"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.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Will we see the Otsego County Board, former judge Michael Coccoma and his wife, former Otsego County Attorney Ellen Coccoma, in federal prison? Like we saw the New York Senate leader Dean Skelos and his son?

In 2018 a federal jury found guilty the former leader of the New York Senate DEAN SKELOS, a Republican, and his son for a scheme of corruption where, among other things, the son was given a no-show lucrative job as a favor to the Senator/Head of Senate father.

(The former leader of the New York Assembly, SHELDON SILVER, a Democrat, was also convicted for corruption, by a separate, also federal, jury, at about the same time - the same article mentions it).

What is interesting is that the New York supposedly "free" and "independent" press, as well as "professional" prosecutors and the no less "professional" State Attorney General did not notice ongoing schemes of corruption going on under their noses for years and decades.

Or, rather, preferred not to notice them.

What is even more interesting that, as I have started a new series of articles about corruption in judicial elections in the Tri-County area (Delaware, Chenango, Otsego) of the State of New York in 2021 and 2022, I have READILY - READILY found evidence of the same scheme as the one for which SKELOS and SON were convicted by the federal jury, evidence in public access - that the "free and independent" local press does not dare to touch.

So, let's begin from the very beginning.

Last year Otsego County (NY) Supreme Court Justice Michael V. Coccoma (who was also the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge administering the entire state court system outside of New York City, a tremendous power) - retired.  

I do not know Judge Coccoma's date of birth, so it is difficult for me to say whether he has or has not reached 70 when he decided to retire - which is the mandatory age of retirement for judges in New York.  In other words, I do not know whether Judge Coccoma really retired or was booted - as TWO judges in Delaware County, one another's bosom friend and one successing the other, were - Judge Carl F. Becker in the summer of 2015, mid-term, and then his successor Judge Richard D. Northrup, Jr., in 2021, also mid-term.

The local newspaper, The Daily Star, ran an article about Michael Coccoma's announcement of retirement.

It is an insight into the quality of The Daily Star journalism though as to what it DID NOT report in connection with Michael Coccoma's retirement - despite information being in open public access.

Notably, at the same time with his retirement, Michael Coccoma's wife, Ellen Coccoma, was booted from her position as Otsego County Attorney and was replaced with another person, Denise Hollis.

The local press published a story about a meeting in December of the Otsego County Board where the then-County Attorney (wife of the just-retired Michael Coccoma) Ellen Coccoma announced that "she will not seek re-appointment".  Which may very well indicate that she was, too, booted, as having lost her value for the Board - the support of a powerful public figure, a judge and a Chief Administrative judge for all courts outside of New York City.

Why I think it is more likely that Ellen Coccoma was booted and did not simply voluntarily left her position as the Otsego County Attorney that she has held for decades?

There are several indicators reflected in public records that she was booted as no longer needed by Otsego County where her salary was a perpetual bribe to her husband, a powerful local and statewide judge.

First,, a watchdog listing salaries and pensions of New York public employees, shows that Ellen Coccoma is not drawing a retirement as a retired public employee, while Michael Coccoma does.

Second, the New York Unified Court system shows Ellen Coccoma and her husband Michael Coccoma are now practicing law 104 miles away from one another, after having "served" in government roles in the same city, Cooperstown, for decades.

Michael Coccoma (notably) was not accepted in any law firms as an honorary special counsel or partner, as it usually happens with retired judges.

That suggests to me that he either 

Michael Coccoma is now practicing law solo far away from Otsego County, in Saratoga Springs, next to the horse race track, while his wife remained practicing law in Oneonta, NY, Otsego County.

I highly doubt that either the elderly Michael Coccoma 

(year of admission - 1979, so he is about 69 years old now),

or the elderly Ellen Coccoma 

(the year her law license was obtained is 1982, the earliest people obtain law licenses is 25-26 years of age - graduate from high school at 18, bachelor's degree, pre-requisite to law school admission - at 22, 3 years of law school, bar exam and next year - admission to the bar, so that makes Ellen Coccoma about 66 years of age at this time)

would make a 4-hour roundtrip every day on a snowy night highway

to have the happiness of living with one another.

