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Sunday, April 27, 2008

NY Jurist: Our Judges are the Rodney Dangerfields of government

The New York Post by BRUCE GOLDING

April 27, 2008 -- New York's judges are waging war on Sheldon Silver and the state Legislature. Judges across the state are engaged in a "rule-book slowdown" and refusing to hear cases involving firms that employ members of the Assembly and Senate, The Post has learned. The protest follows years of lobbying for a pay raise, which has gotten the state's 1,300 judges nothing but broken promises and a wage that, when adjusted for cost of living, ranks 49th in the nation. And the angriest jurists are trying to expand the effort by recruiting recalcitrant colleagues in closed-door meetings and e-mails sent across the state.

With titles like "How to Get Our Salary Adjustment," the e-mails have included a "blacklist" - obtained by The Post - naming 50 state legislators who are registered as attorneys and the firms where they are employed. Banding together to tie up cases from lawmakers' firms was also discussed at an April 8 meeting of New York City judges at Enzo's Restaurant in The Bronx, one judge told The Post. There was no resolution on the plan that day, the source said. One longtime court insider described the situation as a "rule-book slowdown" against the lawmakers and said the judges were playing "hardball" to try to force their first pay raise since 1999. "It's reminding the firms that [the judges] have the power," the source said. A prime target is Assembly Speaker Silver, blamed by many judges for refusing to raise their annual income from $136,700. That rate dates to 1999, when it went up from $113,000. The Manhattan Democrat works for the high-profile firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which specializes in asbestos and personal-injury lawsuits. The firm has about 2,200 cases pending across the state - 77 percent of which have lingered in the system longer than the court system's 30-month timetable for disposing of cases, according to the Office of Court Administrations Web site.

Two upstate judges told The Post that they recently recused themselves from cases involving Silver's firm because of their anger over the stalled pay raises. "I think the speaker is a slug," said Cattaraugus County Judge Larry Himelein, a Democrat who said he couldn't be fair to Silver's firm. "The whole New York state political process is a joke." Cattaraugus County Judge Michael Nenno, who last year joined three other judges in suing the state for a pay raise, also said he felt "some degree of animosity" toward Silver. "You're in for a penny, you're in for a pound, so if I wouldn't let the speaker appear before me, I wouldn't let anybody from his firm appear before me," Nenno said. Silver's spokesman declined to comment. Under court rules, judges do not have to offer an explanation when they recuse themselves from cases. But Justice Arthur Schack of Brooklyn Supreme Court - who was part of another pay-raise suit against the state last year - last month issued a lengthy opinion explaining why he had refused to consider a real-estate lawsuit involving a firm that employs state Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Nassau County) and Assemblyman Marc Alessi (D-Suffolk County). "Thanks to our legislators, like Senator Johnson and Assemblyman Alessi, it appears that our judges are the Rodney Dangerfields of government," he wrote. The e-mail "blacklist" began circulating in late 2006 and has been expanded and updated since then, several recipients told The Post. It was sent out again earlier this month. Oneida County Judge Michael Dwyer and Onondaga County Court Judge Joseph Fahey were instrumental in compiling the list, sources said. Neither returned a call for comment.

Then-Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Joseph DeMaro - a co-plaintiff with Schack - sent out his own e-mail, according to one report, saying, "Re-check the obituary - you died in the last few days" if you are not angry enough to get off cases where legislators' law firms appear. Sources said that the recusal effort is much stronger upstate but that its effectiveness was limited because the large number of judges in New York City means cases here can be easily reassigned. As a result, upstate judges have lashed out at their city colleagues as "wusses," one judge said. Officially, judges say the recusals are about avoiding any conflict of interest because of the ongoing pay dispute. But the state Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics has repeatedly tossed out that rationale. In opinions submitted last February and in September, the committee said the pay dispute alone, as well as lawsuits by individual judges, were not reason enough for recusal. A third opinion in December maintained that judges should only recuse themselves if they "genuinely" believe they can't be fair because of the controversy.

But the issue has amped up since April 10, when Chief Justice Judith Kaye sued Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Gov. Paterson and the entire Assembly and Senate on behalf of all state judges. Her suit demands a raise to $169,300, the current salary of federal judges. The state's administrative judges appealed to the advisory committee after an April 15 meeting at the state Judicial Institute in White Plains seeking a positive ruling on the conflict of interest issue. Among the other judges who have refused to hear cases involving lawmakers' firms are Rockland County Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey, Erie County Supreme Court Justice James Dillon, Erie County Supreme Court Justice Patrick Nemoyer and Erie County Family Court Judge David Brockway. They didn't return calls for comment. State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), a lawyer and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the e-mail campaign "very troubling" and said the judges' rationale for recusing themselves "doesn't ring true."

"Once they have the raises, does that mean there's no conflict anymore?" he said. "If you only have a conflict when a pay raise is pending, it doesn't make any sense." One Assembly member who works as a lawyer called the judges who have recused themselves "completely and utterly irresponsible." "If any legislator tried to use their position or mention their position in a courtroom, they'd be disbarred, and I don't think a judge should be held to any different standard - and maybe should be held to a higher standard," the lawmaker said.


Anonymous said...

I believe that all recusals go to JUDGE JUDY KAYE...CHIEF JUDGE OF NY STATE COURTS. They have no where else to go, if all lower level judges are prejudiced, but to her at the very top! Unless of course , JUDY KAYE wants to bring in the federal judiciary!

