"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

Barbara O'Sullivan's housefire: the incompetent and rude performance of Troop C in Margaretville and #PublicOfficersLaw66-a

Ok, so when you are a victim of a crime, and if New York State Police is investigating, you are entitled to certain reports of the investigation.

Barbara O'Sullivan, after her house fire, was led by the nose by the Delaware County Sheriff's Department first, from Saturday to Wednesday, with claims that the Sheriff's Department handles the reports and that Tim Buckley of the Sheriff's Department will give her the reports of the fire investigation.

Then, Tim Buckley not only did not give her any reports, but told her on the phone and in an e-mail that he does not really know which police agency - if at all - was handling investigation on the fire within his jurisdiction.

Barbara needed that report, and called the New York State Police in Albany.

They referred her to Troop C in Margaretville.

The Troop C in Margaretville told her to go back to New York State Police in Albany for any reports that they allegedly have in Margaretville.

When Barbara asked what reports are available in Margaretville that she should ask in Albany, and where in Albany to ask, she was told by the Margaretville Troop C to "just Google it" - but they admitted that Officer JJ Adams was on the report.

Officer Adams was also the one who refused to investigate text threats that came to Barbara's daughter's cell phone shortly before the house fire.

Not much help with information to the victim of a horrible crime, or, if Troop C doesn't want to recognize the obvious arson in the middle of the night as a crime, victim of a house fire who lost all her property in that fire.

So, the trooper - Officer Carlson - told Barbara to "just google it".

She actually did.

And found out that she, as the victim of a crime or a person in need of information for purposes of insurance for things lost in that fire (like a telephone, for example), she is entitled to certain records.

See the webpage of New York State police describing in detail which records are available from NYS police through FOIL, which are not available under FOIL,

and pointing out that victims of crimes and people entitled to certain records personally can apply for those records under Public Officers Law 66-a.

Here is Public Officers Law 66-a .

And here it is in full, with the exception of the repealed section.  I broke up the text of the statute for easier reading, and will follow it with comments.


Public Officers 
    § 66-a. Accident  reports kept by 
police authorities to be open 
to the inspection of 
persons interested. 

1Notwithstanding any inconsistent provisions of law, general, special or local, or any limitation contained in the provision of any city charter

all reports and records of any accident

kept or maintained by the 

  • state police or by the 
  • police department or force of any 
  • county, 
  • city, 
  • town, 
  • village or 
  • other district of the state, shall be open to the inspection of any person having an interest therein, or of such person's attorney or agent, even though the state or a municipal corporation or other subdivision thereof may have been involved  in  the  accident;

except that 

the authorities having custody of such reports or records 

may prescribe   

reasonable rules and regulations in regard to 

the time and manner of such inspection


may withhold from inspection 

any reports or records 

the disclosure of which would  interfere with the investigation or prosecution by such authorities of a crime involved in or connected with the accident.    

2. Notwithstanding the provisions of  section twenty-three hundred seven of thecivil practice law and rules (judicial subpoena duces tecum - T.N.), the public officers law, or any other law to the contrary, 

the division of state police 

shall charge fees 

for the search and copy of 

  • accident reports and 
  • photographs.

A search fee of fifteen dollars per accident report shall be charged, 

with no additional fee for a photocopy

An additional fee of fifteen dollars shall be charged 

for a certified copy of any accident report.

A fee of twenty-five dollars per 

  • photograph or 
  • contact sheet shall be charged.  

The fees for investigative reports shall be the same as those for accident reports.


Ok, so after Barbara O'Sullivan was rudely put off by Troop C's Officer Carlson  and told to "google it" as to the information where to get records of accident reports from her house fire, she googled it, found and read on the website of New York State Police that she may be entitled to accident reports under Public Officers Law 66-a (see above).

After having read that, she called Troop C again, and told them what the website of the New York State Police which they told her to "just Google" told her.

The trooper at Troop C acted surprised, but did not release the report anyway, and told her to write to Albany for records that they have, so that she would be - maybe - given those reports in 2 to 3 weeks.

Enough time to concoct those reports which were obviously not timely made, and, again, no written statements from witnesses were collected.

As Barbara says, the supervisor of the trooper she was talking to, interfered into the conversation, overrun the trooper and ended the conversation.


What does Public Officers Law 66-a tell us and 

why Troop C's actions in handling Barbara O'Sullivan's inquiry as to records about her housefire are incompetent, rude and inconsistent with the law?

This is what Public Officers Law 66-a, the law that NYS Police points people to on its website, tells persons who seek information about accident reports regarding something that happened on their property or to themselves personally:

1) Police departments and any other law enforcement entities MUST open to inspection to "interested persons" (such as residents and homeowners of homes lost in fires) the following records:

  • accident reports, 
  • photographs
  • contact sheets
  • investigative reports - and all that is in it, with the exception of records that are at that time used in "investigation or prosecution of a crime" arising out of the accident.

