MLK said: "Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere"

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ghosts of Judges' Complaints Wrapped With Rat Poison Haunts Us

A walk down memory lane, by reviewing the following New York Times article, provides a sad insight into the thirteen year blur that is the New York State court system- a dysfunctional and corrupt injustice machine polluted with a dirty web of spineless leaders. The lack of direction has disgraced the good people of New York's Office of Court Administration, reducing them into silently joining a reckless machine of beaten, mean-spirited and fearful workers.  True leadership brings people together, and guides the group constructively for overall good. Demoralization and hatred in and about New York's legal system can be replaced with pride, faith and trust.  But only with an honorable direction focused on improving what is not working. A good-intentioned leader, with the help and trust of the people, can indeed restore a sadly broken court system to a structure of which to be proud- one that promotes due process, the rule of law, and a restored faith by the people in their government.  Critical to such success is a work environment that promotes good will and proper compensation, and the removal of those who act against such a system. We must move beyond the lingering question of who, of any substantive worth, has been in charge. There will never be an answer that will provide any comfort. We will soon repeat our request for constructive suggestions for presentation to Governor Paterson and the new Chief Judge of New York. So, we look to the future, and that hope begins with a leader named Chief Judge Theodore T. Jones, Jr.

OCA: A Festering Evil

Dispute of Court Officers And Judges Escalates

The New York Times by DON VAN NATTA JR. - November 22, 1995

With so many people and so many emotions jammed into such small spaces, it is no wonder New York City courts are raucous places where court officers and judges have to struggle to maintain the peace. But these days some of them are failing to keep the peace among themselves. In the last few months the relationship between a dozen or so judges throughout the city and the union leader of the uniformed court officers has escalated into a high-volume clash laced with personal attacks and, at times, profanity. The judges have complained that some officers, perhaps taking a cue from their union leader, are failing to obey orders and treating the public rudely. They say some also chew gum and take personal calls during court business. In May, two Brooklyn Housing Court judges, who had complained about an officer, found copies of their complaint letters wrapped with rubber bands around boxes of rat poison inside their courthouse mailboxes. (The court officer in question denied planting the rat poison.)

"There is a real concern among some judges that some court officers are not acting in an appropriate manner," said Administrative Judge E. Leo Milonas. "We want to send the message, loud and clear, that the judges run the courtrooms and the court officers have to conduct themselves in a professional manner." Dennis W. Quirk, 45, president of the 1,200-member New York State Court Officers Association, was himself suspended without pay for shouting a profanity at a Housing Court judge. "If they want a war, I don't take prisoners," Mr. Quirk, who has led the union for 23 years, said. "I take body bags." No one is quite sure how or why the dispute began, though some judges suggested they were fed up with Mr. Quirk's power and outspokenness about their efforts to control their courtrooms; court officers, who carry guns, are responsible for security within the courtroom and for helping the public and jurors. Coincidentally, the fight has intensified at a time when the court officers' union is working without a contract, which expired in April. Contract negotiations are scheduled to begin on Dec. 4, and both sides say they hope the recent clashes will be kept out of the negotiating room.The disagreements also come during the budget season, as the officers' union aggressively lobbies for more officers.

An Office of Court Administration committee concluded this summer that the court system needs 79 new officers to maintain its current level of security. But the new positions were initially left out of next year's budget, outraging Mr. Quirk and union members. That anger burst into public view at a budget hearing on Oct. 5, when Mr. Quirk criticized Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Ruth Pickholz, the president of the Criminal Court Judges Association. Judge Pickholz called for new computers and improved court facilities but no new court officers. When it was Mr. Quirk's turn to speak, he criticized Judge Pickholz for allowing a defendant to jump over the railing that separates the front of her courtroom from the gallery, which Mr. Quirk considered a security breach. Judge Pickholz responded that some security problems were caused by discourteous and disruptive officers who made personal calls and chewed gum.

