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Sitting in Judgment

To the Editor:

Erin Sullivan’s article about the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct [“Who’s To Judge?,” Feb. 28] identifies that as far back as 1989 the state comptroller was stymied as he attempted to “judge” whether the commission was “wrongfully dismissing complaints against judges without cause and justification.” This, because the commission’s operations are cloaked in confidentiality.

Yet Sullivan does not identify that the Center for Judicial Accountability, Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizens’ organization, has pierced the confidentiality that has insulated the commission from scrutiny by collecting, directly from complainants, copies of their dismissed complaints. In so doing, CJA has been proving, for over a decade, what the state comptroller could not: that the commission is unlawfully dismissing, without investigation, serious complaints of judicial misconduct—particularly when the complained-against judges are powerful and politically connected.

Sullivan does not identify that CJA has been endeavoring, singlehandedly, to secure legislative-oversight hearings based on three categories of evidence of the commission’s corruption. What are these categories of evidence—all readily verifiable?

Beyond copies of dismissed complaints from CJA’s archive, is the law pertaining to the commission. Most important is Judiciary Law §44.1, requiring the commission to investigate every facially-meritorious complaints it receives. Yet, as I showed Sullivan, the commission has promulgated a rule, 22 NYCRR §7000.3, giving itself complete discretion to do anything or nothing with complaints.

The third category of evidence are files of lawsuits brought by complainants whose facially meritorious complaints were dismissed by the Commission, without investigation. I discussed with Sullivan three such lawsuits—each evidencing the identical pattern, to wit, the commission had NO legitimate defense; corrupted the judicial process with litigation misconduct of its attorney, the state attorney general; and was rewarded by a series of FIVE fraudulent judicial decisions—without which it would not have survived.

The first fraudulent decision was in a 1995 lawsuit brought by CJA’s cofounder, Doris L. Sassower, to strike down §7000.3. A judge “protected” the commission by concocting an argument purporting to reconcile §7000.3 and Judiciary Law §44.1. In fact, his argument is an utter hoax, as Sullivan was able to swiftly recognize. The second fraudulent decision was in a 1999 lawsuit brought by attorney Michael Mantell, where a second judge “protected” the commission by concocting another argument, also completely bogus. The third fraudulent decision, in my 1999 lawsuit, is a “no brainer” as it rests, exclusively on the other two fraudulent decisions. From these, it was a small step for Sullivan to recognize that the appellate affirmances in Mantell’s lawsuit and my own are necessarily fraudulent. Indeed, from these affirmances—each only a few sentences long—Sullivan could also see that the appellate court had taken a dramatic step to further “protect” the commission: adding a single sentence, unsupported by any factual findings or discussion of any legal authority, that complainants whose complaints the commission dismisses lack “standing” to sue.

Sullivan has yet to “put flesh” on my important lawsuit against the commission, now headed to the Court of Appeals. Had she done so, Metroland readers would understand how explosive my six claims for relief are—and that it is for this reason that she could find no one in “leadership” positions to comment. Indeed, the judicial misconduct complaint, whose dismissal by the commission triggered my lawsuit is no ordinary complaint. It involves the believed perjury of now Court of Appeals Judge Albert Rosenblatt on his publicly inaccessible application for appointment to that court, our state’s highest. In 1998, the commission “sat” on the complaint while Gov. Pataki, who knew of it, appointed Rosenblatt. The commission then continued to “sit” on it as the Senate Judiciary Committee rammed through Rosenblatt’s confirmation by an unprecedented no-notice, by-invitation-only confirmation “hearing”—at which no opposition testimony was permitted. Only then did the commission dismiss the complaint—without investigation and without reasons. It is this resulting lawsuit that State Bar President Steven Krane, who clerked for Chief Judge Kaye at the Court of Appeals, pretends does not involve “matters of statewide significance.”

Sullivan must continue to search among “leaders”, in government and out, for comment on the important evidentiary issues my lawsuit presents. Their refusal to comment is itself a mighty story. Yet, she need not be stymied in verifying the file evidence that the commission is corrupt and has been “protected” by a corrupted judicial process. Among this state’s 137,994 lawyers are surely a few willing to volunteer to review the case file and provide their professional opinion. Some of these lawyers may themselves be Metroland readers. I invite them to come forward in answer to Sullivan’s unanswered question, “Who’s to Judge?

