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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

OCA Team Disaster, Lippman and Pfau, Fumble Financial Fiasco

With Budget in Flux, Administrators Put the Brakes on Use of JHOs
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - March 16, 2011

ALBANY, NY - The assignment of judicial hearing officers to new state court cases has largely halted as administrators wait to see if any of the $7 million-a-year program will survive budget deliberations in Albany. While Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau said she has issued no order to stop all new assignments to JHOs, she said she also has made it clear that JHO funding could well be suspended starting April 1, the beginning of the state's fiscal year, due to a new round of austerity measures ordered by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. "I think that is a prudent thing to do," Judge Pfau said in an interview as she returned Monday to Manhattan from Queens, where she met with a group of civil Supreme Court justices about JHO cuts. "I tell them [administrative judges] that I wouldn't be starting new things until I had some certainty what is going on in the budget." The suspension of the JHO program would be part of $100 million in proposed budget cuts that Judge Lippman offered (NYLJ, March 3) in the Judiciary's $2.7 billion budget as a way of falling in step with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's plans to reduce spending in the state's 2011-2012 budget. The state has about 300 JHOs on its rolls. The retired judges are paid $300 a day to handle a myriad of judicial tasks. Those include presiding over jury selection in Supreme Court civil trials, overseeing state-mandated pre-foreclosure conferences and issuing orders of protection in Family Court. According to the Office of Court Administration, judicial hearing officers worked 19,800 days in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Assuming that the average judge works 250 days a year, the JHO figure is the equivalent to the work done by approximately 79 full-time judges. The state has about 1,240 judges. The Legislature has created few new judges in the last decade. With caseloads continuing to increase, the availability of JHOs has helped to take pressure off the courts. "Essentially, what people are telling me is that they feel strongly they [JHOs] are an important component of court operations," Judge Pfau said. The Queens judges, for example, told her that JHOs are particularly important in keeping matrimonial cases moving. "If we can think of a way to keep some piece of [the JHO program] funded, that would be a good thing," she said. "But I can't guarantee that."

Meanwhile, Ira Gammerman, a high-profile JHO in Manhattan Supreme Court, said he has been told not to expect additional work after April 1. Working five days a week, Mr. Gammerman, 83, acts as a traffic cop in the mornings as he sorts through motions and proposed assignments to civil and commercial courts in Manhattan. In the afternoons, Mr. Gammerman, a 34-year veteran of the bench who retired in 2003, presides over a seventh part of the court's Commercial Divisions. He estimates that represents about 10 percent to 15 percent of the division's caseload. He currently has 250 to 300 cases on his calendar. Recent cases Mr. Gammerman has presided over have included a highly publicized lawsuit by Prince Jefri of Brunei against his former financial advisers (NYLJ, June 23, 2010). "Well, I have to go out and make an honest living," said Mr. Gammerman, contemplating the possibility of a second retirement from the court system. "There are highly remunerative options for me. This is something I like doing and I'd prefer to stay here. But if I can't, I can't." Attorney Mark Zauderer of Flemming Zulack Williamson, Zauderer, a frequent commercial litigator in Manhattan, said that Mr. Gammerman's departure would mean a heavier workload for already busy commercial judges. "In the case of Justice Gammerman, bear in mind that other justices have extremely heavy calenders," Mr. Zauderer said. "One cannot just assume his cases can just be distributed to other commercial justices without delays in the administration of justice." Ninth Judicial District Administrative Judge Alan D. Scheinkman recently directed judges not to send any new cases to JHOs. "Beginning April 1, I am out of business," said Joseph Owen, a former Orange County surrogate and Supreme Court justice who retired last year. Mr. Owen, 77, said he heard several medical and dental malpractice cases as a stand-in for Supreme Court justices in Orange County. "I felt that because of my expertise in handling and trying complex cases over 25 years that I could continue to be of service to the court system in taking care of some of the complex cases for some of the full-time judges," he said. "I want to be of as much help as I can. If the system doesn't want to use my services, that is up to them. If I am not going to be getting any work [as a JHO], then I will take on more mediations and arbitrations."

