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

End Corruption in the Courts!

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Important Corruption Notice

Please, please. We need 30 seconds of your time ....
Please call New York Senator John L. Sampson at 718-649-7653 and/or 518-455-2788.

Leave a message for the Senator. Tell him that you support his efforts to expose the corruption within and about the New York State Court system. If you want to leave your name and telephone number, someone from his staff will call you back. If you have a specific issue to relay to Senator Sampson, let him know.

Please take a moment right now and express your support of Senator John Sampson (quick phone message, letter, email....)

Senator John L. Sampson -
  • 9114 Flatlands Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11236 -- Tel: (718) 649-7653;  Fax: (718) 649-7661
  • 506 Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12247 -- Tel: (518) 455-2788; Fax: (518) 426-6806

It's a National Corruption Crime Wave

The frauds among us
A Journal News editorial - February 27, 2009

The more the sour economy puts the squeeze on all of us, the more illusions about the people and entities around us seem to come into view. As Warren Buffett's classic quip goes, "It's only when the tide goes out that you learn who's been swimming naked." Not so funny, though, are the people damaged, even left destitute, by the confirmed and alleged ripoff artists, those who abused the trust of others to sustain lavish lifestyles and frolic in what used to be deep waters.

Both in the very same day, Pearl River investment firm owner James Nicholson was accused of defrauding hundreds of investors out of more than $100 million and North Salem Supervisor Paul Greenwood was hit with fraud charges stemming from his investment management business. His alleged fraud totals a jaw-dropping $553 million. That's just this week's headlines. Details of Bernard Madoff's purported $50 billion Ponzi scheme are still coming to light, likewise Texas businessman R. Allen Stanford's alleged $8 billion fraud. Together, they make your mattress look like the Fort Knox of investment havens. Those of us without millions in the bank might marvel at how those who do (or did) have been so easily duped by fake balance sheets, fraudulent statements and other illusions. But not even the mighty Securities and Exchange Commission could sniff out Madoff's mess, despite benefit of a roadmap provided by various sources. And some trappings of wealth just seem to engender more trust and more confidence. Stony Point-bred Nicholson lives in a lovely brick mansion in upscale Saddle River, N.J. Greenwood and his wife have hosted numerous equestrian and fundraising events at their 250-acre horse farm that straddles the Southeast-North Salem town line. Greenwood forswore any payment for the town supervisor position.

Nicholson is accused of defrauding hundreds of investors through his Pearl River-based Westgate Capital Management LLC, using faked investment reports and misleading marketing brochures to draw in more money. Problems came to the surface when investment checks began to bounce. Greenwood and his investment management business partner are accused of using their clients' money as their own personal piggy bank - blowing through more than $160 million on personal expenses, including horses and collectible teddy bears, according to a civil complaint by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. But there's no room for anyone to be smug. As the tide goes out, it becomes increasingly clear that the entire nation has been "swimming naked" as acute problems in the housing markets, Social Security, health care, employment and taxation, to name just a few areas of both illusion and delusion, are bared. It just took wholesale calamity to start opening eyes.

New York Justice: Madoff Lounges at Home; Murderer Gets 15 days

Rich man's justice: Millionaire exec who killed bride-to-be in DWI hit-run gets just 15 days in jail
The New York Daily News by JOSE MARTINEZ - February 27, 2009

A drunk-driving millionaire who mowed down a woman in Manhattan and then fled the death scene received his punishment Friday. A measly 15 days in jail. Outraged relatives of victim Florence Cioffi railed against the plea bargain and "rich man's sentence" for technology entrepreneur George Anderson. "When the district attorney starts sounding like a defense attorney to justify the deal, you can be sure the deal is a bad one for my sister and the people of this state," Cioffi's sister, Lilly Alias, complained to the judge.

Manhattan prosecutors originally charged Anderson with vehicular manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, but he was allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor DWI and leaving the scene of an accident. Cioffi, 59, was killed Jan. 24, 2008, when she was slammed by a Mercedes SUV driven by Anderson, who had been boozing at a Rangers hockey game. The Long Island executive drove away from the Water St. scene, then returned 20 minutes later. Prosecutor David Hammer said Anderson was clearly drunk, though his level of intoxication was not checked until hours after he struck Cioffi. "While we never expected a death sentence or an extraordinarily long prison term, a plea arrangement which amounts to nothing more than 15 days in jail is simply insufficient," Alias said. Hammer said stiffer charges wouldn't have stuck. "We cannot prove vehicular homicide. We cannot prove criminally negligent homicide," he said. "I understand the family members are upset. I don't blame them." He added that the victim was also very drunk. Cioffi's .22 blood-alcohol level - nearly three times the legal limit - made proving the charges that much tougher for prosecutors. The bride-to-be had been returning home after planning her 60th birthday party with friends. "This was an absolute tragedy. Ms. Cioffi is not to blame here," Hammer said. "As a district attorney, I have to look at what I can prove." Alias stood next to the prosecutor at the sentencing, then lashed out at the deal given to Anderson. "This is a rich man's sentence," she snapped. 

Anderson, 48, broke down in tears as he expressed remorse for drunkenly getting behind the wheel. "I live every moment with the horror of this event," Anderson said in a breaking voice. The Brookville, L.I., founder of a software firm had originally agreed to a deal where he could serve his 15-day sentence on weekends, but Manhattan Criminal Court Judge James Burke changed the terms. Anderson will stay behind bars at Rikers for 15 straight days, do 200 hours of community service and lose his driver's license for six months. Outside the courthouse, Cioffi's fiancĂ©, William Mosca, bemoaned the light sentence. "The arm of the law was not present in this case," Mosca said.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Filing in Court Scandal Claims Judge Met with Mob Boss

Filing in Court Scandal Claims Judge Met with Mob Boss on Regular Basis
The Legal Intelligencer by Leo Strupczewski and Hank Grezlak - February 27, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - A former Luzerne County president judge used to hold bimonthly meetings with a reputed mob boss and a common friend -- also an admitted felon -- to discuss pending court cases, according to a supplement to a King's Bench petition scheduled to be filed with the state Supreme Court this morning. The owners of the Wilkes-Barre-based newspaper Citizens' Voice wrote to the court that a friend of William "Billy" D'Elia, Robert Kulick, has detailed his relationship with former Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Conahan and D'Elia.

According to the supplement, the three men once met in Conahan's chambers, when they were located in the main courthouse, to discuss a case in which D'Elia and Kulick "were both interested." That meeting happened prior to a hearing in that case, Kulick alleged. Kulick did say that the meetings usually occurred at a restaurant, which was not named, and began with a "general conversation," the supplement claims. They generally happened around breakfast. When talk would steer toward pending cases, D'Elia would leave the table so Kulick and Conahan could talk in private, the supplement claims. Kulick would leave the table when D'Elia and Conahan would talk in private. "If Kulick or someone he knew 'had an interest in a particular case pending before that court,' he would 'ask Judge Conahan to consider that the party [Kulick] supported got a 'fair shake,' or a 'second look,'" the supplement claims.  According to the supplement, Kulick was interviewed by the newspaper's attorneys on Tuesday.

The filing, first reported by the Citizens' Voice, confirms what The Legal first reported on line Feb. 20 and in print Monday -- that Kulick was the company's witness. It also supports a claim made by another source to The Legal weeks ago: that another person had told the source he had seen Conahan, Kulick and D'Elia meet at the courthouse to discuss business. The source portrayed the relator of that information as someone other than Kulick. The source who related the story had no knowledge of what the alleged meeting covered. The newspaper's supplement is its second filing to the state Supreme Court in which it asks the justices to vacate a $3.5 million defamation award issued against the newspaper and reopen discovery in the case.

In Joseph v. Scranton Times, Thomas Joseph, a Luzerne County businessman, argued that articles published by the Citizens' Voice during its coverage of a 2001 federal investigation that targeted D'Elia and his alleged business partners damaged his reputation and business. A source told the paper that federal officials were investigating Joseph to see whether he used his direct mail and advertising business to launder money for D'Elia and that his taxi and limousine service was used to traffic guns, drugs and prostitutes between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Lehigh Valley international airports and Atlantic City, N.J., New York City and Philadelphia. Joseph was never charged with any wrongdoing. Conahan handled the pretrial matters and, despite voiced concerns from the newspaper company, worked with William T. Sharkey, the former court administrator who has pleaded guilty to embezzling funds, to steer the case to Ciavarella for a 10-day non-jury trial, according to the petition. The supplement also includes a declaration by attorney J. Timothy Hinton, who searched about 4,600 of the county's disposed cases. Only Joseph v. Scranton Times had a note indicating Conahan and Sharkey were involved in assigning the case, according to the supplement.

