This is the full proposed rule. There is no explanation there as to why the rule was introduced now, after 41 years of existence of the Commission, and why the rule did not exist from the beginning.
Nor does it say which members, former members or law firms of the Commission practiced before the Commission before. Well, such information must be available under FOIL, and I'll try to obtain it and will report the result of my efforts on this blog.
The "rule" is a no-brainer. Any judge or member of a judicial panel is prohibited from practicing before that panel under the judge-advocate rule. The same applies to law firms of part-time judges.
Rules of disqualifications for part-time judges who continue to practice law, exist for an eternity and are fully applicable to Commission's members.
Yet, many times when I asked for disqualification of members of the Commission (for example, on the ground that they are reviewing complaints against themselves, like the now- Chief Judge of Appellate Division 3rd Department Karen Peters) or against judges who participated in misconduct together with them (like the now-retired Delaware County judge Carl Becker and the then Vice-Chair of the Commission Stephen Coffey), the Commission ignored my requests.
The question is, what had to happen for the Commission to see the writing on the all and introduce a rule governing itself (the Commission, apparently, is an investigator, adjudiator and legislator, all things in one), after 41 years of cozy existence since 1974?
So, I presume that before that time, Commission members and their law firms, did practice (and derived financial benefits) in front of the Commission, and the question is - how many decisions of the Commission were invalidated by this practice.
"Practicing in front of the Commission" means "representing judges turned in for discipline".
The fact that such a rule was not in existence until now can pretty much explain why the Commission, as it has been claimed by witnesses in numerous public hearings, acted so far more like a glorified shredder of meritorious complaints against judges (without a right of appeal of dismissals of meritorious complaints) than a fair and impartial governmental body.
In other words, for 41 years, New York State government was bluffing its citizens by claiming that there exists an impartial governmental body that investigates and administers discipline to New York state judges.
In reality, there existed a business where the Commission was an information hub receiving complaints from citizens, and then turning that information source which was confidential to all but members and employees of the Commission, into business for itself and the law firms in which the Commission members and former members were employed.
So, what happens now?
Will the Commission and its activities, including dismissals of all complaints against judges, be investigated by an INDEPENDENT citizen's panel as to:
- whether any dismissal was caused by representation of any judge by a Commission member, former member or their law firms, and
- whether milder discipline (any discipline other than taking the judge off the bench) was imposed because of the influence of a member, former member or law firm of such members or former members of the Commission practicing before the court and representing such a judge, openly, or as a confidential "member of the team" representing the judge?
Members of the Commission in 41 years of its existence are easily identifiable.
Their law firms are also easily identifiable.
Complaints against judges should have been archived, I know they are assigned index numbers, so, if they still exist, an independent investigative panel can review them.
I will file a FOIL request about members of the Commission for 41 years and who appointed them, and will report how New York State Unified Court system reacts to the FOIL.
By the way, the last reply of NYS counsel for Office of Court Administration to my FOIL inquiry was downright rude, so I understand that my last FOIL (about Lippman's "Learned Hand" program, a "public-private partnership" formed upon an "anonymous", but private donation of $1 mln) is onto something.
The implications are all the more interesting that many of the appointees of the Commission were appointed by the following individuals:
So, the current members of the Committee were appointed by:
1) Sheldon Silver - convicted for corruption;
2) Sheldon Silver's childhood friend Jonathan Lippman and his predecessor Judith Kaye (Lippman was not a Chief Judge in 2005 and 1999), who both have a record of corruption, see my blogs here and here for Lippman and here for Kaye;
3) Dean Skelos - convicted for corruption;
3) John Sampson who was convicted in 2015 for trying to thwart a federal investigation and obstructing justice;
4) Governor Cuomo who is, reportedly, currently investigated for corruption, for dissolving the Moreland Commission as soon as it started to probing Cuomo and his administration, and, possibly involving the Buffalo Billion project.
Quite a crew.
So, will New York State Attorney General investigate corrupt activities of the Commission for Judicial Conduct, or will he balk out, as he did with Silver, Cuomo, Skelos and Sampson - because, by law, he is actually representing these scoundrels, so only feds could touch them, after years of corruption?
Will New York State law be finally changed to remove irreconcilable conflicts of interest of the New York State Attorney General?
And will the now-admitted corrupt activities of the NYS Commission for Judicial Conduct be a project worth addressing for Preet Bharara?