Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg

Chief Judge Judith Kaye Has Her Nerve

New York State’s Chief Judge Judith Kaye, apparently will rule the state’s judicial system, for the next twenty-two months, until her compulsory retirement, at age 70, having successfully lobbied Eliot Spitzer to leave her in place, ostensibly to accomplish in fewer than two years what she has dismally failed to accomplish in more than twelve. Now, she is turning to the most heavily-taxed citizens in all these United States, the Taxpayers of New York, and asking them to support a pay raise for the 1,300 state-paid judges. New Yorkers are by nature very understanding and reasonable people. However, Judge Kaye has chutzpah enough for three to come before us looking for pay increases for a state judicial system that has never been more corrupt, more dysfunctional, or
more fundamentally unethical in fifty years than it is right now.

Throughout the state citizens are only too well aware that the “clubhouse system” of choosing candidates for State Supreme Court, a position that carries a 14-year term, has resulted in a scandalous mess, with party
bosses from Kings County to Monroe County, and everywhere in between selling their support for whatever the market will bring. Democratic Chairman Norman in Brooklyn stands trial for allegedly pocketing tens of thousands to insure nominations; the wife of a Supreme Court Judge in New York City alleges she paid out more than $200,000 to buy his seat. Here in Westchester the Independence Party Boss Guilio Cavallo has taken
$15,000, and more, from those wishing his party’s cross-endorsement, a fact that he repeatedly boasts about.

The State Supreme Court candidate nomination process has been so openly corrupt that a Federal District Court Judge stepped in and demanded a revision of the process. And, speaking about cross-endorsement, in the Ninth Judicial District, we have witnessed the most egregious trickery of all: the cross-endorsement of each other by Democratic and Republican candidates for Supreme Court, thus limiting the choices available to voters. Jonathan
Lippman and Joseph Alessandro pulled that stunt in 2005, the two ma-jor parties essentially telling the voters of Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, and Orange Counties, “Like it or lump it,” all on Judith Kaye’s watch. Not so incidentally, the State Committee on Judicial Credentials found Judge Alessandro “Not Qualified.”

Those who have had the misfortune of going through divorce and having to deal with the Matrimonial Part of Westchester Supreme Court, know very well why the United States Attorney’s Office has been investigating
numerous complaints alleging steering and a RICO-type criminal enterprise between certain judges and particular matrimonial attorneys from certain law firms. Said judges and attorneys are accused of acting in concert with law
guardians and community-based agencies, in a conspiracy to bring about the transfer of huge sums of money for the purpose of denying custody, and marital assets, most often to the un-monied spouse in the litigation.

Last summer, literally scores of complainants who contacted federal authorities forced Judge Kaye to bring about a so-called “historic rotation,” sending all four judges then sitting in the Matrimonial Part elsewhere, and bringing in other judges. The tactic was nothing more than a temporary band-aid, and, in fact, one of the judges about whom there had been numerous complaints, Bruce Tolbert, has been reassigned to his old spot, much to the displeasure of those previously mishandled by him.

Un-monied spouses have been routinely kicked out of their marital homes, stripped of their contact with, and association with, their infant and school-aged children, often relegated to poverty and homelessness, by the proffering of totally false charges by the monied spouse, and the issuance of bogus temporary orders of protection by judges eager to further the conspiracy that fuels the matrimonial ‘cash cow.’ Judith Kaye is damn well aware of the situation and remains ineffectual with respect to a meaningful remedy.

Then there are the Family Courts, horrible little fiefdoms, particu-larly in New York City where judges routinely violate both the spirit and the intent of New York State’s Family Law, as well as the Constitutional rights of children and parents alike. Westchester residents who have been following the agonizing and outrageous actions of one such judge, Sara P. Schechter, in New York County Family Court, who has been succeeding in keeping Jing Kelly and her infant son, Tristram apart for more than four years now, know only too well what ‘hell-holes’ those courts can be. In the case of Jing, and Tristram Kelly, it is important to note that Judge Kaye has been made aware of Judge Schechter’s continued vicious, and unlawful activities in repeated defiance of the orders
and mandamus of the Appellate Division, First Department, but has failed to intervene. It’s about collegiality to the point where “The best interest of the child,” much less the parent’s and child’s civil rights, be damned; “Let’s spare the judge’s feelings at any cost.”

Finally, there’s Judge Kaye’s own tribunal, the state’s highest, The Court of Appeals. Once the epitome of intellectual, and judicial wisdom and integrity, it has become feeble, self-conscious, and political, void of the
courage, and spirit which once made it the forum of choice for dispute resolution between corporations from all over the world. It will forever be a matter of disgrace that the state’s highest court, given repeated opportunities
to set the ambiguity inherent in the Deprived Indifference Murder Statute, straight, failed to do so. First put on the books forty years ago, and repeatedly abused by prosecutors with increasing frequency, to send innocent individuals, acquitted of intentional murder, to prison for a crime they clearly did not commit, the issues involved with the statute remain essentially unresolved, despite a request by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, for certification.

Presently, State Supreme Court Judges earn approximately $135,000, as do County Court Judges. And, while it is true that their salaries have not been adjusted in many years, and clearly the majority of honest, hardworking jurists certainly deserve a substantial raise, there is no reason to believe that any fewer scoundrels and unqualified
jurists will result in the future from increases in compensation. Before she comes looking for more money, this “Judge Judy” needs to repair the product, ensuring that New Yorkers may once again have a reasonable, and realistic, expectation of justice, and fairness from the bench of whichever court they rely upon.

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