On April 22, 2015 I filed the following Freedom of Information Request with the New York State Office of Court administration (hereinafter NYS OCA):
On April 27, 2015 I received the following preliminary response from the NYS OCA:
Here is the ONLY record that I received from NYS OCA pursuant to this FOIL request:
While providing some interesting and sometimes revealing information as to the numbers of attorneys per county in New York State, NYS OCA did not release to me matching information as to attorney discipline per committee, or documents pertaining to appointment of members of attorney disciplinary committees, in other words, information that would have brought some light as to how these clandestine bodies of inquisition operate and who they target for discipline.
I have a belief, based on the data so far available to me that the committee members are hand-picked by the courts for reasons other than protection of consumers, and I have a reason to believe that such committees act not to protect consumers of legal services from bad attorneys, but to protect the market of legal services for themselves and their friends from competitors and to eliminate independent civil rights and criminal defense attorneys.
The stalling of information on this topic tends to prove the collective guilty conscience of the Court Administration and only confirms my beliefs.
In addition to the above sheet of paper with statistics, NYS OCA referred me to websites of attorney disciplinary committees which list names only of the current members of disciplinary committees (and disciplinary committees for the Appellate Division 2nd Judicial Department do not do even that).
Such websites do not list members of such committees dating back 10 years, nor do they provide on their websites orders of appointment of each member or staff attorney, nor do they provide on their websites documents supporting such appointments.
Once again, where an essential and meaningful piece of information is sought through a FOIL request, NYS OCA, the organization that is responsible for dispensing justice in the State of New York, stalls information.
So, the tactic of the judicial system is:
- to stall release of public records as to how the disciplinary committees are populated and how they operate;
- to preclude public access to disciplinary proceedings, even if it is directly provided by law and the attorney who is the subject of such proceedings wants it and requests it;
- to preclude public access to the files of disciplinary proceedings - even when it is directly provided by law, even after the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings, as it happened in my husband's case, where I represent my husband in an ongoing civil rights lawsuit to gain access to his own disciplinary file - 4 years after my husband lost his license and after his file became open not only to him, but to anybody who wants to look at it, pursuant to Judiciary Law 90(10).
I filed this FOIL request parallel to my complaint/petition to the Federal Trade Commission requesting investigation of how disciplinary committees in New York operate.
Chief Judge Lippman created a statewide commission this year, his last year in office, to investigate, research and ensure uniformity, efficiency and fairness of attorney disciplinary proceedings in the State of New York (while populating the commission in a peculiar way by people not interested in pursuing the needs of the majority of actual and potential consumers of legal services).
The creation of the statewide commission oddly coincided in time with the litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court that has ended, surprisingly, in a victory against anti-competitive interests permeating licensing boards, stripping their members of immunity for liability in lawsuits for violation of federal antitrust law.
The statewide commission, as I see, was created not so much to help the consumers - if that would be the case, a fair cross-section of consumers of legal services would have been included into the commission and would have had a decisive vote in it - but for the embattled legal elite to get together and decide how to preserve the status quo in a world that quickly gravitates towards deregulation.
While the statewide commission tries to devise ways of preserving the status quo, and while the FTC investigates my complaint about New York disciplinary process as a tool to lock the market and preserve unfair conditions for consumers favoring market regulators who are at the same time politically connected providers of legal services, the NYS OCA tries to prevent release of information that would help the FTC investigation and undermine the efforts of the statewide commission on attorney discipline to pretend they are doing something opposite to what they are interested in doing.
Of course, I have filed an administrative appeal for the denial of my FOIL request.
I will publish the NYS OCA response to that appeal.
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