I wrote in this blog about judges of local justice courts in the state of New York who are not attorneys and what a disaster it is to deal with the judge whose educational level may be several classes of school and who listens to every word of what the prosecution tells the judge to do.
Yet, I could not even fathom what kind of danger a judge of the local justice court who continues to practice law can be.
There is such a judge, judge Richard Gumo of the Delhi Town Court.
On Monday, September 22, 2014, I brought before him a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction because of invalidity of the underlying document from a Family Court.
The proceeding in front of Judge Gumo was a criminal proceeding.
The criminal defendant was not a party in the Family Court proceeding from which the invalid document originated.
Thus, my client could not have access to the records of that court, or to appeal the Family Court decision.
Yet, the judge denied the motion without reading and stated specifically that he is not the appellate court and cannot "reverse" the Family Court, and that my client needs to appeal.
What bothers me is that Judge Gumo continues to be a practicing attorney in the State of New York and I know for a fact that he appears in Family Court.
Why do I know that? Because earlier this year Judge Gumo tried to delay a scheduled jury trial in a criminal case by claiming that he has an appearance as an attorney in a child neglect proceedings which take precedence over the criminal proceedings.
I demanded to provide another judge instead of the one who appeared to be engaged on the day of the jury trial, the prosecution withdrew the case since they knew very well they did not have their main witness, but were trying to pressure me for a plea bargain rather than drop the charges.
The e-courts show that Judge Gumo has open and active cases in the Supreme Court where Family Court judges are also presiding as Acting Supreme Court Justices, so reversing any rulings of a Family Court judge in a criminal proceedings in Delhi Town Court may very well hurt Judge Gumo's client's chances in the Supreme Court before a judge upset with such "overruling".
As an attorney for a criminal defendant who suffered an adverse ruling from Judge Gumo despite the fact that the case was obviously jurisdictionally invalid, on many well-briefed grounds that Judge Gumo refused to read - did Judge Gumo refuse to declare a decision of a Family Court judge invalid for purposes of the criminal proceedings against the criminal defendant because Judge Gumo was afraid to hurt his own law practice and rattle a Family Court judge in front of whom he appears now or can appear in the near future for one of Judge Gumo's clients?
There is at least an appearance of financial interest here, and at least an appearance that justice was not done.
That appearance, in my view, invalidated Judge Gumo's decisions and destroys public trust in impartiality of a practicing attorney who is also a judge.
Of course, Judge Gumo should have recused, but, of course, it is futile to ask for that. I know it from personal experience.
If we are talking about judicial independence and impartiality, we must demand that no judge can continue to practice law while on the bench, to avoid situations of conflict of interest as described here.
Criminal law is not for the faint of heart - not for the prosecutors, not for the defense attorneys and not for the presiding judges.
You hold somebody's liberty, fate, in some states - life in your hands (New York does not have death penalty).
And because the stakes are so high, criminal law should not be viewed, as it is now, as a game, because it is then a game played with somebody's life, and, of course, the lives of people who depend on the defendant - financially or emotionally.
If the judge lacks the guts to rule the way the applicable law and fairness to the defendant clearly dictate, for fear of ruffling the feathers of another judge before whom he practices, that means that the judge has considerations other than criminal litigation in front of him as the key factor determining the judge's decisions.
And when that starts happening, the judge simply should choose another path and get off that bench.
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