"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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NYS Commission on judicial pay raises: drumming up business by rubbing judges' backs

I was alerted by the Center of Judicial Accountability and its director, Elena Sassower, as to the public hearing that is going to happen on November 30, 2015 in New York City where a Commission with a supermajority of lawyers will be considering whether to recommend to the Legislature pay raises for judges.

I am also reposting the appeal of the Center of Judicial Accountability opposing pay raises to judges while the government refuses to address rampant judicial corruption in New York courts.

The Commission is not very visible on the Internet.

I found the website of an old Commission for judicial compensation, here.

Note that when you follow the link above, it takes you to a website belonging to the government - the extension is .gov.

I had a very hard time finding the website of the present Commission.  I finally found it, here is the link, yet, the link is to an organization with an extension '.org', which means it is not a governmental Commission.

Here are the members of the Commission.

Here is the information that the Commission gives, and parallel information that the NYS attorney registration website gives about each member.

The Chair of the judicial pay-raise Commission is Sheila L. Birnbaum:

As a practicing attorney, Sheila Birnbaum is disqualified from being on the panel recommending judicial pay raises for two reasons:

1) her license, reputation and livelihood is in the hands of the judiciary, making her susceptible to recommend anything that would favor her licensors, for her personal financial gain;

2) her income is derived from litigation in front of judges whose pay raises she is to consider, making her susceptible to recommend anything to please judges to gain favors for herself and her clients in litigation, for her personal financial gain.

3) of course, Chief Judge Lippman knew better than to appoint to such a panel people depending on the judiciary for their well-being, yet, he deliberately did that, thus practically requiring the commission to make their findings only one-way - making the belatedly announced and now rushed public hearing a formality only.

The next member of the "pay raise" Commission is Barry Cozier.

Barry Cozier is also a practicing attorney, with the same disqualifications as for Sheila Birnbaum above applying to him.

I wrote about Barry Cozier in this blog before.

He is a retired judge.

He, as all other members of the "pay raise" Commission, is an attorney licensed by judges.

He, as all other members of the "pay raise" Commission, is an attorney practicing before judges and deriving income from his practice.

Also, he is a member of the New York Statewide Commission for Attorney Discipline that heard pleas from the public about rampant judicial corruption permeating the court system - and the way attorney discipline is imposed, too, and produced a "Final Report and Recommendation" that did not mention that word, instead, he conducted that Commission's hearings in such a way to not allow independent videotaping, to not allow people to freely speak their minds.

The Attorney Discipline Commission where he is a Chair, published the transcripts of the three "public" hearings, but not the affidavits it relied upon.

My Freedom of Information requests to the Commission are stalled.  First, the Commission wanted to redact some "private" information from those public affidavits.

Then, the Commission claimed I must pay for paper copies and for their redaction.  When I offered to pay and asked for the amount, no amount - and no documents - were provided.

So, this same very honest Barry Cozier will be a member of yet another "Commission", in order to get yet another favor from the entire judiciary by advocating for their pay raises.

Of course, same as in the Commission for Attorney Discipline, members of the Commission - created in April of 2015 - got around to "public hearings" only around holiday season, and will hold its first-and-only "public" hearing on November 30, 2015, right after Thanksgiving and shortly before Christmas when the weather is lousy and when people have other things to do other than attend public hearings.

The Commission (again, created in April of 2015, with some appointments to the Commission made in July of 2015announced in November of 2015 (7 months down the road) than NOW they scheduled the public hearing for November 30, 2015, and NOW they need to be in haste and complete their reporting on the public hearing by December 31, 2015.  

Why such a period of inactivity, and then such a haste - nobody knows.  

Is it to be in time to present a New Year's present to the judiciary and to allow the creator of the "pay raise" Commission NYS Chief Judge Lippman to create a "legacy" before his mandatory retirement the next day?

Barry Cozier's "handwriting" is all over the way how the Commission handled the timing of its activities - and inactivities.

The next member of the judicial pay-raise Commission is Roman B. Hedges.

Roman Hedges is not an attorney, but he has vast connections in New York State government.  We cannot expect any man or woman from the street, an average taxpayer who will actually be paying those judicial pay raises, to sit on that panel.

The next member of the judicial pay-raise Commission is Mitra Hormozi.  

Ms. Hormozi is a practicing attorney, and disqualifications applicable to prior two attorneys on the Commission (Birnbaum and Cozier) apply to her equally.

The next member of the Commission is Gary Johnson.

Disqualifications of other three attorneys - members of the Commission - equally apply to Mr. Johnson.

The next member of the Commission is the "Hon. James J. Lack (ret.)", and the Commission does not provide information about him.

Yet, the attorney registration website does provide information about attorney James J. Lack:

Attorney James J. Lack is listed as a "delinquent" FOR OVER A YEAR.  

Why do I say so?

Attorneys are required to re-register in New York every two years on their birthday.

If attorney James J. Lack's "next registration" is due in October 2016, the previous registration was due in October 2014.

Attorney James J. Lack is delinquent, which means he did not pay his registration fees and did not re-register, in violation of attorney disciplinary rules.

