"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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Harassing public defenders and violating constitutional rights of criminal defendants is a suspendable offense for a judge in Missouri. In New York, only harassment of prosecutors can get a judge off the bench

In an amazing move, the State of Missouri suspended a judge, Chris Kunza Mennemeyer, for harassment of public defenders, and for intentionally delaying cases of criminal defendants in order to charge them money for room and board in jail (!) and to deprive them of counsel.

Here is the "heroine":

This judge was reportedly the subject of THREE writs of prohibition in one month - an extraordinary occurrence.

The subject of one writ was that the judge improperly silenced the testimony of an alternative suspect in a murder case.

Compared to New York, Missouri appears to be the shining example of transparency and accountability in judicial disciplinary proceedings.

In New York, a judge will only be taken off the bench if he displeases prosecutors.

As it happened recently to judge Thomas Keefe, the "sit the F**K down" judge of the Albany City Court.

I actually had a report from a witness from August of 2014 that this particular judge, in an eviction proceeding:

  1. used expletives against two women, for example, yelling at a grandmother "sit the F**k down" when she was in the middle of a pro se legal argument;
  2. mocked and humiliated pro se respondents for researching the law on their own and yelling at them for referencing the law to him
I actually heard the "sit the f**k down" yelling by Judge Keefe on the tape.

Individuals in question were then blocked from getting a transcript or an official audio file of the same proceedings from Judge Keefe's court.

So, When Judge Keefe harassed pro se parties, mocked them for trying to make legal arguments and yelled at them "sit the F**K down!!!" during those legal argument - complaints about him were disregarded, and the court refused to release copies of audio recordings of his rantings to the parties whom he harassed in the courtroom.

Yet, Judge Keefe was recently forced to resign amid investigation of his misconduct.

Misconduct continuing over a LONG period of time.

The press wrote about Judge Keefe's courtroom "style", or in other words, about his extreme rudeness, in 2009 and in 2013 - yet the judge remained on the bench.

So, what drove the New York State Judicial Conduct Commission to draw the line in 2016?

Here is what Judge Keefe was finally charged with - and what caused his disciplinary resignation with implied permission to retaliate by the end of September 2016:

SUMMARY of the 13 charges against Judge Keefe:

Charge No
made impatient, discourteous and undignified remarks to and about the Albany County District Attorney's Office and the prosecutors who appeared before him and, by his words and conduct, conveyed an impression of bias against the District Attorney's Office

made discourteous and impatient remarks to the prosecutor,
failed to accord the prosecutor the right to be heard according to law and sua sponte dismissed the charges without a written motion to dismiss before him, in violation of Criminal Procedure Law §§ 170.30, 170.45 and 210.45.

sua sponte dismissed the charges in the absence of a motion to dismiss made in writing and/or reasonable notice to the District Attorney's Office, in violation of Criminal Procedure
Law §§ 170.30, 170.45 and 210.45.

created the appearance of impropriety by meeting ex parte with the defendant, shortly after pronouncing the defendant's sentence and contemporaneously signing a commitment order indicating a sentence that differed from the pronounced sentence, without providing notice to the attorneys of his meeting with the defendant and the change in sentence

created the appearance of impropriety by meeting ex parte with the defendant while his criminal case was pending before Respondent

created the appearance of impropriety by engaging in an ex parte conversation with the defendant about, inter alia, the defendant's potential sentence and ineligibility for the drug court program

engaged in an improper ex parte conversation with the defendant about the circumstances underlying the defendant's alleged violation of his drug court agreement

engaged in an improper ex parte conversation with a representative of the victim of the defendant's alleged crime, and asked the representative to reduce the amount of restitution sought from the defendant

engaged in improper ex parte communications with the defendant's mother, S C , who was the alleged victim ofthe crimes

engaged in improper ex parte communications with a man who claimed to be relative or friend of a defendant in a case pending before Respondent, regarding the defendant's purported violation of her drug court agreement

engaged in an improper ex parte conversation with defense counsel concerning the pending proceeding

Directed the defendant not to communicate with her attorney, in violation of the defendant's right to counsel pursuant to Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution of the State of New York
and the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and remanded the defendant to jail for one week for calling her attorney

made undignified and discourteous comments to the defendant, who was participating in the Veterans Treatment Court/Track

Out of 13 charges, only 2 charges were directed at some wrongdoing towards a defendant:

Charge 12 - prohibition to a criminal defendant to call her attorney and jailing the defendant for disobeying and calling her attorney;

Charge 13 - rudeness towards a defendant.

All other 11 charges are filed because of ex parte communications with the defense, defense or prosecution's witnesses, displaying bias towards prosecution, being rude to prosecution, dismissing criminal cases without notice to prosecution, changing sentences without notice to prosecution.

Normally, charges of ex parte communications towards a party in a criminal or civil case is disregarded by the NYS Commission for Judicial Conduct as not warranting even investigation.

My MULTIPLE complaints about documented cases of ex parte communications were tossed by the NYS Commission for Judicial Conduct without investigation.

Here, the Commission bent over backwards to accommodate the complaint of prosecution about ex parte communications.

So, the No. 1 charge was unwillingness to accept plea bargains for charges reduced from felonies, and for disrespect to prosecutors - not to pro se litigants, not to defendants, but to prosecutors.

While Judge Keefe was complained about by the "sit the f**k down" defendants - and the complaint amounted to nothing (a form letter saying "your allegations did not warrant judicial discipline"), here is what warranted a disciplinary resignation:

Judge Keefe actually had no authority to try felonies in Albany City Court (only County Court and Supreme Court have such authority in New York).

Yet, Judge Keefe did not have to accept plea bargains, he had a full authority to reject a plea bargain. 

The next specification is also for the judge's comments and unwillingness to accept plea bargains down from a felony to a misdemeanor.  Please, note that the threat of the DA as to the defendant "facing prison time" was only valid if the charges are valid - and there is a clear possibility that the criminal charges in New York are so sloppily put together that they cannot withstand an indictment, or post-indictment pre-trial motions, or a trial, and that the defendant was simply steered into an easy (for the prosecution) plea.

So - Judge Keefe was not suspended for something BAD (even though they did through in a couple of charges about violations of defendants' rights).

Judge Keefe was predominantly suspended for taking the defendant's side and hurting the prosecution.

And in New York, inlike Missouri, a judge cannot keep on the bench if it crosses the prosecution.

As Judge Keefe's example demonstrates.

No comments:

Post a Comment