal clinic in the county for the indigent, for years.


When it came out in court that Mr. Harlem did not comply with 22 NYCRR 1400 for purposes of legal fees in actions enforcing such JUDGMENTS, Mr. Harlem suddenly claims that his clients are "only" enforcing a contract to make a will as 3rd party beneficiaries?  Under Judiciary Law 487?  In a fraud upon the court action? 


A fraud upon the court action NECESSARILY relied upon the entire JUDGMENT OF DIVORCE, not upon a contract to make a will.


Now what?  Will Judge Dowd and all appellate court brush a would be motion to vacate because  my husband is just a "disgruntled disbarred attorney" who is below the law while Mr. Harlem is a son of a judge who is above the law?  No matter what he does?


When hearing that argument from Mr. Harlem, Judge Dowd should have instantly struck the summary judgment on liability against Mr. Neroni sua sponte, without waiting for my motions.


Yet, instead, Judge Dowd reminisced about his own internship in a District Attorney's office where he was drafting indictments, reprimanded me for not settling with Mr. Harlem and awarded to Mr. Harlem everything Mr. Harlem asked in his billing statement.

 

 
I guess, I should not even be wondering any more why judges do not follow laws.


It is clear to me from my own experience as an attorney in the Mokay and other cases that in New York there emerged a new body of law - a law for sons of judges (and other attorneys affiliated with judges) which defies and disregards any other law. 

 
Mere mortal attorneys and their clients are powerless against it.   Or is there a light at the end of this tunnel? 




 
 
 
 



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

URGENT: I am seeking help from law professors, lawyers and civil rights organizations in the form of amicus curiae briefs in support of my planned petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attorney free speech case

I have written in this blog at length about the rising problem in this country of the legal profession losing its independence to advocate for their clients in the courtroom because the licensing and livelihood of that same legal profession lies with the judiciary, the same judiciary that the attorneys may be forced by their duty to their clients to criticize.


The issue of attorney right to criticize the judiciary and be free from punishment for that criticism has been raised in multiple law reviews.


Yet, no case recently has reached the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue, although there are enough cases in the court below where attorneys are in fact punished for their criticism of judges, including rightful criticism.


At this time, I have a case that was dismissed on the level of the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, the appellate dismissal was without even a full review, by a summary "no publication" order.


I've never practiced in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The issue of sanctions against an attorney by a judge in retaliation for the attorney's criticism against the judge and, in my case, a lawsuit against the judge in state court, may set the precedent on this issue for the whole country and may help both the legal profession and the public - if it gets before the eyes of the U.S. Supreme Court.


I appeal to my colleagues in the entire U.S., professors of law and non-profit civic organizations like ACLU and others who would want to support this issue.


What I would greatly appreciate would be amicus briefs for the case Bracci v. Becker out of the 2nd Circuit. 


I will send the case file promptly to attorneys, law professors or civic law organizations who would express an interest in filing an amicus brief in my support.


Thank you in advance for your help.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Assigned counsel for the rich and powerful and their expensive champion, attorney James Gleason of Binghamton, New York


On 10/28/2013 my husband Frederick J. Neroni sued several defendants, among them attorneys Ellen L. Coccoma, Otsego County Attorney, special counsel to a large and powerful law firm Hinman, Howard and Kattel, LLP,  former disciplinary investigator and prosecutor who was a member of the Professional Conduct Committee for the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department who refused to investigate and prosecute politically connected attorneys whom Mr. Neroni turned into the Professional Conduct Committee and who instead prosecuted investigated and started the prosecution of Mr. Neroni, which ultimately resulted in his disbarment.  

The sticky part was that Ellen Coccoma's husband Michael Coccoma recused from Mr. Neroni's case in 2007 that led to his disbarment, Mokay v. Mokay, which is not finalized and adjourned without a date at the request of the plaintiffs and at Mr. Neroni's objection to this day. 

While her husband recused from that case, Ellen Coccoma did not recuse from investigating and prosecuting the same case, but who am I to question propriety of actions of the blue bloods of the State of New York.

