Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stern Commission Wants to Debench Judge Who Wouldn't Let Police Run Her Courtroom

The Stern Commission is a part of the Office of Court Administration or OCA. I like to refer to them as the Office of Courtroom Atrocities. The OCA is supposed to make sure things run smoothly. They are mostly a bunch of bean counting, neverbeens, who couldn't find the front door of a courtroom, if they had a guide dog, a sherpe, and a map... make that a GPS device! OCA sets arbitrary rules and they try to thwart any attempt that can be made to individualize the courtroom experience of litigants. They would call that justice, I call it a denial of a fair day in court.

The Stern Commission is OCA's answer to the Gesatopo ( the secret police force used by the Nazi's in Germany in WWII) They answer only to the Court of Appeals. When a judge misbehaves, they "investigate", bring the charges, and try the case,in front of a hand picked group of lawyers and judges selected by??... The Office of Court Administration. Oh yeah did I mention that they do all of their work behind closed doors? And let's not forget that they can remove a judge who has been elected, not just the appointed ones.

Most Judges live in abject fear of the OCA and especially of the Stern Commission. Until now, that always seemed to me to be rather paranoid. After all the Stern Commission has never ever disciplined a judge for an error in judgement that was not of the self-interest or venal type. Nevertheless Judges tend to shutter at the thought of losing their Robes to a Stern Commission investigation.

I have never seen judge who was the subject of a defense attorney complaint ever EVER sanctioned, much less debenched. I am aware of instances where judges called defense counsel names, didn't show up for trial, said inappropriate things to and about defense attorneys in open court, and of course before juries, and even incarcerated people illegally. They never were removed from office. In fact just last week, the OCA and the Stern Commission only censured two judges who could not follow the law of contempt. These now disgraced jurists allowed their anger and frustration to spill over into their decision making. They incarcerated two people, illegally held them in jail because they were upset with them, and remembering that they are popularly elected these judges were only "censured."

That must have made those two guys that were illegally held feel better. That they could have their civil rights stripped from them for merely uttering a sigh in a courtroom then having the offending judge merely censured must engender a lot of confidence in New York and OCA's ability to punish the venal.

Let a judge do something that is at worst a mistake and at best a good use of her judicial authority, and let that negitively impact a police officer, well then the Union gets involved and Lord knows we can't let the NYC PBA get in a snit.
I handled a case a number of years ago where an off duty patrolman was drunk and armed in a bar. He shot a patron and then when police arrived they arrested the patron and 3 of his friends. At one point during the scene the cop dropped his weapon. My client picked it up and handed it to his friend (another off duty) and they also charged him with possession of a Weapon. The judge let the client out on Five Thousand Dollars bail. The PBA never forgave him and he has not won an election since. Forget the fact that the defendants were acquitted... but I digress.

In the case I am speaking of, a defendant showed up to court on the date of his schedualed court appearance. (This is what we want, defendants to show up to court.) A cop and prosecutor decided that since the defendant had to go to court they would lay in wait and arrest him on a trumped up charge and put him back into jail even though he was doing well on release.

The judge refused to allow it in her court. She felt that if the client came to court he should be allowed to go home. She had him escorted from the courthouse and the detective and the DA had to arrest him elsewhere. It seems the Judge didn't want to discourage people from keeping their court dates.

Right decision? Probably not. Even though it seems that the judge wanted to do something good, she really increased the chance that the defendant, or the police officer who had to arrest him, could get hurt. Surrenders are always the better way to go. Moreover this was a really weak case and the defendant was AQUITTED ANYWAY!!
Was it however a power grab by the court? Was the court being venal and petty? NO WAY. She ran her court the way she saw fit. What she did was not illegal (when done by a court for the rest of us it would be aiding an escape or obstruction of justice a misnomer but that's what they call it.) She had a countervailing concern. To wit: people will not come to court if they think they are going to be arrested. Moreover She was running her courtroom. She felt like she had made a promise that if the defendant showed up for court he could come there and be safe from police harrassment.

It is interesting to note that the Judge in this case is black and was a civil rights attorney she worked for the NAACP. I remember that during the 1960's Blacks in the south used to congregate on the lawns and steps of the federal courthouses to be protected from the harrassment of white police officers in the cities. I wonder if that thought had entered into the courts decision in this case.

It doesn't matter that the court here made, at worst an error of judgment. That sanctimonious unelected Stern Commission and it's appointed rubber stamp of a board said "to hell" with precedent. We want her out. She made the police and the DA's office unhappy. She made a mockery of Justice. She favored an accused over the lying accuser who just so happened to be a NYC Police Detective. Forget scolding her. We save that for the Judges that unfairly incarcerate innocent people because they had the temerity to utter a sigh in court. For running her courtroom and keeping her promise to the defendant, and for causing no harm at all (except for a little inconvienence which could have been avoided if the ADA had the brains to arrange a surrender with the guys attorney to begin with) We are going to thwart the will of the people who elected this judge and remove her. After all those voters don't know anything about the judges they vote for. We as the appointed henchmen of the All-knowing and Powerful OZ, we say who should stay and who should go.

