"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.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Access to records law gets attention of the House and the Senate

Yesterday, several U.S. Senators and House Representatives reportedly requested the U.S. Comptroller General to start an investigation of how citizen's requests for access to records under Freedom of Information Act (that's federal statute, New York has a state counterpart - FOIL, or Public Officers Law 87).

Their letter reportedly says, among other things, the following:

"The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a vital tool that protects one of the cornerstones of our Nation: the American public's right to know what its government is up to."

The Congressmen obviously did not ask the opinion of some Delaware County officials about the value of access-to-records laws (such as "don't get your nose into our business, etc.") before writing the letter.

This letter.

It will definitely help not only for federal, but also for state public officials to read that letter.

Because it applies to state records, and state access-to-records laws, too.

And, of course, there are not only FOIA and FOIL among access-to-records laws, the scope of these laws is much broader, and all of those laws help people figure out what the government is up to.

I am currently preparing a book specifically on access to records in a certain narrow area of law where knowledge about access to records laws can help a lot of people who are, let's say, far from being privileged members of society.

I cannot promise the date of publication, as it gets delayed by my appeals of the disciplinary case (which now has a likelihood to head towards the U.S. Supreme Court), and I write in two languages at the same time (Russian and English, the books will not be 100% identical), but I do promise that 

  • it will be this year, that 
  • it will be affordable, that 
  • it will cite to free and readily available information sources and 
  • that it will be both in e-version and in print;
  • there is a possibility of a Spanish translation the year after the year of publication; and
  • there is a possibility of an audio version in Russian and in English.

And, of course, I promise thorough research and valuable information in the book as to how to access records in that narrow area of law (which will be applicable in wider settings, too, since these laws have a very wide area of application).

The value of access-to-records laws where litigation is pending, going on or threatened, is that such access-to-records efforts may be done as a leverage against the government, outside of court proceedings, and thus outside of control of courts that are often biased in government's favor.

The publication date approaches, but is still away.

I am vigorously working on the book and I promise I will make the publication date known on the blog.

I will post some interesting blogs tomorrow commenting on public documents obtained through access to records laws and otherwise freely obtained on the Internet.

Stay tuned.

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