Elena Ruth Sassower
Coordinator, Center for Judicial Accountability
White Plains

To the Editor:

If judicial gadfly Ron Loeber’s take on the local judicial system is as flawed
as his understanding of English history, he is best ignored [“Who’s To Judge?,” Feb. 28].

Every single thing he said about King John and the Magna Carta is wrong. The Great Charter was not procured at swordpoint. John had an army, too, and it had been winning the war with the rebel barons. It did not provide for “the first oath of office.” Every English king, from William the Conqueror on, took an oath to respect established laws and liberties. John “called himself a king,” but so did most of his subjects; he was not a usurper, although he became unpopular.

The baronial grievances had nothing to do with royal absolutism or the “divine right of kings,” a notion which would have been unthinkable at the time. No English monarch was ever absolute, not even Henry VIII, who came a lot closer to it than the hapless King John. John acknowledged constitutional limitations and, for the most part, respected them, although he tried to push his prerogatives to the limit, and this was indeed one of the things the barons sought to check.

The Magna Carta (obviously Loeber has never read it) did not create a new judicial system. Nor had John modified the existing system in any way. In fact, he took great interest in it, and he was unusually learned in the law for an English king. England was not to have anything that might be called a new judicial system until the 19th century.

If you actually read the charter, you would find that it is almost entirely concerned with feudal privileges, which are today almost incomprehensible except to specialists. The charter is, in fact, reactionary. You will also find that almost none of its provisions do anything for the common people. Nobody cared about them. I am a little amused that only one of its provisions is still the law in England—something about what kind of nets fishermen can use on the Thames.

The Magna Carta is only important because 17th-century opponents of Stuart pretensions to absolutism deployed a mythologized version of it. It was this mythical charter that American revolutionaries invoked. So-called constitutionalists, so-called patriots, many libertarians, and some anarchists and leftists swear by the mythical charter (and also a mythical Constitution). Ron Loeber is one of these delusives. Fortunately, the cause of judicial reform does not depend on inaccurate and eccentric views of legal history, and if Loeber is trying to use them for that, he should desist because they can only discredit what is worthwhile in his crusade.

Bob Black
Albany

 

Erin Sullivan replies:

The theory that the Magna Carta was forcibly signed at swordpoint may not be historical fact; however the account that the dissatisfied barons of England threatened to skewer King John is a common one that has been cited in such early American publications as Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Papers (also known as The Federalist), No. 84.

Although the charter may seem of only minor significance in that its provisions are particular to feudal rights and dues, its importance lies in that it implied that royal subjects’ rights were protected by laws the king was bound to observe. In doing so, the Magna Carta was said to have protected individuals from arbitrary justice and excessive use of royal power (and yes, until the Glorious Revolution in 1688, it was commonly believed that the monarchy was a divine institution and many kings believed they were chosen by God). In essence, it stressed three main points: that the Church was free to make ecclesiastical appointments; that the king could not collect significantly large sums of money from his tenants without consulting the feudal barons; and finally, that no subjects could be punished outside of the constraints of the law of the land.

Although the Magna Carta certainly did not establish a “new judicial system” in England, it did make the following claims, which lay the groundwork for modern court systems:

“No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or [dispossessed] or outlawed or exiled or in any other way harmed. Nor will we [the king] proceed against him, or send others to do so, except according to the lawful sentence of his peers and according to the Common Law.

To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”

Of course, the original Magna Carta was drawn up in Latin; as a result, interpretations of the document vary.

More Than the Sum of Its Parking Lots

To the Editor:

Pork-rack chops and parking lots. I wish your restaurant reviewer B.A. Nilsson would open his eyes and stop salivating, even if it’s just for a minute. The best thing to happen to the village of Round Lake is not SUVs looking for parking spaces, $50 dinners or a restaurant where a person with disability can’t even use the bathroom [Food, Feb. 7].
I know Metroland is a progressive newspaper that cares about things like the environment, discrimination, community and quality-of-life issues which affect most people. The gadfly, we should say gadflies, also care about the same stuff. We care about community, the environment, we like safe streets, streets that are pedestrian and bike friendly. We don’t like pollution, discrimination and
corruption, which come in many forms and create dysfunctional communities. The best thing to happen in Round Lake is the new grandchild, the people, the families.

Peter Sheridan
Round Lake

Correction

In our review of Alien Ant Farm’s show at Northern Lights [Live, Feb. 28], the owner of a radio station that copromoted the show was misidentified. The Edge (WQBK/WQBJ, 103.5/103.9 FM) is owned by Regent Communications.

 

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