An involved attorney brought to our attention the apparent inaction by the Commission on Judicial Conduct (“CJC”) involving the actions of a Supreme Court Judge and $40 Million Dollars. The involved attorney still questions the inaction of current CJC Chief Counsel, Robert Tembeckjian. The attorney often wonders about Mr. Tembeckjian and the CJC's, at a minimum, failure to act, "A gross failure to act... misprision of a felony, in my mind."
Misprision is a crime of omission and the U.S. Code describes Misprision of Felony as follows: "Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."
In July of 2007, a complaint was made concerning New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Ramos who had received a "waiver" of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct from the then-Chief Administrative Judge based upon information he (Ramos) provided in writing. The “waiver” pre-approved Judge Ramos to be co-executor of two estates of a couple who were alive and, importantly, over their various trusts.
The Ramos Waiver Request Was Not Truthful
The highly unusual "waiver" of the State Judicial Rules was given by the then-Chief Administrative Judge on May 7, 2003, about a year prior to the jurist's involvement in the 2004 "corporate greed" lawsuit filed by the New York State Attorney General involving the New York Stock Exchange, former Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso and then-NYSE director Kenneth G. Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot.
The May 7, 2003 dated letter from the Administrative Judge allowed Judge Ramos "to be named and to serve as a co-executor and trustee under the Wills of Ruth and Herb Weissberg.”
(Click here to see "Ramos-Weissberg Documents")
On May 7, 2003, however, Ruth and Herb were very much alive. And though Herbert Weissberg would die about 2 months later, on July 3, 2003, it was confirmed that Herb had had a stroke and couldn’t speak due to dementia and aphasia, for well over one year prior to his death. While the then-Chief Administrator’s letter reiterates Justice Ramos' contention- possibly as a backside-covering document, or simply as a courtesy to a fellow jurist- that he "had a longstanding relationship of trust and confidence with the Weissbergs going back 36 years," there is no mention as to why the original March 24, 2002 dated Will did not name Charles E. Ramos as an executor or trustee but, instead, the Last Will named trusted accountant Andrew Rubin and long-time friend attorney Paul Herman as co-executors. It was only by virtue of a subsequent Codicil by the long-incapacitated and dying Herbert Weissberg that Andrew Rubin and Paul Herman were removed as named co-fiduciaries, and replaced with Judge Ramos and the frail, soon-to-be-widow, Ruth Weissberg as the new named co-fiduciaries.
After graduating Fordham law school, Judge Ramos joined the law office of Benedict Ginsberg in the late 1960’s. After reportedly running that law firm in the early 1980’s, Judge Ramos was appointed to the New York Civil Court by a mayoral committee. As a Civil Court judge and, from 1988 through 1993, an acting Supreme Court justice, Ramos joined several other judges in publicly criticizing the screening panels that chose Democratic candidates for Manhattan judgeships, claiming they trumped law with politics. In 1992, and after having just lost a run for the Supreme Court, he criticized the selection process in a letter to the New York Law Journal, accusing "those who have accumulated and hold on to political power" of ignoring Hispanic candidates for the bench. It is reported that the interview with the committee to approve his being a judge was an act of “going through the motions,” as the decision had already been made by the party bosses. During that interview, candidate Ramos was asked if it was true that he had once represented a client, and proceeded through a full trial with that client, without informing his adversaries or the sitting judge that his client was, in fact, his (Ramos’) wife. Candidate Ramos reportedly replied, laughingly, “Yes, guilty as charged.”
