"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.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The public was "protected" by denying a taxicab license to a disbarred 67-year-old attorney with no history of violence. Really?

I wrote on this blog about restrictions imposed on employment of suspended and disbarred attorneys.  If you are suspended or disbarred (by your own competitors), those same competitors hold a death grip upon your future employment.

That is what happened to ex-attorney Joseph C Levine.

According to the February 24, 2016 decision of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division 2nd Department, Joseph C Levine cannot even be a licensed cab driver (of course, nothing prevents him from working for Uber, to look on the bright side).

By the way, for some God-forsaken reason, the New York State Court administration has published denial of a TAXI license as ATTORNEY discipline for Mr. Levine:

Moreover, the links to prior alleged two orders of suspension of Mr. Levine (2000 and 2001) 

lead to the above screen with the 2007 resignation decision and the denial of a taxi license.

Since both prior orders of suspension are accompanied with links, and all three links lead to just one screen, where orders of suspension of 2000 and 2001 are not available, it appears that there is something in those orders of suspension that the Court Administration does not want the public to see?

It is peculiar when on attorney discipline page, attorney disciplinary decisions are not published, but denial of a taxi cab license is.

The decision to deny the taxicab license to Mr. Levine claims that Mr. Levine, "a former attorney, was suspended from the practice of law for two years, based upon his conviction in federal court of the federal felony of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of 18 USC § 371 (see Matter of Levine, 287 A.D.2d 230), arising from a scheme involving the bribery of insurance adjusters".

The statute of conviction is here, and, since it was a plea bargain, it is not entirely clear, what it was that Mr. Levine has committed that was criminal.  Allegedly it is fraud against the U.S. Government, but "conspiracy to commit mail fraud" without the actual "mail fraud" (which is in itself a statute so vague that it is bordering on unconstitutional)

The referenced order of suspension of 2001 mentions conviction ON A PLEA BARGAIN (there was no trial) for a D felony, "conspiracy to commit mail fraud", in exchange for no jail time.  

As a criminal defense attorney, I know many innocent people who would plead guilty in exchange for being allowed to be free and continue to earn some living for their families.  Conviction on a plea bargain does not have as much value as conviction after a jury trial - even though it is being treated the same way by law.

Moreover, while suspending Mr. Levine for 2 years in 2001, the 2nd Department stated:

"In sum, the respondent submits that he is concededly guilty of serious professional misconduct but emphasizes that his crime involved a single transaction which was not initiated by him, did not compromise the administration of justice, and was not motivated by venality, greed or self-interest."

The court did not punish Mr. Levine for his above position as "not accepting responsibility" or "not expressing remorse", and the court did not disbar Mr. Levine, even though he was convicted of a felony, and felony convictions trigger automatic disbarment in New York, without even disciplinary proceedings.

So, overall, the order of suspension was, I might say, favorable to Mr. Levine.

Within 4 years, despite the felony conviction, Mr. Levine was allowed to be reinstated as an attorney.  So, even after Mr. Levine was convicted of a D felony, the 2nd Department considered him fit to hold a position of trust and be an attorney.

Ok, Mr. Levine allegedly violated that position of trust - again - and allegedly stole from his escrow (trust) accounts, allegedly to satisfy his gambling debts.

The order denying him the right to drive a taxicab as a licensed driver mentions his conviction - again upon a plea bargain - for grand larceny, for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his escrow accounts.

Mr. Levine did his time in state prison for that conviction:

Note Mr. Levine's date of birth - 04/09/1948.  He is soon to turn 68.

Now, let's see why was Mr. Levine denied a TAXICAB license?  He is not seeking a reinstatement as an attorney - he is seeking a license to earn his living as a licensed taxicab driver, and the trial court thought the reasoning of the taxicab commission to deny him his license was not good.

Yet, the appellate court (also the attorney licensing court) thought that the reasoning of the taxicab commission was good - and even posted that decision as a decision on Mr. Levine's ATTORNEY discipline.  

The appellate court upheld the denial of a taxicab license to Mr. Levine, because granting such a license, in the court's opinion, "would create an unreasonable risk to the public by permitting the petitioner to engage in 'unsupervised financial transactions' with customers."

But, based on this consideration, Mr. Levine should be then blocked from ANY "unsupervised financial transactions with customers", yet, many businesses and professions in the United States still remained outside of the gripping reach of occupational licensing.

For example, Mr. Levine can be an unlicensed sales clerk, an unlicensed contractor (in some states they started licensing contractors, too, but in others, they don't), an unlicensed driver for Uber, or - guess what - an unlicensed driver for a licensed taxicab company.

New York allowed in 2015 an undocumented (illegal) immigrant to become a licensed attorney.

New York announced that it will be issuing teacher and other professional licenses to undocumented immigrants.

When immigrants are undocumented, even if they were granted President Obama's "executive amnesty", there is no way of ensuring their background, and that is a rational public safety issue.