Ms. Coccoma is the spouse of the powerful Deputy Chief administrative judge of New York State Courts and the chief administrative judge of upstate New York Michael V. Coccoma who, by the rules created by the New York State Court administration, gets to decide which of the retired judges get lucrative well-paid positions of judicial hearing officers post-retirement.

Mr. Neroni sued Ms. Coccoma and the law firm where she worked as special counsel on two grounds:

(1) Mr. Neroni had a standing as a taxpayer and landowner in Otsego County.  

Mr. Neroni did not like the fact that Ms. Coccoma, a full-time county employee, a County Attorney earning reportedly $74,702.00 a year, is also employed as a special counsel in HHK and represents private client on Otsego county time funded, in part, by Mr. Neroni as a taxpayer.  

That was a claim against Ms. Coccoma as the Otsego County official, based on taxpayer standing of waste of public funds - a state claim under supplemental jurisdiction of the federal court.

(2) Mr. Neroni did not like the fact that: 


  • in 2010 Ms. Coccoma, Mr. Neroni's investigator and prosecutor, who had access to Mr. Neroni's allegedly existing records in the Committee (to which Mr. Neroni could not get access before his disciplinary proceedings commenced, during those disciplinary proceedings and after his disciplinary proceedings, and up to now), now represents private clients and makes claims of impropriety against Mr. Neroni as a former corporate officer, in other words, 
  • that Ms. Coccoma is using or may use for private gain information obtained against Mr. Neroni through her investigative or prosecutorial activities in the Committee.  

Mr. Neroni was suing Ms. Coccoma for violation of his due process rights and deprivation of the honest services of a neutral and impartial investigator and prosecutor.  

Only a portion of this claim was targeting Ms. Coccoma's conduct when she was part of the Committee.  

Most of the claim was targeting Ms. Coccoma's private conduct when she left the Committee, but still held confidential information from Mr. Neroni's record which she was about to use for her personal gain in a proceeding for a private client.  

That was a federal claim for violation of federal civil rights by a private actor who is using the delegated power of the state and engages in acts with other state actors in order to deprive Mr. Neroni of his constitutional rights to due process of law and to be free from unreasonable seizures (court-ordered depositions).

(3) Mr. Neroni did not like the fact that on November 8, 2011 Ms. Coccoma, instead of notifying the Delaware County Supreme Court, the Hon. John F. Lambert, of the death of her client which resulted in these three consequences:

      (a) the court has temporarily lost jurisdiction over the proceedings (jurisdiction abated, CPLR 1015);

     (b) Ellen Coccoma and her firm HHK lost authority to represent the deceased client;

     (c ) Ellen Coccoma and her firm HHK lost authority to represent the deceased client's children who were acting in litigation on a power of attorney from their father, and powers of attorney become invalid when the person who gives them dies;


  • made a motion to that same court to compel appearance of Mr. Neroni at a deposition, 
  • argued that motion, 
  • obtained a void court order to compel such a deposition, 
  • aggressively tried to enforce the order, and 
  • revealed that her client died only when, after repeated efforts of opposing counsel to bring her dead client to a deposition, the opposing counsel warned Ms. Coccoma that her client will be brought to that cross-deposition by a motion to the court to compel her client's appearance.


Only then, in April of 2012, Ms. Coccoma disclosed to the opposing counsel the fact, but not the date of death of her client.

Mr. Neroni, naturally, was not happy with this fraud and fraud upon the court, and especially with the fact that 

  • Ms. Coccoma manipulated the court, during the court's absence of jurisdiction and when her own and her law firm's authority to represent the deceased client and his children stopped, and 
  • unlawfully caused the court to compel violation of Mr. Neroni's due process and 4th Amendment rights - his appearance at a court-ordered deposition without his consent.