Anonymous said...

Judy Kaye needs to be fired immediately on her clock a lot of children are been physical, sexually, emotional and spiritually abuse. Judy Kaye tell me what have you done to help litigants who's children have been placed with pedophiles by corrupt judges, law guardians and attorneys been paid off? Isn't that been accessory to a crime? Tell me Judy Kaye are you by any chance recieving any part of the money for the child pornography and prostitution? It would be interested to know how low can you go.

Anonymous said...

FIRE THEM ALL! All these alleged members of the NY Bar are engaging in COLLUSION FOR THE PURPOSE OF EXTORTION. And take their licenses to allegedly practice law. There are clearly gangsters. If an average citizen appeared before anyone of them we would all go to jail for the same type of thing. SHAME ON THEM!

Anonymous said...

the "Black Robed Mafia" have finally showed their hand and what really goes on in the courts. This is standard procedure with everyone including lawyers who don't follow the party line. Threats and retaliation if someone dares to do anything contrary to their stated or unstated whims. The DICTATORS have exposed themselves. We have any INJUSTICE system - NOT A JUSTICE SYSTEM!

Anonymous said...

Oh Yes! you got it right the DICTATORS in BLACK ROBES! As an attorney I have learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut. What a judge wants he gets one way or the other. This is the case even if I have to throw the client under the bus. As far a the pay raise goes, screw them! Remember about pay back judges!

Anonymous said...

Judy Kaye with her motley group are a joke and they are not funny.

Anonymous said...

the taxpayers of New York State should turn around and sue all these Judges...Take their property from them! Do to them what they do to us.

Kate said...

I cannot fathom how judges could stage a "slow down" when they barely work as it is!

My ex husband is Ray Powers, Nicky Colabella's law secretary (Westchester - Supreme). I was a behind-the-scenes spouse in the NYS courts for over 20 years. Ray and Nicky rarely get into work before 9:30 or 10:00 am and regularly leave by 3:30 pm. Walk into any court building in this state (except Manhattan) at 5:00 pm and it's a ghost town. Yet these babies whine they're backlogged? How about putting in extra hours and weekends to get the work out?

As for the raises they want to bring them up to the same level as Federal judges - how about putting in the same hours as Federal judges first? The NYS judiciary is a part-time job so the salary the are making is more than correct for the time and effort they currently put in.

Plus most court employees, including judges, do personal work on the job on taxpayers equipment. I know of judges who run their real estate businesses openly from the court house using taxpayers equipment and their secretarys to do so.
I even have photos of my ex getting his teeth whitened (a three-hour procedure) in the middle of an afternoon when he should have been in the courthouse working (he walked off the job at 2:00 pm that day. What, his dentist wasn't open on weekends?). And I have countless calls, faxes, and emails from him harrassing me during work hours on taxpayers time using taxpayers equipment (the faxes say chambers of Nick Colabella across the top! Oops!).

Complaints to the Administrative judge (Frank Nicolai) over this abuse of taxpayers money brought no results. Frank told me that I should complain to Nick Colabella, my ex's boss. I reminded Frank that Nick Colabella hired his girlfriend to be his "secretary" in the courthouse so complaining to Nick about abusing taxpayers' funds would be like complaining to Osama Bin Laden about Sadamm Hussein!

What this court system needs is an audit by real auditors, not that useless bunch up in Latham who do nothing (I sent all my evidence to them of the abuse and they did nothing either). And we need real administrators (read, some M.B.A.'s), not political cronies, running the courts. And real consequences for the abusers.

And no raises until the crap is cleaned out of the system first. I see no reason to reward judges who aren't working to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Here, excellent and very true got them by their hangers..this is all so very true..throughout NY STATE courts! Good for you for coming forward!
Maybe KAYE can use all the nasty informative letters about corrupt behavior in the courts, that she tossed....for her next speech..titled.. how the chief judge of ny state HIDES the massive corruption she created, by terrorizing those who express it!

Anonymous said...

Nassau/Suffolk county courts are corrupt in my opinion.
Guardianship cases are BIG buisness for the scum sucking lawyers and their cronies .
The use the statutes for article 81 proceedings when it benefits them and IGNORE them to suck like leeches off of our elderly.
It is legalized ABUSE. Family members who bring petitions are forced out and isolated from their loved ones, for one purpose loot the estates !

I heard a saying from a website with regard to these abusive court appointed "Guardians" ..... ISOLATE, MEDICATE, TAKE THE ESTATE!
I have found those words to be true. The abuse is allowed and condoned by the Judges.
There needs to be a huge dose of EXPOSURE .... these people who make the laws are the scumbags BREAKING THEM !

Anonymous said...

Judge Garvey Of New City Supreme Ct. is a disgrace to the robe. She is not interested in seeking justice, but shuffling her cases to settle without her. She doesn't want to do her job and should be removed. When presented with overwhelming evidence, she will find a way around it if she doesn't like you, or is on the "in" side of these corrupt courts of Rockland County. Its all one big free for all membership that you hope you can get in on. She treats attorneys and their client's like garbage, with disrespect and just outright nasty. Ms. Garvey has no place in the Supreme Ct. or any judging position as far as I am concerned.

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