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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Spitzer Ignores Court Issues In State of the State Message (MORE, CLICK HERE)

Spitzer Ignores Court Issues In State of the State Message
by Joel Stashenko - January 10, 2008 - The New York Law Journal

ALBANY - Governor Eliot Spitzer ignored the courts and criminal justice yesterday in a State of the State speech focused on jobs, education and, seemingly, patching up his fractured relationship with state lawmakers.

The second-year governor conceded during a joint session of the Legislature that "our differences often attracted more attention than our agreements" during a rocky 2007. The year ended with Senate Republicans subpoenaing the governor's office for documents related to a political dirty tricks scandal against Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

"I understand that sometimes my talk, perhaps, is a little too plain, too direct," the governor said.

But he told legislators that turning around upstate New York's economy, in part through high-technology research and businesses, is a daunting challenge that can be accomplished only with cooperation between the governor and the Legislature and between Democrats and Republicans.

"Join me in good faith," Mr. Spitzer said. "I will meet you with an open hand, an open door, and an open mind."

Material related to the speech is available at

In his first State of the State speech a year ago, Mr. Spitzer mentioned his support for Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye's plan to reconfigure the nine trial-level courts into three tiers, calling New York's court system the "most complex and costly" in the country. He also said he would push for creation of a merit selection system for state judges (NYLJ, Jan. 4, 2007).

Mr. Spitzer eventually sent legislation on both court consolidation and merit selection to the Legislature, but it was late in the 2007 regular session and neither bill passed. By that time, relations between Mr. Spitzer and the Senate, in particular, had deteriorated to the point where legislators never acted on a host of bills they were negotiating with the governor.

Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau, who attended yesterday's speech, said no mention of issues of the highest priority to the judiciary does not mean Mr. Spitzer has abandoned his support. The governor is well aware of the urgency with which state judges want their first pay raise since 1999, she said in an interview.

"He has said publicly that he wants to get this done as part of the budget process and we are expecting that is what he will do," Judge Pfau said. "We would hope to see it in the budget."

Mr. Spitzer is scheduled to present his proposed 2008-09 state budget for the fiscal year beginning April 1, on Jan. 22.

Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for Mr. Spitzer, said the governor cannot mention every issue he supports in a 27-page speech and that he has not changed his positions on the judiciary-related items he endorsed in 2007.

As far as judges' pay is concerned, "the governor remains committed to the judicial pay raise," Ms. Givner said yesterday.

The Committee for an Independent Public Defense Commission said it was also awaiting Mr. Spitzer's budget proposal to see if he recommends an initial $6 million in funding for a statewide indigent defense office.

The committee's chairman, Michael Whiteman of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in Albany, said he was "deeply disappointed" that Mr. Spitzer made no mention yesterday of an indigent defense office. Mr. Spitzer endorsed the concept in the 2006 campaign, but has since been publicly silent about the issue.

"Governor Spitzer missed a golden opportunity to put New York on the road to living up to its professed commitment to equal justice by omitting from his annual message any mention of a state takeover of the state's failed, woeful county-based system of public defense services," Mr. Whiteman said in a statement.

Conciliatory Tone

Mr. Spitzer did announce a plan yesterday to designate 200 state troopers to work side by side with local police officers in high-crime areas. And, while calling the sub-prime lending crisis a national problem, the governor told legislators he would send them a bill to amend the state's foreclosure laws to provide more protections to homeowners.

"We can continue to press banks to agree to mass modification of loans," Mr. Spitzer said. "And we can assure that our court system is not being used to treat homeowners unfairly."

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said in statement after the speech that he was eager to work with Mr. Spitzer's office on solutions to the mortgage crisis.

Mr. Spitzer, whose characterization of himself as a "steamroller" in 2007 hardened attitudes about him in the Legislature, was conciliatory toward lawmakers at several points. He singled out several for their work on individual issues, including two members of Mr. Bruno's Republican majority in the Senate, George Maziarz of Niagara Falls and Dale Volker of Erie County.

"I think this tone that we heard today is more consistent with the Eliot Spitzer that I've known over the long haul," said Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, a former assemblyman from Long Island. "I certainly hope that everyone in the Capitol will meet him halfway with an open mind and an open hand . . . I think he set the right tone."

Mr. Spitzer's lieutenant governor, David Paterson, said Mr. Spitzer sought advice from Republican legislators when formulating several initiatives in his speech, such as a plan to build a $4 billion endowment at the State University of New York.

"I think he is trying to reach out," Mr. Paterson said in an interview. "I think that all of us have self-examined."

Mr. Bruno, R-Brunswick, missed yesterday's speech due to the death Monday of his wife of 57 years, Barbara. Mr. Spitzer asked for a moment of silence for Mrs. Bruno at the beginning of his address. Mr. Bruno had no public comment on the speech.
- Joel Stashenko can be reached at


Anonymous said...

My condolences go out for Mr. Bruno. And as for Governor Eliot Spitzer, he was the former Attorney General for New York City, that says it all.Rumor has it there were complaints filed within the AG"S office and they were ignored and dismissed.

Anonymous said...

i filed a complaint against my former lawyer with the then AG, Spitzer. I was told that it was not in the AG jurisdiction to investigate an attorney. Several months later the California AG went after the law firm Millburg and weiss. Millberg and Weiss was headquartered in Manhattan. Spitzer did not offer co-operation and assistance to the Cal. AG in their investigation. He turned his back on N.Y that may have been affected by that firm.
He did not open an investigation
of his own in N.Y.
He did return the money he took in
from Milberg and weiss
(i think around 190,000)
in donations for his run for governor.
The question is as AG did Spitzer ever investigate a lawyer?

Anonymous said...

In 2005, I asked Eliot Spitzer's office to investigate The Office of Court Administration regarding allegations of HOSTILITY, DISCRIMINATION AND CRIMINAL HARASSMENT AND OHTER ISSUES OF CORRUPTION. I was told he would not investigate the court system, because he was running for governor!? So as you see, he did not find the judicial corruption an issue of importance while working as an officer of the court, or something to be corrected IN THE FUTURE BY HIM , when he became GOVERNOR! This is no surprise for me!
No NY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE OR OFFICIAL is the solution to any judicial can only be done through federal intervention...something the courts do not want, but have invited in by their behavior!

Anonymous said...

If I hear it one more time, "This Agency does not have Jurisdiction to investigate such," I am going to scream. These people who work for these clowns are probably wind up dolls that are told to say..Its not our JURISDICTION.

Anonymous said...

Impossible for Eliot to be more of a disappointment. Start counting the days to when Andrew is our Governor.

Anonymous said...

This is what NY gets for electing a fraud that looks like a used car salesman.

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

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               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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