Thursday, September 4, 2008

Westchester Guardian/In Our Opinion/Our Readers Respond.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

In Our Opinion...

Hillary’s Finest Moment

Last Tuesday night, in prime time; if 10:30pm Eastern is prime time, we saw what was probably the finest performance, and the best face, Hillary Rodham Clinton has ever shown us. There were no “Bosnia Bullets”, though we knew she was surely biting one. All critics and media wizards notwithstanding, we were treated to the best that one might have hoped for from Hillary.

No question, she had a mission to accomplish, both for herself and for Barack Obama; a mission to both put out a fire, and to ignite one. She knew that she needed to quickly extinguish the embers of her failed, but impassioning, effort in opposition to Obama that had left significant disappointment, and some resentment, amongst the legions of some of her strongest supporters, many of whom might once have been tagged militant feminists. Some Democrats were growing fearful that John McCain’s operatives were profitably turning up the heat against Obama by fanning those embers.

She knew that she needed to throw plenty of cold water over the smouldering residue, politely but firmly. She said, “John McCain is my friend. But, no way, no how, no Mc-Cain. Barack Obama is my candidate, and he must be our President.” She would later say, “We don’t need four more years of the last eight years.”

Hillary showed the kind of leadership and characteristically female persuasiveness that so-called dominant females possess. She addressed her “Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pantsuits,” instantly commanding the attention not only of those in the arena who had been doing battle for many months in her behalf in the trenches across the country, but also those watching at home. The cheer that went up with the sound of that phrase meant that she was reaching her troops everywhere.

She asked her Sisterhood, “Were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for...” and she then proceeded to rattle off all those reasons, all those people and causes, that mothers and wives and community-conscious women are driven into political campaigns to further, in order to protect and to make right. And, then, she broadened her target audience, speaking to everyone, guys included, declaring, “The genius of America depends upon the vitality of the Middle Class.” She reminded her audience, and Democrats everywhere, that straightening out problems was nothing new to them and, in the same breath, put in a plug for her own household, declaring, “As I recall, we did it before. We did it under President Clinton.”

She came back with, “We’re Americans; we’re not big on quitting.” And, just in case they needed a little more motivation, she told the crowd, which by now was sitting in the palm of her hand, “Nothing less than our children and our future hang in the balance.” Finally, along the way, she paid appropriate tribute, not only to her former opponent, Barack Obama, but to Michelle, who she predicted will be a “great First Lady.” She also reached out to Joe Biden and Mrs. Biden, and showed the graciousness and softness that we have seen on too few occasions, but had seen, nonetheless, in a few events around Chappaqua and elsewhere here in Westchester.

Yes, she bit the bullet, but left no doubt in the process that she was, and would continue to be, a team player, even if a tear or two appeared in her eyes and in the eyes of those who so passionately dreamed that a woman would finally be president. She clearly acquitted herself, did herself proud.

Our Readers Respond...

Assemblywoman Galef Seeking Taxpayers’ Opinions

Dear Editor:

The high burden of property taxes in our area is a subject I hear about regularly as I meet and talk to people throughout the 90th Assembly district. For the past several years, I have sponsored circuit breaker legislation to help make sure that taxpayers do not pay a too-large portion of their income in property taxes. The circuit breaker connects total household income to the amount of all property taxes paid in the household and gives a credit on personal state income tax, or a tax rebate if residents pay more than a set percentage of their income in tax payments. In response to a questionnaire in one of my recent newsletters, my constituents supported the circuit breaker as the first choice in helping with the burdensome property tax that many New Yorkers face. In fact, a recent statewide poll has indicated that 75% of state residents also support the circuit breaker, which caps the amount of property taxes paid based on household income.

The State Legislature went back to Albany last week to make over $1 billion in cuts to the state budget over two years. At that same session, I was thrilled that the Assembly voted to approve a circuit breaker bill. Although it was not exactly the same as the circuit breaker bill I have been working on with Senator Betty Little for the past two years, the bill that passed last week followed the concepts in my legislation and provides $1.7 billion in property tax relief. I view this as a first step in starting to cap property taxes for seniors, for those of middle income, and for those who have experienced changes in their earning power.

What is the next step? The Assembly voted for a circuit breaker bill and the Senate voted for the 4% tax cap bill. There must be a compromise so we can finally get real relief for our taxpayers. Personally, I take the position that New Yorkers need both a tax cap and a circuit breaker, as well as mandate relief, in order to lower our education costs and help our struggling taxpayers. I support all three initiatives.

