"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, October 10, 2015

A federal probe into the Connecticut judiciary echoes across the country

In February of 2015, the U.S. Attorney General has launched a "task force" into the claims of corruption in the State of Connecticut Family Courts, see also here.

One of the aspects of the federal investigation is, reportedly, judicial decisions made in favor of attorneys - members of an organization where the deciding judge was also a member, the so-called "Association of Family and Conciliation Court", or AFCC, a non-profit with chapters in many states, including Connecticut.

For my New York readers (I am a New York attorney), AFCC has a chapter in New York, too.

This is how the New York AFCC chapter describes its goals:

The board of AFCC-NY is a mix-up of judges, attorneys and experts in psychology, where attorneys and experts may have a potential to appear in courts of judge-members.

Even though AFCC-NY claims to be a do-gooder non-profit:

the feds have a grimmer view of the organization.

The article about the Connecticut probe into judges' ties with AFCC calls AFCC "a controversial trade association and vendor to the judicial branch" and reports:

"On January 23, Rep. Gonzalez questioned Judge Frazzini about his membership in the state chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Court. The controversial trade association and vendor to the judicial branch was founded by Connecticut family court administrators, judges, and the professionals who appear before them in court.
Specifically, Rep. Gonzalez asked Frazzini whether he should have recused himself from hearing a controversial case during which he issued a gag order against the Connecticut Law Tribune. He did this at the request of the mother’s attorney, AFCC member Stephen Dembo, and at the recommendation of CT AFCC founding board member Susan Cousineau, the guardian ad litem assigned to the case."

Judge Frazzini even sent a letter to the Legislature - after his testimony - apologizing that he allegedly "did not fully understand the status of his membership" with AFCC at the time of testimony, and argument that Judge Frazzini, as a judge, would have laughed out of his own courtroom with sanctions, if anybody would claim that they paid membership dues to an organization, but did not really know they were a member of that organization, while testifying under oath.

I wonder whether any perjury charges will be brought against Judge Frazzini for lying under oath.

Judge Frazzini, reportedly, lied even in his "good faith" letter, because in the letter he claimed he contacted the national center of AFCC in Chicago, Illinois, while in reality that center is located in Madison, Wisconsin.

The beauty of this joint "task force" probe is:

  • apparently, participation of judges in the "do-gooder" non-profits, such as AFCC - or American Inns of Court, about which I wrote on this blog extensively - may cast doubt to judge's impartiality and may require disclosure of such participation and recusal from certain cases.
The article further reports that

"last year, Nowacki [contributor to the article - TN] was one of nearly 100 parents with open family court cases who courageously testified before the legislature that they were victimized by predatory court professionals, many of whom were AFCC affiliates allegedly engaged in case rigging, healthcare scams, false billing scams, mortgage fraud, extortion, and other types of misconduct through the State’s publicly funded programs and services".

And this is a published testimony, an official record of the government of the State of Connecticut, which paints a picture of how members of AFCC - attorneys and judges - self-deal in billing hours while deciding cases and dumping appeals.

For now, U.S. Attorney Daly is crediting “dogged journalists,” as well as courageous politicians and members of the public for coming forward with valuable information about the corruption in the state, and has encouraged citizens to report corrupt activity by calling into a hotline that was recently established by the agency for this purpose."

I wonder if the hotline was established only to report corruption in Connecticut Family Courts, or in other state Family Courts, too.

Beginning of federal investigations into judiciary of at least one state for its affiliation with an attorney-judge trade organization that may have affected impartiality of judicial decisions (case rigging and judicial corruption, to be more direct), opens doors for similar investigations in other states.

I will follow and report on investigations in Connecticut related to AFCC.

Stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment