"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.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Albany law firm O'Connell and Aronowitz, PC and its pattern of abuse of its partners's powers as public officials and of discrimination against people with disability

I wrote on this blog about the law firm O'Connell and Aronowitz, PC that 

  • had a flat-lump-sum retainer agreement signed by a legally blind person without reading the retainer agreement to that person; 
  • did no real work over 4 months of representation of that person;
  • steered the legally blind person into a felony plea with a claim that, once again, the legally blind person drove a truck (where evidence in the case showed that that same truck at that same time was driven by somebody else, who was charged and convicted for speeding), and
  • steered their legally blind client into signing an agreement the legally blind person could not see and that was not read to him, where he waived his right to sue the presiding judge (Carl Becker), all federal and state law enforcement officers participating in his criminal case, and the prosecutor (Richard Northrup of Delaware County, now a judge - who at the time of the case employed, without disclosure, Becker's law partner John Hubbard, John Hubbard disclosed that fact only in January of 2016, when Becker was no longer a judge, Northrup was no longer a District Attorney, he was a new County Judge elected with Becker's support and unlawfully sworn in by Becker, when Becker was no longer a public official, and Hubbard was the Acting District Attorney in Northrup's stead);
  • was fired from that case before sentencing;
  • threatened me, my husband, their former legally blind client with a "grand larceny" if we "touch" the bail money that belonged to our legally blind client as a matter of law, because the back of the bail receipt was not endorsed to O'Connell & Aronowitz, PC;
  • wrote an inappropriate letter to Judge Becker, after being fired from the case, causing Becker to refuse to issue a proper order of bail exoneration, and causing Becker to issue an order that threw the Delaware County; 
  • caused Delaware County to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on litigation over the bail money - which I won for my legally blind client, at the cost of my law license; see conflicts of interest in that case, in addition to John Hubbard being the law partner of Judge Becker, described here;
  • threatened me, through its representative at an appellate settlement conference in August of 2009, that they will ask for sanctions against me if I go ahead with my appeal of improper grant of the bail money to O&A;
  • I won an appeal - and Delaware County, where the Treasurer was Carl Becker's likely girlfriend, according to her statements in his election campaign of 2012, and where Carl Becker's buddy, colleague and boss of many years, former Delaware County Attorney Richard Spinney admitted to an ex parte communication with Becker on the issue of bail money - refused to release the money, necessitating a contempt proceeding against the County, and a motion to recuse Becker who assigned himself to the case despite his obvious disqualification and misconduct, claiming at sentencing of my legally blind client that he is not as blind as he pretends to be (Becker sanctioned me for my request to step down from the bail interpleader case, and had my law license suspended based on that sanction);
  • O&A partner Stephen Coffey, at that point the Vice-Chair for the NYS Commission for Judicial Conduct whose threatening letters to Becker bore a clear appearance of impropriety, given the power Coffey had over Becker as the Vice-Chair of the Commission that could discipline or remove Becker from office, committed misconduct in revealing and openly filing with the Delaware County Supreme Court the sealed pre-sentencing report of his former legally blind client who fired him;
  • Becker ordered the Delaware County, but not O&A to return the money, which decision resulted in yet another appeal that I won for my legally blind client, once again, at the cost of my law license;
  • O&A would not give back my client's bail money despite TWO appellate court decisions;
  • O&A's partner Stephen Coffey refused to comply with discovery demands in remanded cases, somehow raising as a basis of denial of discovery demands my husband's disbarment, which was irrelevant to the case;
  • I won another appeal for my client, now from Becker's decision - and, after a disciplinary complaint against Coffey, who would not give the money back, as ordered by TWO appellate court orders, and who, instead of complying with discovery, mocked me as a wife of a disbarred attorney (which had no relevance to the case whatsoever), got the bail money back for my client.

After which, my law license was suspended based on Becker's illegal sanctions imposed upon me in that case.