"Kulick's Declaration and the Database Records are additional evidence that the corruption in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas infected Joseph v. Scranton Times and likely predetermined its outcome in favor of Thomas A Joseph," the supplement claims. "This additional evidence along with the evidence previously submitted by Petitioners provide ample basis for this Court to vacate the $3.5 million in Joseph's favor or, at a minimum, authorize a period of discovery to be followed by a hearing, if necessary, and briefing on Petitioner's motion to vacate." Conahan, along with fellow former Luzerne County president judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., have pleaded guilty to charges they accepted $2.6 million in kickbacks from the owner and builder of a juvenile detention center. The government alleges the judges steered juveniles to the facility. A former Luzerne County judge previously told The Legal that Conahan and Kulick were "friendly" and could be seen chatting in area restaurants and bars. Kulick's relationship with D'Elia was described in the same manner. Other sources said Kulick and D'Elia were cooperating with federal authorities in their ongoing corruption probe at the county courthouse. Both men have pleaded guilty in the last year to criminal charges -- Kulick to possession of a firearm by an admitted felon, D'Elia to money-laundering conspiracy and witness tampering charges in March 2008. President Judge Chester B. Muroski confirmed to The Legal earlier this week that he had been interviewed by the FBI about court administration issues. He allowed the investigators to photocopy documents concerning civil court matters without a subpoena, he said. Sources said other judges were interviewed, but none returned repeated calls for comment. Multiple sources have also relayed rumors to The Legal Intelligencer that other judges are being looked at by federal authorities. Those sources have not said whether the rumors include what the possible focus of the inquiry might be or the number of judges.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Looks at Judicial Conflict of Interest

Supreme Court to tackle judicial conflict of interest
The Los Angeles Times by David G. Savage - February 23, 2009

At issue in a West Virginia case is whether big spending on a judge's election can create an unconstitutional 'appearance of bias.'

Reporting from Washington — Hugh Caperton, owner of a small coal mine from Slab Fork, W.Va., was driven into bankruptcy after he ran up against the huge A.T. Massey Coal Co., but got a measure of revenge when a jury awarded him $50 million in damages. But when Massey appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court, Caperton thought it might mean trouble. Massey Chief Executive Don Blankenship had spent $3 million of his own money to help elect a new justice. "The deck was stacked against us," Caperton said. In November 2007, Chief Justice Brent Benjamin cast the deciding vote in a 3-2 ruling that overturned the verdict against Massey. This saga of money, power and judicial politics in West Virginia has prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to consider for the first time whether big spending on a judge's election can create an unconstitutional "appearance of bias" that violates the guarantee of due process of law in the Constitution.

The case has attracted intense interest from judges, lawyers groups and legal ethicists, most of whom decry the trend toward campaign-style races for judgeships. In 38 states including California, some judges are elected. Twenty states besides West Virginia elect the justices of their supreme courts. Most are in the Great Lakes region or the Deep South. The amount of money flowing into these races has more than doubled in the last decade, and most of it comes from businesses or trial lawyers. It has created the perception that justice can be bought or at least rented when needed, critics say. The question raised by the West Virginia case comes close to home for the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, some of whom have had their own recusal controversies. When must a judge step aside because there is a good reason to doubt he or she is impartial? Massey's lawyers say the case is not as simple as it has been portrayed: Blankenship gave only a small contribution directly to Benjamin's campaign. And Benjamin has voted against Massey in other, more recent cases, they said.

If the standard that judges should step aside based on an appearance of bias or because they owe a "debt of gratitude" to someone were to be adopted, Massey's lawyers said, U.S. Supreme Court justices could be asked to bow out of cases involving presidents who nominated them. But Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics expert at New York University, said the justices should focus on the facts of the case. "Ask yourself a simple question: If your opponent contributed a lopsided amount to the judge -- say $3 million -- and you contributed nothing, would you think there is a risk of bias?" he said. "With these numbers, the answer has to be yes." Twelve years ago, Caperton owned a mine that sold a high-quality coal for the steel industry. Massey wanted the same business and bought the processing firm that handled Caperton's coal. It also bought the land around his mine. For a time, Blankenship expressed interest in buying Caperton's company but backed away from a deal.

Benjamin was a little-known Republican lawyer in Charleston, the state capital, when he sought to unseat Justice Warren McGraw in 2004. Blankenship gave $1,000 directly to Benjamin's campaign, but spent nearly $3 million on ads that attacked McGraw as "radical" and "soft on crime." Benjamin won a narrow victory, becoming the first Republican since World War II to be elected to West Virginia's high court. When Massey's appeal came before the court, Benjamin refused to step aside, saying later that no one could show he had "any actual bias or prejudice." The West Virginia justices operate under the same code as the U.S. Supreme Court justices. They step aside automatically if they own stock in a company whose case is before the court. The code also says they must disqualify themselves if their "impartiality might reasonably be questioned." If questioned, though, they decide for themselves whether their impartiality might reasonably be in doubt.

In 2004, for example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused to step aside from a case in which environmentalists were suing Vice President Dick Cheney. They wanted to know whether energy industry lobbyists had met behind closed doors with Cheney's energy policy task force. A lower court ruled for the environmentalists. Three weeks after the Supreme Court voted to hear the vice president's appeal, Scalia flew to Louisiana on Cheney's government jet to go duck hunting. When the Sierra Club asked the justice to step aside from deciding the Cheney case, the Supreme Court made clear the decision was Scalia's alone. "I do not believe my impartiality can reasonably be questioned," he wrote in refusing to withdraw. He noted Cheney was sued in his "official capacity" as vice president. He was not personally liable. Moreover, he said, they did not spend much time together on the trip. "I never hunted with him in the same blind," he wrote.

In the Massey case, Benjamin said he had no personal relationship with Blankenship. The majority ruled that Caperton's lawsuit should have been decided in western Virginia, where the coal processing firm was located, rather than in West Virginia. Caperton and his lawyers petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case. They won the support of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and other reform groups that have tracked the rising tide of spending in judicial races. "It is dialing for dollars from people who have cases before the court," said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice At Stake Campaign, a public interest group which sees judicial elections as a threat to impartial justice. "Why else would you give a lot of money to a judicial candidate?" On March 3, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Caperton vs. Massey and is expected to hand down a decision by late June.  -

USA TODAY on Court Corruption, "Can Money Obstruct Justice?"

Can money obstruct justice?
USA TODAY by Tony Mauro - February 26, 2009

Cash-heavy judicial elections could be leaving the court system vulnerable to miscarriages of justice. Enter the U.S. Supreme Court.

The noble promise engraved above the entrance to the Supreme Court is "Equal Justice Under Law." It is not: "Justice Goes to the Highest Bidder." Yet that is what many Americans think is happening in their courts. With businesses and interest groups pouring more and more money into state judicial elections — more than $34 million for state supreme court races alone in 2006 — the public can't be faulted for concluding that donors are getting what they pay for, namely favorable treatment from judges who are supposed to be impartial. Advocates for reform are hoping that a case that comes before the U.S. Supreme Court next week will address this growing concern.

Judicial elections used to be mostly genteel affairs, with lawyers winning election based on local reputation and maybe an ad or two in the hometown newspaper. Now, these races have been infected with high-priced campaigning and misleading television commercials and questionnaires. The trend feeds the cynical belief that courts — just like legislatures, governors and mayors — can be lobbied and manipulated through well-placed donations. This has begun to take a toll on public faith in the court system. In a poll released this week by Justice at Stake, a fair-courts advocacy group, more than two-thirds of those surveyed doubted that a judge could be impartial in a case in which one side had donated $50,000 to his or her campaign, and 85% said the judge should step aside, or recuse. In a USA TODAY survey this month, 89% said the influence of campaign money on judges is a problem. Some or all judges are elected in 39 states.

'Like a hooker'

Even judges themselves — not usually prone to public introspection — feel dirtied by campaign money. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer said in 2006, "I never felt so much like a hooker down by the bus station. ... Everyone interested in contributing has very specific interests. They mean to be buying a vote." After Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier and his opponent raised about $9 million for their 2004 contest — one of the costliest judicial elections in history — Karmeier said, "Basically that's obscene for a judicial race. ... How can people have faith in the system?" (Karmeier didn't exactly restore faith when, after winning, he refused to recuse in a high-stakes case involving one of his major benefactors.)

