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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Corrupt Ethics Cover-Up King Tembeckjian Weighs In on Pot Judge

Justice's Disclosure Highlights Medical Marijuana Debate
The New York Law Journal by John Caher  -  May 21, 2012

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach has written scores of decisions in his long career on the bench, but the opinion that may have especially broad impact is the op-ed column in which he admitted smoking marijuana to cope with the debilitating effects of cancer.  Lawmakers in both houses of the state Legislature who are engaged in an intense, uphill battle to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, say that Reichbach's May 16 revelation in The New York Times of his illegal consumption of the drug gives added credibility to their cause and significantly moves the issue forward.  "It is amazing that he showed the courage to put his personal story out there in light of the fact that he is a judge," said Senator Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, who is sponsoring the medical marijuana bill, S2774. "He is a respected jurist and to hear somebody talk about the benefits in this way moves people who are sitting on the fence. I think it will have an effect."  Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who is sponsoring the bill in the lower chamber, A7347, agreed.  "It is one of the most compelling expressions of the need for medical marijuana legislation that I have ever read," said Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat. "It is even stronger because of Justice Reichbach's stature and the courage it takes for someone in his position to write his story."  Gottfried and Savino both said they were caught off-guard by Reichbach's piece and had no idea it was coming. But court officials were alerted before the column was published, according to David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration.  "Judge Reichbach felt it was important that no one be surprised by his piece in the Times and made the appropriate people aware it was coming," Bookstaver said. "The reaction was respectful and compassionate."  Bookstaver refused further comment, and he declined to say whether the fact that marijuana possession is illegal raised any concerns with Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti.  Possession of marijuana in New York remains illegal, but if the quantity is less than 25 grams, or slightly less than one ounce, it is not a crime but a violation under Penal Law Section 221.05, punishable by fine. Possession in public view of more than 25 grams, but less than two ounces, is a Class B misdemeanor.  Reichbach acknowledged in his column that "given my position as a sitting judge still hearing cases, well-meaning friends question the wisdom of my coming out on this issue." But he wrote, "This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue." And he "implored the governor and the Legislature to back the bill that would authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  "Because criminalizing an effective medical technique affects the fair administration of justice, I feel obliged to speak out as both a judge and a cancer patient suffering with a fatal disease," he observed.  In his article, Reichbach, 65, disclosed that he has Stage 3 pancreatic cancer and is enduring the agony of chemotherapy. When he was diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago, doctors told him he had only four to six months to live.  "My survival has demanded an enormous price, including months of chemotherapy, radiation hell and brutal surgery," he writes.  He wrote that his illness and the combination of prescribed drugs leave him in a constant state of nausea and pain that makes it nearly impossible to get the nutrition and sleep he needs.

"Inhaled marijuana is the only medicine that gives me some relief from nausea, stimulates my appetite, and makes it easier to fall asleep," Reichbach wrote. "The oral synthetic substitute, Marinol, prescribed by my doctors, was useless. Rather than watch the agony of my suffering, friends have chosen, at some personal risk, to provide the substance."  Reichbach wrote that a few puffs of marijuana before dinner "gives me ammunition in the battle to eat," and a few more at bedtime "permits desperately needed sleep."  Legislators are attempting to make New York the 17th state to allow medical uses of marijuana.  The Democratic Assembly is viewed as supportive. In fact, that chamber previously passed a medical marijuana bill.  However, the Republican-controlled Senate has never taken up the bill. Its leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo have yet to be convinced the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  There remains concern that marijuana is a "gateway" drug that leads to stronger and more addictive drugs.  "My position has been that there are tremendous risks here, also," Cuomo told reporters last month. "I understand the benefits, but there are also risks and I think the risks outweigh the benefits at this point. I understand there's more research and there's more evidence and it can always be re-evaluated. I don't think there's going to be time this legislative session to analyze that issue."  Savino said it is ironic that opponents are concerned about marijuana when many patients—quite probably Reichbach—are being prescribed legal drugs that are far more dangerous and addictive.  "The opponents of medical marijuana always use the terminology that it is a 'gateway drug,'" Savino said. "Assuming we believe that, it would be the gateway to the drugs that are currently legal, highly addictive and dangerous that doctors can prescribe right now."  Reichbach, in a brief interview on May 18, said his physicians are aware of his marijuana use. He declined further comment.  Gottfried said it is just a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is legalized—and that day may be a bit closer due to Reichbach. Reichbach's Times piece is getting considerable attention in Albany and has been reported statewide and even nationwide.  "I think thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering and could benefit from medical use of marijuana owe him enormous thanks," Gottfried said. "He has been enormously helpful."