Mr. Quirk in turn responded with a complaint that Judge Pickholz did not wear black robes in court. "Maybe the defendant who jumped over the rail thought you were a social worker," he told the judge. "Maybe that's what you should do -- become a social worker." Since the hearing, 37 new officers were added to the budget. But nine judges complained afterward to Judge Milonas, the state's chief administrative judge, that Mr. Quirk's confrontational actions were setting a poor example for court officers, who mimicked them in courtrooms. "There are some who are extremely concerned," said Judge Barry A. Cozier, the deputy chief administrative judge for the New York City courts. "He has been president of the union in excess of more than 20 years. He is somewhat of an institution within the institution. Some people have a problem with that, but it's a fact of life." Mr. Quirk's suspension, for 45 days, came in May, when he shouted a profanity at Judge Margaret Taylor in Manhattan Housing Court. "Every day, for seven or eight days, she had been abusing the court officers," Mr. Quirk said yesterday. "She was yelling at them, telling them to sit down. She was making all sorts of derogatory comments that court officers are no good, that they are worse than the Gestapo."

Judge Taylor responded yesterday, "No, I did not do that." She said her problems with court officers stem from her desire to run a "tender-loving-care courtroom," which, she said, some court officers' behavior disrupts. Judge Taylor said that she hears landlord and tenant cases in which a majority of people represent themselves. "I like it to be quiet, and I like it to be humane," Judge Taylor said. "But the court officers shout at people, abuse people and arrest people. I see no need for a large military presence in that court. I believe you need no court officers in that court." In response to the outcry against officers, Judge Milonas issued a memo last month asking the city's 500 judges to make written complaints about officers' behavior so that the Court of Office Administration can begin formal investigations. "If they feel there is a real problem, sort of griping about it is not enough," Judge Milonas said. At the same time, Mr. Quirk issued his own memorandum to court officers, asking them to begin recording the times judges are on and off the bench and report any "unusual event or conditions." The memo annoyed most judges. But a few weeks later, Mr. Quirk withdrew the directive. "I get along with 99.8 percent of the judges in this city," Mr. Quirk said. "There is just a small group of people who don't agree with the way we do things. But no one -- no one -- will stop me from being president of this union and doing what is best for this union."


Anonymous said...

Being in the middle of both of these groups, outside of NYC, I can give you my perspective.
Both groups are power forces of employment. Both groups are made up of many men, with the court officers being the stongest physically, while carrying large weapons and a nice gold badge.
The court officers can get carried away with their attire and they do abuse court users, and their talk to many is berating.
The judges are generally appreciative of the court officers work, but I have worked with some judges who berated court officers in front of the person and public, that officer is trying to control.
The judge is a "politician" first, and does not want to be in a position to be publicly chastized for his permitting the abuse of court users....the publicity and backlash, appears on the head of the judge.
As much as that judge may agree with the negative attitude towards the many jerks that frequent the courthouses, they must give the constant appearance of judicial tolerance. It also helps when re-election time comes around...oh I fogot, that was before the Judy Kaye era...let' just stay with the media publicity story!
Since I like both groups equally,I have provided you with what I have obsereved for over 30 yrs.
It really becomes a power and political struggle with both, necessitated by some very aggressive and ignorant court users.
The solution, although not simple or even acceptable, is for the judge to ask the court officer to take the abusive users out into the hallway, as was done before Kaye, call for backup if needed and take care of the issue the law enforcement way, without the judge viewing and consenting to the method.
The court officers must agree to talk to the users in a professional manner in the courtroom, and learn to let the nasty comments roll off their backs, knowing that most disruptive people are usually high.
Just my take from years of observation!

Anonymous said...

Quirk was the guy that a few days ago basicaly ignored thoes court officers drinking at lunch.
He made it sound like a joke instead of trying to remove them for 30 days and getting them sustance abuse treatment to try to change public opinon. Istead he can out with a dismisive statement ignoring the problem.

Anonymous said...

My God, I didn't realize the hatred was that bad between the unions, OCA, the court workers and the judges. Wow, in addition to being corrupt, what a friggin' hell hole the courthouses must be to work in.

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

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
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