New Information, No Laughing Matter
Various interviews with sources in New York and New Jersey, and who asked not to be identified, have now confirmed that Herb could barely say “yes” or “no” and was in a fetal position during the last year of his life. All of the nearly two dozen people interviewed for this article, and who knew the Weissberg family for decades, were surprised, if not shocked, to hear that Judge Ramos had presented himself as a long time "dear friend" of Herbert Weissberg. “It’s a lie,” said one 80-year-old friend of Herb’s who says he has known the Weissberg family for 50 years. It also appears that other plans to wrestle control of Herb's millions were in the works. It is also alleged that in October of 2001, Herbert Weissberg’s attorney, Paul Herman, went to the hospital to visit Herb, who was at that time extremely ill and unable to speak due to dementia and aphasia. While it cannot be determined exactly how many documents, purportedly signed by Herbert Weissberg, emerged from that hospital visit, or exactly from whom, what is certain is that Herb’s signature varies significantly from one writing to another on papers with the exact same date. Also, and falling under the caption of "sloppy frauds," is one document supposedly prepared by Herb and which misspells the word “Gramercy” – as in the Gramercy Park Hotel- the place Herbert Weissberg had run for decades.
Do People with Dementia & Aphasia Initiate Complex Estate Changes?
It appears that out of thin air, but with a judicial waiver in hand, Judge Ramos then appeared and became a paid trustee. The question remains that if Judge Ramos was such “a close, personal friend of the family” and as presented to the then-Administrative Judge who had to “sign-off” on the waiver, then Judge Ramos surely would have known that Herb Weissberg had been very ill, could barely scribble a signature, and could not communicate or understand anything complex- all long before the codicil giving him (Ramos) so much was even drafted.
It is an understatement to say that the stakes are astronomical in the battle between Citigroup and Wells Fargo for control of Wachovia bank. The fight involves billions of dollars and is the latest front in the U.S. effort to keep banks from going under. Predictably, the tug of war ended up in court - where depositors, shareholders, employees and taxpayers deserved the highest level of judicial attention. But that's not what they got - not even close. While the whole world was watching, the New York State courts, in the person of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos, conducted half-baked proceedings and issued a back-of-the-envelope ruling that was summarily tossed within 24 hours. Ramos should be embarrassed - as should the judges who are responsible for making sure that the city's courts, particularly those in Manhattan, are prepared to handle major commercial disputes. The background is that Citigroup, working with the federal government, thought it had reached a deal to acquire Wachovia. But on Friday, Wells Fargo and Wachovia announced that they had struck a different takeover arrangement. Claiming breach of contract under New York law, Citigroup rushed on Saturday to seek a court order barring Wells Fargo and Wachovia from consummating their deal until a judge sorted out the issues. But New York's courts are closed on Saturdays - and they don't keep a commercial judge on call. That left the lawyers to find one on their own. They came up with Ramos, tracking him down at at his home in Cornwall, Conn. (By the description in The New York Times, the house is a stately white Georgian place, unlike the address from which Ramos votes in upper Manhattan.) Now, things got sloppy. Ramos had only the lawyers from one side before him. He got other attorneys on the telephone. But Ramos' house wasn't equipped to run a conference call. He had to talk with one lawyer, relay what was said and relay a response, and so on. There was no court reporter to record what was said. After a couple of hours, Ramos issued a handwritten order freezing the Wells/Wachovia deal. But on Sunday, Manhattan Appellate Division Justice James McGuire chucked the whole megillah. He ruled that 1) Ramos didn't have the power to issue an order when he was out of state; 2) Ramos didn't have lawyers for both sides present, and 3) Ramos was just too fuzzy in the way he wrote his decision. McGuire's rebuke of a fellow judge who overlooked the basics that his authority stopped at the border and that all sides must be fully represented was fittingly stern. New York, the center of world commerce, deserved far better from its courts.
In fairness to Mr. Tembeckjian and the Commission on Judicial Conduct, it is possible that the Ramos/Weissberg complaint simply disappeared and never made its way to the proper individuals who would be involved in any Ramos investigation process. The magical disappearance of certain complaints have been known to occur at most “ethics” committees around the state- acts orchestrated by well-placed cogs who have access, and the motivation, to make complaints against favored-people simply vanish. It is widely believed that this practice (of white-washing or causing the disappearance of complaints) has been largely perfected over the last twenty years.
So, Mr. Tembeckjian and the CJC, now you have the issues and, importantly, the filed documents that raise and support very troubling issues.