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:
- eye problems etc.
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.
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.
Use your vote carefully.