"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, June 18, 2015

What happens if a case goes to trial in Judge Lambert's court

In my previous blog post I indicated how Judge John F. Lambert conferences cases to death to force settlements upon litigants, potentially through financially draining them by having to pay their counsel to appear for the endless conferences that they did not ask for.

Yet, when people actually go to trial in Judge Lambert's court, what happens is that a decision may be produced where the judge does not even care to articulate parties right clear enough for the appellate court to understand them.

If the appellate court does not understand the parties' rights, surely the parties cannot either, and not every case from Family Court goes to the Appellate Division, many people simply give up or cannot afford to appeal, so there may be a lot more cases out there like this one.

It is a shame, because when Judge Lambert started out, I could see he was making efforts to be fair.  Then, increasingly, he became snappy and disrespectful to litigants and attorneys - apparently, learning from his judicial colleagues and from the concept of judicial immunity that allows judges in the State of New York and in this country to do anything they want on the bench, with complete lack of accountability.

What is also alarming about this judge is the rate of reversals.  There are simply too many recently:

April 3, 2014 - People v Fancher, a partial reversal;

July 3, 2014 - Town of Delhi v Telian, a reversal on the law (there were valid points for the defendant Telian, but not pertaining to standing to sue, but, as far as I know, pertaining to the fact that defendant was not the owner of the property that was subject to code enforcement at the time of alleged violations, but that issue does not seem to be discussed in the appellate decision);

January 8, 2015 - Beardslee v. Beardslee, a modification on the law for failure to allow the defendant in a divorce proceedings credit for separate property contributed toward marital debt;

January 22, 2015 - People v Tubbs, a reduction of sex offender level from III to II for improper attribution of factors;

June 4, 2015 - Dumond v Ingraham, reversal on the law.

FIVE reversals or modifications in the last year?  Is Judge Lambert getting sloppy in his work? No wonder he tries to conference litigants to death - possibly fearing yet another reversal or modification on appeal which will reflect badly upon his judicial reputation?

It is a pity what is happening. 

Once again, at the beginning of his career Judge Lambert was visibly trying to be a good and a fair judge. 

I am a witness to how Judge Lambert had the courage and decency in one of the cases I tried in front of him to acknowledge the error in law that he made at the previous day of trial in his ruling, saving the parties time and effort to have to appeal the ruling (admission of hearsay evidence in child protective proceedings at the fact-finding hearing).  I know that attorneys present in that case greatly appreciated such judicial candor, as did I.  I only respected Judge Lambert more for that correction.

Yet, I also know that, as Judge Lambert's career developed, he became increasingly snappy against attorneys and parties, including, sadly, as far as I know, being rude to female attorneys who are older than the judge (and I do not mean myself), and increasingly sloppy in his rulings.

As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I wonder whether there is still potential for Judge Lambert to return to where he started his judicial career - by trying to be fair to people and diligent in application of the law.

For the sake of the people appearing in front of Judge Lambert, I hope there is still such a potential.

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