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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chief Judge Lippman Wants You to Like Him

Lippman has long list of reforms to pursue
The Journal News by Rebecca Baker - March 4, 2009

The key to having an impact on New York's court system, new Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman says, is getting people to like you. Particularly if they're in politics. "Up in Albany, you know, people come through these offices - 9 million people. You want to be someone who has a rapport, who people feel warmly about," he said. "Having that kind of entree, that relationship, helps you to do your business." As the new head of the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, Lippman's business is managing a sprawling judicial system long criticized for its political clubbiness and inefficiency. Lippman, who lives in Rye Brook, was sworn in Feb. 25 and has pledged to change the court system by continuing the reforms of his respected predecessor, Judith Kaye, who retired. But skeptics who have fought to improve the court system - and are aware of Albany's slow response to change - are taking a wait-and-see approach. "We'll see how he does in action," said Kent Yalowitz, a partner at the Manhattan-based firm Arnold & Porter. "Everyone has high hopes for him." Yalowitz's firm was part of a 2004 federal lawsuit claiming New York's political party-based system for choosing state trial judges was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the existing system, one that helped Lippman win his first election, but Yalowitz called the party-controlled selection a "sham." Lippman defended the state's 1,300 judges, those who are elected and those who are appointed by state officials. He said he thinks New York, overall, has the best judiciary in the country. "I think there are good judges - great judges - that come out of both systems," he said. "I believe that the goal should be to make both those systems more transparent and comprehensible to the public." Lippman, who has spent his entire career in the state court system, does not shy away from mentioning his friends in politics. He talked about growing up on the Lower East Side with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and he recalled working with Gov. David Paterson when Paterson was the state Senate's minority leader. "I'm pleased that, in my new role, I have so many relationships in the Legislature and the executive branch," he said. Lippman insists, however, that he is not partisan and works with officials from both parties. He said he would need their help to improve the courts by recruiting more Family Court judges, reconfiguring the indigent defense system, raising money for civil legal services, improving the probation system, and reforming town and village courts, among his many goals. "I think our good deeds is how the public judges us," he said. "That's how we want the public to view us." During his 12 years as the state's chief administrative judge, Lippman said, he was Kaye's "junior partner in reform" and worked with her to funnel more money into the court system, improve jury service, and create special courts for mental illness, drug abuse and domestic violence. Lippman, 63, has never been a prosecutor or defense attorney. He started as a law clerk and moved up to be the court system's deputy chief administrator. He was later appointed to the Court of Claims, then successfully ran for a state Supreme Court seat in the 9th Judicial District, which covers the Lower Hudson Valley.

Lippman, a Democrat, won that seat in a cross-endorsement deal brokered by the political leaders in the 9th Judicial District that benefited Republican Judge Joseph Alessandro. A state judicial ethics group has recommended Alessandro be removed from the bench, saying he tried to defraud his former campaign manager and then lied about it. Lippman served just two years on the state bench before then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer appointed him in 2007 to run a midlevel appeals court in Manhattan. Tuckahoe Village Justice David Otis Fuller Jr., a member of the state's Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts, said Lippman's lifelong career in the court system has led to relationships with political leaders that "can't help being advantageous" to the courts. "He has more of an outlook of someone who has been in the system for many years," said Fuller, past president of the state Magistrates Association. "If anyone can get things done, he'd be the one I'd put my confidence in." Lippman said there were ways to improve the court system that would not affect the state's cash-strapped budget. He wants to bring cameras inside local, county and state courtrooms, arguing that the more the public knows about what goes on inside, the more support the courts will get. The idea is unpopular among prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges, but Lippman said he could "find a formula" that would satisfy all sides. Lippman has experience reaching compromises. As chief administrative judge, he brokered a deal with county and state officials in 2004 to finish building the new Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains. The deal involved scaling back the project, securing extra state aid and issuing bonds to cover about $42 million in cost overruns. "I'd be the last to say to you that it wasn't contentious," Lippman said. "It was an adventure, to be sure. But, in the end, it was so worthwhile." Gary S. Brown, the former executive director of the Fund for Modern Courts, said he thought Lippman was the best person to try to make those much-needed reforms happen. "He offers as much hope as anyone," he said. "His years working with Kaye can only benefit him. He was learning from the master." Brown, now the director of the Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection, said New York needs to streamline its 11 "inefficient" trial courts, improve special-treatment courts and modernize town and village courts, where some judges have no legal background and operate in makeshift buildings. He said Lippman would have an uphill task in getting lawmakers to spend money on those kinds of changes. "Not too many legislators get elected based on their position on court issues," he said. "But Jonathan Lippman knows the issues and knows the people and knows the history. He's proven he wants to change the system. I honestly believe he'll make every change he can."


