"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, January 23, 2015

What were the other 300+ complaints for and how were they resolved by the NYS Commission for Judicial Conduct

On January 15, 2015 I received two dismissals of my two meritorious complaints of judicial misconduct, described here and here.

Here they are:

The only differences between these letters are:

(1) dates of filing of the complaints - April 2, 2014 (complaint against Judge Cahill) in the 1st complaint and November 17, 2014 as to the 2nd complaint (complaint against Judges Coccoma, Mulvey, Cahill), and

(2) file numbers.

Otherwise the letters are identical and constitute form letters that the Commission uses to toss citizens' complaints of judicial misconduct, no matter how meritorious.

What caught my attention were these file numbers.

I filed complaints in 2014 against several judges, but my complaints were surely in the single digits.

The file numbers of the complaint filed in November of 2014 were 327-329 (Judges Coccoma, Mulvey, Becker).

Where did the remaining 320 complaints come from and for what?

If a person is sued in civil court for any perceived wrongdoing, or if a person is charged with a crime and is still covered with presumption of innocence, the news is still all over the Internet and are not withdrawn even if criminal charges/civil lawsuits are dismissed.

What we are talking about here is a matter of grave public concern, of 329 complaints filed with the New York State Commission for Judicial Conduct by November 17, 2014 - and only 12 decisions of discipline rendered in the whole year of 2014, a whopping 3.6% prosecution rate.

Apparently, all other complaints were frivolous?

If those complaints were like mine - which were supported by documentary evidence and affidavits of witnesses - it is high time for the feds to turn their eyes to what is going on in the NYS Commission for Judicial Conduct.

Do not expect the Legislature to act and introduce legislation making such proceedings transparent, efficient and allowing members of the public (instead of attorneys and judges) to be the judge of what constitutes judicial misconduct.

There are several senators on the Legislature (such as Senator Breslin and Senator Nozzolio) who are employed (same as Sheldon Silver was) by law firms whose partners are hearing officers in the Commission for Judicial Conduct - which creates a huge appearance that the Commission tosses complaints in order to gain favors from judges by members or potential hearing officers of the Commission who decided not to prosecute certain judges after all.

I already described in this blog the controversy when Attorney Stephen R. Coffey of O'Connell and Aronowitz, PC was the Vice-Chair of the Commission for Judicial Conduct and reviewed, as part of the Commission, my complaint against Judge Becker for conduct where Stephen R. Coffey himself ws involved as an attorney.  By the way, the Chief Judge of the Appellate Division Third Judicial Department Karen Peters was on the Commission at the time of the complaint against Judge Becker and against her own court, too.

Neither one of them resigned from reviewing the complaint against Becker, even though:

(1) Stephen R. Coffey was disqualified as a participant in the events complained about; and.
(2) Karen Peters was the Chief Judge of the court that was to hear my appeal from sanctions imposed by Becker that were subject of the complaint, and
(3) Karen Peters was the Chief Judge of the Court that was subject of my other complaint filed in the fall of 2009 when the Appellate Division 3rd Department resolved a case based on the opposing counsel's testimony during oral argument outside of the Record on Appeal, a clear judicial and attorney misconduct that the 3rd Department had the audacity to document in a separate footnote as the basis for its decision.

The complaints were dismissed by the Commission where members were clearly disqualified by conflicts of interest, both Karen Peters and Stephen Coffey disappeared from the Commission after that, but (1) I was sanctioned by Judge Becker for raising these issues in a motion to recuse and am now in the middle of a disciplinary proceedings BECAUSE I raised this potential corruption as an issue; and (2) sanctions against me imposed by Becker were affirmed by Karen Peters' court while Karen Peters' court ignored a whole transcript showing an ex parte communication between Judge Becker and then Delaware County Attorney, Becker's former boss of 27 years (not to mention that the Plaintiff was Becker's undisclosed personal friend) and refused to punish attorney Stephen R. Coffey for disclosing without permission of the sentencing court sealed pre-sentencing report of a party.

To any impartial and reasonable observer the "appearance of impropriety", to put it mildly, was staggering, but, since there is no accountability and since large law firms, judges complained about to the Commission for Judicial Conduct and the Commission itself are joined through employment and fraternity ties, the only result is that all complaints against judges are quietly and "confidentially" tossed and critics of judicial misconduct (like me) are persecuted and their livelihood is threatened or eliminated.

I return to my question - who were the judges against whom complaints were filed, what were the complaints and why such a low percentage of filed complaints are prosecuted and brought to discipline by the Commission of Judicial Conduct in New York?

Here is a summary table of dispositions imposing discipline by the Commission of Judicial Conduct in 2014.

Name of Judge
Name of Court
Is the judge an attorney? Y/N

Judicial Discipline
Reason for discipline
Public attorney discipline?
Ackerson, Richard H.
Suffern Village Court, Rockland County

Yes, year of admission 1967, educated at private Rutgers Law School
Resigned from the bench on a stipulation not to seek judicial office in the future
Suffering from a medical condition that interfered with his ability to perform the duties associated with his judicial office


The question is – if Mr. Ackerson cannot discharge his judicial office, how can he work as an attorney?

