"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).

“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 cost.

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.

" I do not believe that the practice of law is a "privilege" which empowers Government to deny lawyers their constitutional rights. The mere fact that a lawyer has important responsibilities in society does not require or even permit the State to deprive him of those protections of freedom set out in the Bill of Rights for the precise purpose of insuring the independence of the individual against the Government and those acting for the Government”. Lathrop v Donohue, 367 US 820 (1961), Justice Black, dissenting.

"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.

“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.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Does a taxpayer have a right to know how his money is spent? Not if it is spent (or misspent) for assigned attorneys in Delaware County, NY

Several years ago, suspended attorney David Roosa sued Delaware County Judge Carl F. Becker for his shenanigans in assignment of attorneys.

Among other things, David Roosa claimed that Judge Becker was upset that he, as an assigned counsel, was making motions and that Judge Becker assigns attorneys only if they do not make motions on behalf of their clients.

I can attest to that.

Even before Judge Becker's vendetta against me started that I amply described in this blog, Judge Becker never assigned my husband or myself to cases - and the reason is because we made no distinctions between assigned or retained cases and did our job fully, as it was supposed to be done.  If the case required discovery, motions and a trial - we did it.

Recently, I filed a FOIL request with Delaware County where I asked to show me documents pertaining to compensation of assigned counsel in local courts for the years when Judge Becker was on the bench.

The Delaware County denied my FOIL request claiming that such release of documents would require release of confidential names of parties in Family Court and juvenile proceedings.

My first question about it - why would documents that are transferred to the Treasurer for payment even contain names of parties instead of being indexed and codified, so that only the name of the court, the assigning judge and an identifying internal number remains.  This way, a taxpayer wanting to see a copy of these records that are presumed to be public records, would not have to jump through hoops or deterred from pursuing FOIL requests by a threat of having to pay for the labor of the Treasurer's workers in order to redact those confidential names from these documents.

Nevertheless, I was able to analyze at least what was available for public review - and that is scheduling in Delaware County Family Court on the website of the New York State Court Administration, on E-Courts.

There, any person can clearly see assignments of attorneys by designation of "18B" or "Attorney for the child".

The analysis of all assignments by Judge Becker of cases available on E-Courts in regards to Delaware County Family Court shows an interesting picture.

An assigned counsel in Family Court is paid $75.00/hr for in or out of court work, including waiting for the appearance in court and travel.

It would make sense for a Delaware County Family Court judge, especially for a judge who has a policy denying indigent clients experts and investigators if their extended family hires a retained attorney (on personal experience) and who refuses to assign only "tame" counsel who do not make motions or ruffle any feathers (David Roosa's federal lawsuit) to:

1) assign mostly attorneys from Delaware County;
2) assign attorneys who will not cost taxpayers much money for work not directly associated with representation of the indigent clients, such as travel.

Yet, assignments by Judge Becker show the opposite.

Below is a table that I compiled from assignments of counsel available on E-Courts in Judge Becker's Delaware County Family Court cases.

I verified on the public website of the New York State Court Administration the official registration addresses of assigned attorneys, verified through distances and travel time by car from that registration address to the courthouse and, by multiplying this travel time by 2 (roundtrip) and by the hourly rate, came to numbers that attorneys are paid for travel, or, for activities unrelated to representation of clients.

It is interesting to mention that two attorneys out of the list of attorneys assigned by Judge Becker, Dolores Fogarty and Bruce Maxson, are full-time employees of Otsego County.  Their salaries, according to, is $46,161 each.  It is not clear how they can be assigned in Delaware County at all where their time belongs to Otsego County.

Attorney Fogarty's travel per appearance costs the Delaware County taxpayers $95.00, Attorney Maxson's - $87.50.

Next question - why does Judge Becker assign attorneys out of Delaware County, specifically, out of Jefferson, Otsego, Chenango and Schoharie Counties?  There are no attorneys in Delaware County to be assigned?  That is not true, there are plenty of attorneys in Delaware County, and I heard a lot of complaints (in private) from attorneys of Delaware County for assignments of cases to out-of-the-county attorneys.

As the table below shows, in majority of out-of-the-county assignments, travel expenses are a lot higher than in within-the-county assignments.

Judge Becker does not know the local distances and travel time, having resided in the area "only" for 40 something years?

 How about the fiscal discipline that Judge Becker always parades, to the point of denial of required services to the really indigent people who needs them?