Mr. Neroni was also not happy that Ms. Coccoma 

  • further moved to substitute the legal representative of her deceased client, but did not claim, as it was required by law to restore jurisdiction of the court, that causes of action in the original lawsuit survived her deceased client's death, and 
  • adamantly relied upon the void decision of Judge Lambert made without the judge's knowledge of the death of Ms. Coccoma's client, as on the "law of the case", and that Ms. Coccoma
  • won that motion in front of judge Kevin M. Dowd, a judge who is, upon information and belief, close to retirement, and thus has a financial interest in the outcome of litigation, because if he would please Ellen Coccoma, he can look at a blessing from Ellen Coccoma's husband to be appointed as a judicial hearing officer, a financially lucrative position.


In New York, private attorneys are still considered " officers of the court"  and, unlike private pro se parties, are delegated by the state its police power in issuing witness subpoenas.  

Ms. Coccoma was enforcing against Mr. Neroni such a subpoena issued by her before the death of her client, but was enforcing it, obviously illegally, after the death of her client and after her own authority ceased, without notification of either Mr. Neroni or the court.

The third claim was a private claim against a private attorney who, acting on a delegated state power to issue subpoenas, under the color of state law, and jointly with several other state actors (a judicial hearing officer of the court, the presiding judge of the court, her own husband, a high-ranking judge), violated Mr. Neroni's constitutional rights.

Now - didn't Mr. Neroni have a point that what Ms. Coccoma and HHK did was in fact a violation of his constitutional rights?


Of course, the presiding judge Gary L. Sharpe did not share Mr. Neroni's opinion, and made so far intricate and unique mistakes in favor of Ms. Coccoma and her co-defendants.

In the lawsuit, HHK was representing itself through its partner James Gleason.

It is the representation of Ellen Coccoma which was tricky and sticky.

On the one hand, Ellen Coccoma was supposedly a competent counsel who could handle self-representation.

On the other hand, HHK could represent Ellen Coccoma, as well as itself.

Neither of these options suited Ellen Coccoma.

Ellen Coccoma did not want to represent herself and did not want to pay for her legal representation.

Ellen Coccoma came up with three options as to how to do it, and I am saying that based only on public records which I retrieved from a public website Pacer.gov.   

I do not know how much telephone activity happened and at what levels to help smooth Ms. Coccoma's way to a free representation by New York State Attorney General.   

This we may never know, because the lawsuit was dismissed and I do not see any eagerness in any state or federal agencies to investigate Ms. Coccoma, her husband or other powerful player in this sordid story.

In New York, as I have written in this blog before, according to repeated announcements of NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, over 80% of litigants cannot afford legal representation.

In New York, as in other states, the legal profession has a monopoly for representation in court, and practicing without a license has recently become a felony, thanks to the voting of multiple attorneys-Senators (I checked, voting in NY Legislature is public record) who blatantly disregarded the conflicts of interest involved in such a voting.

I get reports from indigent people who get denied assigned counsel by judges on different grounds, such as that they got a tax refund - and judge would not hear that the tax refund already went to satisfy other obligation, such as a mortgage or arrears in child support, so people remain without counsel.

It is against this background that Ellen Coccoma, 


decided to get free legal representation at the expense of New York taxpayers, including those who themselves get denied assigned counsel because of tax refunds, as I described above...

I do not know the sequence of which avenues Ms. Coccoma explored to get to that result, to create for herself a "class of one", an assigned class for the rich and powerful entitled to free legal representation at the expense of taxpayers.

Yet, I know that suddenly Mr. Neroni received a letter from Ms. Coccoma's liability insurance carrier notifying Ms. Coccoma that she is ineligible to receive legal representation at the expense of the insurance company.

But not until the case was dismissed by Judge Sharpe and HHK applied for legal fees did it become obvious to what extent Ms. Coccoma's law firm went in order to help her obtain taxpayer-funded legal representation.

Now, I would like to remind the readers that HHK represented in the action Neroni v. Coccoma, 3:13-cv-1340-GLS-DEP only itself, HHK.  Below you can see a snippet picture from the docket report of the case indicating just that.






James Gleason stepped into the representation of HHK, and only HHK, on 12/02/2013, as Docket 27 of the case demonstrates below.