No crime is being investigated in connection with Barbara O'Sullivan's house fire, and that's the whole point.

So, the police cannot have it both ways - claim that there was no crime committed, and at the same time block Barbara's access to what is now deemed, by that same police force, ACCIDENT reports.

There is even a provision in Public Officers Law 66-a that such records MUST be open to inspection even if those records are sought to be used in litigation against the police, or city, or county, or any other public entity employing that police force.

2) The only way, other than to withhold records that are used in investigation or prosecution of a crime (and that is not being done) that the police force that has the records can regulate access to those records, is to:

create reasonable rules and regulations
  • regulate the time of inspection, and
  • regulate the manner of inspection.

Giving the inquiring person a runaround such as Trooper Carlson gave her:

  • write to Albany for records we have here in Margaretville on the computer - where should I write? - "just Google it"
  • oh, you've actually googled it and found on the website of NY State Police about your rights under Public Officers Law 66-a?  I don't know anything about it.   Still write to Albany, and you will (maybe) get COPIES of documents - not access to originals, as the Public Officers Law 66-a requires - in 2-3 weeks.  Maybe.  When we concoct some plausible story lines with the help of New York State Attorney General (who is, by Public Officers Law 17, State Police's attorney who will DEFEND them in actions involving their misconduct).

It is obvious that the runaround that Officer Carlson gave Barbara O'Sullivan did not come close to the "reasonable rules and regulations as to time and manner of inspection" that Public Officers Law 66-a provides for.

Let's go by each and every word of this phrase, "reasonable rules and regulations as to the time and manner of inspection", starting from the end.

Inspection - is inspection of ORIGINAL documents on file, in the ORIGINAL FORMAT.

Trooper Carlson told Barbara O'Sullivan that certain records exist on Troop C COMPUTER, but did not offer her access to those records.  Somehow, Barbara O'Sullivan had to get access to records on computer located in Margaretville, NY, through Albany, NY.

Nor did Troomer Carlson mean that Barbara O'Sullivan will get to do the INSPECTION of the ORIGINAL RECORDS.  No.  He only talked about her getting a COPY of records, by writing to Albany.

And did not advise her of the applicable fees.

Inspection and copying are two different things.

Barbara may first INSPECT what the police force has as to her housefire, and then choose which records she needs and which she doesn't, and only then will ask for a copy and pay for it.

Inspection was not offered.  The law provides for inspection.  That is not a "reasonable rule or regulation".  And, Trooper Carlson had no authority to make rules and regulations for the large Troop C.

*    *     *

 What can I say.

So far, the results of Barbara's attempts for access to records that she is entitled to under Public Officers Law 66-a are as follows:

1) EMS - stalled her and claimed she should contact them in 2-3 weeks (same as Troop C - they are talking, obviously);

2) Delaware County Sheriff's Department - first told her that Tim Buckley is preparing a report, then Tim Buckley wrote to her saying that not only he is not preparing a report, but he does not even know which police agency, if any, handle investigations and had any reports;

3) Troop C of New York State police, Trooper Carlson and his supervisor, acted rudely, incompetently, unprofessionally and in violation of the Public Officers Law 66-a by denying Barbara's access to information they claimed exist on their own computers, without any basis for such denial in Public Officers Law 66-a;

4) Barbara told me that she was going to contact Delhi Village Police yet, for the same records, under the same Public Officers Law 66-a, because according to a witness she talked to, Delhi Village Police officers were sighted at the place of the house fire at the time of the house fire and/or shortly thereafter, so they must have the reports of their activities.  I will report on Barbara's results as to that access to records request.

5) Delhi Fire Department and fire coordinators, as well as families and friends of firefighters are the best in its reaction to reporting and requests for records.  

Instead of giving Barbara access to records, a smear campaign has been started when I reported misconduct of DFD "volunteer" firefighters involved in non-extinguishing of the housefire.

So far, what was reported to me was:

  • that the closest fire department (from Bloomville, NY) was not deployed (despite everybody having "scanners" and "pagers" and diligently explaining me in comments my stupidity in my alleged failure to understand the difference between the two);
  • that the Delhi Fire Department arrived with a small truck which likely had no water in the tank, that's why the hose was not taken out and no efforts to extinguish the fire were undertaken;
  • that an actual DFD firefighter's wife and a former DFD firefighter familiar with what DFD usually does, unanimously offered me this "rule" existing among the DFD brotherhood - we do not extinguish fires of those we do not like.  

Sharon Reichert-Morgan openly told me in a message that if MY house was on fire.

My house, by the way, could very well be on fire had we not come back home earlier than planned, in September of 2013 - there was a burning cigarette left by a burglar in my attic bedroom in the short window of 3 hours that we were not at home, during daytime.

Delhi Village Police and Delaware County District Attorney's office refused to properly investigate and refused to prosecute.

