"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.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Wives of judges as successful litigators in their husbands' courts

It has come to my attention that the wife of an active-status federal appellate judge Alex Kozinski, California attorney Marcy J. Tiffany,  advertises her law firm and herself as "successfully" practicing in courts from which appeals are taken to her husband's court and in her husband's court.

It is illustrious that Judge Alex Kozinski was the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit from 2007 to 2014.

It is also illustrious that the "seasoned litigator" Marcy J. Tiffany successfully litigated before her husband's court, including the time period when her husband was the Chief Judge of that court.

I do not doubt for a second that Ms. Tiffany litigates successfully in her husband's courts and in courts where judges are depending for their reputations and reversal records upon decisions of Ms. Tiffany's husband's court.

Ms. Tiffany's shining example of practicing in courts where such practice raises huge conflict of interest issues, reminds me of another wife of a judge.

That is New York attorney Ellen L. Coccoma, wife of the Chief Administrative Judge of upstate New York Michael V. Coccoma who practices in front of close-to-retirement judges assigned to her cases by her husband or her husband's subordinates, while her husband controls distribution of post-retirement perks, thus holding in front of these judges a stick with a banana tied to it.

Alex Kozinski is being paraded by the cream of the cream of the legal community as "one of America's most prominent jurists". 

Even though allowing his wife and his wife's law firm to "successfully" litigate in his own court does not seem to appear to the legal community, and law professors' community, as impeachable behavior for a federal appellate judge and a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for federal judges.

With the exception that it is not "appropriate" for lawyers and law professors to talk about "such things" as judicial misconduct and what appears as a conflict of interest. 

It is interesting to mention that Judge Michael Coccoma was recently promoted by New York Chief Judge Lippman to become  Statewide Administrative Judge for Fiduciary Matters, that was announced in Judge Lippman's State of the Judiciary address for the year 2015:

And that appointment was, by the way, right after a lawsuit for fraud and fraud upon the court against Michael Coccoma AND his wife Ellen Coccoma was dismissed by a federal court, by yet another Chief Judge, the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York Gary L. Sharpe.
"Coincidentally", at the time of litigation and dismissal, Judge Sharpe's son Michael Aaron Sharpe was employed by the New York State Attorney General, the law office representing Michael Coccoma in that lawsuit. 
By the way, the lawsuit was dismissed on "absolute judicial immunity grounds", without reaching the merits of the case, so whether Michael Coccoma did or did not commit fraud upon the court remained subject to inquiry by disciplinary authorities.
So, what can beginning law students and those who consider career in law discern from this little pattern?

It is good to marry a judge - it is a path to a successful career.
When you are a judge, your conflicts of interest will not be even mentioned by the legal community, and you will be relentlessly (and shamelessly) promoted instead of disciplined.
But, the question of a disciplinary inquiry and impeachment for both of these "prominent" judges remains open.
Will authorities dare to touch them?

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