"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, May 5, 2015

The Becker beast has been booted?

In an extremely short notice Delaware County Judge Carl F. Becker, the anti-hero frequently featured on this blog, announced he retires as of July 31, 2015.

Rumors that Becker was going to be booted soon circulated for a while, but I held my breath until it is official.  It is now.

It is highly unlikely that the "retirement" is voluntary.

This man has run for a re-election in 2012 while knowing that he will not be able to serve out his full 10-year term because of his age.  

Becker would have served only 6 years out of the 10-year term (ending in 2022) due to his age.  New York has a mandatory retirement age for judges at 70, and Becker was supposed to retire at the end of 2018.

Knowing that he will not be able to serve out the full term, Becker still plunged the Delaware County into the expense of having him as a judge and having to run an additional election when he reaches the mandatory retirement age, a completely unnecessary expense for this poor rural county.

Recently, Delaware County, a County with a dwindling population and ever decreasing number of court cases, has got an approval for a second judge, and Becker's buddy Porter Kirkwood immediately announced that he will run for that position.

Yet, even before the new judge was elected for the second judgeship position, and three years before Becker's mandatory retirement age, Becker is stepping down.

I've recently seen Becker in the courthouse.  Nothing indicated that his health is dwindling to the point that he cannot physically continue to serve.

Moreover, Becker has himself ruled out that his health is the reason for his early retirement, so, most likely, he was booted.

I know only two other examples when local judges retired before their term was out.

One was the Otsego County Supreme Court Justice Robert Harlem, he retired to catch an unlawfully self-bequeathed legacy of several hundred thousand dollars, a legacy that Robert Harlem had to disgorge after the New York State Attorney General has started an investigation into his and his son Richard Harlem's shenanigans.

The other was (and that was quite an interesting coincidence) Judge Nettie Scarzafawa, the judge of Otsego County Surrogate's Court who refused to sanction Robert Harlem or Richard Harlem or make them disgorge the ill-gotten gains from the Estate, so that Robert Harlem only disgorged reportedly $600,000 after the New York State Attorney General appealed Nettie Scarzafawa's brow-raising decision.

In her decision, Nettie Scarzafawa ruled contrary to the evidence in front of her and catered for a judge who secretly practiced law while on the bench, drafted a will where he bequeathed to himself more than 1/2 million dollars worth of shares of stock plus other monetary assets and benefits and involved his court personnel - secretary Irene Mann (who later became his wife), law clerk Dennis Dineen (still practicing law) and his son Richard Harlem (still practicing law) as witnesses of his unauthorized practice of law to keep his unlawful, unconstitutional and unethical practice of law while on the bench secret.

Nettie Scarzafawa retired nearly immediately on conclusion of Robert Harlem's case, citing the need to take care of her elderly mother.  I do not know whether the claim was valid or not, it is just the timing that was interesting.

When an action for fraud was brought against Robert Harlem (during his lifetime, he died in September 2012) and his son Richard Harlem and quoted the Otsego County Surrogate's case to prove that Harlem's fraud upon the court in my husband's case was not an accident or mistake, but a continuation of a long pattern of conduct, Carl Becker - surprise! - assigned himself to the case and severely punished my husband and myself for even mentioning misconduct of Judge Harlem and for quoting OPEN COURT RECORDS and OPEN PUBLIC RECORDS as to current job status and salary of Dennis Dineen in New York State Government as VIOLATION OF PRIVACY.

In our neck of woods it is apparently not important that a judge committed misconduct and betrayed public trust, but it is sanctionable heresy to make it more public than it already is - Surrogate's Court file has always been open to the public.

I complained about Becker for years.

Becker is notorious for the following cases, among the most egregious:

(1) the "blind driver" case where accepted a plea claiming that a legally blind defendant drove a car - because DA Northrup who now announced his desire to run for Becker's place - had a blind man sign away his constitutional claims for civil rights violations against the DA and all county, state and federal law enforcement involved in his arrest and seizure of his property;

(2) the "bathroom case" - where Becker influenced the jury by telling them, at the end of a long review of evidence in the courtroom and after they drank a lot of water that "he received a message from the work team in the street that the water main feeding the courthouse was severed and there is only one flush left in all bathrooms in the courthouse" - it took jurors 15 minutes to convict, only not to have to urinate and defecate into one another's excrements (while the judge had an obligation to close the courthouse because of its anti-sanitary condition and adjourn the jury deliberations to another place and time);

(3) numerous cases where Becker disregarded medical evidence and claimed that disabled people are faking their disabioity (like the New York - registered legally blind man or a man who underwent a back surgery at the time inconvenient for Becker).

