"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, September 29, 2015

No cameras in the courtroom, but there are cameras in the interview rooms? New York State courts are taking hypocrisy to the whole new level

New York and federal court systems REPEATEDLY fought my husband and myself, dismissing our constitutional challenges to New York State Civil Rights Law 52 prohibiting videotaping court proceedings, even for the sake of preserving true and complete appellate record for review - including, obviously, issues of prosecutorial, jury, attorney, witness and judicial misconduct, which is NOT fully reflected by transcript that is first committed to coded script by stenographers and then decoded - often incorrectly.

There is no way of describing in the transcript a facial expression, and that is EXACTLY WHY intermediate Appellate Courts in New York duck their duty of reviewing facts of the case de novo (even though they have such authority) and "defer" to the trial determinations of the court whose decision is appealed.

There is nothing easier to correct that than to require videotaping of court proceedings, and to allow private parties to videotape their own proceedings, especially the proceedings which are PUBLIC.

It makes no sense to not allow videotaping of PUBLIC proceedings for PRIVACY reasons.

Yet, the New York State Court system has obtained dismissals of our federal court challenges to Civil Rights Law 52, in one case with sanctions and attorney fees of the court system (the violator of constitutional rights) against us, a civil rights plaintiff and his attorney - in the amount of $6,995 each.

It is not a pun - a civil rights plaintiff and a civil rights attorney were each sanctioned and made to pay $6,995 for filing a civil rights lawsuit challenging constitutionality of state Civil Rights Law that prohibits litigants and members of the public to document, as a matter of their civil rights, access to court and evidence in court proceedings.   

The name of the case is Neroni v Becker, the deciding federal judge was Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York Gary L. Sharpe whose son "coincidentally" worked in the office of the New York State Attorney General at the time NYS AG was litigating the case against us in front of Gary L. Sharpe.

The same person who obtained such a dismissal, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, immediately announced in one of his previous "State of Judiciary Addresses" the plans for "Cameras in the courtroom", and that idea, after being prominently pronounced off the high pulpit, quietly died.

I wrote on this blog about consistent attempts of the court system to destroy and deny access to video footage of security cameras in courthouses, especially when what I seek is clearly evidence of judicial misconduct.

So far I was denied such video footage because:

  • I needed to come to the courthouse after closing of the court day (17:00) and sit there for 8 hours (until 1 am) reviewing the tapes, because the NYS Court Administration refused to comply with FOIL and provide me a copy of the video footage;  of course, nobody opened the courthouse for me after hours;
  • after I made one FOIL request, the Court Administration suddenly discovered that the security video cameras/recorders were broken - which was a lie, because I was in that same courthouse every day on the dates of video footage and saw court attendants observe the split-screens with security footage, as usual;  the Court Administation denied me copies of records showing payment for repairs of video recorders;
  •  After I made another FOIL request, the Court Administration claimed that the footage was "inadvertently" written over, even though I requested the footage immediately after the events, and in answer to my previous FOIL request the Court Administration told me that the courts keep the footage for 30 days.

So, we have two rules:

1) the public and litigants are not allowed to videotape court proceedings, under the threat of criminal prosecution, Civil Rights (!) Law 52;

2) the public and litigants are not allowed to see security footage, even though it is allowed by FOIL and FOIL requests are presumed to be made in public interest.


The Court Administration has built a brand spanking new courthouse in Staten Island where secuity cameras are now spying on confidential discussions between litigants and their attorneys in conference rooms!

That is allowed, that is proper, that is lawful, that is not a civil rights violation. 

Of course, it is claimed not to be spying on confidential communications, but being done "for security reasons" only.

Of course, a criminal defense attorney would tell such well-wishers of the attorney's security to get the ****, you know...  

Courtroom security is important, but everybody is checked by metal detectors at the entrance to the courthouse.

Of course, attorneys come to the courthouse through secure passes, bypassing metal detectors.  So, then, it is the attorneys that are the danger to security, because they are the ONLY people who can have anything on them that would warrant cameras.

But, then, all EMPLOYEES of the courthouse, including JUDGES, come through the back door, bypassing metal detectors.  And some retired judges who are hanging in, are doing that, too.

So, aren't we discriminating against defense attorneys here?  Aren't we?

Of course, one civil rights group does not consider it proper and reportedly plans to file a civil rights lawsuit.

That civil rights group is a legal aid society.  All other attorneys are happy that their confidential communications with clients and witnesses are recorded.  No surprises here - you want to practice, shut up and brown-nose the system - or go work for the Legal Aid society where you will not earn that much...

Yet, knowing how civil rights courts treat civil rights cases brought by civil rights plaintiffs and civil rights attorneys against other courts, I will hold my breath as to the outcome, but I will follow it and report any developments of such a possible lawsuit on this blog.

Stay tuned.

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