Now I know why they did not investigate - Sharon Reichert-Morgan, Delaware County employee and wife of a Delhi Fire Department firefighter explained to me the policy - they do not do their jobs for those they do not like.

Sharon Reichert-Morgan explained that to me with exhaustive clarity:  if MY house was on fire, because of my reporting on Barbara's housefire, Sharon Reichert-Morgan will hide her firefighter husband Josh Morgan's keys and prevent him from extinguishing the fire.  

Probably, that's what she did anyway, preventing Josh Morgan from timely arriving and urging Josh Morgan and crew not to take water or the right equipment to extinguish the fire of somebody who, let's see what she did: 

  • sued her employer, the Delaware County, 
  • sued the former beloved attorney for her employer the Delaware County Department of Social Services of 27 years, and then their benefactor from 2002 to 2015 in child protective cases, who fixed their cases for them, Carl F. Becker, and
  • who is now suing the nephew of their investigator Jeff Bowie, Derek Bowie.

So - the rule of DFD and local government was on:  we don't like them, we don't do our job for them.

I will run another blog today or tomorrow about the technique used by county officials (Ulster County was caught using it) called "the burn".  Delaware County is not much different.

That was Sharon Reichert-Morgan.

Then, there was Colleen Church, as far as I know, the former member of Delhi Town Council (that information she did not disclose) and the former member of the Delhi Fire Department (that she did disclose), and the current girlfriend of a firefighter from an unknown municipality.

An anonymous commentator who refused to reveal his name, appearing under the nickname of "LifeSaver" (not very creative and suggesting something far away from firefighting)

claimed he had "permission" from Collen Church to "reveal" that her alleged unnamed boyfriend allegedly is a member in a Meridale fire department.

I do not buy that.

Colleen Church may very well is now trying to backtrack and to prevent discovery of where exactly her boyfriend was a volunteer firefighter, and whether he was supposed to be deployed at Barbara's housefire, but instead decided to save his preferred liquid to be used in firefighting (the piss - Colleen Church's revelation, and she knows the local ways of firefighters, she was with them for years, according to her own admission) on instructions of his girlfriend and didn't.

Judging by how ardently Colleen Church was trying to smear me, my husband (!), Barbara and her daughter, and her whole extended family ("everybody knows how the Braccis operate"), how ardently she tried to question (1) my right to investigate anything in Delaware County, and (2) my right to write about it (no pun intended), there was something very bad and very personal to hide.

  • The next interesting fact - with all the fury of hate comments, I was not contacted by ANY of individuals with personal knowledge about the housefire or investigation of that housefire.

With all the demands of "confrontation in public" (judging by the vulgarities that flew out of Colleen Church, the author of the request, I can only presume that she meant a fist-fight by the public face-to-face confrontation), all ardent hate commentators faded out and refused to participate in a true face-to-face videotaped livestreamed real-name-only video conference with prior notification to my readers that I offered.

  • While DFD management did not provide Barbara any accident reports, DFD firefighters came to Barbara's brother's business to express displeasure with MY reporting of the housefire.  What was the purpose of those actions, I do not know, because Barbara's brother definitely does not have contact with me or influence upon me as to what I write in my blogs.

  • There were two most definite THREATS made against me directly and personally, and specifically for my reporting of this incident, and made by a wife and a girlfriend of local firefighters.
I was told by a girlfriend of a firefighter Colleen Church to stay put where I am, in South Carolina, and not put my nose in the local "business" of Delaware County (even though I am magnanimously permitted to pay Delaware County taxes and thus support the local school where my child does not go and local government that does nothing to protect me, my family or my property when a violent crime against us is committed).  

The alternative, expressed in no uncertain words by the TWO relatives of firefighters (Sharon Reichert-Morgan and Colleen Church) was that my house will burn down and that DFD will not make efforts to extinguish the fire because of the contents of my reports.

If DFD firefighters to to volunteer in DFD to be able to exact revenge against those who they do not like by choosing not to extinguish fires at their houses, residents and homeowners in Delaware County should be really concerned.

But, so far, anger of wives and girlfriends, and anger of firefighters about a news report of what they may have done wrong at a housefire is apparently the main and only "rule and regulation" governing actions of DFD firefighters.

The bottom line as to DFD is - no records, and a smear campaign against the victims, the reporter, the reporter's spouse.  A very telling sign.

DFD did not report Barbara's housefire in any news releases and did not report it on its Facebook page where it reported the prior brush fires and the subsequent deployment to Ulster County.

6) No local news coverage.  No local news outlets considered it necessary to report on the incident.

7) Local residents actually sent me private messages thanking me for the reporting, and expressing to me that they are concerned and alarmed as to what is going on with Barbara's housefire, how it was handled, how it was reported (or not reported) by the local press, how attempts were made to thwart or discredit my reporting, and how Barbara's efforts of access to records are stalled by the local government.

I will continue to cover this story.

Stay tuned.

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