Strong Case for Family Court

Michael V. Coccoma, the deputy chief administrative judge for courts outside of New York City, said he is acting on the assumption that no JHOs will be available in Supreme Court for the year starting April 1. But he said he thinks a strong case can be made for retaining some JHOs in Family courts. "The volume and impact it would have on Family Court would be too much to absorb," Justice Coccoma said in an interview. "It would create delays that would be unacceptable. We are pretty confident that the judicial hearing officers in the Family Court would continue the work they are doing." If the program is suspended, Justice Coccoma said he hoped that it would resume next year. "Our goal is to have the program back next [fiscal] year," he said. "We are hoping that the JHOs who are on our list reapply next year. They are highly thought of and do a wonderful service to the state." For now, however, Justice Coccoma said he is not authorizing any JHOs to work past April 1, although he would seek an exemption for any JHOs already on trial that is likely to go past that date. Albany County Family Court Judge W. Dennis Duggan said he gets a JHO once every three weeks. "It gives us a break in catching up in chambers," Judge Duggan said. "They are just the kind of relief you need to keep your head above water. It doesn't sound like much, but that one day every three weeks is big. They are also available if you get jammed up where double trials or conferences are scheduled." Without JHOs, Judge Duggan said, "The only option we have is that cases will have to be pushed further and further out down the road because you can't expand the work day and there is no way we can cram more into our work day." New York City Family Court currently employs 16 JHOs working on a host of duties such as custody, visitation, guardianship, family offenses, adoptions and post-dispositional child protective matters, said Judge Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, administrative judge for New York City Family courts. She said the loss of JHOs would "clearly" impact judges and referees, who would have to pick up the caseloads of lost JHOs. "Due to necessary budget cuts we are certain we will not be able to keep all our JHOs," Judge Richardson-Mendelson said. "Our ability to keep any JHOs in the NYC Family Court will depend on the final budget outcome." Until that is settled, Judge Richardson-Mendelson said that JHOs have been directed not to take on any new cases and to conclude any pending cases as soon as possible. In the six-county Fifth Judicial District in central New York, Administrative Judge James C. Tormey III said 12 JHOs typically work two days a week. "We are hopeful of keeping some of the JHOs in Family courts," Judge Tormey said. "Family Court is like an emergency ward. We have to be very careful there and we can't suffer a lot of delays in that court. The old saying about 'justice delayed is justice denied' is very true. It's really critical to try and resolve their issues and move on." The heads of two judicial associations said they had not been consulted about the possibility of suspending the JHO program before it was first raised by Judge Lippman. "This is one of the issues that was dealt with by OCA without official consultation with my association," said Phillip R. Rumsey, president of the Supreme Court Justices Association of the State of New York. Added Justice Rumsey, who sits in Cortland County, "Having said that, I certainly understand that Judge Lippman is in a situation where he has to react aggressively with the budget." Justice Rumsey said he expected his group's executive committee to discuss responses to the JHO cutbacks during a conference call this Friday. He said he was uncertain what the group could do, practically speaking, past objecting to the cuts. Margaret Olszewski Szczur, president of the Family Court Judges Association, said her members have told her of worries of losing JHOs. "The responses have been, 'Where is the time going to come from to pick up the slack?'" said Judge Szczur, an Erie County Family Court judge. She also complained that court administrators in Albany had sprung JHO cuts on judges without warning. "By and large, OCA does not consult with any judicial associations about their initiatives," Judge Szczur said. "I know I was never consulted. The administration takes the position that they are in charge of the administration of the courts and the rest of us have to live with what they decide." Judge Pfau said she speaks "regularly" with the associations and is committed to keeping the lines of communication to them open. "I look forward to hearing from them on the impact as we move forward," she said. Joel Stashenko can be contacted at


Anonymous said...

You don't make a bank robber the manger of the bank.
Lippman is simply the wrong person to lead OCA into the future.

dummy knows dummy said...

Yo, Jonathan Lippman.
You should consider leaving the JHO's alone. Why not save money by stopping the OCA NO SHOW JOBS?
I know you know about them because I told you about them when you were the administrative judge. You are a fake. Leave the JHO's alone, dummy.

The Quoter said...

"Justice, though due to the accused, is due to the accuser also."

Benjamin N. Cardozo (US Supreme Court Justice 1870-1938)

Anonymous said...

The way to solve the courts cash problem is to cut the pay of all the employees including but not limited to Judges 15%, after all they are getting at least that much on the side already, so what's the big deal

Anonymous said...

Typical low life political trick. You have to cut the budget loaded with your political hacks, so you cut Police and close parks, instead of kicking the hacks out. Lippman is scum and Cuomo is no better. Enjoy the staged show put on for your entertainment and diversion:
"Dirt Bag Lippman" versus "Crooked Spawn of Mario"
Warning: hold tight to your wallet, because they both want it.

Jail4Judges et al said...

Lippman, Pfau and all their skel friends should all go to JAIL because they are criminals. For starters make them all produce their individual oaths of office and that's a great place to start

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear more about the construction company interests that Pfau's husband is allegedly involved in?

And honor and tribute to dearly departed fallen soldier on the field of OCA / NY corruption Sun Ming "Sunny" Sheu of Queens County, NY who had info on Judge Golia and improprieties on Financial Disclosures filed with OCA including alleged construction company interests as well, Sun Ming "Sunny" Sheu dying a sudden death days after receiving updated Disclosures from the OCA after being warned and threatened to back off.

In the meantime, some more happy reading:

oops said...

Pg 22

Judge William J. Kent:

My wife is in the real estate business..

hmmm. maybe I vant u house said...

License Type: Associate Broker:Assoc. Broker
License Number: 30KE0775459
License Status: Current
Expiry Date: 12/08/2011
Practice Locate - Associate Broker Address:

Related Party Name License Type Address License Expiry Date

Principal Office:Princ Off




wow.. what a scoop!! said...

If this is her.. She's single? Did she divorce him? Is that why he hates women???

heHe they think we don't know said...

I gotta call a few people and see if their house was forced to be sold through Re-Max too...

SoAboveSoBelow said...

Will they get to see the light,


be forced into it???

Anonymous said...

I tell you arrest Judge John K. McGuirk and his criminal friends for conducting a kids for cash in child custody cases and give then the death penalty for each case that was rigged for the the trafficking of minors for sexual performances. Racist Pig.. McGuirk is in Goshen, New York County of Orange.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Pfau formerly a Surrogate Judge out on Long Island? Why don't her and husband (Falcone) sell some of the real properties that she somehow hasn't listed on her filed ethics forms and give the money to courts? I think that's a great idea, how about it!

william Galison said...


This guy has the has the best approach to combating Judicial Corruption that I've seen.

Frank Brady: please post a link to this man's website and videos immediately.

Copy and paste below the link below into your browser.

Enough talk: Here is the way to make a difference.

Will Galison

Anonymous said...

Didn't they go after Sassower years ago?

Blog Archive

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

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

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2
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