Especially knowing Michael Coccoma's propensity of employing in close confidential positions and publicly "helping" in a significant way young and pretty female court employees such a sacrifice for one another between this couple is highly unlikely.

So - on Michael Coccoma's retirement he has most likely SPLIT from his wife Ellen Coccoma, thus signaling to Otsego County officials that she is of no value to him any longer 

since he does not have to pretend any more that he is a married guy and a family man (even though the entire world knew, again, how he was playing around with pretty female court employees).

While Ellen Coccoma looked like this - probably, 30 years ago, and now, judging by her year of admission to the bar (1982), is no less than 66 years old.

Now, if your husband retires, splits from you and moves to live and practice law 105 miles away from you, you do not have to do the same if YOU did not reach the age of retirement in public service and if YOU want to continue practicing law.

And there are no age restrictions to be a County Attorney in the State of New York.

Had Ellen Coccoma been a valued professional for the Otsego County, who was hired on her merits and who provided valuable services for her high salary at the expense of County homeowners/property tax slaves, her retirement at from the position as Otsego County Attorney at the same time as her husband retired makes absolutely no sense.

She would have a professional value of her own - and a job of her own.

But that was not, apparently, what was true.

Several months after Michael Coccoma "retired", his wife Ellen Coccoma 

  • left the position of the Otsego County Attorney, 
  • did not move away together with her husband to Saratoga Springs, NY to happily or unhappily gamble on the horse race track, but instead'
  • remained in Otsego County where she 
  • continued to practice law, like she did before for years in the law firm Hinman, Howard & Kattel - only now full time and without the benefit of additional salary and the power of the Otsego County Attorney. 

Of course, it is illegal for a full-time public official, especially a highly paid (by taxpayers) and highly powerful public official, to work on the side during his taxpayer-paid time - and Ellen Coccoma worked for Hinman, Howard and Kattel for years while being the full-time Otsego County Attorney anyway, stealing taxpayer money and time

And, the Otsego County Board knew what Ellen Coccoma was doing - for years, since I have publicized the fact of her working on private cases in court and at depositions during taxpayer-paid time as an Otsego County Attorney about 9 years ago, publicly, in a blog and in public court papers.

Nobody gave a fig about it - at the time.

But suddenly, the $95,587 a year that Ellen Coccoma stole per year from the Otsego County taxpayers

started to bother the Otsego County Board, and Ellen Coccoma was forced to announce that "she will not seek reappointment" after her husband's abrupt middle-of-the-year "retirement".

By the way, the "courageous" local press never wrote about this obvious corruption with employment of Ellen Coccoma, and did not write now about the interesting situation with loss of County employment of Ellen Coccoma now, which suggests that her PRIOR County employment was nothing less than a perpetual bribe to Judge Coccoma.

No judge-husband - no job now.  Simple.

Will the FBI investigate what did Michael Coccoma have to do in return for that expensive (for taxpayers) annual favor to him in the shape of a lucrative no-show, but powerful job for his wife?

Will we see Ellen Coccoma, Michael Coccoma and whoever was brokering and approving the bribe in orange jumpsuits and behind federal bars?

Time will show.

What is sure though is that NY AG will never touch this case with a 10-foot pole.

Because this is not how things are "done" in the State of New York.

It is usual the fed's job to weed out corruption of high-ranking (presumed honorable, with an oath to maintain the U.S. Constituiton, highly educated, highly paid) public officials in the State of New York.

But it does happen.

Chief Judge of New York State Sol Watchler did do time in a federal prison.

Both heads of the New York State Legislature, Dean Skelos (head of Senate, a Republican) and Sheldon Silver (head of Assembly, a Democrat) were convicted by a federal jury of crimes of corruption.

Ellen Coccoma and even Michael Coccoma are of a rank lower than these guys - and a fair game now for the FBI since they are a couple of FORMERS now.

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