Restoring confidence in the courts is at the center of a crucial case that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. Judicial reformers are asking the high court to declare that at some point, campaign donations can be so high that they result in a "probability of bias," requiring that judges recuse in cases involving the donors. That might not sound like much to ask, but it's a significant start. Most states already require judges to recuse when the judge's impartiality "might reasonably be questioned," wording developed by the American Bar Association. But the decision to recuse is usually left up to the judges, and some judges argue that because the donations go to their campaigns, not directly into their pockets, there's no problem. Litigants don't often ask a judge to step aside, fearing they'll anger the judge and invite retaliation if he or she says no. The case also reflects a shift in tactics for those alarmed by increasingly costly and noisy judicial elections. Reformers who might once have pushed for eliminating judicial elections now realize that elections are here to stay, so they are pressing for ways to make the system more respectable.

The case before the nation's highest court is an outsized example of the damaging influence of campaign money. The chief executive of A.T. Massey Coal Co. sank $3 million of his own money to help elect Brent Benjamin to a seat on West Virginia's Supreme Court. Not coincidentally, the company was appealing a $50 million verdict in a business dispute, and the appeal was heading to the very same court. Benjamin won the election, and sure enough, on the court he provided the crucial vote that gave Massey its victory on appeal. Benjamin refused requests to recuse in the case, and no one could second-guess him. Massey's allies assert that the U.S. Supreme Court should keep its nose out of judicial elections and allow states to police their own judicial ethics. But many believe that the time is right for the Supreme Court to act — at least to help define when campaign donations should trigger recusal. Even business organizations — the kind of folks who might benefit from donating to judicial candidates — have realized that things have gotten out of hand. "There is a need to signal to businesses and the general public that judicial decisions cannot be bought and sold," according to a brief filed by businesses that include Intel and Wal-Mart.

Other options

Once the high court sets a standard, other reforms can follow. The Brennan Center for Justice suggests allowing litigants a no-fault shot at asking for a new judge as a case begins, in the same way that they can challenge potential jurors. Allowing other judges or an independent body to review recusal decisions is another worthwhile step. Or states could follow the lead of North Carolina and New Mexico and move toward public financing of judicial elections. Almost anything to weaken the potency of campaign money in electing judges is worth a look. As retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor put it at a Georgetown University conference last year, "Justice is a special commodity. The more you pay for it, maybe the less it's worth."

Tony Mauro, Supreme Court correspondent for Legal Times and Incisive Media, is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

Wall Street Journal Questions Shady Hire of NY Judge

Milberg's New Hire
The Wall Street Journal - REVIEW & OUTLOOK - February 25, 2009

The plaintiffs firm has an eye for talent.

Plaintiffs lawyers seem to operate on a different ethical plane than mere mortals, in case you hadn't noticed. Consider the latest news from the notorious Milberg law firm.

The class-action giant only last year settled a federal indictment over charges it had run a 30-year kickback scheme. The firm paved the way for this nonprosecution agreement by repudiating three partners -- Melvyn Weiss, David Bershad and Steven Schulman. Milberg claimed it had been in the dark as to their "illegal activities," and all three men later pleaded guilty to felonies.

Only later did we learn and report that Milberg the law firm had agreed to pay indicted partner Melvyn Weiss a slice of the firm's future lawsuit winnings, and was also picking up his legal fees. The supposedly remorseful firm made sure its founding felon would receive this cash even if he went to prison -- which he did. The Justice Department later admitted it had inexplicably sanctioned this sweetheart deal.

Meantime, as a felon, Melvyn Weiss had to obtain court approval for any fees for legal services he provided. In July of 2008, New York Supreme Court Judge Herman Cahn was asked to pronounce judgment on the Milberg payoff. A month later he agreed to let Melvyn Weiss have his booty, even as the judge acknowledged that law firms are generally barred from sharing legal fees with nonlawyers, and that Melvyn Weiss had forfeited his right to practice law.

And now for the latest news: In December, Judge Cahn retired from the bench. Last week, the renamed Milberg LLP announced it had hired a "distinguished" new attorney: Herman Cahn. In its press release, the firm listed his most notable cases, though omitting any on which he'd ruled on its behalf.

To recap: A class-action firm's name partners are nailed in a 30-year fraud. Class-action firm rewards lead perpetrator with share of future earnings. State judge sanctions the earnings deal. Class-action firm hires state judge. We'll let our readers decide what they think of this "fact pattern," as a plaintiffs lawyer might put it.


Here's the Milberg Press Release:


New York, NY - Justice Herman Cahn has joined Milberg LLP after a distinguished career spanning several decades serving as a judge in New York State courts, it was announced today. Justice Cahn will serve in various capacities at Milberg. He will act as both a mediator and arbitrator, particularly in complex commercial litigation cases. He will also play a principal role in the Firm’s commercial litigation practice, in addition to advising on a wide range of matters drawing from his deep knowledge and experiences as a prominent justice and expert in commercial law.

Justice Cahn was first elected as Judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York in 1976. He subsequently served as an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court from 1980 until 1992, when he was elected to the Supreme Court. Throughout his decades on the bench, he principally handled civil cases, with the exception of 1981 until 1987, when he presided over criminal matters. Justice Cahn was instrumental in the creation of, and a founding Justice in, the Commercial Division within the New York State Supreme Court. He served as a Justice of the Commercial Division from its inception in 1993 until joining Milberg.

Among his most notable recent cases are the consolidated cases stemming from the Bear Stearns merger with JP Morgan (In re Bear Stearns Litigation); litigation regarding the next upcoming America’s Cup Yacht Race (Golden Gate Yacht Club v. Societe Nautique De Geneve); litigation stemming from the attempt to enjoin the construction of the new Yankee Stadium (Save Our Parks v. City of New York); and the consolidated state cases regarding the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site (World Trade Center Properties v Alliance Insurance; Port Authority v. Alliance Insurance).

“I weighed many options as I embarked on this new chapter in my career.” said Cahn. “I joined Milberg because of the quality of its attorneys and the important role the Firm plays in many of the pressing and emerging issues related to commercial law including investor and consumer rights. Milberg has always had the reputation of an innovative firm of dedicated individuals at the forefront in its areas of practice. I believe that my experience and knowledge serves to perfectly complement the Firm’s focus on complex litigation,” he said. “My move to Milberg will also provide me the opportunity to serve the Bar as a mediator, arbitrator and consultant in commercial litigation, to which I look forward,” he added.

“Justice Cahn joins Milberg at a time when companies both here and abroad increasingly find themselves in conflicts or disputes requiring mediation or arbitration,” stated Sanford P. Dumain, the chair of Milberg’s Executive Committee. “Given his extraordinary stature in the legal, academic and business communities achieved through decades of dedicated service to the state judiciary, coupled with his expertise in complicated commercial litigation, Justice Cahn is a significant and timely addition to the Firm.”

Before ascending the bench, Justice Cahn practiced law in Manhattan. He was first admitted to the New York bar in 1956. He is admitted to practice in numerous courts, including the New York State courts, the Southern District of New York and the United States Supreme Court.

Justice Cahn received his law degree from Harvard Law School and a B.A. from City College of the City University of New York.

About Milberg

Milberg LLP has been representing individual and institutional investors for nearly 40 years and serves as lead counsel in federal and state courts throughout the United States. Please visit the Milberg website ( for more information about the firm.


Dan Fleshler - 212-935-0210;
Barbara Shrager - 212-935-0210;


Click Here to See Related December 15, 2008 New York Law Journal Story by Brian Baxter,"Lawyers, Lawyers Everywhere in Wall Street's Latest Scandal."