It is a critical time for you to express your views to your elected officials and state leaders on these different tax policies. Please join this important statewide discussion.

Sandra R. Galef, 90th Assembly District

Reader Reveals Her Experiences With James Montagnino; Praises Judge Francis Nicolai

Dear Editor:

I am writing to you because I have learned that Mr. James Montagnino, a former Special Referee for the New York State Courts, is now attempting to run for a judgeship in Saratoga. I am very familiar with Mr. Montagnino’s professional character and ethics because Mr. Montagnino presided over my matrimonial proceeding here in Westchester.

I see from reading your paper, that Mr. Montagnino is attempting to portray himself to the people of Saratoga as some sort of ethical candidate who will bring justice to the County Court. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is trying to hide who he really is and obtain the position of Judge in the Saratoga Court so that he can then obtain an appointment to the higher State Court System and continue his illegal and unethical actions.

I am one of the litigants who James Montagnino, admitted to case fixing in Westchester. (See The Saratogian June 3, 2008 and The Westchester Guardian July 3, 2008) I am also the litigant who attended his Pace Law School CLE lecture, which he titled ‘Spousal Maintenance: Entitlement or Enslavement’ and during which he discussed his “10583” Syndrome. (His reference to “10583” refers to the zip code for Scarsdale, NY. His “syndrome” was created to imply that women who live there are selfish, self-centered parasites who divorce their husbands to free themselves from
any responsibility to their ex-husband so they can then carry on with their childrens’ drum instructor and live a country club life while the ex-husband has to slave away at work just so that he can support her.)

As an example of how Mr. Montagnino viewed his responsibility as an adjudicator in the matrimonial courts, at the Pace Law School CLE lecture that Mr. Montagnino gave on the issue of Spousal Maintenance (formally known as alimony) Mr. Montagnino titled his lecture, “Spousal Maintenance: Entitlement or Enslavement” and presented this to a lecture hall full of matrimonial attorneys who were there to obtain
mandatory Continuing Legal Education credits.

The issue of Spousal Maintenance is neither an “entitlement” nor an “enslavement” as he so derisively describes it, but is a matter that the elected representatives of this State have determined that a spouse is entitled to as part of the economic partnership that a couple enter into upon marriage. For Mr. Montagnino to characterize it as anything other than a valid component of the termination of a marriage, is in direct contrast to the laws and decided court cases, as well as against public policy. As a “Special Referee” who presided over cases as a “quasi-judicial” official, he was under his sworn duty to uphold the laws of the State as they were written, not as he saw fit. His characterization of maintenance being an “entitlement” or “enslavement” clearly shows the prejudice he has against the “non-monied” spouse, who is usually the wife.

As a “Special Referee” Mr. Montagnino was supposed to preside in a fair and unbiased manner, and this is what I had expected when I was told he was going to preside over my case. Yet, it was clear during the first proceeding that just the opposite is what I would be receiving. It was only after
his “Decision and Order” and entry of the Judgment, that I learned why I had been subjected to the abuse during the proceedings and the egregious denial of the martial assets. Shortly after the Judgment was entered, I attended his CLE lecture where I learned of his “10583” Syndrome. I was
shocked and appalled that anyone, let alone someone who sat a a judge, would create such an insulting concept. While I live in this zip code, neither I nor anyone I know lives the type of life he described nor expects to receive an equitable distribution from the marital estate. Women and mothers, whether they work outside the home or not, contribute to the marriage in many ways which provide substantial economic benefits to the marriage, the family and to society in general and do not get paid to do this work. To suggest that being a wife and mother is some sort of cozy do nothing job, is anachronistic and something I thought went out with the dinosaurs.

While this lecture took place in 2004, I wasn’t able to get the actual proof of Mr. Montagnino’s statements until over a year later. I then filed a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General of the New York State Courts. I, along with many other women who were victimized by Mr.
Montagnino were interviewed by the Inspector General during their investigation into his bias. During the investigation, Mr. Montagnino was relieved of his duties as a Special Referee in the Westchester Supreme Court, and upon completion of their investigation, he was sent up to Saratoga. I received a letter from Justice Jan Plumadore, who advised me that as a result of their investigation, the Court Administration had
taken corrective action.

