UPL is practicing law without a license, and is a criminal statute that must be applied blindly, without looking at the identity of the person. That is not what is happening in New York which applies UPL to suspended and disbarred attorneys differently than to never-licensed individuals.
Practicing without a license means practicing where you never had a license, or practicing when you had a license, but it was suspended or revoked.
Yet, New York applies one set of rules to those who never had a license and another, stricter set of rules, to those who lost their law licenses. In other words, in New York, what is a crime of UPL to those who lost their licenses, is not the crime of UPL for those who never had it - and the "Legal Hand", endorsed by New York's Chief Judge is one of the examples.
Yet, exploration of the "Legal Hand" program brought me into something, I think, bigger that unconstitutional application of UPL laws.
When I researched the program, I found that it was handled by the so-called "Center for Court Innovation", a "public charity", a non-profit organization.
Back in law school, I took a course in non-profit organizations from a professor who was extremely distrusting to these entities. To give you an idea, the professor told us that he never donates to a single charity before they answer two of his questions (and most never do):
1) financial reports of the charity;
2) percentage of income of the charity dedicated to its declared mission (example: how much money does a children's cancer research institute dedicate to children's cancer research?) Could be as little as 1% of collected funds, or less - there is no set limit for that.
Following my professor's tip, I started to ask these questions to charities who call for donations. They usually refused to provide financial disclosures, refused to answer the question as to the percentage and quite often became belligerrent as to why I ask all those questions instead of just doing "the right thing" - just give them the money.
Well, while researching the webpage of the Center for Court Innovation, a public charity (a tax-exempt non-profit corporation otherwise known as the Fund for the City of New York, Inc.), I found this spectacular statement:
Yes, it was declared that this non-profit was "founded as a public/private partnership" with the New York State Unified Court System.
That put the "partnership" within the reach of Freedom of Information Law, at least, on the Court Administration's side.
I filed a FOIL request with the New York State Office of Court Administration in December of 2015 and asked for information about the "partnership".
Here is my FOIL request:
The Court Administration answered with its usual tactic - "we will answer within 20 days", even though the law is clear that they should provide information within 5 business days, unless information is substantial and not easy to find.
Instead of complying with the law, governmental entities in New York (it is a universal trick) first give you a "20 day run-around", then take a lot more than 20 days to respond in the hope that you will forget.
In my case, I made the FOIL request by e-mail on December 23, 2015, and, until yesterday, did not have any responses. So, I wrote again and threatened with a lawsuit and legal fees against those individuals who are stalling release of records, in case I am represented in the lawsuit by a licensed attorney (New York conveniently suspended my own law license so that I could not sue for stalling my own FOIL requests, after I made in October of 2015 a FOIL request that the Court Administration is still stalling - about members, founding documents and other records pertaining to the so-called "New York State-Federal Judicial Council", a shadow organization influencing New York and federal courts).
After my e-mail yesterday, New York office of Court Administration reacted nearly instantly (showing that 20 days were not really necessary to respond), but gave me not documents pertaining to the formation of a "partnership" that, according to available information, existed since at least 1990s, and, according to the papers filed by the Fund with IRS, since 1982 (the "ruling" year).
The only documents pertaining to that so-called "private-public" partnership that New York Court Administration released to me so far is - guess - a CONTRACT for the period of 2014 to 2018 between New York Court Administration and the Center for Court Innovation, approved by:
- The court administration
- New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
- New York Attorney General
Of course, I contested the incomplete disclosure with the following e-mail:
But, guess what was the amount of the contract between the New York Unified Court System and the Center for Court Innovation for the years 2014 to 2018 approved by the New York State Comptroller and New York State Attorney General?
33 million 763 thousand and 419 dollars, ladies and gentlemen, of taxpayers' money, are pledged to be diverted by the New York Unified Court System to "independent research" and some "projects" where, I am sure, relatives and friends are employed by the droves - and that is at the time of budget cuts, when the court claims too high caseloads, cuts personnel, and asks from the New York State Legislature an ADDITIONAL budget for increase of salaries of judges.
And here are the names of people who approved the contract:
Of course I will apply to the NYS Senate immediately asking to disaffirm the findings of the commission for judicial pay raises as a need for additional budget for such raises (not that our corrupt Senate will listen to me, of course, but I will at least make the record) - because the budget is right there, only it is used for "contractors", which should be investigated as to employment of relatives and friends of judges.
If New York Unified Court system has extra money to splurge on "contractors" to do "independent research" for them, it definitely must have money to fund such pesky things as (first as priority) indigent defense and then (last priority) judicial salaries.
That the contract is open-ended, its terms which are not contained in the contract itself, but are attached in an "appendix" allows a non-profit corporation to practically to run the New York State court system, and many of its programs, and to influence the courts' decision-making process.
Since it has been approved by the State Comptroller and State Attorney General, apparently, state authorities cannot investigate the project for public corruption, because they are themselves involved in it and will look like idiots for approving it in the first place.
To learn for what exactly did the New York Court system is going to pay nearly 34 million dollars of your money over the years 2014 to 2018 - stay tuned.