Also, enter MILBERG in above Search Box!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Only Federal Judge Ever Indicted for Sex Crimes

Mystery Shrouds Sudden Exit of Only Federal Judge Ever Indicted for Sex Crimes
The National Law Journal by Pamela A. MacLean - February 25, 2009

The terms of former U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent's abrupt retirement following his guilty plea Feb. 23 to obstructing an internal investigation of sexual contact with a former courtroom deputy, remains shrouded in secrecy. Kent, who is 59, is not eligible for retirement under judiciary rules, which require a judge to be 65 and have at least 15 years service to retire. His only other option would be a disability retirement, which requires Chief Judge Edith Jones of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to certify he is disabled and notify the president. Jones' office declined any comment on the status of Kent's retirement Tuesday and refused to provide a copy of certification of the basis for his disability. The Administrative Office of the Courts in Washington, D.C., also declined to comment on Kent's retirement status. Kent's attorney Richard DeGuerin, of DeGuerin & Dickson in Houston, has also declined to comment beyond a prepared statement following the guilty plea that Kent was "retiring" effective immediately.

A spokesman at the White House referred questions about the terms of Kent's retirement and his official notification back to the judge. Kent's decision to retire, rather than resign, would allow him to retain his full salary and benefits, according to a reading of the statute by the Administrative Office of the Courts in Washington, D.C. If he had resigned from office, he would be left with nothing after 18 years on the federal bench in Houston and Galveston, Texas. In addition, as part of the plea bargain, the federal prosecutors agreed not to seek more than three years in prison when Kent returns for sentencing May 11, although obstruction carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. His case came to light at a time the federal judiciary was in the midst of overhauling its secretive discipline system as public complaints grew that the decentralized system of local control of discipline among the circuits lead to lax enforcement of complaints against judges.

Kent was accused by a former case manager, Cathy McBroom, and later his secretary Donna Wilkerson, of nonconsensual sexual conduct. McBroom complained in May 2007 about incidents in Aug. 2003 and March 2007. Wilkerson accused Kent of nonconsensual sexual contact from 2004 to at least 2005. Kent testified during a June 2007 hearing by a special investigative committee of the 5th Circuit that he only kissed McBroom once and stopped when she rebuffed him, when in fact he engaged in repeated unwanted advances, according to a three-page statement of facts accompanying the plea. Lying to the investigative committee was the basis of the obstruction of justice charge. The 5th Circuit suspended Kent in 2008 for four months and issued a public reprimand but McBroom's family pressed the issue publicly, including demonstrations outside the courthouse, helping to push the eventual criminal investigation by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section. "It is very sad it has come to this," said Arthur Hellman, law professor and judicial discipline expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. "Certainly, if the full extent of his activity had come out at an earlier stage it would have been far better if the chief judge had arranged for a quiet resignation, rather than this criminal prosecution."

"The courts need to set up an early warning system for situations like this. They are not common, but even if it is only used once every 10 years it would be helpful," he said. "The appearance of special treatment, whether warranted or not, is something of a blot on the court system to allow it to reach this point," Hellman said. Under federal Rules of Evidence 11b(3), judges must determine if there is a factual basis for a change of plea to guilty, according to defense lawyers. This is customarily done by asking the defendant to describe the crime in his own words, asking the government to recite the facts and confirming the accuracy or finally, by including a written set of facts with the plea agreement. Kent chose not to comment in court Monday but included the brief outline of facts with his plea agreement.

Click Here to See Related Story, "U.S. District Court Judge Pleads Guilty to Obstruction of Justice"

Judge has State Employee Babysit, Disciplined by Corrupt CJC

NY Judge Disciplined for Making Secretary Babysit, Do Chores
The New York Law Journal by Mark Fass - February 25, 2009

The Commission on Judicial Conduct has recommended that a Monroe County Family Court judge be censured for repeatedly requiring her secretary to perform personal chores, including baby-sitting her children and typing documents and correspondence for her husband. Judge Dandrea L. Ruhlmann's misconduct took place in 2004, her first year on the bench. The judge told the panel that, at the time, she did not realize that the assignments were improper.  Her ignorance of the rule, however, did not affect the commission's decision. "It has been stipulated that respondent's actions arose out of her 'mistaken' belief that her secretary's duties included providing the judge with assistance on personal matters. Such a 'mistaken' view is neither mitigating nor excusable, since judges should know that such conduct is wrong," the unanimous panel wrote in its unsigned determination, Matter of Ruhlmann.  "Routinely using court staff for extra-judicial purposes is improper regardless of whether the employee consents or performs such tasks without protest. It is disruptive to court administration and sets a poor example for court personnel. It is a breach of the public trust and damages public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary."

Judge Ruhlmann was elected in November 2003, and her term began Jan. 1, 2004. Shortly thereafter she appointed a childhood friend, Kimberly Keskin, to be her secretary. The two had been close for more than 37 years. Ms. Keskin had frequently looked after the future judge's two young children, who knew her as Aunt Kimmy, without compensation.  During Ms. Keskin's eight months as Judge Ruhlmann's secretary, the judge repeatedly required her to work on personal matters, such as looking after the children or typing documents for her husband, Raymond Ruhlmann III, a Monroe County assistant district attorney. Ms. Keskin kept notes the entire time.  On nine occasions, according to the commission's decision, the judge asked Ms. Keskin to look after her 3-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter during work hours. A few of those occasions were emergencies - a sick child, an injured arm - others were not.

Ms. Keskin also compiled a list of seven occasions in which the judge required her to type documents or correspondence on behalf of Mr. Ruhlmann, such as updating his resume or sending an e-mail requesting an application, during business hours.  On more than one occasion, Judge Ruhlmann ordered Ms. Keskin to put the typing duties before her court responsibilities. In one instance, according to Ms. Keskin, the judge adjourned an adoption proceeding for two weeks so Ms. Keskin could devote her time to Mr. Ruhlmann's work. In a Sept. 13, 2004, meeting with Judge Ruhlmann, Ms. Keskin objected to being told to put the judge's personal work before her own court duties. The judge told Ms. Keskin it was her job to do the work given. Ms. Keskin secretly recorded the entire conversation. Later that week, Ms. Keskin turned the tape over to the administrative judge for the Seventh Judicial District, Supreme Court Justice Thomas Van Strydonck. Judge Ruhlmann fired Ms. Keskin the same day, purportedly for recording the conversation and accessing the judge's computer and deleting documents.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct served Judge Ruhlmann with a complaint containing four charges, all stemming from her assignments to Ms. Keskin. In addition to the charges regarding the personal assignments, the judge was charged with telling Ms. Keskin to wrongfully access a court database on behalf of her husband. Judge Ruhlmann and the commission agreed to a stipulation on both the facts and the recommended punishment - censure, the second most severe form of discipline, after removal.  "Respondent now realizes that . . . she grossly misunderstood the role of a judge's personally appointed confidential secretary," the commission wrote. "Respondent now realizes it was improper for her to have had Ms. Keskin perform secretarial work for her husband as part of her court duties, let alone put such work ahead of court business." The panel agreed that the most appropriate punishment was a "severe public sanction."

"We believe that a public censure reflects the seriousness with which we view such misconduct, and we will not hesitate to consider the sanction of removal in the future if such conduct is repeated," the panel concluded.  If the judge does not seek a review of the determination by the Court of Appeals within 30 days, the censure will become official, and the judge will be the 82nd full-time judge censured since 1978. Ms. Keskin also filed labor actions in both the Rochester Court of Claims and the U.S. District Court for the Western District against the Unified Court System.  She settled those actions for $35,000 and a position as an assistant court analyst for the Monroe courts. Her salary was $38,355 in 2004; she presently earns $45,830. The judge was not found liable, nor did she pay any damages.

Judge Ruhlmann earned a J.D. from Washington & Lee University in 1987 and worked in private practice for the next 12 years. From 1999 until she was elected to the bench in 2003, she served as a matrimonial referee. She earned $125,600 in 2004 and, like all New York state court judges, has not since received a raise. The commission's chief administrator, Robert H. Tembeckjian, said that stipulations on both the facts and the discipline are common and made sense for the commissioners in the present case. "They accepted her explanation, but . . . she should have known better," Mr. Tembeckjian said. "Clearly, she should have known better." Judge Ruhlmann's attorney, Lawrence J. Andolina of Trevett Cristo Salzer & Andolina in Rochester, did not return a call for comment.

