"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.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pro Se appellants are systematically denied access to their own records in the Chenango County Family Court, New York

I know of at least three people who are ready to come forward with affidavits, who were denied access to their own files by the personnel of the Chenango County Family Court, New York.


All three people share certain characteristics.

These three people are, according to their own reports to me share a lot of similarities:  

  1. all of them are middle-aged or elderly;
  2. all of them are disabled;
  3. all of them could not or cannot at this time afford a private attorney;
  4.  all of them wanted to appeal decisions of the Chenango County Family Court;
  5. all of them were denied access to the court records in order to prepare their record on appeal, contrary to the rules of the Appellate Division 3rd Judicial Department requiring clerks of the courts that issued orders that are appealed, to actually certify the record for pro se appellants;
  6. two of the three appeals in question involved appeals from decisions of Judge Kevin Dowd, the local "hanging judge" who is usually the law unto himself; and, most importantly,
  7. in all three of the notices of appeal/pre-calendar statements filed in the Chenango County Family Court,  pro se appellants are raising issues of bias and/or misconduct of judges who made the appealed decision.

One of the pro se appellant had to apply for an assigned counsel, even though that appellant wanted to proceed pro se because of a horrific experience in the lower court with an assigned counsel.

The second appellant complained to the Chief Administrative Judge of the 6th Judicial District Robert Mulvey, and personnel of the Chenango County Family court immediately allowed his access to the record after a letter from Judge Mulvey's chambers explaining to the personnel of the court that there are rules requiring them to give access to the so-called "public file" to pro se appellants in order to allow them to prepare the appeal.

In fact, whether a party is or is not represented, Judiciary Law 255 and due process of law allows such a party access to the court files anyway.

Personnel of the Chenango County Family Court, in fact, denied that the 2nd appellant was even denied access, and immediately did their job and certified the Record on Appeal for the 2nd Appellant.

The third appellant is trying to get access to his file at present.  He has been, according to his statements to me, repeatedly refused access by court employees by the name of "Judy" and then "Carol" who claimed that the pro se appellant will not be given access, and "Judy" claimed that the Appellate Division "will investigate" on its own when the appellant asked her how then will he be able to proceed with his appeal.

The appellant reportedly called the chambers of Judge Mulvey, talked to Judge Mulvey's assistant, who explained to him that he has an absolute right of access to the "public file" that is used to prepare the record on appeal, but not to the so-called "court file" with possible notes of the judge.  Judge Mulvey's assistant promised the 3rd pro se appellant to call the Chenango County Family Court and talk with them.

He reportedly called and talked to them.

After that the Chenango County Family Court personnel, "Carol", continues to deny the 3rd Appellant access to the "public file" and thus prevents him from preparing his record on appeal, while they are fully aware that appeals from Family Court are very fast-paced.  The 3rd pro se appellant has only 60 days to prepare that appeal, and time is running out fast while he cannot even get access to the record.

I believe that what I just described is egregious discrimination against indigent pro se appellants and, in my opinion, can be qualified as a deliberate attempt of the Chenango County Family Court to block pro se appeals raising issues of judicial bias and misconduct, because in this state (and, possibly, country), issues of judicial bias and misconduct most often are raised by pro se parties since attorneys are afraid to do it - because they are afraid of retaliation, see here and here.

Whether what is being done in the Chenango County Family Court is because of poor training of its personnel, poor administration by the judge who handles that court, or because of deliberate instructions to block appeals by pro se litigants, especially those raising issues of judicial bias and misconduct (and that is easily discernible from the so-called "pre-calendar statements" that accompany notices of appeal filed in that same court) - it is a disgrace.


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