Think about the stress O'Connell and Aronowitz put upon their legally blind client - to whom they failed their MOST BASIC obligation to at least READ to him the retainer agreement, to at least READ to him what he was signing as part of the plea agreement.

O&A retaliated against that disabled individual for firing them - for cause - by revealing his private information from a sealed pre-sentencing report, by improperly threatening him, his then-girlfriend and his attorneys, with a grand larceny prosecution, and by plunging him into years of litigation to get back the bail money where his right to that bail money, as the appellate court held, twice, see here and here, was established as a matter of law.

Stephen Coffey or O&A were never sanctioned for their egregious misconduct in this case.

Becker was never sanctioned.

Northrup was never sanctioned.

The only two people sanctioned was my husband and I, people who brought up and exposed misconduct of these powerful public officials.

My husband, Frederick J. Neroni, was disbarred shortly after filing a criminal assigned appeal for Richard Carbone where he raised issues of Becker's misconduct, after John Hubbard (Becker's undisclosed law partner, who was served with the appeal and who opposed the appeal) threatened my husband that he is "burning his bridges" by raising the issue of Becker's corruption in that appeal.

I was suspended in November of 2015, after a 2-year fight in several courts over my license, where the punishment was based ENTIRELY upon Becker's sanctions imposed upon me after I complained about him, sued him and made motions to recuse him - for DOCUMENTED misconduct.

Stephen Coffey was quietly removed from the NYS Commission for Judicial Conduct, but his law firm's partner Paul A. Feigenbaum continued to be assigned as a referee to the Commission's cases (see Commission's annual reports for the lists of referee, the reports are in PDF format and word-searchable, it's all there) - as he was the whole time when Coffey was the Commission's member, thus irreversibly tainting any complaints made to the Commission about Becker, before Coffey's resignation and after.

Coffey was freely advertising his membership in the Commission for Judicial Conduct during that membership, and some time after he left the Commission.

Now, the Commission does not readily reflect Coffey's membership on its website, other than through annual reports, and Coffey quietly removed any mention of his participation in the Commission from his official biography on his law firm's website (after I used it in several court proceedings).

Coffey was a member of the Commission from 1995 to 2011.

For all those years, Feigenbaum was the referee of the Commission appearing in front of Coffey.

Becker was a (usurped) judge from 2002 to July of 2015.

Coffey was on the Commission at the time of my complaints against Becker in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the complaints involved Coffey's own behavior, but he did not recuse.

I know for a fact that I am far from being the only one who filed complaints against Becker, many people did that, but Coffey, who had a huge conflict of interest where Becker was concerned, apparently voted along with the rest of the Commission to not even investigate those complaints.

With all of the above, Coffey parades on the website of his law firm his following "achievements":

Coffey excelled in the criminal field by duping a legally blind person into signing a $17,000 retainer agreement that allowed Coffey to do no work, but steer the legally blind defendant into pleading guilty for driving a truck, and into signing a waiver of liability for the judge - the very same judge who Coffey was supposed to investigate and prosecute as the Vice-Chair of the Commission of Judicial Conduct.

Coffey then excelled in the civil field by illegally exposing a sealed document from the criminal proceeding in the civil proceeding, intimidating attorneys for the disabled client who fired him for cause - while knowing all along, as a matter of law, that he was wrong, and appearing to use his position of power to bend the law to his financial benefit.

Coffey's "fearless approach" in the Shields v Carbone and People v Carbone cases was only in trying to intimidate people over whom he had power, for his own benefit, to shake up the money from people and entities that did not legally belong to Coffey or his law firm.  As to his client, his "fearless approach" transpired only in fearlessly frivolous claim of a legally blind person driving a truck that was driven at that time by somebody else - a statement that Coffey urged his legally blind client to pronounce TWICE on record.

