I filed a FOIL request today with the New York State Court Administration seeking information about:
(1) policies as to fee waivers, and
(2) records pertaining to all fees paid or waived in the case of Barbara O'Sullivan v Derek Bowie (a police officer), in his individual capacity, for vehicular assault and battery, Delaware County Index No. 2014-911.
Here is my entire exchange with the NYS Court Administration pertaining to that FOIL request:
Let's note that NYS Court Administration claims that:
1) I am not seeking records subject to FOIL, because records I am seeking are allegedly "judicial records";
2) that I am asking NYS Court Administration, under the guise of FOIL, to conduct legal research which NYS Court Administration does not have to do for me; and
3) that denial of my FOIL request is not even appealable.
First of all, administering fees for the handling of a case is not strictly a judicial duty, and thus, any records pertaining to such fees are not judicial records taking such records from the reach of FOIL requirements.
Second, NYS Court Administration sends me to the do my own legal research and to consult the law and court rules on court websites.
Well, I did, actually before I made the FOIL request.
As an attorney, I know the law.
As a diligent attorney, I double-checked the law and the rules before FOILing.
Here is the fee schedule of New York courts.
New York City Civil Court is even more specific than the general Unified New York Court system, it provides statutory authority for every filing fee it requires litigants to pay.
Here is the official explanation by the court system as to which cases require the Request for Judicial Intervention fee of $95 and which cases do not require such a fee.
Barbara O'Sullivan v Derek Bowie's case definitely required payment of an RJI fee. I was advised that such a fee was waived to Derek Bowie by Delaware County Clerk's office - and, as a taxpayer, attorney and litigant, I want to know - on what legal grounds was the waiver given?
Here is the statutory authority for filing fees in New York State Supreme Court:
- a court order adjudicating a litigant as a poor person, CPLR 1101.
- waivers to public entities (the government) or public officials sued in their official capacity - I did not find authority for that, but do not deny a possibility that such a basis exists, on the rationale that when a public entity defends in a lawsuit, it spends taxpayer money, and thus fee waiver would be appropriate.
Here is the Unified Court System's rule/policy pertaining to fee waivers for poor persons (only that ground).
The Mokay plaintiffs who were given a waiver by Judge Kevin Dowd of a trial note of issue fee, were not adjudicated as poor persons, nor did they apply for such a fee waiver on that ground, or at all.
Derek Bowie, in O'Sullivan v. Bowie, did not apply for a fee waiver either, is not an indigent person, being a police officer on the payrol of Delaware County Sheriff's Department, and was sued in his individual capacity for misconduct, which does not trigger any waivers meant for the government.
That was the reason for my question - if all laws, rules and policies were not followed in these cases, what are the real policies for fee waivers in New York?
The New York State Court Administration answered me that it does not owe me - or any other litigant, citizen and taxpayer of the State of New York - an answer to that question.
Yet, since every paying (or non-payment and waiver where payment must be made) is followed by a paper trail, I have made yet another FOIL request, now to the Delaware County Treasurer, for copies of records pertaining to filing fees put into the court account.
I have also FOILed the New York State Comptroller for the filing fees collected from the case Barbara O'Sullivan v Derek Bowie.
I will hold my breath for the answers.
The government clearly does not like being caught red-handed in misconduct, specifically, in favoritism in favor of a police officer, even if he is sued for vehicular assault by his victim, and in retaliation against the critic of judicial misconduct, even in such petty issues such as charging her, but not the perpetrator of a vehicular assault against her, filing fees in civil litigation.
When a court system brazenly gives gifts of fee waivers to governmental officials, sued in their individual capacities for committing egregious misconduct against citizens - that demonstrates more than anything else that courts in New York are not neutral, unbiased and fair, as they are supposed to be, and are not governed by the rule of law, as they are supposed to be.
And that's why, when you can, as a voter, exclude from the bench people who you know will only contribute to the ongoing misconduct in the court system, it is absolutely necessary to do that.
Because that's your only chance to improve the judicial system - apart from the lengthy and mostly unsuccessful process of petitioning the intentionally deaf and blind government.