Governor Swears In New Chief Judge Today

Paterson to swear in Rye Brook's Lippman as state's chief judge
The Associated Press - February 25, 2009

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York Gov. David Paterson is scheduled to swear in the state's new chief judge today. Judge Jonathan Lippman of Rye Brook has already been confirmed by the state Senate and has been presiding over the Court of Appeals. Paterson is to swear him in at noon at the Court of Appeals in Albany. Lippman replaces Chief Judge Judith Kaye, who retired Dec. 31. He was a longtime administrative judge before being selected to head the state's sprawling court system. While noting Lippman's qualifications, several senators criticized the selection process. They say the Commission on Judicial Nomination failed to include any women, and only one minority, on its short list of seven potential nominees.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Two Targeted Judges Tied to Newly Appointed Chief Judge ***UPDATED at 220pm***

The Corrupt and Biased Commission on Judicial Conduct is at it again. While we don't know the full details on the Alessandro Judges' issues, one thing we do know: No Judge in New York can believe that he or she will ever receive any Due Process from the mob of thugs at The Commission on Judicial Conduct. Everything The Commission on Judicial Conduct does is suspect because they whitewash and overlook complaints against certain judges while focusing their efforts on other judges who certain politicians have determined to be ripe for discipline. Later today we will post a story tomorrow that will explain how the New York statewide Judicial "Ethics" Committee has again hand-picked a judge to go after, all while ignoring: (1) a complaint against a Manhattan judge showing a $40 million fraud; and (2) a complaint against a Westchester Surrogate involving millions of dollars.

Four articles follow:

1. "Panel Calls for Two Brothers to Be Stripped of Judgeships" - The New York Times by JOHN ELIGON - February 24, 2009

2. "BID TO BENCH SIB JUDGES" - The New York Post by ANDY SOLTIS and MATTHEW NESTEL - February 24, 2009

3. "Conduct commission recommends judge's removal" - The Journal News by Rebecca Baker - February 24, 2009

4. "Brotherly Shove: Sibling NY Judges Face Ouster From the Bench Over Financial Dealings" - The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - February 24, 2009

...Plus - The Journal News BLOG: "Completely Legal"

Panel Calls for Two Brothers to Be Stripped of Judgeships

The New York Times by JOHN ELIGON - February 24, 2009

Two brothers who are judges in New York State are facing removal from the bench after a state commission accused them of filing financial statements and loan applications that intentionally concealed a $250,000 debt they owed to a former campaign worker. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which on Monday made public a report detailing the allegations, also accused one of the judges of trying to defraud the campaign worker by getting out of repaying the loan. After a roughly two-year investigation, the commission sent its report and recommendations this month to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, outlining its case against Justice Joseph S. Alessandro, who sits in State Supreme Court in Orange County, and Judge Francis M. Alessandro of Bronx Civil Court. The commission has also referred its findings to federal and local prosecutors. The judges have 30 days to contest the recommendation to remove them, and if they do, the Court of Appeals will hear the case and decide whether to remove them or impose lesser sanctions. If they do not appeal, the court will make the commission’s recommendation official. Marvin R. Raskin, a lawyer for Francis Alessandro, 70, said his client was considering an appeal. Joseph Alessandro’s law clerk said the justice, 63, would not comment, citing ethical rules prohibiting judges from publicly discussing pending litigation, and his lawyers did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Neither judge will hear any cases until the Court of Appeals issues its ruling, according to David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, which oversees the state court system.

In an unusual twist, one of the seven Court of Appeals judges who will act on the matter — the state’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman — shared a distinction with Joseph Alessandro in a 2005 judicial election. Justice Alessandro had been rated unqualified by several bar associations, but won election that year after the local Republican and Democratic Parties agreed to cross-endorse him and one other candidate — Judge Lippman, who also won election to the state court. The commission’s report examines Joseph Alessandro’s actions during an earlier campaign, for a seat on the Westchester County Court in 2003, when he borrowed $250,000 from his campaign manager, Barbara Battista, to pay for campaign literature. In a mortgage note to Ms. Battista dated August 2003, he declared that the $250,000 would be paid back in 30 days and would be secured by a residence in Valhalla, N.Y., that he and his brother owned jointly, the report said. Both brothers both signed the note. (Although the note outlined a 30-day repayment plan, there was a verbal agreement to give Joseph Alessandro until July 2004 to repay her, according to the report.) But just before the election in November 2003, Joseph Alessandro drafted a new mortgage note giving him 15 years to repay Ms. Battista’s loan. The commission’s lawyers argued that Ms. Battista, then 71, was tricked into signing it, and said in hearings that Justice Alessandro lengthened the repayment schedule in the hope that he would not have to repay the loan. (Justice Alessandro won the election.)

His lawyer told the commission that the note was rewritten to avoid campaign finance violations, according to the report. The report also said that Joseph Alessandro, his lawyer and Ms. Battista all testified that they did not know who stretched the repayment schedule to 15 years, or why. In 2005, Ms. Battista sued Joseph and Francis Alessandro, and they eventually settled the case in February 2006 by agreeing to pay her $273,000, according to the report. In addition to finding that Joseph Alessandro tried to defraud Ms. Battista, the commission also ruled that he knowingly omitted his debt to her in a 2004 financial disclosure report — when he had a net worth of $3.5 million, mostly in real estate — that judges are required to file annually with the Office of Court Administration. The commission also ruled that he omitted notice of that debt, as well as other liabilities, assets and mortgages, in loan applications he filed in 2004 and 2005. The commission voted 9-0 to remove him. “Over a two-year period, respondent engaged in a course of deliberately deceptive and injudicious behavior that renders him unfit to serve as a judge,” the report said. The commission voted 9-0 to remove him. According to the report, Joseph Alessandro argued that the omission of the debt was accidental. In fact, he told the commission, he and his brother gave all pertinent financial information to the broker who drafted the loan applications, and he signed the forms without realizing that some information was missing.

Justice Alessandro, whom the commission said also knowingly filed incomplete financial disclosure statements and loan applications, argued that he thought the loan was his brother’s responsibility. He also argued that the first mortgage note that he and his brother gave to Ms. Battista was not filed with the county, so he did not believe that it was valid, according to the report. The commission voted 8-1 to remove Francis Alessandro, with one member, Elizabeth B. Hubbard, voting for censure instead. In a dissenting opinion, Ms. Hubbard wrote that she found credibility in Francis Alessandro’s belief that the loan was his brother’s responsibility, so “his failure to disclose this liability, even if intentional, had a rational basis that does not necessarily reflect an improper motive.” She also wrote that consideration should be given to the fact that Judge Alessandro, who took the bench in 1990, was dealing with troubling personal matters while these events occurred: the death of his parents and the deteriorating health of his wife. The Alessandro brothers once ran a law firm together, specializing in real estate law, according to the commission’s report.


The New York Post by ANDY SOLTIS and MATTHEW NESTEL - February 24, 2009

Two brothers who serve as judges in Westchester and The Bronx should be removed from the bench because they filed "deceitful" statements after one of them tried to stiff his campaign manager out of $250,000, a state oversight commission said yesterday. Joseph Alessandro was a millionaire lawyer in 2003, when he spent $140,000 of his own money to run for the Westchester County court. He borrowed an additional $250,000 for nine months from his campaign manager, Barbara Battista, a 71-year-old nurse, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct said. To back the loan, Alessandro and his brother, Francis, a Bronx civil court judge since 1990, signed a mortgage note for Joseph's Valhalla home, which they co-owned. After Joseph was elected, he did not repay the $250,000 on time, and Battista sued him, the commission said. Both brothers then failed to reveal liabilities like the loan on state financial-disclosure forms and applications for new loans, it said. The brothers settled the suit for $273,000. But, when called to testify before the judicial commission, Joseph Alessandro showed "a level of dishonesty which is unacceptable for a member of the judiciary," the panel said. Both brothers plan to appeal the findings, said their lawyers. andy.soltis@nypost.


Conduct commission recommends judge's removal
The Journal News by Rebecca Baker - February 24, 2009

NEW YORK - A state judicial watchdog group wants former Westchester County Judge Joseph Alessandro removed from the bench, saying he tried to cheat his former campaign manager out of $250,000. Alessandro, now a state Supreme Court justice in Orange County, should be removed from office for trying to defraud Barbara Battista out of a loan to his 2003 campaign, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct said in a statement released yesterday.

Starting today, Alessandro will be restricted to chamber assignments, meaning he cannot hear arguments from the bench, said state Supreme Court Justice Francis Nicolai, the administrative judge for the 9th Judicial District. According to the commission, Alessandro told Battista he would repay the loan in nine months. After Battista sued him for nonpayment, he claimed he had told her he would repay her in 15 years. "He later gave misleading and evasive testimony about the transaction," the commission said, concluding that he showed a "level of dishonesty which is unacceptable for a member of the judiciary." Paul DerOhannesian, who is representing Alessandro, said the judge was disappointed by the commission's decision and would seek a review by the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.