Anonymous said...

So if Johnny is allegedly reform oriented..why then did he have knowledge, condone and participate in abuse, crimes and violence against his own employees?

Johnny is as fabulous as Kaye's fantasy believes.... and he will continue his long history of female and minority employee... attacks and terror!

This Chief Judge will be a political clown for his Albany boyfriends.

Anonymous said...

Huh?!? Is this The Journal News or a bit for Saturday Night Live. Was Jonathan Lippman under the influence of something? As a judge, it's NOT about if people like you, it's about UPHOLDING THE LAW. The people of this state are disgusted because the people in power don't give a rat's ass about the law or due process. You have been a large part of the absence of law and order. Change THAT, Mr. Chief-Joke Judge.

And you can start in your own neighborhood. The 9th Judicial District is run by a mobster- Get rid of him and maybe people will start believing in you.

Anonymous said...

When the actions of James Montagnino, Judge Donovan, Judge Liebowitz and the Westchester law firms, lawyers and especially the law guardians are used publicly as examples of rampant abuse and this is all spoken from Lippman's own mouth in a press conference .....I will have "some faith"....until then I will continue to contact Senators, Congressmen, grievance agencies and especially the NY media. In fact, I had a nice conversation with someone from ABC news this week. The 2006 rotation of judges will not end until it is admitted to as the crime that it was. I vowed 5 years ago that every hour that I lost with my children do to the abuse of these people would be spent pursuing these people through letters and phonecalls to media and agencies. Next on the list is the Law Guardians and opposing counsel. I'll see you in the news you child abusing bastards.

Anonymous said...

I would have an open mind about Lippman if he did one, just one, thing to show he's going to start cleaning up the corruptive crap that is rampant throughout OCA. I am not holding my breath. Bring in the feds, people!!

Anonymous said...

Mother of God. The celebration of Judge Lippman's crowning appears to have no end. Stop being a hack, Jonathan, and do something that will make your grandchildren proud: start a real OCA cleaning. If you continue the "court business" as usual, you should know that there is a growing number of people willing to take any lawful action to insure your removal. I only found this blog 2 weeks ago and have made it known to my 200 internet friends. Justice and Bill Gate's win could be your loss. Wise up, and stop taking Shelly's calls. Stop celebrating your hapless advancement and starting removing the people who have urinated on this state's court system. Start in Westchester, and start today!!

Anonymous said...

Screw this twerp, I can't wait to see his mug shot.

Anonymous said...

You should have seen Lippman at the hearing.

"I will make the Public confidence in the Judiciary even higher than it is already"... and... "The new York State Judiciary is a model for all the other states!"

I didn't know whether to laugh or throw up.

Afterwards, there was Tembeckian, applauding wildly with a huge S. E. grin on his face.

I wonder what will happen to my pending CJC complaint against Lippman? Apparently, Tembeckjian forgot to mention it to the Judiciary Committee before the confirmation, and forgot to mention it to Sampson.

Well, he's got a lot on his plate.



Anonymous said...


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Anonymous said...

Ask the NYPD Police Commissioner all the above questions...they're supposed to serve and protect...but who are they protecting?

Anonymous said...

Lippman has sold his soul to the DEVIL..It's time now to arrest all of these THUGS.

Anonymous said...

It simply CANNOT be said any better than Rockland victim says: As a judge, it's NOT about if people like you, it's about UPHOLDING THE LAW.
If ONLY our poor underpaid 1,300 judges would act like they knew that: to act like they know what they are there for,
it would instill a lot more confidence in the People.

But alas, that ain't going to happen, is it ? with or without our new Jonnie-come-lately.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Lippman is a stupid SOB, screw him and the horse he rode in on!!! All the bastards belong in jail!!! Let's have a tea party and throw all of our rulers out!!!

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