It wasn’t until this past June when I read Mr. Montagnino’s letters in the Saratogian and The Westchester Guardian, that I learned that Mr. Montagnino was admitting to fixing my matrimonial case. Upon learning this, it now made sense to me as to why and how Mr. Montagnino came to preside over my matrimonial case despite the fact that there was never any signed Order from any Court or any Judge authorizing him to do so.
Mr. Montagnino conducted a “trial” and issued a “Decision and Order” and entered a “Judgment” without ever having been authorized to do so by a Court or a Judge as required by the laws of this State or the Rules of the Court. Mr. Montagnino left me with hundreds of thousands of dollars
of debt by waiving over four years of child support for my ex-husband by allowing him to present to the court some hand written notes on expenses he supposedly paid for “child support” which included purchasing and providing to our 15 year of daughter, liquor and cigarettes, as well as
other improper and inappropriate expenditures.

The malicious rulings and financial devastation to my family is hard to comprehend but will last the lifetimes of my children and their children. I was left to raise three children who have disabilities with minimal support and crushing debt. All while my ex-husband retired from a civil service job, and with the two degrees he earned during the marriage, including a Master’s, has obtained a new job at the New York Medical College as the Director of Safety and Security.

My ex-husband has now taken me back to Court to have me and my children evicted from the marital home. A home which has been in my family for over 55 years and a home my children had expected would always be their home. Besides giving my ex-husband all the financial assets, Mr.
Montagnino’s decision includes having me and the children evicted.

Ironically, the judge we are appearing before is Justice Nicolai, the same Judge that Mr. Montagnino has accused of case fixing. I am forced to represent myself in Court as I have no assets and even more debt which I have amassed in attempting to support the children. I have found that Justice Nicolai is making every effort to ensure that my legal rights are protected in these proceedings, something that I was denied by Mr. Montagnino.

One thing I am sure of is that Justice Nicolai is a real Judge and is legally presiding over my case. I know that he is complying with the Laws of this State and the Rules of the Court. Something Mr. Montagnino never did.

While Mr. Montagnino moved to Saratoga, he did not do so voluntarily. He was forced to move there as a result of the disciplinary action taken against him by the New York State Court Administration. The Court Administration transferred Mr. Montagnino as a result of their investigation
into his bias against litigants. Mr. Montagnino has admitted to case fixing while in Westchester. While Mr. Montagnino accused Justice Nicolai of case fixing, he did so only after the investigation into his bias had already begun.

The people of Saratoga should closely inspect Mr. Montagnino’s history and his inconsistent and untrue statements. Mr. Montagnino did not just decide to move up to his vacation home, he was removed from his job in Westchester and obtained a different, lower level position upstate. He did
not come forward with complaints against the Westchester Administrative Judge until after numerous litigants and filed complaints of bias against him with the Office of Court Administration. However, there is one thing he did say that was correct, he did improperly fix my matrimonial case,
and my children and I are still suffering the devastating consequences to our lives which can never be repaired.

Katharine Allison, Scarsdale

Reader Questions Cuomo’s Theory

Dear Editor:

Your article “Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Stops Internet Child Porn At Its Source” is completely wrong. It says that websites and newsgroups are suppliers of illegal images. They are not; the Internet is not a source, it is just a medium. Shutting off law-abiding citizens’ access to legitimate newsgroups makes as little sense as shutting off a road because bank robbers used it to make their get-away, or suing the US Postal Service because
child pornographers have used it to send illegal photos.

The source is people taking and posting such pictures, and the people downloading them share in the blame. If you take away one website, they’ll just start another one. But Cuomo’s idea is to make innocent people suffer because of these criminals. This is just another case of a politician trying to get headlines by appearing to do something about a problem without actually doing anything.

Cliff Blau, White Plains

Editor’s Note:

Mr. Blau, neither Attorney General Cuomo, nor The Guardian, are suggesting that websites and newsgroups are suppliers in the sense of originators. We recognize that they are, in fact, the conduits through which the actual suppliers achieve contact. However, they are the “source” in the same sense that a faucet which supplies cold water in your kitchen may be considered the source of tap water, for all practical purposes, as opposed to the Croton or Catskill Reservoir systems, from the standpoint of one who desires a glass of water.

This is not about blame; this is about shutting off child pornography in the most effective and efficient manner possible. No right-headed website or newsgroup would feel put upon, or in any way denied their First Amendment guarantees, as evidenced by their willing and rapid compliance
with the Attorney General’s requests.

Thank you very much for your serious consideration of the material.


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