"He feels the drastic sanction of removal is not consistent with the facts of the case or the law," DerOhannesian said, noting Alessandro has had an "unblemished record" in 38 years in legal practice. A review by the Court of Appeals would put the case before the state's new top judge, Jonathan Lippman, who was politically tied to Alessandro in a cross-endorsement deal that got them both elected to the state Supreme Court in 2005. The commission said Alessandro and his brother, Francis Alessandro, a Bronx civil court judge, filed loan applications in 2004 and 2005 that omitted certain assets and liabilities - including the Battista loan. The lawsuit was settled in February 2006 when the Alessandros agreed to pay Battista $273,000, but the commission said the brothers' "deceptive, deceitful and dishonest behavior" makes them unfit for office. The commission also accused both brothers of filing incomplete financial disclosure statements to the state court's ethics board in 2004, and noted that Francis Alessandro had filed an incomplete statement the previous year. The judicial conduct panel also wants Francis Alessandro off the bench. His attorney said they are considering asking the Court of Appeals for a review.

Joseph Alessandro, a Republican, and Lippman, a Democrat from Rye Brook, benefited from the 2005 cross-endorsement deal brokered by the political leaders in the 9th Judicial District counties of Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange. The deal virtually guaranteed their election, even though Alessandro was rated "not qualified" by the Westchester County Bar Association. Reginald Lafayette, chairman of the Westchester Democratic Committee, said he does not regret the party's decision to endorse Alessandro in 2005. "We're in a country where you're innocent until proven guilty," he said. "At the time, there was nothing to say he was guilty or innocent of anything."

In an interview last week, Lippman said he had nothing to do with the parties' decision to endorse Alessandro. Lippman said he did not want to run a campaign while working as the state's chief administrative judge and insisted on being endorsed by all five political parties: Democratic, Republican, Working Families, Independence and Conservative. "What their package was or wasn't, as far as I'm concerned, had nothing to do with me," he said. "I put forth my own accomplishments and asked for their support. I just wanted to be endorsed." County and state judges are paid $136,700 a year.


Brotherly Shove: Sibling NY Judges Face Ouster From the Bench Over Financial Dealings
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - February 24, 2009

Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Alessandro and his brother, Bronx Civil Court Judge Francis M. Alessandro, should be removed from office for failing to repay on time a $250,000 loan made to one of Joseph Alessandro's campaigns and for misstating their financial holdings and obligations on disclosure forms and loan applications, the Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended in two decisions made public yesterday. Both brothers "irretrievably" lost the public's trust through deceptive financial dealings that began in August 2003, when Joseph Alessandro accepted the loan from a political backer during his campaign for Westchester County Court judge. Both co-signed for the loan, which Joseph Alessandro promised to repay in July 2004. Instead, the commission found that Joseph attempted to renegotiate the terms by saying that he would repay it in 15 years. The loan was not satisfied until February 2006, after his former campaign manager and treasurer, Barbara Battista, had sued for her money back and a $273,000 settlement was reached.  By then, the commission had begun to investigate the brothers' financial dealings. It found that they had misstated debts and real estate holdings on mortgage and loan applications and on state disclosure forms.

"This record of repeated derelictions has irretrievably damaged respondent's ability to carry out his constitutionally mandated duties and renders him unfit for judicial service," the commission concluded in the ruling recommending Joseph Alessandro's removal. An identical sentence was included in the determination recommending removal of Francis Alessandro. Attorneys for both judges said yesterday they are likely to seek a review of the determinations by the Court of Appeals. If the recommendations stand, both judges will be prohibited from again holding judicial office in New York state. Both Joseph and Francis Alessandro were "assigned to chambers" following release of the commission's decisions. They will review motions and do other paperwork, but not preside over any new cases in their respective courts, according to David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration.

As is its custom when the commission makes removal recommendations, the Court of Appeals sent notices to the Alessandro brothers yesterday giving them until March 6 to submit information about why they should not be suspended. The Court reserves the power to suspend judges. Joseph Alessandro was a Westchester County Court judge from 2004 to 2005 and has been a Supreme Court justice since 2006. Francis Alessandro has been a Civil Court judge in the Bronx since 1990. In 2004 and 2005, the commission contended that Joseph Alessandro did not repay any of the principal on the loan while claiming he was having trouble gaining financing from a bank. However, the commission noted that the brothers took out a $300,000 loan from a joint brokerage account to buy property in Seaside Heights, N.J., and that Joseph Alessandro had personal assets of about $3.5 million during that period. Joseph also failed to disclose on three loan applications that the Battista loan was the subject of a suit or that a property the brothers held in Valhalla was subject to foreclosure as Ms. Battista sought repayment of the campaign loan, according to the commission. The commission also determined that Francis failed to detail his assets and liabilities on 2003 and 2004 state financial disclosure forms and Joseph submitted incomplete forms in 2004.

More Than Carelessness

The commission voted 9-0 for the removal of Joseph Alessandro. It rejected his arguments that mere "carelessness, sloppiness and inattention to his ethical responsibilities" were behind his misconduct. "It is clear that respondent in several instances intentionally provided incomplete information and made statements that were patently untrue (e.g., stating on loan applications that he was not a party to a lawsuit)," the commission determined. "A pattern of providing incomplete, inaccurate information about his financial status on his financial disclosure statement, coupled with similar derelictions on multiple loan applications, is unacceptable." The commission also contended that Joseph gave testimony under oath that was "misleading and evasive" concerning requests he had received for a letter and affidavit from Ms. Battista and in his dealings with a bank. Of Francis Alessandro, the commission ruled that he engaged during a two-year period in "deceitful and dishonest behavior that renders him unfit to serve as a judge." He commission continued, "He intentionally withheld information on his mandatory financial disclosure statements and on multiple loan applications. In its totality, respondent's conduct demonstrates 'a pattern of injudicious behavior and inappropriate actions which cannot be viewed as acceptable conduct by one holding judicial office.'"

Eight members of the commission voted for Francis Alessandro's removal. Elizabeth B. Hubbard dissented, arguing that censure was the proper punishment. She wrote that she believed the Battista loan was Joseph's obligation and that Francis relied on his brother's assurances that he would repay it. "Finally, I note respondent's testimony as to the circumstances in his household throughout this period involving the deteriorating health of his spouse and the death of his parents, who lived with him and his wife," Ms. Hubbard wrote. "While I understand that a judge's professional obligations must take precedence over his extra-judicial activities, it appears to me that respondent's negligence should be considered in view of those personal circumstances." Francis Alessandro was represented by Marvin Ray Raskin of the Bronx. "I am reviewing the commission decision with Judge Alessandro and we are contemplating requesting a review by the Court of Appeals," Mr. Raskin said. Joseph Alessandro's attorney, Paul DerOhannesian of DerOhannesian & DerOhannesian in Albany, said the justice has an otherwise "unblemished and commendable" record during his 38 years as a lawyer and a judge. "He deeply respects the position of justice of the Supreme Court and the role of the commission in maintaining respect for that position," Mr. DerOhannesian said. "Because he feels the drastic sanction of removal is not consistent with the facts and law, he looks forward to a review of the decision by the Court of Appeals."

Joseph Alessandro was elected to Supreme Court in the Ninth Judicial District, which covers Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange and Rockland counties, in 2005. He has been sitting in Orange County.  Under a deal worked out by political leaders in the five counties, Joseph Alessandro, a Republican, won the cross endorsement of Democratic leaders while Democrat Jonathan Lippman received the endorsement of Republican leaders to a second Supreme Court seat open that year in the district. The cross-endorsement deal held even though Joseph Alessandro was found not qualified for the Supreme Court seat by the Westchester County Bar Association . Judge Lippman has since become the state's chief judge. Since 1978, the Commission on Judicial Conduct has recommended the removal of 160 judges, 41 of them full-time. The Court of Appeals has reviewed 88 commission recommendations and accepted 74.


And from The Journal News Blog  COMPLETELY LEGAL - February 23, 2009

Alessandros in trouble

We’re talking BIG trouble here for the Alessandro brothers, Judge Joseph of Orange County and Judge Francis of the Bronx. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct wants both Alessandros to be kicked off the bench and has recommended as much to the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, which will have the final say on the matter.
Click here for a summary of the Alessandros’ problems.
The commission’s beef with the brothers involves a $250,000 loan to Joseph Alessandro’s cash-strapped 2003 campaign for Westchester County Court. It also involves the brothers not being completely forthright with their financial disclosures to the court’s ethics board. 