Yet, according to Mr. Gleason's own submissions to the court in Docket 63, application for attorney's fees, Mr. Gleason has engaged in a vigorous campaign on behalf of Ellen Coccoma since 11/05/13 to broker free legal representation for Ellen Coccoma, and charged his client (and is trying to shift that fee to a pro se civil rights plaintiff at this time) $ 4, 985.50 in legal fees for that campaign.


As a disclaimer, I made this calculation based on the fee list of Mr. Gleason, and where Mr. Gleason commingled different activities with activities to support free representation for Ms. Coccoma by the New York State Attorney General and did not provide a breakdown as to how much time was expended on each of the commingled activities, I assigned the entire value of the claimed commingled activities to Mr. Gleason's campaign to support free representation of Ms. Coccoma by the NYS Attorney General's office at taxpayer expense.

Nowhere does it appear that Mr. Gleason offered his colleague and employee his own pro bono services or services of his law firm.  After all, Ms. Coccoma was representing her client on behalf of HHK.

And I remind the readers once against that, throughout this entire campaign on behalf of Ellen Coccoma and to the end of this litigation, Mr. Gleason never appeared on behalf of Ellen Coccoma as an attorney and, thus, had no right to claim one penny in legal fees for his advocacy on her behalf.

Yet, since Mr. Gleason proudly announces that he advises state and federal judges on "joint issues" through a "State-Federal Judicial Council", he can count on support and understanding from both state and federal judges to rescue him from any ethical pits he throws himself and his law firm into.

The existence and operation of this "Council" is even more interesting in the context where state judges are sued in federal court...  Really, "joint issues" may arise...

But back to the story...

This is the relevant timeline of the Neroni v. Coccoma litigation and a summary of Mr. Gleason's legal fees Mr. Gleason found possible to put on his client (his own firm HHK) and to claim against a pro se plaintiff in a civil rights litigation - legal fees generated in the advocacy of taxpayer-backed free representation of a politically connected attorney Mr. Gleason did not represent:



Event
Date
Attorney fee charged by Attorney James Gleason to his client (own law firm – Hinman, Howard and Kattel, LLP [“HHK”]) and claimed against the Plaintiff
Lawsuit Neroni v. Coccoma et al. was filed
10/28/2013
Summons issued for Ellen Coccoma
10/29/2013
Summons issued for HHK
10/29/2013
Summons issued for Eugene Peckham
10/29/2013
Summons issued for LGT
10/29/2013
Gleason's initial contact with Ellen Coccoma about the lawsuit
11/5/2013
$           737.50
Gleason's initial contact with New York State Attorney General about the lawsuit
11/6/2013
$           737.50
Gleason's e-mail exchange with Ellen Coccoma about indemnification
11/7/2013
$           206.50
Gleason's follow-up with Ellen Coccoma regarding letter requesting defense/indemnification under the Public Officers Law to the Attorney General's Albany Office
11/8/2013
$           118.00
Telephone conference between Gleason and Kevin Hickey of NYS AG about free representation of Ellen Coccoma by NYS AG
11/13/2013
$           354.00
Notice of Appearance of Hiscock & Barclay on behalf of Levine, Gouldin and Thompson, LLP and Margaret Fowler, the law firm and a law partner of Eugene Peckham, former Acting Supreme Court justice and the hearing officer in Delaware County Supreme Court at the time of representation of clients in a case where Eugene Peckham previously presided as a judge
11/18/2013
Discussion with Kevin Hickey of Ellen Coccoma's status for free representation by NYS AG's office
11/19/2013
$        1,003.00
Exchange of e-mails "with counsel" regarding status of representation for Ellen Coccoma and Eugene Peckham
11/22/2013
$           177.00
Notice of Appearance of New York State Attorney General on behalf of State Defendants with the exception of Ellen Coccoma and Eugene E. Peckham
11/28/2013
Initial appearance of Attorney James Gleason (HHK) on behalf of HHK only, not on behalf of either Ellen Coccoma or Eugene Peckham
12/02/2013
Gleason’s discussion with NYS AG’s office of the status of representation of Ellen Coccoma
12/2/2013
$        1,327.50
Refusal letter from Ellen Coccoma's insurance carrier
12/4/2013
Gleason's telephone conference with NYS AG regarding status of representation of Ellen Coccoma by NYS AG
12/9/2013
$              88.50
Personal service of the summons upon Ellen Coccoma
12/10/2013
Gleason's follow-up e-mail to NYSAG regarding Ellen Coccoma's request for indemnification/defense under the Public Officers Law
12/16/2013
$              59.00
Gleason's exchange of e-mails regarding NYS AG's agreement to represent Ellen Coccoma and Eugene Peckham
12/17/2013
$           177.00
Notice of Appearance of NYS AG on behalf of Ellen Coccoma, Eugene Peckham
12/18/2013
TOTAL CHARGED BY
ATTORNEY GLEASON TO HIS CLIENT (AND OWN LAW FIRM) HHK AND CLAIMED AGAINST A PRO SE CIVIL RIGHTS PLAINTIFF FOR ADVOCACY REGARDING TAXPAYER BACKED FREE REPRESENTATION OF ELLEN COCCOMA AND EUGENE PECKHAM (BOTH NON-CLIENTS)
$    4,985.50