Ethical Issues

However, Reichbach's act of civil disobedience raises both legal and ethical issues since his action could be construed as disrespect for the law he is pledged to support.  In the past, the Commission on Judicial Conduct has disciplined judges for various legal transgressions—for instance, a drunken driving conviction often results in public censure—and on at least one occasion has sanctioned a judge for civil disobedience, according to the commission's annual reports.  The commission in 2005 censured a town justice in Ulster County who publicly announced that he would dismiss any speeding tickets issued on a certain section of highway because he disagreed with the speed limit (see Matter of Vincent Barringer).  Robert Tembeckjian, administrator and counsel to the commission, refused to discuss Reichbach, but said he and his staff regularly scour newspapers for articles that may indicate a judge has violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, and bring those articles to the attention of the panel.  "We routinely bring to the commission's attention materials or stories that involve judges and judicial conduct that appear in newspapers, even if there is not a complaint," Tembeckjian said.  The commission is next slated to meet June 14, but Tembeckjian would not say whether Reichbach will be discussed.  Stephen Coffey, a former member of the commission, said Reichbach "has a problem."  "I understand this is a very human problem," said Coffey, a partner at O'Connell & Aronowitz in Albany. "On the one hand, he is using marijuana to alleviate what is probably an awful and terribly painful thing. On the other hand, he is bound by the rule of law. Unfortunately, what he is doing is illegal and he shouldn't be doing it."  Ethics expert Stephen Gillers of the New York University School of Law said Reichbach's decision to go public was courageous and does not warrant any sanction.  "He did not need to do it for himself," Gillers said. "As a judge, he was uniquely positioned to give voice to the suffering of others whose pleas would not get the same attention. The Legislature should now be bold in its response and make medical marijuana available to all cancer victims undergoing chemotherapy."  Gillers noted that possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use is no longer a crime.  "I can't imagine that anyone would be heartless and cruel enough to seek to sanction Reichbach for wishing to mitigate unimaginable pain," Gillers said.  Another issue raised by Reichbach's disclosure is how or if he will handle drug cases that come to his court. Reichbach carries a criminal caseload, but generally does not preside over narcotics matters, officials said.  Reichbach declined to discuss whether he will recuse himself from marijuana cases. There was no immediate reaction from Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.  A judge since the early 1990s, Reichbach began his judicial career as a New York City Civil Court judge and was elected to Supreme Court in 1998. He has sometimes been criticized by police and prosecutors for what they regard as leniency to criminals.  In 2009, he joined a letter to the Law Journal by 17 judges calling for reform of the Rockefeller drug laws.  Reichbach's 14-year-term concludes at the end of this year.  John Caher can be contacted at
SEE RELATED STORY, "A Judge's Plea for Pot"


Anonymous said...

So Tembeckjian is still alive. Haven't heard much from this thug in recent months. I think he's been smoking to much of something.

When is the governor going to take judicial ethics oversight seriously?!?

Anonymous said...

I applaud this judge for speaking out for a needed change. Long overdue! Anyone got an extra joint?

Anonymous said...

So, he has no problem breaking the laws that he doesn't like? Why does he think it's alright for him to do this?

He is under a sworn obligation to uphold all the laws of the state, not just the ones he agrees with. If he wanted the law changed, he should have gone about it in the legal way. If medical marijuana is illegal in this state, there are many other states he could have gone to where it is legal, and not broken the laws of the state that he has sworn to uphold.

Also, he has now admitted that all the cases he has been presiding over have been done while he is under the influence of drugs. Now, every one of those cases can be challenged.

Talk about an irresponsible, selfish, narcissistic fool. Clearly his judgment and decision making abilities don't exist.

Note to Stephen Gillers of the New York University School of Law, if you want a real example of "heartless and cruel" just look at what the court's did to Mary Kennedy and how that ended.

Anonymous said...

One set of laws for them and another for us. This is not a brave judge speaking out. It is a craven judge seeking the limelight and praise at the end of his wretched career of drug addled and/or venal decisions. Has he tried heroin or cocaine? Do his dealers get special protection?

Anonymous said...

Here is a perfect case of why the FBI and DOJ need to investigate the entire legal and judicial system in NY.

Who is this guy's drug dealer? Doesn't he know about all the violence in Mexico and other third world countries that are the direct result of people like him using illegal drugs? How many innocent people have been killed because he needed some weed?

And this guy has now admitted to his criminal activity and presiding over legal proceedings while high, yet the OCA sits back and does nothing?

It's unbelievable that these judicial criminals are now so bold that they actually publish their crimes on the front page of the New York Times, and nothing happens to them.

What chance do innocent, law abiding citizens have?

Searching For Rule Of Law In America said...

well... i know one thing... this gives new life to anyone who has been convicted or suffered an adverse ruling by this judge...

anyone wishing to have the rulings of this judge in their case reviewed might just have been handed the proverbial "get outta jail card"...

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

Anonymous said...

The wildest part of the 221.05 charge( violation Marijuana) is that there is specifically no jail time allowed for that charge..but the police continue to arrest people under this charge and hold them in jail overnight, which in NY is deemed to be a day in jail.
I have never seen one judge out of many ever address that issue, as Today they continue to allow local police to arrest these people..even as some judges smoke it themselves!
One call, BY ONE JUDGE OR THE CHIEF JUDGE.. to the DA to inform the cops to stop this procedure would be proper and legal..but these judge are so uninformed about judicial sentencing unless it is in front of them at the time..that this goes unaddressed for years now.
Most judges do not even know that these cases can also be sealed after 3 yrs, as if the charge never existed.
Judges are so perplexed by the most basic laws, it is scary that they went to any law school and scarier to know people were suckered into voting for them... believing they have real legal knowledge!