So why do we care? The $250,000 helped Joe Alessandro, a Republican, win the county court seat in Westchester, which led him to run for state Supreme Court two years later. He won that seat as well, thanks to a 2005 cross-endorsement deal that tied his candidacy to — wait for it — Judge Jonathan Lippman, who was running for a state court seat as a Democrat. Lippman, as you may know, continued to rise and this month became Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. That means Lippman, who lives in Rye Brook, now heads the same court that must decide if Alessandro gets to keep his job. No word yet as to whether Lippman will recuse himself from the matter.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Federal Judge Pleads Guilty to Obstruction of Justice in Sex Case

The United States Departement of Justice

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2009(202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOV TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON – U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent pleaded guilty today to obstruction of justice in federal court in Houston, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin and Andrew R. Bland III, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Houston office announced. Kent, 59, a district judge in the Southern District of Texas, pleaded guilty to making false statements to a special investigative committee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit during an investigation of a judicial misconduct complaint filed against him. Kent’s guilty plea was accepted by the Hon. Roger Vinson, Senior U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida, who was sitting by designation in the Southern District of Texas.  A grand jury in the Southern District of Texas indicted Kent in August 2008 on two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse for his alleged repeated assaults on an employee of the Office of the Clerk of Court, identified as Person A. In January 2009, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Kent, maintaining the original charges and adding one count each of abusive sexual contact and aggravated sexual abuse for Kent’s alleged repeated assaults on another U.S. District Court employee, identified as Person B. The January 2009 superseding indictment also added one count of obstruction of justice, alleging Kent obstructed an investigation into a misconduct complaint filed by Person A.

As part of his plea, Kent admitted that in both 2003 and 2007, he engaged in non-consensual sexual contact with Person A. He also admitted that he engaged in non-consensual contact with Person B from 2004 through at least 2005. According to court documents, when Person A filed a misconduct complaint against Kent, the Fifth Circuit appointed a committee to investigate whether Kent had engaged in unwanted sexual contact with Person A or any other individuals. Kent admitted that when he appeared before the committee in June 2007, he falsely testified about his conduct with Person B.  Sentencing is scheduled for May 11, 2009. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Chief Peter J. Ainsworth and Trial Attorneys John P. Pearson and AnnaLou T. Tirol of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, which is headed by Section Chief William M. Welch II. The case was investigated by the FBI.

Corrupt and Biased Commission on Judicial Conduct Strikes Again

We will post a story tomorrow that will explain how the New York statewide Judicial "Ethics" Committee has again hand-picked a judge to go after, all while ignoring: (1) a complaint against a Manhattan judge showing a $40 million fraud; and (2) a complaint against a Westchester Surrogate involving millions of dollars. 

Here's the Journal News Article:

Commission says ex-Westchester judge should be removed from bench

The Journal News by REBECCA BAKER - February 23, 2009

NEW YORK - A state judicial watchdog group today said former Westchester County Judge Joseph Alessandro should be kicked off the bench for trying to cheat his former campaign manager out of $250,000. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct said Alessandro, now a state Supreme Court justice in Orange County, should be removed from office from trying to defraud Barbara Battista out of a loan to his 2003 campaign. According to the commission, Alessandro had told Battista he would repay the loan in nine months. After Battista sued him for nonpayment, he claimed he had told her he would repay the money in 15 years.

"He later gave misleading and evasive testimony about the transaction," the commission said, concluding that he showed "a level of dishonesty which is unacceptable for a member of the judiciary." The lawsuit was settled in February 2006 when Alessandro and his brother, Judge Francis Alessandro, a New York City civil court judge in the Bronx, agreed to pay Battista $273,000. The commission said both brothers filed loan applications in 2004 and 2005 that omitted certain assets and liabilities - including the Battista loan - and that the brothers' "deceptive, deceitful and dishonest behavior" makes them unfit for office. Both brothers filed an incomplete financial disclosure statement to the Ethics Commission for the state Unified Court System in 2004, the commission said, noting that Francis Alessandro also filed an incomplete statement in 2003. The panel recommended that Francis Alessandro also be removed from the bench.

The commission's recommendations are now in the hands of Judge Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. The Alessandros must ask the court to review the commission's report or they will be removed from office. If the Court of Appeals reviews the report, the court can remove them from the bench, censure them or impose no sanctions. Lippman, a Democrat, and Alessandro, a Republican, benefitted from a cross-endorsement deal in 2005 that got them both elected to state Supreme Court - even though Alessandro was rated "not qualified" by the Westchester County Bar Association. The deal, brokered by the political leaders in the 9th Judicial District counties of Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange, virtually guaranteed their election to two of the four open seats.

Manhattan Ethics Chairman, Roy L. Reardon, Accused of White-Washing Crimes by Attorneys

Breaking News: Manhattan Ethics Chairman, Roy L. Reardon, Accused of White-Washing Crimes by Attorneys

Appellate Division, First Department, Disciplinary Committee Chairman, Roy L. Reardon has been formally accused of the widespread covering-up of serious ethics complaints by attorneys who conduct business in the Bronx and Manhattan, according to a source close to his Lexington Avenue law firm. Mr. Reardon, of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, was once regarded as a gentlemen with high ethical standards but, according to the source, "he has sold his soul." The source says many workers are furious that Reardon has personally allowed crimes by connected attorneys to be swept under the rug. "This animal [Reardon] has a blind eye toward sexual assaults upon woman by New York Lawyers, and he has even blanket free passes to any attorney who is politically connected."

Details on this story to be posted soon.......

Federal judge's trial on sex charges to begin

Federal judge's trial on sex charges to begin
The Associated Press by Juan A. Lozano - February 22, 2009

HOUSTON – When U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent enters a courtroom on Monday, he'll be making history, but not the good kind. Kent will join the handful of U.S. federal judges who have been a defendant, and he is the first charged with a sex crime. The judge, 59, is accused of fondling two female court employees as he tried to force them into sex acts. Jury selection in his trial is set to begin Monday. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Kent has pleaded innocent to the six charges – five related to federal sex crimes and one for obstructing justice for allegedly lying to an investigative committee. A gag order in the case has prevented prosecutors, defense attorneys and others connected to the case from commenting.

During a court hearing last week, Dick DeGuerin, Kent's attorney, said his client wants to testify. "Judge Kent believes his conduct with both of the [women] was mutual and consensual," said DeGuerin, who has represented such high-profile clients as former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Branch Davidian leader David Koresh. Kent's former case manager, Cathy McBroom, filed a complaint against Kent in May 2007 and the Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals began an investigation. The Associated Press does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but McBroom's attorney and her family have used her name in publicly discussing the case. The other woman was identified in court last week as Kent's former secretary.

McBroom accused Kent of harassing her over a four-year period, culminating in March 2007, when she said the judge pulled up her blouse and bra and tried to escalate contact until they were interrupted. DeGuerin has said Kent and his secretary were involved in a longtime affair and she is one of his "staunchest supporters." But DeGuerin has also indicated he plans to call several expert witnesses who will testify they have been treating Kent for impotence since 1999. If convicted, Kent, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, would likely face impeachment by Congress. The last federal judge indicted was Robert F. Collins, in February 1991, for scheming with a New Orleans businessman to split a drug smuggler's $100,000 payoff. He was convicted and sentenced later that year to nearly seven years in prison.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Upstate New York Law School Fires Disgraced Attorney

Anne E. Adams admitted three misdemeanors.
UB Law School fires disgraced attorney - Adams removed after DWI plea
The Buffalo News by Michael Beebe - February 22, 2009

Anne E. Adams, who pleaded guilty Friday to three misdemeanors in an attempt to escape drunken driving charges and brought down a sitting State Supreme Court justice with her, has lost her job overseeing the trial technique program at the University at Buffalo Law School. Dean Makau Mutua issued a brief statement Saturday evening announcing her termination. “This is obviously a very sad episode in the legal profession in Buffalo,” Mutua said. “We at the University at Buffalo Law School are very concerned about ethics in the legal profession. We will take whatever action is necessary to protect both the integrity of the Law School and the legal profession at large. “We have removed Anne Adams from her duties at the law school effective immediately,” the dean said. Adams, 46, a former prosecutor, pleaded guilty before Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio to three misdemeanors: drunken driving, offering a false instrument for filing and attempted tampering with physical evidence. Resigning from the bench the same day was Joseph G. Makowski, 55, who had been a State Supreme Court justice for 10 years and had nearly four years left in his term. The job paid $136,700 a year.