Blaine, Robert J.
Prattsville Town Court,
Greene County

Resigned from the bench on a stipulation not to seek judicial office in the future

An audit
Of the court by NYS Comptroller found multiple  financial irregularities in the court accounts and insufficient oversight
By the judge over court clerk

Brown, Arlene M.
Bennington Town Court, Wyoming County

Resigned from the bench on a stipulation not to seek judicial office in the future

Allegations of lack of integrity, impartiality, conflicts of interest, failure to disqualify herself when her impartiality could reasonably be questioned, failure to afford parties opportunity to be heard as required by law

Burke, Edward D. Sr
Southampton Town Court, Suffolk County

Yes, 1969,
private St. Hohn's Law School
Rode in a police car
With a defendant after arraigning him, recommended that he hire an attorney who was the
judge's business partner, gave the defendant
legal advice
and thereafter
presided over his case;  used
his judicial title to promote his law firm and business; imposed
 fines that
exceeded the
authorized by law; made

None, continues to practice as a partner in his own law firm Burke & Sullivan PC

Crandall, Philip A.
Resigned from the bench on a stipulation not to seek judicial office in the future

Improperly intervened into and granted a lenient disposition to friend's son, friend was member of Coeymans Town Court Board;  failed to disqualify himself from his brother-in-law's case and granted a lenient disposition to b-i-l; failed to disqualify himself from the speeding ticket case of a member of Coeyman Town Board who determined the judge's salary; intervened into and invoked his judicial office in a police dispute with his daughter and son-in-law

Gumo, Richard L.
Delhi Town Court, Walton Village Court, Delaware County
Yes, 1967, Brooklyn Law School
Attempted to intervene into appeal from a criminal case where he presided as an advocate, citing to evidence outside the record in a letter to appellate judge, failed to disclose that court clerk's daughter was the main witness of the prosecution

Supreme Court, Queens County
Yes, 1969, private Rutgers Law School

Resigned from the bench on a stipulation not to seek judicial office in the future

Giving, through e-mails from official court e-mail account,  inappropriate political campaign advice to the District Attorney Hynes while being administrative judge of criminal courts

Donald G. Lustyik
Norfolk Town Court, St. Lawrence County
Lent the prestige of his
Office to
Advance private
Interests by
Witnessing a
Written statement
Using his
Judicial title
In a matter
to any
matter pending
in his court.

Robert P. Merino
Niagara Falls City Court, Niagara County
Yes, 1973, Cleveland State Univ. School of Law


Compromised a Spanish-speaking tenant's right to be heard by failing to appoint an interpreter

William E. Montgomery
Colden Town Court, Erie County

Yes, 1983, California Western
Resigned from the bench on a stipulation not to seek judicial office in the future

The filing
Of a designating
Petition for
His candidacy
For elective
Judicial office
That was
Falsely notarized
And thereafter
refused the
nor withdrew
his candidacy;
arraigned a defendant on alcohol-related charges, then drove her home and continued to preside on her case till disposition

Andrew Norman Piraino
Salina Town Court, Onondaga County

Yes, 1983, private Albany Law School
Imposed fines/surcharges which either exceeded maximum amounts or were below the minimum amounts, and failed to supervise court clerks

Domenick J. Porco
Eastchester Town Court, Westchester County

Yes, 1977
Resigned from the bench on a stipulation not to seek judicial office in the future

Did not sufficiently oversee and approve dispositions in traffic cases

Overview of the table shows the following:

Out of 12 judges disciplined in 2014, only 1 was a judge of a court higher than the level of the justice court - Barry Kamins of the Queens County Supreme Court who was caught in using official court e-mail in giving political campaign advice to the district attorney and discussing potential political statements of a defense attorney to members of attorney's religious congregation.

Out of 12 judges disciplined in 2014, 8 were licensed attorneys - Ackerson, Burke, Gumo, Kamins, Merino, Montgomery, Piraino, Porco.

Out of 4 non-attorney judges disciplined in 2014 (Blaine, Brown, Crandall, Lustyik), 3 were taken off the bench and one received an admonition, that is 75% rate of taking off the bench for non-attorney judges disciplined in 2014.

Out of 8 attorney-judges disciplined in 2014, 4 judges were taken off the bench, 2 were admonished and 2 was censured, that is 50% rate of taking off the bench of attorney judges disciplined in 2014.

Ackerson  -               resigned
Burke       -                censured
Gumo       -               admonished
Kamins    -                resigned
Merino     -                admonished
Montgomery  -          resigned
Piraino  -                   censured
Porco   -                    resigned

The most interesting case of discipline in the table is the case of Judge (attorney) Burke.  Judge Burke's law firm made $7,500 in political contributions that the judge (or his firm) had no right to be making, as a sitting judge may not be engaged in political activities.  Moreover, the judge rode with a criminal defendant in a car, recommended his business partner for defendant as defendant's counsel (and defendant did hire Judge Burke's business partner as counsel), advertised on the website of his law firm his virtues as a judge and thus presented to the public that he is getting business out of his public office.

For all of that - censure?  And no attorney discipline?

I guess, campaign contributions, inappropriate as they were, worked after all.

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