Coffey does not mention that he was a member, and a Vice-Chair for the commission of Judicial Conduct for 16 years, so his "victories" before judges he had power to remove, with the help of his partner, referee of the Commission Paul Feigenbaum, is nothing other than abuse of power by a public official.

I have no doubt that "under Coffey's leadership", backed up with his and Feigenbaum's power wielded as a member, Vice-Chair (Coffey) and long-time referee (Feigenbaum) of the NYS Commission of Judicial Conduct, judges did not know whether they bent to Coffey's whims quickly enough - as Becker did with his "unusual" bail exoneration orders that plunged Delaware County into years of litigation, even though it was clear as a matter of law, who the bail money belonged to - and that was not O'Connell & Aronowitz, PC, see here and here.

That's quite a victory - when a powerful public official is using his position of power to drum up business for his law firm.  

Quite a victory to be proud of.

Well, now - after all of that recounting of O&A's history, look what O&A has been recently caught in doing - again.

Blatant discrimination against disabled in the Albany parking garage.

A journalist investigation by the Albany Times Union's Chris Churchill and photographer John Carl D'Annibale revealed that O&A had 16 reserved parking spaces right next to the exit, spaces that are usually, and by law, federal Americans with Disabilities Act, are reserved for the disabled.

So, the disabled with limited mobility - on crutches and wheelchairs - must walk an extra distance so that O&A lawyers who are known for "fearless approach when confronted with injustice" should confront injustice - some place else - faster.

There was a suggestion made that yet another partner of O&A, Cornelius Murray was behind such cozy reserved spaces in Albany Parking garage - because Murray was the former Chairman of the parking authority.

Here is the hero, Cornelius Murray, from O&A's website:

Same as with Coffey's participation in the Commission for Judicial Conduct, Murray's being a Chairman of the parking authority is not mentioned in his official biography on O&A's website.

As reported by the Albany Times Union,

"Murray, in fact, was astonished by the allegation, given that it has been more than a decade since his chairmanship ended. O'Connell & Aronowitz did not get its reserved spaces until years later, and Murray wasn't involved in the negotiations, he said."

But of course.  The best defense is the "Sergeant Schultz" defense - I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything and I don't know anything.

To imagine that O&A would not use the position of power of ANY of its members not to advance its position is, first, ridiculous, and, second, the outrage of Mr. Murray reveals more than he wanted to reveal - the fact that there were NEGOTIATIONS by O&A with the administration of the Albany parking garage for the reserved spaces.

And Cornelius Murray, even back when he was the Chairman of the Albany Parking authority, was caught in being less than forthcoming with the public on certain issues, prompting commentators to characterize Murray's defensive statements this way:

His attempt to justify destroying the 18th century rum distillery with a garage reminds me of the boy who gets caught with hands in the cookie jar and proclaims only to be counting the cookies."

Not forthcoming then, not forthcoming now.  No surprises.

Does O&A know of the existence and requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

A ridiculous question, right - they are lawyers, after all.

So, O&A, in exchange for "not leaving downtown Albany" were offered by Albany City government reserved spaces in violation of federal anti-discrimination law, and anti-discrimination law against people with disabilities?

What is the "consideration" for that exchange?

What is the value of O'Connell & Aronowitz for the Albany City government to try to lure O&A not to leave downtown Albany with parking spots that should have been reserved for the disabled?

So, O&A knowingly discriminate against the disabled, for their own convenience.

As they did with their client and then former client, Richard Carbone, a legally blind person, from 2008 onwards.

Because, with Coffey previously being a 16-year-member and longtime Vice-Chair of the NYS Commission for Judicial Conduct, and with O&A's Paul Fiedelman still a repeatedly "assigned" referee for that Commission, still wielding tremendous power of removal over judges in front of whom the law firm practices, everybody can be assured that this law firm will be allowed to bend the law to its whim however it likes - with NO repercussions.

That is not just Albany, New York, ladies and gentlemen.

That is the State of New York.

That's the order of business.

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