Adam’s guilty pleas and Makowski’s resignation stem from her arrest on driving while intoxicated charges Sept. 2 after she had been at Shanghai Red’s restaurant on the Buffalo waterfront with Makowski. He said they were discussing her program at the law school. Makowski did not mention why he resigned in his letter to Justice Sharon S. Townsend, administrative judge for the 8th Judicial District, but the district attorney who forced the resignation did not mince words. “Because of his recantation and cooperation, I will not seek to brand Makowski a criminal,” District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said. “However, I am deeply troubled by Makowski’s original affidavit and initial conduct. Accordingly, Makowski, in lieu of criminal prosecution, will also be required to resign from the bench.” Makowski’s testimony in an affidavit he submitted after Adams’ arrest was at odds with what witnesses told investigators from the district attorney’s office.

“Neither party to this pathetic episode committed violent crimes, nor have criminal records,” Sedita said. “By the same token, one of my most important duties as district attorney is to restore public confidence in the justice system. Accordingly, this type of misconduct, particularly on behalf of lawyers, judges and public officials, will not be tolerated and will not be overlooked by this office.” Sedita said Adams attempted to cover up her crime, by talking her physician into changing the date of a blood test to show she was sober, because she wanted to be a judge. “I would expect that, as a consequence of this plea, Ms. Adams may lose her license to practice law,” Sedita said. Adams, who became a defense lawyer after she left the district attorney’s office, was paid about $70,000 a year to oversee the trial program at the law school.

Law Professor Pleads Guilty to Filing False Instrument and Tampering

Judge Makowski resigns, attorney pleads guilty in tampering case
Admits illegal actions in drunken-driving case
The Bufalo News by Patrick Lakamp and Matt Gryta - February 21, 2009

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph G. Makowski resigned Friday in disgrace, and former prosecutor Anne E. Adams pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors for their roles in trying to clear her in a drunken-driving case. “They tried to fix a case, and they got caught,” District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said. “His reputation is disgraced,” Sedita said of Makowski. “Her conduct was disgraceful.” Makowski, 55, avoided criminal charges by recanting an affidavit he submitted in September, cooperating with prosecutors, agreeing to testify against Adams and resigning as a State Supreme Court justice. Sedita forced Makowski to give up the judgeship.

“Because of his recantation and cooperation, I will not seek to brand Makowski a criminal,” Sedita said. “However, I am deeply troubled by Makowski’s original affidavit and initial conduct. Accordingly, Makowski, in lieu of criminal prosecution, will also be required to resign from the bench.” In a letter to Justice Sharon S. Townsend, administrative judge of the Eighth Judicial District, Makowski said: “This letter will advise you that I have decided to resign my position as a justice of the New York State Supreme Court, effective March 5, 2009. It has been a distinct privilege to serve as a member of the court for the past 10 years.” Makowski would have had five more years on the bench, making $136,700 a year.

Shortly after Makowski submitted his resignation letter, Adams, 46, who oversees the trial technique program at the University at Buffalo Law School, pleaded guilty before Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio to three misdemeanors: drunken driving, offering a false instrument for filing and attempted tampering with physical evidence. She had been arrested Sept. 2 on Route 5 in the Town of Hamburg after a Hamburg police officer saw her Ford Thunderbird convertible weaving from lane to lane. Police said her blood-alcohol content at the time was 0.19 percent — more than twice the state’s legal limit. Adams, who said she now lives on Quaker Road in Orchard Park, faces a possible jail term of up to two years when she returns to court April 23 for sentencing. If she had not agreed to the plea bargain, she could have faced felony charges. She declined to comment after the court session.

“Neither party to this pathetic episode committed violent crimes, nor have criminal records,” Sedita said after Adams’ plea and Makowski’s resignation. “By the same token, one of my most important duties as district attorney is to restore public confidence in the justice system. Accordingly, this type of misconduct, particularly on behalf of lawyers, judges and public officials, will not be tolerated and will not be overlooked by this office.” Adams’ plea to attempted tampering stems from her actions on the day after her arrest. In an attempt to convince authorities she was not drunk the previous evening, Adams had Tarik Elibol, her primary care physician in Kenmore, draw a sample of her blood. But she asked the physician to falsify specify on the tube that the blood was drawn at 10 p. m. the previous day, just hours after her arrest, according to court records.

In his affidavit, Elibol wrote, “On the evening of Sept. 2, 2008, I received a call from Ms. Adams regarding testing her blood alcohol. After determining that area emergency rooms had a minimum 2 hour wait for a non-emergency procedure, I agreed to draw Ms. Adams’ blood myself. “I met Ms. Adams at approximately 10 p. m. and drew her blood,” Elibol wrote. The physician noted in his affidavit that the lab report showed her blood alcohol content was less than .01 percent, barely showing any alcohol in her system. Adams’ previous attorney had filed the physician’s signed statement as part of a motion to dismiss her case in Hamburg Town Court. That attorney eventually withdrew that motion. Authorities had doubts about the sample from the beginning, because it differed so greatly with the blood alcohol reading reported by the police. Sedita, however, said he would not prosecute the physician.

“He came clean and came clean early,” Sedita said. Elibol did not return a call Friday seeking comment. Adams’ plea to offering a false instrument for filing also stems from the physician’s affidavit. She admitted to knowingly offering an affidavit falsely attesting to the date the blood was drawn. Adams wrote all of the affidavits that had been signed by the physician and two others as their own statements and then submitted then in Hamburg Town Court, although Makowski revised the one she had prepared for him, Sedita said. Two of Sedita’s investigators, John Cleary and Mark Stambach, also looked into discrepancies between Makowski’s affidavit and witnesses’ statements to authorities.

In his affidavit, Makowski stated he had been with Adams from 2 to 5 p. m. Sept. 2 on a professional basis. He then met with her from 5:30 to 7:15 p. m. in Shanghai Red’s restaurant to talk about changes Adams was considering for a UB law school program. While they were at the waterfront restaurant, Adams ordered two glasses of wine and a glass of water with lime, he stated. Makowski also stated that nothing in her speech, gait or mannerisms had raised his concerns about her ability to drive that evening. An eyewitness, however, told law enforcement officials that Adams was stumbling as she headed for her car and that the man with her was holding her to keep her from falling. Also, Makowski said in his signed statement that, “After speaking with Ms. Adams for another five minutes, I told her I had to get on the Skyway to my mother’s house. She told me she was heading to her home in Angola on the same route. I drove over the Skyway to South Buffalo with Ms. Adams’ vehicle in my continuous presence.”

But an eyewitness told authorities Makowski also got into Adams’ car, and the two sat inside the car for about 20 minutes. Adams then pulled her convertible into another part of the Shanghai Red’s restaurant parking lot, near the marina. Then she backed into a parked car before pulling away. A Buffalo police officer, parked nearby, noticed what happened and pulled up alongside her vehicle. He recognized Adams and said to her, “Counselor, where are you going?” a law enforcement source told The News. The judge was in Adams’ car at the time, the same source said. But none of this appeared in Makowski’s affidavit in which he said he “had no concerns about her ability to drive a motor vehicle in a safe and prudent manner.” Upon leaving the restaurant, Makowski said he had followed Adams in his car along Route 5. “Her driving was entirely appropriate,” Makowski wrote. “She drove at the appropriate speed, she negotiated turns and tight construction lanes properly.”

But another driver later reported an erratic driver in that area. Hamburg Police Officer Vincent Pupo III pulled Adams’ convertible over when he saw it weaving from lane to lane, nearly striking a guardrail, near Ford Motor Co.’s Buffalo Stamping Plant, according to a police report. Sedita noted the irony of Adams’ guilty pleas Friday. She lied to try to make her driving while intoxicated case go away. Why? “She wanted to be a judge,” Sedita said. At the time of her arrest, Adams was being mentioned as a possible candidate for a State Supreme Court judgeship in the November election. “A DWI would have screwed that up,” Sedita said. “I would expect that, as a consequence of this plea, Ms. Adams may lose her license to practice law.” and

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