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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Compromised Judiciary Jeopardizes Justice

Advance legal columnist: A compromised judiciary jeopardizes justice
The Staten Island Advance by Daniel Leddy -  May 1, 2012
In a poll, only 16 percent knew that John G. Roberts Jr. is even on the Supreme Court, let alone the fact that he is the nation's chief justice.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Today is Law Day, an annual event first celebrated in 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation urging Americans to reflect proudly on the legal system bequeathed to them by the founding fathers.  This year’s theme, developed as usual by the American Bar Association, is “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”  Unlike the organization’s thought-provoking topics of previous years, however, this one is self-evident.  So, instead of wasting space embellishing on the obvious, today’s column takes a look at some difficult challenges facing the judiciary in today’s America.  Courts are only effective when presided over by competent judges.  At a minimum, this means jurists who are intelligent, have a solid understanding of the law, treat lawyers and litigants with dignity and respect, and have the courage of their convictions.  The problem is that nobody has yet devised, much less implemented, a system reasonably guaranteed to put such people - and only such people - on the bench.

Some argue that judges are best selected by voters at general elections.  In truth, though, elections are often won by the candidate who has the most money to spend, the most savvy advisers to help him spend it wisely and a well-oiled political machine to get people to the polls.  All this might be an acceptable consequence of the elective process if voters were nonetheless capable of casting informed ballots in judicial races. But they are not.  Poll after poll has confirmed what can only be called an abysmal ignorance among the general public about this country’s legal system. How bad is it?  Well, two years ago, a poll commissioned by Findlaw found that nearly two thirds of those interviewed could not name a single member of the U.S. Supreme Court.  And only 16 percent knew that John G. Roberts Jr. is even on the court, much less serves as the nation’s chief justice.  Moreover, in those areas that are heavily Democratic or Republican, the relatively few voters who are well informed are irrelevant because the candidate securing the dominant party’s nomination inevitably wins.  That translates into party bosses effectively picking judges by deciding which of their reliable supporters, financial and otherwise, will be rewarded with the guaranteed-to-win nomination.  Staten Islanders suffered under this cruel charade for decades when this county was linked to Brooklyn as a single judicial district.  Given the overwhelming number of Democratic voters in that borough, it didn’t matter how Staten Islanders cast their ballots. Nobody became a judge without the blessing of the Brooklyn Democratic bosses.


Merit selection is the popular alternative to having judges elected by voters. In general terms, a supposedly independent committee interviews prospective candidates for judgeships, evaluates their credentials, and presents a list of approved applicants to the public official charged with making the appointment.  He, in turn, then selects the judges from the approved list.  It may sound good in theory, but in practice, it’s susceptible to its own brand of abuse.  In New York City, for example, the mayor appoints judges to the Family Court.  Yet, two major types of cases handled by that court, juvenile delinquency proceedings and child abuse and neglect proceedings, are prosecuted by the city corporation counsel, who happens to be the mayor’s own lawyer.  While the mayor employs an advisory committee to review candidates for appointment and reappointment, it is no secret that the corporation counsel’s office weighs in heavily on the candidates before that committee.  While other attorneys and institutions familiar with the applicant may similarly comment to the committee, the mayor is highly unlikely to appoint or reappoint an individual strongly opposed by his own corporation counsel.  Which explains why many Family Court judges convict an inordinately high percentage of children accused of juvenile delinquency, and an equally high number of parents and other care-givers are charged with abuse or neglect.  The inability to devise a better system for selecting judges is but one of the problems undermining the effectiveness of the courts.  Mandatory retirement ages for judges - 70 in New York - often force highly capable and experienced judges to leave the bench when they are fully capable of continuing excellence.  Not only are such policies counterproductive to an effective judiciary, but they’d be illegal if perpetrated by private employers.  The judiciary also suffers when overcrowded courtrooms and overbearing administrators have judges worrying more about their disposition rates than giving each individual litigant a meaningful day in court.

Heavy court calendars also force even the toughest prosecutors to plea bargain criminal cases that they would much rather try, lest endless postponements that they cannot control be deemed to violate a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.  As the nation marks Law Day, it’s not enough to reflect upon the importance of the judiciary in dispensing justice and ensuring freedom.  Equal consideration must be given to conditions that jeopardize that historic mandate.  Those discussed here today are but a few of them. There are many more.  Daniel Leddy’s column appears each Tuesday on the Advance Editorial Page. His e-mail address is


disgusted said...

Great article. I, for one, cannot proclaim any pride in the current state of the legal system in the U.S. It is corrupt. Good 'ole Dwight Eisenhower is spinning in his grave.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I didn't know Dwight Eisenhower was dead.

Anonymous said...

There is no honest system to remove judges for corruption and/or malfeasance in New York. The media publishes all these bemoanings of the need for a better system of selecting judges while deliberately avoiding reporting of the corruption which is presented to them. Pieces like this one are a cover for the deliberate non-reporting of the corruption of the New York Courts. The media's failure to report Court corruption creates the moral hazard for even more corruption to flourish.

Searching For Rule Of Law In America said...

tweeted this one...

--Michael A. Hense is Searching For Rule Of Law In America...

Anonymous said...

Well, it's about time the ABA acknowledged what we all know.

That in the US today there is “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.” It's been stolen from us by corrupt politicians, attorneys, big business and connected insiders who have the money to buy off these crooks.

Now that they've acknowledged the wholesale, rampant corruption, what are they going to do about it?

Anonymous said...

The same thing they have done for decades. Nothing. It works for them. That is all that matters. Courts are just an oficial place for organized criminals. To meet, confer, congragate and decide. Who gets ripped off in the name of jutice and the color of law next.

Anonymous said...

The Buffalo News reported today in one of their 2 editorials.. that they believe the mainly male the Secret Service and State Troopers...where we just had 3 troopers accused over the weekend, of conducting a prostitution ring while crossing into Canada..dressing like pimps, you have to see the Buffalo Trooper that females could temper the juvenile males or report their disturbing conduct or crimes.

The problem with the News' article is that they have knowledge of a female court employee and female witnesses that have been fired for doing exactly what the Buffalo News desires...reporting male misconduct and male urgings of female employees to participate in misconduct in the their own ourthouses..and the Buffalo News has done 0..and that means NO INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING or mention of this travesty.

The Buffalo News has a female Editor..and this behavior also goes to all the rest of the females in power who are allowing juvenile (criminal) male behavior to continue out of control... who through their very own decisions ignore addressing it or informing the public about its allegations until the story is leaked from other sources.

These women are the main contributors to the very activity they confusion,no involvement and cover-us..from one day to the next!

Does anyone wonder why we have OCCUPY whatevers..what is the public to think about this country of America?

Anonymous said...

The comments at this article on current Chief Judge Lippman Mandating "new lawyers" perform 50 HOURS PRO BONO before becoming lawyer are quite interesting.

The Chief can apparently slam down on the "new lawyers" to do work for the poor but what about all the Entrenched Lawyers entangled with Surrogate Court corruption and related court corruption?

Guess that is taboo to go after?

Anonymous said...

Everyone should go into a court room and see what goes on. The rose colored glasses would come off fast. The Judges do as they please and the law means nothing. the lawyers are bit players and go along with the Judges fearing payback. The illegal system is corrupt and these bastards know it

jail4judgesnow said...

all judges are just hack lawyers in dirty black bath robes, if people understood this then they could give them the proper respect that they all so richly deserve!!!

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