There is no question that the main concern of the assigning judge is to assign competent counsel.

There are a lot of competent counsel in Delaware County, living much closer to the courthouse than out-of-the-county attorneys.

Why are those attorneys under-assigned?  Some special reasons?  Some personal preferences of the judge?

Should the New York State Court administration require judges assigning counsel to consider, right after availability of competent counsel for a case, the travel distance for such competent counsel to the courthouse, and choose accordingly?

To me as a taxpayer, as well as an attorney, it will only make sense.

Name of assigned attorney
Registered address
County where office located
Mapquest distance from office to courthouse in miles/hrs
 Amount paid by taxpayers for each appearance for travel
Albaugh, Renee Jeanette
127 Main Street Delhi NY
 $                   0.10
Becker, Sean Thomas
28 Townsend Street, Walton NY
16.84 miles/21 minutes
 $                 52.50
Cahill, Joseph H.
1055 Charlotte Valley Rd, Summit NY
35.27 miles/46 minutes
 $               115.00
Carrascoso, Victor Bernard
Cowen, Sarah Elizabeth
28 Townsend Street, Walton NY
16.84 miles/21 minutes
 $                 52.50
Deming, Nancy K.
court street
 $                        -  
Diamond, Jehed Frances
6 2nd street delhi ny
 $                        -  
Fogarty, Dolores G.
183 Main Street Unadilla NY
29.79 miles/38 minutes
 $                 95.00
Gallagher, Thomas
72 Main Street Stamford NY
20.91 miles/ 26 minutes
 $                 65.00
Gordon, David
60 Long Ridge Road Ste 407 Stamford NY
20.78 miles/26 minutes
 $                 65.00
Gouldin, Robert Anderson
93 Main Street Oneonta NY
20.73 miles/27 to 29 minutes
 $                 72.50
Hammond, Christopher
Cooperstown NY
49.86 miles/ 1 hour 3 minutes
 $               157.50
Harmon, Kara
47 sunset blvd, Oneonta NY
33.86 miles/ 50 minutes
 $               125.00
Hartjen, Lee Christian
117 Grandview Drive, Cobleskill NY
57.55 miles/ 1 hour 7 minutes
 $               167.50
Hegeman, Thomas
812 Dietz Street, Oneonta NY
23.89 miles/34 minutes
 $                 85.00
Kottmeier, Gregory L.
145 Main Street Delhi NY
0.22 miles/37 seconds
 $                        -  
Madison, Paul G. J.
31 Harper street stamford ny
20.40 miles/ 26 minutes
 $                 65.00
Maxson, Bruce Ernest
48 Dietz Street Oneonta NY
24.03 miles/ 35 minutes
 $                 87.50
McCue, Christine Ann
1507 GROVENORS CORNERS RD, Central Bridge NY
53.74 miles/ 1 hour 7 minutes
 $               167.50
Natoli, Lisa Ann
27 w main street norwich ny
50.97 miles/ 1 hour 10 minutes
 $               175.00
Neale, Erin J.
127 Main Street Delhi NY
 $                   0.10
Obolensky, Larisa
bovina ny
12.75 miles/17 minutes
 $                 42.50
Peirez, Gregory B.
3349 freer hollow rd walton ny
16.71 miles/20 minutes
 $                 50.00
Richards, Rosemarie
gilbertsville ny
37.19 miles/ 53 minutes
 $               132.50
Rothenberg, Steven J.
23-25 division street sidney ny
35.04 miles/47 minutes
 $               117.50
Schwartz, Donald J.
189 Main Street Oneonta NY
20.93 miles/ 28 minutes
 $                 70.00
Smith, Shawn Josef
28 Townsend Street, Walton NY
16.84 miles/21 minutes
 $                 52.50
Summers, Linden D.
Main street Milford NY
34.84 miles/44 minutes
 $               110.00
Van Buren, Andrew Horace
Hobart NY
16.69 miles/21 minutes
 $                 52.50
Walas, Carly Rose
28 Townsend Street, Walton NY
16.84 miles/21 minutes
 $                 52.50

As a disclaimer, my office is within a walking distance from the courthouse.  Yet, since Judge Becker permanently recused from my cases in 2012, I cannot be assigned to his cases - and am not seeking such assignments, in any court. 

I prefer to remain an independent counsel, as I understood early on that an expectation of continued assignments presupposes some implied obligation of an attorney to tone down and restrict what he or she is doing for his or her clients.

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