"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.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Jonathan Lippman's pal NYS Speaker Sheldon Silver is in custody on federal charges of corruption. Will more charges against more people follow?

Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the NYS Legislature is in federal custody on charges reportedly of corruption, fraud, wire fraud and extortion.  

Silver is bosom friend since childhood of NYS Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, the one who promoted Lippman into his position, the one who fought hard, to the point of using funds from the law firm that represented Silver on charges of corruption before the Moreland commission to change the New York State Constitution so that his pal Lippman could serve 10 more years on the bench, until he is 80.  

Of course, Lippman himself was very active in promoting the change of the NYS Constitution, which many commentators considered inappropriate since Lippman, as an elected judge, could not participate in politics.  

To me, the most important aspect of impropriety was that the judge used his power and influence to advocate the change of the NYS Constittuion that benefited him personally.  

At retirement at the end of this year, Judge Lippman will lose half of his salary, he will be receiving only 1/2 of his current salary in retirement.  

Had his own and his friend Silver's efforts been successful to persuade/coerce New York voters to up the age limit for judges until 80, Lippman could have been earning twice as much for 10 more years.  

Somehow, the consideration of self-dealing did not enter the judge's and his friend Silver's mind during their active public advocacy for the change.

Jimmy Vielkind, of, reported that "[i]n the days before the election, [the policital action committee] also received a $50,000 check from Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver is of counsel, as well as a $25,000 check from Kasowitz, Benson & Torres, the firm hired by Silver to represent the Assembly in proceedings before the anti-corruption Moreland Commission".

By the way, the "offending" Moreland Commission was disbanded by Governor Cuomo as soon as it started to investigate Governor Cuomo.

The same federal prosecutor who investigates Governor  Cuomo for disbanding the Moreland Commission, filed charges against Silver.

The 5-count federal charges are alleged to be stretching back "more than a decade".

The charges "focus on outside legal work" of Sheldon Silver for that same firm of his, "Weitz & Luxenberg" that donated $50,000 to the "Political Action Committee" in attempts to change the New York State Constitution to keep Silver's pal Lippman in power for 10 more years.

The charges, according to the news, are for fraud, wire fraud and extortion.

Colby Hamilton, of, states in his today's article that "[p]rosecutors accuse Silver specifically of taking millions of income from the firm, including a salary that was premised on his official position, not his legal work, along with kickbacks from an attorney-referral scheme.
“[T]here is probable cause to believe that Silver obtained approximately $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees solely through the corrupt use of his official position [as speaker],” reads the complaint."

Is it reasonable to believe that Jonathan Lippman did not know of this little corrupt scheme pertaining to "attorney referral fees"?  Where his bosom friend Silver used his official position to get those attorney referral fees?  Did Silver also use his status as Judge Lippman's bosom friend (which was never a secret) and his influence on Judge Lippman to get those fees?

That is a matter for federal investigation, as well as allegations that were publicly raised by citizens against Lippman, similarly alleging "quid pro quo" schemes in trading power for personal benefits.

A book was published in June of 2014 by an attorney describing in detail Lippman's rise to power which, if the account is true, cannot be called ethically stellar at all.

There were many voices raised in concern that Lippman is promoted to the Chief judgeship by his political connection to Silver, his bosom friend since childhood, see here and here.

These allegations against a public official of this rank are at least worth investigating, at least because of his proximity to Silver and because such accusations are coming from different sources, many of which are insiders of the judicial system.

Will the feds be bold enough to investigate and prosecute Lippman now that his bosom friend Silver is being charged with corruption?

As a taxpayer, the resident of the State of New York and a citizen, I have a lot of questions regarding all this mess, some of them are:

(1) Is there a possibility that Judge Lippman will resign?

(2) Why, even though many of Sheldon Silver's shenannigans were known for years, he was not investigated and prosecuted in New York?  Is it because the New York State Attorney General who was supposed to prosecute him was also his legal counsel "by law"?  Isn't it time to change that law and to eliminate the conflict of interest that prevents prosecutions of corrupt state officials by New York State Attorney General?

(3) Why, throughout all these years that Sheldon Silver was sued in numerous lawsuits, in his individual capacity, for misconduct in office, he was provided taxpayer-funded and free for him legal representation and taxpayer-funded settlements?  And that is when over 80% of New Yorkers could not afford an attorney and Sheldon Silver's pal Jonathan Lippman expounded wherever he appeared about the rule of law and access to justice?

(4) Could it be that Jonathan Lippman, Sheldon Silver's bosom friend, was not aware of Silver's corrupt schemes and was not part of the bounty?  Will Lippman be investigated, too, or is the judiciary beyond the reach of even the federal investigation and prosecution?

(5) Why New York state allows legislators to continue working as lawyers - and, naturally, to use their official position for their own personal benefit and for the benefit of their law firms?

Shouldn't senators who are lawyers surrender their law licenses when they are elected to eliminate any appearance of impropriety and self-dealing in their legislative office?

(6) Why did clients of Sheldon's law firm get state-backed tax breaks without any scrutiny?  Nobody knew in the State of New York it was improper or nobody cared because of the high status of Sheldon and his pal Lippman?

(7) Why prosecute Sheldon now?  Is it that he is too old and the NYS Legislature needs new blood.  It seems to become a new trend to retire NYS legislators by way of criminal proceedings.  Couldn't they be eliminated earlier, before things got that much out of hand? Shouldn't some changes be introduced at legislative and, since this does not seem to be working due exactly to corruption in the Legislature, on state Constitutional level?  And that is the task for us the voters to accomplish.

"Two kids from the Lower East Side - not too shabby?"

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