Below are snippet pictures from Mr. Gleason's own statements of fees to the court in Neroni v. Coccoma, 3:13-cv-1340-GLS-DEP in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Docket 63-1, pages 7 to 12.

Please, note that Mr. Gleason values his advocacy for taxpayer-backed free legal representation of a politically connected attorney who was not his client, at $295/hr.  

On November 5, 2013, a week after the lawsuit was filed, Mr. Gleason calls Ms. Coccoma for the first time about this litigation (at least, that is what he claims in his list of legal fees).



On November 6, 2013 Mr. Gleason, a busy attorney, starts researching disciplinary rules for the benefit of Ellen Coccoma whom he does not represent in the action.  Well, at that time Mr. Gleason did not step into representation of HHK either, he only did it on December 2, 2013, in a month's time.




On November 7, 2013, the relentless Mr. Gleason exchanges e-mails with Ms. Coccoma pertaining her " eligibility for indemnification under the Public Officers Law and even has a telephone conference with Jeffrey Devorin of the New York State Attorney General's office in Albany.

On November 8, 2013 Mr. Gleason follows up with Ellen Coccoma regarding her request to the New York State Attorney General to represent her for free.

On November 13, 2013, Mr. Gleason has a telephone conference with the New York State Attorney General's office on the same subject, and accurately bills all of the above to his client (and law firm) HHK, even though he did not step into representation of HHK in the federal action yet, and did not (and never did in the future) step into representation of Ellen Coccoma in that lawsuit.




Mr. Gleason continues to discuss the same issue of Ellen Coccoma's free representation at taxpayers' expense with the NYS Attorney General's office on November 19, 2013.


On November 22, 2013 Mr. Gleason exchanges e-mails on the same subject of representation of Ellen Coccoma, and now adds to it the issue of taxpayer backed representation of Eugene Peckham, retired Acting Supreme Court Justice out of Broome County who is a law partner in another large and influential local law firm, Levine, Gouldin and Thompson, also a defendant in the Neroni v. Coccoma action who also sought - and gained - free representation by New York State Attorney General when sued for actions as a private attorney.



On November 26, 2013 Mr. Gleason holds yet another conference with the New York State Attorney General's office regarding representation of Ellen Coccoma by that office.



On December 2, 2013 Mr. Gleason prepares a waiver of service on behalf of Ellen Coccoma whom he does not represent and finally files his Notice of Appearance with the court on behalf of HHK only, not on behalf of Ellen Coccoma.



 On or about December 4, 2013 Ms. Coccoma receives a rejection letter from her insurance carrier refusing to represent her because she was charged in litigation with intentional misconduct.

Mr. Gleason's campaign on behalf of Ms. Coccoma to get her taxpayer backed representation by the Attorney General's office continues.