All of complaints against Becker to the Judicial Conduct Commission that I filed and that I know other people filed, were so far dismissed without review - but it is possible that his retirement is part of a complaint that finally got him out, albeit not by removal from the bench which would be the preferred route.

Becker is notorious for testifying as an unsworn medical expert on behalf of parties who Becker favors.

So far I have reviewed his unsworn testimony diagnosing the following issues:   

  • dental;
  • gynecological;
  • surgical
  • eye problems etc.
And those are only the cases where I participated or cases pointed out to me by people and that I personally researched and looked through the court records.  There may be a lot more, as one thing that can be said about the Becker beast is that he is consistent in his temper tantrums and ugly behavior in the courtroom against people who he dislikes, for his own personal reasons.

I am convinced that for years Becker will be remembered as the plague of Delaware County who was notorious for his mean temper, his snapping tantrums against litigants and independent attorneys, especially female attorneys, his sleeping through trials or making facial signals to the juries as to who the judge liked and who he disliked.

Becker has a penchant at putting women down in his courtroom, by outright yelling at them or by verbally humiliating them or not allowing them to speak.  So far, the New York Court administration, the Commission for Judicial conduct, and the state and federal courts, have dismissed complaints about such behavior as not warranting discipline or being "immune" from lawsuit under the judge-created doctrine of absolute immunity for malicious and corrupt acts on the bench.

So, it is ok under the current law to be rude and offensive to women litigants and lawyers in NY courtrooms, which empowered the Becker beast and judges who act like him, even more.

Becker is notorious for being rude to parties and counsel, disregarding rights of people of low social status and attorneys representing such people, and bowing to litigants and attorneys with political connections.  For the "blue blood" parties and attorneys, Becker is known to be bending over backwards disregarding the law and the facts of the case and trying to make decision catering for the politically powerful.

Becker is notorious for concealing his conflicts of interest and, when finally confronted with them, lashing out and punishing the messengers, either on his own or through his cronies.

Since Becker worked in Delaware County government since his admission to the bar in 1974, he has amassed a lot of cronies and can be regarded as a cancer of Delaware County sprouting out metastases.

I will never believe that this man, who is known for his meanness, greed, envy to success of others borne of professionalism, skill, long working hours and empathy to people, would step down voluntarily, after he "eked" out a victory by a razor-thin margin in his re-election campaign - and after defrauding voters by false statements in that campaign. shows a rate of pay for Carl F. Becker for 2014 at $172,114.

When retired, Becker will get one half of that in pension.

By stepping down 3 years and 5 months before mandatory retirement, Becker will lose $294,028.10.

I highly doubt that he did that voluntarily.

So, people of Delaware County can rejoice now - at least one beast who was never fit, by character, skills or integrity, to be a judge, is going away, and doing it early.

Yet, before he went, Becker ruined lives of many people - and people should be now extra vigilant, when electing a new judge come November, not to yoke themselves with a similar one or worse than Becker.

Don't tell me there cannot be anybody worse.

Becker was elected because many people thought that the there cannot be anything worse than the previous judge, judge 

And - beware that the beast of Delaware County, while retiring early, still holds out hopes for a "judicial hearing officer stuff".  Be vigilant and be sure that Becker does not get appointed to the position of a judicial hearing officer and is not appointed to YOUR case - that would be a true disaster, guaranteed.

And - we have two "winners" running for the two judgeships in Delaware County in November of 2015:

Richard Northrup, the current Delaware County DA - the Delaware County DA who considered  it possible not to prosecute a nephew of his employee for vehicular assault and attempted murder - while prosecuting the employee's nephew's victim

Once such people get to power, they will not get better.

They will get only worse.

I can only say this - people of Delaware County, voters, you've got rid of one beast, don't yoke yourself with two others.

Former prosecutors (and County Attorneys) are political animals who will always have prosecutorial mentality and will always honor their ties with the local government over and above the law.

These are people whose connections in the local governments are vast, who holds a wealth of information about, possibly, each person who will appear in front of them if, God forbid, they are elected, so you will never be able to figure out whether an adverse decision against you was done on the record or on extrajudicial knowledge about you that the judge has.

You will, most likely, never know what they know about you, what disqualifying conflicts of interest they have - and do not expect them to disclose those conflicts of interest, that will never happen, as my own experience as an attorney and my friends' experience with both of these individuals, Kirkwood and Northrup, shows.

An attorney who had to obtain a government job and stick to it for years because he or she could not survive in private practice is not a good candidate for a judge.

Once again - one beast is out, come November don't exchange one beast for two new ones.  Don't think it can get worse than Becker, because where Becker was not punished, the followers can repeat what he did and now, because of impunity, do much worse.

Use your vote carefully.

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