Anonymous said...

I would say before anyone looks at the Judge and trying to hold him accountable for the "innocent killings" of others just look at the DOJ and Federal Agencies themselves first including the FBI DEA ATF and more. Fast and furious scandal with the weapons is good place to start.

Then lets not forget the CIA and all the Drug and Money Laundering Sibel Edmonds, former FBI Agent has Revealed like "briefcases of cash" and drugs flown in to airports in Jersey and few other locations compliments of federal protection.

Then look at the State Attorney General's Office and Police forces in the state.

I for one would hand the Judge a Local grown joint to start it off.

Yes, sure, IF there is evidence of "protectionism" and actual rackets protected by this or any Judge, of course you look at this.

But not too hard to get pot in general for decades now, it is a weed after all, can be grown almost anywhere and many growers and users have absolutely NOTHING to do with guns, violence, rackets or organized crime.

Start by going back to the 3 part Expose by the NY Daily News back in 2005 looking at Pataki, Jeanine and Al Pirro mob contacts "Stuck on the Mafia's Highway" and find out what companies got Construction contracts at the state capitol.

Then see what Spitzer, Cuomo et al did about it.

Start there before nailing the Judge just on this unless there are direct decisions and actions to look at.

Upstate Judge who repeatedly boasted and even used the existence of his "favorite list" both while on the Bench and while campaigning to return to his DA job has been reported multiple times to CJC and the feds and the operators of this blog.

Nothing done, nothing comes of it.

Start where things belong starting, at the TOP, Governor, Former Governors, etc. Fast and Furious.

What about the Lippman Indictment and other Indictments coming down "any day now"?

Start there.

Meanwhile let the Judge get an upstate joint or joint if he needs it.

Just keep judicial actions above board and judicial, not a common thing in NY.

Anonymous said...

to 1:37

You have that wrong. Without the demand for drugs, there is no need for the supply. Therefore, he is personally responsible for the deaths, torture and criminal acts of the drug cartels against innocent victims.

Don't try to justify this as just one guy. Every addict is just one person, but there are a lot of them. The US is the single largest nation for the demand for these illegal drugs. Stop the demand and you'll stop the need to supply them.

The whole issue of drugs is not relevant for this forum. It's a big business and it keeps many employed. And of course, there are a lot of politics involved.

The point is not weather pot should be available to those who need it (or even those who want it), the point is that it's illegal in this state and this judge is sworn to uphold the laws. And, there are many people getting paid by taxpayers to make sure the laws are upheld and many more whose responsibility it is that this is being done. It's not their jobs to decide which laws the like or don't like, they have sworn responsibilities which they are not fulfilling.

This guy is not some unemployed, uninsured citizen who doesn't have top of the line healthcare and benefits. He's an attorney and an elected judge. He has taken sworn oaths to uphold the laws. He did this voluntarily. If he wanted to break the laws, fine, but he should have given up his position of a judge and attorney. Why should he be allowed to break the laws on the taxpayers dime?

The point is, he and all the others who take on this responsibility need to do their jobs. Like another poster said, there's one set of rules for them and another for everyone else.

He can try to spin it anyway he wants, but he is an admitted criminal and an unethical judge.

Let's see what the state and federal authorities do about this.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Absolutely ludicrous to suggest that this person or any one person is responsible for innocent deaths because of a benign isolated personal activity which notably you portray in the inciteful language of "addict".

Not every person that engages in a personal activity is an "addict" by the way so start there.

There is also no reason to stop the demand for some of these issues, we just need to stop a corrupted federal and state government.

Sure, everyone writes here about the Feds, the Feds, bring in the Feds, bring in DC, blah blah blah and this Blog in fact was the proponent of all this real action and results from DC.

What do we have instead? No results, no change, no federal monitor, not a single judicial indictment, no special prosecutor on and on down the line.

Maybe if the Feds and States had been doing their jobs for the last several Decades then the US would not have half the violent drug rings from Mexico and outside the US.

If the Feds had been doing their jobs in cleaning up graft, bribery, corruption etc in general then marajuana would have been legal a long time ago.

Now the Judge being a Judge in this situation is a different story. Sure, there are 2 sets of rules. There are more than 2 sets of rules. There are multiple sets of rules and subsets of rules and I am not saying any of that is right or positive or correct.

But classifying as a "criminal" is a far different classification. I have not read the whole story other than he has medical issues and has found a source of marajuana to ease his pain.

Maybe the Judge should declare some of the feds and state folks tied in with the corruption who have let the proliferation of violent gangs, organized crime, etc continue for years as the criminals.

Maybe he would be the Judge to just do that.

Have not seen much about his Opinions and Decisions yet. That is more important.

And why just slam on this Judge when all these others are getting away with conduct everyday, All Known by the Feds, State, CJC, this Blog and more?

Would think there are much more worthy actions to write about. But anyway, so it goes.

Anonymous said...

Say Hey, the buzz has always been that Rob T & Barbara R smoke a little whatever up in Columbia Co., but who really knows since we are not there

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