"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.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Identity theft from litigants through New York Family Courts? You don't tell...

Whenever a litigant comes to Family Court in the State of New York, the litigant is required to fill out a sign-in sheet where s/he is required to put in his or her:

  1. full name
  2. employment address
  3. home address AND
  4. Social Security number
S/he then hands the sheet in to the court attendant - and it is an identity theft waiting to happen.  I doubt that anybody keeps those sign-in sheets under lock and key, or that there is any significant oversight over who has access to this information.

In fact, identity theft using people's Social Security numbers is on the rise - and even led to creation of a federal President's Theft Task Force in 2006.

Of course, when you go to the links that are supposed to lead to recommendation of that Theft Task Force, you get this:

But the 2008 report of the Theft Task Force is available elsewhere.

The report, back in 2008, recommended to various federal agencies to reduce the use of Social Security numbers, which the report calls "the most valuable commodity for identity thieves".

Apparently, administrators of New York State Family Courts are too busy to be bothered with such trifles as exposure of Family Court litigants to identity theft - through requirements of disclosure of Social Security numbers in the court sign-in sheets.

I remember the timidity of litigants who fill out those sheets as if they are criminals.

I remember the insistence of security guards who take in the filled-out sheets that the sheet is filled out in full, that no "required" information would be missed.

I understand the reluctance of litigants to do anything or say anything against the way they are required to act, for fear that their insistence on non-disclosure of certain personal information may affect their case, which can be from child support to child custody to child neglect to family offense proceedings, and can have drastic consequences for the litigant if the case is decided against him or her.

But, New York Courts that, under its new Chief Judge DiFiore are now pledging to aim for "excellence" (I will run a separate blog about this "excellence" plan) should at least start with not exposing people who come to Family Court, sometimes on their own, sometimes sued by others, to identity theft coming from within the court system.

Statistics of such identity theft is, of course, not known, and, I bet, is unavailable through FOIL.

I will try a FOIL request on this subject, but I predict the answer will be - "there are no records responsive to your FOIL request".  

That does not mean that identity theft does not happen because of loose - or no - oversight of who and how handles litigants' information on sign-in sheets.

I am sure all people working in Family Courts, from clerks to judges to security officers, know what I am talking about.

They know for years.

They know how wrong, how dangerous for litigants this little rule is, also for years.

And they do nothing to change it, also for years.

Yet, I am sure they will keep their own Social Security numbers intact and will not disclose it every time they come to the courthouse.

And the same rule should exist for litigants.

What is the sign-in sheet for?

Why should the Family Court litigant (not the Supreme or County court litigant) disclose all that information, every time the litigant comes to court?

There is no such requirement in the Family Court Act.

There is no such requirement in the court rules.

This "sign-in sh*t" rule is completely illegal - and is going on for years in New York Family Court.

Maybe, eliminating this rule will start New York court system on its long and unlikely road to excellence?

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