Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Chief Judge Judith Kaye Is Totally Out Of Touch

Last Monday afternoon, New York State’s Chief Judge, Judith Kaye appeared on National Public Radio’s Brian Lehrer Show. Mr. Lehrer, not generally known to be unprepared with subject matter, squandered an excellent opportunity to bring some meaningful dialogue regarding New York State’s failing court system to his listeners, unless, of course, it was his intention to give the Judge a ‘PR Freebee.’ For openers, his willingness to permit the Chief Judge of the State, while making reference to the enormous number of pro se litigants in the Matrimonial
Part of Supreme Court, to get away with, saying, “I never understand those Latin phrases,” as she was uncertain whether she meant to say pro se, or pro bono, without some expression of surprise, was both scary and disappointing. Her admission was scary, and his failure to recognize and pursue her ineptness was most disappointing. Lehrer’s ‘marshmallow treatment’ of her was reminiscent of Archie Bunker addressing his letter to Richard Nixon with “Dear Mister President, Your Honor, Sir:”

It was evident from the outset that Judith Kaye was not prepared to have a meaningful discussion of the dreadful condition of New York State’s Unified Court System, and Brian Lehrer was either unwilling, or unprepared, to hold her feet to the fire. Shame on them both! To listen to her reassurances one has to wonder where she has been for the last 14 years? Clearly, former Governor Cuomo’s decision to appoint Kaye, a woman with no prior judicial credentials, whose legal career had been spent in corporate law, was a badly failed experiment.

Kaye’s remarks, intended to convey the impression that the judiciary, particularly the Matrimonial and Criminal Parts of Supreme Court, are in essentially good shape could not be further from the truth, as many Westchester residents are well aware. It is common knowledge that numerous Supreme Court Justices purchased their nominations through political power-brokers. One such case recently exposed in Brooklyn, involved a complaint by a judge’s wife that she paid $200,000 to secure his nomination.

Here in Westchester, The Guardian has been exposing for several months the role of Giulio Cavallo, Larry Schwartz, and others, in the sale of judicial nominations, for as much as $15,000, and more. And, of course, the practice is not limited to judges. It’s well known in political circles that Giulio Cavallo is furious with DA Janet DiFiore’s spouse, attorney Dennis Glazer, for reneging on his promise to pay Cavallo $30,000 for the Independence Party’s cross-endorsement of Janet for DA against Tony Castro in 2005.

One wonders how Kaye can accept the fact that her Chief Administrative Judge, Jonathan Lippman, a Democrat, to ensure his election to State Supreme Court, a 14-year position, schemed with then-Westchester County Court Judge Joseph Alessandro, who had been found “Unqualified,” by the State Commission on Judicial Credentials, to cross-endorse each other, thus underhandedly guaranteeing their election two years ago? Judge Alessandro, when last seen in Westchester, was the subject of a suit by Barbara Battista, his former campaign treasurer, for having allegedly defrauded her out of more than $250,000.

Judge Kaye certainly cannot deny knowledge of the shameless enterprise that has been flourishing on her watch in the Matrimonial Part of Westchester Supreme Court, involving certain judges and matrimonial attorneys, and law guardians. The complaints were so numerous, many litigants having gone to federal authorities, that Kaye was compelled, in June of last year, to instruct Judge Francis Nicolai to remove the four sitting judges in the Matrimonial Part, and replace them with others, the so-called “Historic Rotation.” No, Judge Kaye, despite her remarks to Brian Lehrer, to the contrary, is only too well aware of the scandalous scheme by which the ‘monied spouse’ in divorce after divorce,
invariably gets control of the marital assets, and custody of the children, by employing the services of the unscrupulous clique of lawyers, law guardians, and mental health professionals, who use Temporary Orders of Protection, perjury, and outright fraud to achieve control.
Too many of the easy questions put to Kaye by Lehrer were answered with expressions such as ”I hope that.” She would prefer to appear unknowing, rather than engage in open discussion of the serious day-today realities citizens encounter in our State Courts. Her responses to questions regarding Family Court were most discouraging in light of what has been happening to Jing Kelly and her infant son Tristram for more than four years at the hands of New York County Family Court Judge Sara P. Schechter. Listening to Kaye’s uninformed responses, it is little wonder that a bigoted creature like Schechter has been able to keep this Chinese-American mother and her six-year-old son apart for four years, in total defiance of both the order and mandamus of the Appellate Division, First Department.

It doesn’t do the People of New York State one bit of good to have a politician the like of Judith Kaye as our Chief Judge. It’s one thing not to know pro se from pro bono, but it’s quite another to be totally out of touch with what is going on in our courts. And, furthermore, to speak in meaningless and irrelevant terms simply serves to further undermine public confidence in our judicial system. Worse yet, we must continue to labor under her lack of initiative and leadership for two more years thanks to Governor Spitzer’s reappointment of her.

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