On December 9, 2013 Mr. Gleason holds yet another telephone conference with the Attorney General's office on the same subject of legal representation of Ellen Coccoma.



On December 10, 2013 Ms. Coccoma was personally served with the summons to appear in the action, and her appearance was set at 20 days after the service, as a matter of law, to December 31, 2013.



On December 10, 2013 Mr. Gleason holds yet another telephone conference with Ms. Coccoma about "status"and deposition of Mr. Neroni where Mr. Neroni, instead of appearing, served Ms. Coccoma with the summons.  Thus, Mr. Gleason learns that Ms. Coccoma was served and has only 20 days to appear in the action.


On December 16, 2013 Mr. Gleason sends a follow-up email to the NYS Attorney General's office to once again verify the status of Ellen Coccoma's representation by the NYS AG.


On December 18, 2013 Mr. Gleason's efforts to get taxpayer backed representation of Ellen Coccoma by the NYS Attorney General's office were finally crowned with success, and the NYS AG appeared on behalf of Ms. Coccoma and on behalf of Eugene Peckham in Neroni v. Coccoma litigation.



Now, some math.

According to the site Seethroughny.net collecting information from public sources about salaries and pensions of public officials in New York at the state, county and municipal levels,  


  • In 2013 Ellen Coccoma had a salary of $74,702.00 as a full-time Otsego County employee, a County Attorney, and an unknown amount paid to her as HHK special counsel;
  • In 2013 Ellen Coccoma's husband Michael V. Coccoma had a salary of $ 175.592 as the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of the State of New York
The total income of the Coccomas, without counting Ellen Coccoma's income from HHK and sources other than their public office salaries, such as investments, rentals, if any, etc., in 2013 was $250,294.

This couple would be hardly eligible for assigned counsel in any court in the State of New York, and they knew it.

Mr. Gleason also knew better than to advocate for taxpayer backed representation of Ellen Coccoma, and Ellen Coccoma was not even his client, but he vigorously fought to get that freebie for Ellen Coccoma - and he won.   

Good job, Mr. Gleason, Judge Coccoma must be very pleased with your efforts.

According to the same site, seethroughny.net, Eugene Peckham's judicial pension, without any other sources of income and without his income as a judicial hearing officer and his income as a law partner in Levine, Gouldin and Thompson, was in 2013  $78,337.   

Private attorney Eugene Peckham is not exactly an indigent party eligible for an assigned counsel either.

New York State gives attorneys a monopoly for representation of third parties in court.

Mr. Gleason does it at $295/hr.  

Over 80% of low income New Yorkers cannot afford legal representation, according to the repeated admissions of NYS Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, which necessitated to create a whole Task Force to help this crisis.

Yet, an attorney who portrays himself on his law firm's website as a beacon of propriety and even as an advisor to state and federal judges, advocates, at $295/hr, to have a rich and powerful attorney be represented at taxpayers' expense by the New York State Attorney General.

Mr. Gleason did what he did vigorously, persistently, without any authority since he did not represent Ellen Coccoma, but he arrogantly tries to claim to a federal court (which apparently he " advises on joint state-federal issues" through his State-Federal Judicial Council), fees as if they were incurred in bona fide representation of HHK, and tries to put the payment of those fees on a pro se civil rights litigant.

Now, let's forget that the pro se litigant here holds a J.D.  What if he didn't?  What if he was an indigent and illiterate pro se party?  Would he had a chance against Mr. Gleason?  Does he have a chance now, given Mr. Gleason's incestous  relationship with the state and federal court system?

If the claimed protection of the public by the legal protection is in all actuality claimed only to preserve the professions' privileged position and exorbitant fees claimed whether a certain attorney, like Mr. Gleason in this situation, is or is not entitled to those fees, it is time to end that monopoly and deregulate the market of legal services.

To say that the public is protected by blocking lay individuals from court representation and by installing a monopoly for the practice of law for the likes of Mr. Gleason, Ms. Coccoma, Mr. Peckham and people supporting them in their endeavors to get taxpayer-backed freebies for the wealthy and powerful, is to be a hypocrite of the highest order.