His "delinquent" status is in sharp contrast with the claim that he has "no record of public discipline".

Also, delinquent attorneys must be stricken off the rolls.

Attorney James J. Lack, obviously, was not, and obviously, because he is a retired judge.

Appointing a delinquent attorney to a judicial pay raise Commission, at the time when judges must decide, as licensors of such an attorney, whether to take his law license or not, is a new level of corruption.

Moreover, when he was a judge, the "Honorable" James J. Lack disgraced himself in 2009 by getting involved in a road rage (reportedly, he has been involved in multiple road-rage incidents, or accidents, over the prior 20 years), and yelled at the officer who stopped him that he will have the officer's job.

Additionally, reportedly the judge allowed his 37-year-old daughter Katherine to "heap her own abuse" upon the officer before they both left the scene.

The same article reported that:

"In 2001, when Lack represented East Northport in the state Senate, he followed a horrified 39-year-old mother home after a traffic incident, threatened to have her jailed and cursed the woman out in her own garage. 
He also reduced an East Northport car wash attendant to tears after his credit card was rejected."

A stalker-judge and a judge who will "have your job" if you do yours and point out to him that he is violating the law, is on the judicial pay-raise Commission.

And you know what?

The "Hon." James J. Lack is also on the Judicial Ethics Committee, on the Subcommittee for Election Campaign Ethics.

I am swooning at the appropriateness of all of this.

The next member of the Commission on judicial pay raise is a "Fran Reiter", and the Commission gives no information about this Commission member, or who appointed him - or her (?).

I found the following information about a "Fran Reiter" in New York state government.

The NYS Attorney registration website returned the following information:

So, there is no attorney "Fran" Reiter in New York, and an attorney "Frank" Reiter is deceased.

If "Fran Reiter" is not an attorney (and is a dark horse with no information about that person published by the Commission), what we have as the composition of the Commission is the following:

7 members, 2 non-attorneys close to or recent or present members of the government, and 5 practicing attorneys whose fate is in the hands of judges whose pay raise they are reviewing as panelists.

So, out of 7 panelists, 5 are disqualified by personal financial interest.

Corruption, as expected in New York, especially where the judiciary is concerned, what can I say.

Apparently, all recommendations of such a "commission" are invalid through the disqualification of super-majority of its members by their personal financial interest.

But, what to do with the actual judicial pay raises?

I offered on this blog a solution to the problem of pay raises AND judicial corruption long time ago.

Make the position of a judge MANDATORY for EVERY citizen - same as the position of a juror.

Make that position assignable - same as a juror position.  

For one day at a time.

Teach law in public schools as part of mandatory education, so that every American is able to discharge that duty, of a judge, same as of a juror.

That will mean that a judge will only receive "per diems" for his or her one-day duty.

And, the entire system of "I rub your back - you rub mine", and the entire concept of the "judiciary" as a class, and as an extremely powerful class - will disappear, along with the claims for pay raises.

Moreover, I believe, judges should not be paid more than the median salary in the areas they are serving.

Median income in New York City is reportedly $50,711:

A salary of a Supreme Court Justice is $167,000.

So, a Supreme Court Justice in New York City needs to have his income reduced more than 3 times to equal it to the median income of the served population.

In Delaware County, NY, where I am from, the median income is $22,695.

Once again, a Supreme Court Justice gets $167,000.

A Family/County Court Judge gets around $135,000.

If their salary is reduced to the median income in the County, I doubt that there will be any hot "judicial races", as the one that recently ended.

I actually doubt that there will be any candidates for judicial positions then.

And, I believe, the people will only benefit if nobody runs for a judge, but if judges are appointed randomly (computer generated appointments) from the list of citizens in the locality (with all the disqualifications through bias or personal interest applicable).

For as long as we continue to put judges for years and years in positions of power, while we continue to put judges in positions to, at the same time, decide cases, lock the entry to court representation to only attorneys vetted by those same judges, and gag those same attorneys to speak about judicial misconduct while putting those same attorneys on "commissions" that decide judicial pay raise issues (and then appear in front of judges who they benefited with private cases), corruption in the court system will not go away.

Let's go back to the description of what the Court of Claims judge James J. Lack, now the member of the judicial pay-raise Commission and of the Committee on Judicial Ethics, did:

The "Hon." James J. Lack, being a Court of Claims judge

  1.  nearly "mowed down a traffic agent";
  2. refused to obey the officer's command to slow down;
  3. jumped out of the vehicle, flashed his "judge ID" to the officer, said he is a judge and threatened to have the officer's job

Then, the judge who grossly abused his power had the audacity to start an internal investigation AGAINST THE OFFICER!!!

Then, the judge does not pay his attorney fees, and nobody terrorizes him or strikes him off attorney rolls, the court establishment happily continues to appoint him to "commissions" and "committees" on judicial ethics and judicial pay raises.

Judge James Lack is NOT a one-of-a-kind bad apple.

Honest judges are one-of-a-kind in New York, or, let me say, nearly non-existent.

Instead, people like judge Lack, and as other judges I write about regularly on this blog, are those for whom pay raises are advocated.

You as taxpayers have a right to say "no" to give pay raises to crooks.

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