Maybe, just maybe, the state is then issuing licenses to people with a history of violence.

As to Mr. Levine, he was checked through and through and obviously does not have a history of violence, otherwise he would not have been released early on parole, and released early from parole.

Mr. Levine's background was checked out by the attorney disciplinary committee, and there are no findings of violence in his order of suspension or resignation/disbarment.

Mr. Levine's behavior was under constant supervision by his federal probation, for three years after his first conviction on a plea bargain, for a non-violent crime.

Mr. Levine's behavior was under constant supervision by prison authorities where he served his time for non-violent crimes that he has pled to, and then, after an early release, by his parole officer who also released him from parole early.

The bottom line is - he was never convicted of a VIOLENT crime, which would be the major concern for consideration of a candidate for a taxicab driver license.

Since a taxicab driver is not paid in advance, Mr. Levine was not going to be involved, as a taxicab driver, in a "unsupervised financial transaction" jeopardizing his customers.  

When paid at the end of the trip, Mr. Levine would only be receiving already earned money, his own money, and the only danger in that financial transaction would be that the customer would actually cheat on Mr. Levine by leaving without paying him. 

The only thing Mr. Levine was seeking, at his nearly 68 years of age, is his due process right to earn a living, to openly have a lawful business.

As I said above, any business involves "unsupervised financial transactions with customers", when you are simply paid for the job you are doing.

And, being convicted of a crime, even for a crime of grand larceny (a theft from an escrow account) does not mean that you should not be working in your own business which does not deal with any advance payments (which would then trigger the relation to the conviction).  

In other words, there is nothing to steal when you are paid in advance.  I am wondering, what are the backgrounds of judges who ruled against Mr. Levine, and whether those judges can imaging earning a living in any way and not be involved in financial transactions with customers.  In effect, the court foreclosed to Mr. Levine any opportunity to earn a living in a licensed occupation - no matter what the state policy and the state statute the court cited says about state law encouraging issuance of license to people with a criminal record.

Apparently, in New York, the only place where you can work, if you have a criminal record - and if you are not Dean Skelos or Sheldon Silver - is underground, off the books.

Apparently, Mr. Levine did not have political connections, otherwise, no matter which crimes he would commit, he would remain an attorney with "no record of public discipline".

Even if he had a federal criminal conviction like Dean Skelos and Sheldon Skelos.

Even if he was involved in a public scandal and caught after pilfering hundreds of thousands of dollars from public coffers, like the spouse of the Chief Judge of New York State Court of Claims M. Cornelia Cahill was (she now changed her official registration name and is now Mary C. Cahill instead of M. Cornelia Cahill, as she appeared in the scandalous news reports, and manages an Albany law office of a prominent law firm employing judges and recent judicial law clerks - but she retained her original "M. Cornelia Cahill" name on the website of her law firm, in violation of attorney registration rules).

Even if he was a judge and was taken off the bench for commission of a violent crime of child molestation, as Judge Bryan Hedges was.

The only reason why Mr. Levine was denied even a taxicab license is because he did not have political clout as people above did.  There was no "rational basis" to deny him that license.

Mr. Levine was not convicted of robbing people at gunpoint, or of stealing purses left behind in a grocery store.  There is no indication that he cannot be trusted to drive people from place to place, for a fee.

And, it appears that it is not driving without a license, but enforcing of driving with a license that has recently become a public safety problem in New York City - where people's vehicles are seized and they are thrown out of their vehicles in all types of weather by the taxicab commission (TLC) inspectors for:

  • picking up a pregnant wife from an airport;
  • giving a lift to nuns of a local convent, as a volunteer;
  • driving around non-English-speaking friends to show them the city;
  • bringing their own child and the child's friend to school etc.

People have their cars seized by TLC officers, have to stay without their personal vehicles for days, suffer inconvenience, humiliation and even life-threatening situation, like the pregnant woman suffered whose husband picked her up at the airport, but then their car was seized and they had to walk home in freezing weather.

The most disgusting of all, not having committing a crime, it is not the TLC officers who had to prove that people whose vehicles they've seized, are operating as unlicensed cab drivers, but people at the wheel of their personal vehicles had to prove that those in their vehicles are friends or spouses or live-in boyfriends and girlfriends.

People have to prove to courts - as an explanation of WHY THEY WERE IN A VEHICLE TOGETHER that they are raising children together.

Yet, how do you prove friendship on site?  We do not have "certificates of friendship" issued by the state yet.

So, while the Appellate Division allegedly protected the public from the dangers of having a senior disbarred attorney with no history of violence drive them around town as a cab driver, without an advance payment, the Nazis from TLC are allowed to jeopardize safety and even lives of people in order to ensure that only licensed drivers are allowed on their turf.

It is disgusting. 

The workings of the TLC Nazis also shows that it is high time to review the whole idea that licensing taxicab drivers protects public safety.  Apparently, in NYC it jeopardizes public safety.

No comments:

Post a Comment