The board that oversees the Stern Commission prosecutions should be ashamed of itself (except for the 2 members who dissented from the decision who should now be named chair and vice chair. It would figure that the author of the dissent was Richard Emory, one of NYC's great defense and civil rights attorneys and an all around decent human being). Someone remind me... If I ever become Governor remind me to defund the OCA and send a handwritten pink slip to Stern, Tembeckian and the rest of the boys in that band. It will give me a chance to remind them that when the people have spoken you better have a damn good reason to undo what the people have done.

That's what I think. If you have a different opinion leave a comment here or write to me at

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hey We're 106 Outta 206!

That's right folks out of over 200 blogs indexed by Technorati that are law related we rank as number 106 for authority. (the number other blogs cite you)which puts us almost right in the middle not bad for a year old project that is more hobby than anything else. I want to encourage any of your who do read this blog with any frequency to remember to rate the blog (look to your right... your other right----------------------------------------------------------> and hit the button to rate us. And thank you for your continued support.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Next time someone asks why it takes so long to execute a person, please hand them this blogpost!

This case was built on the strength of one "eyewitness" who turned out to be to frightened of the police to tell the truth. Not a shred of physical evidence tied Ruben Cantu to the murder for which he was put to death. The laws of evidence kept his codefendant who knew the true killers identity from telling the jury the truth. His defense team failed to look for the one witness who could have set things right while on appeal and worst of all the prosecutor who tried the case now admits that he was wrong to proceed on with a death penalty prosecution of an eighteen year old learning disabled child with only a one witness ID case. The chance for error is just to great.

On the day he was killed by the "great" state of Texas his mother stood outside the jail where they killed her baby. She held a lighted candle for him and wept. Then she said "He is resting now, he's free. He should have never been here in the first place."

The article details a case that is rife with police misconduct. No one will be prosecuted for that. There will probably be no trial for those that failed to live up to their duty to the public. No one will pay for the Murder of Ruben Cantu.

We, the American Public can pay this debt forward however. We can tell our representitives that the Death Penalty in America costs too much especially if it means that our states and nation will kill just one innocent citizen. We can tell them that even though it seems to some that Murderers have "too many rights" (a lie but most of us do not understand this)we want to make sure mistakes do not happen so we will agree that we will not kill anyone with death qualified juries. The jury will be made up of a cross section of our population and that may just include people who think it is morally wrong to kill anyone just as it will include people who do not think it is all that bad to kill the wrong person. We will require a modicum of physical evidence and not allow juries to even consider a death penalty where it is based on eye witness, snitch and confession alone. (The three biggest non-lawyer reasons for wrongful convictions are eyewitness ID which are so often bad for so many reasons it is a topic for another column, snitches who are basically paid for the testimony the prosecutor likes and confessions which are so often the result of really abusive police work.)

Maybe we should consider some other reforms such as better funded defense attorney's and investigators. How about full discovery with depositions well before trial. And why don't we legislate away the concept of harmless error in Death Penalty cases. If someone is going to die, an error is not harmless.

Of course we could actually make this even easier. We could acknowledge that our prisons are so state of the art that we have the ability to keep society safe from even the most henious prisoner, and we could do what most of the rest of the civilized world has already done. We could just do away with the death penalty. Government should just not be in the business of killing one of it's own citizens, or any other nation's either.

That is what I think, what do you think? Leave a comment here or go to and leave us a private message there.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Plain Talk About Legislative Priorities

I received this post from Angela Spenser President of ACE. It is a good piece about legislative priority, and political intestinal fortitude. I am sending a letter to this Ohio State Senate President thanking him for his leadership. I am re-printing here what I believe has appeared in Ohio Paper's today in full because I can add nothing to it. I will update this post when I find out the Author's name:

Harris was right to call CCV bluff on strip club bill
Nov 10, 2005 - Cincinnati Post
A stripper is a person, usually a woman, who sheds her clothes in a seductive manner for money -- She accepts tips, generally $1 bills, in a garter worn about her thigh.

A lap dance is an erotic gyration, wherein a stripper straddles a customer's lap and attempts to maintain balance and sex appeal. These dances typically start at $10 a song.

A lapdog is an Ohio legislator whose fear of appearing impious cows him into ignoring this state's fundamental problems and thoughtlessly adopting the agenda of a Cincinnati outfit called Citizens for Community Values.

CCV wants to put strip clubs out of business -- incrementally, if necessary, by regulating them to death. It wants to save the strippers and their patrons from an eternity in hell. The group has threatened to spend up to $50,000 to field candidates against lawmakers who don't fall in line.

CCV already owns the Ohio House. That dog is on a tight leash. In April, it voted 90-5 in favor of a bill that would regulate everything from business operating hours to permissible stripper clothing to the exact distance that must be maintained between patron and dancer.

Those 90 lapdogs swallowed whole CCV's argument that its strip joint agenda was about reducing crime and combating urban blight. By severely crimping the state's $160 million-a-year adult entertainment business, CCV argued, legislators would actually improve Ohio's economic landscape.

That specious argument carried weight in the Senate, which also appeared poised to stomp on the industry.

Then a funny thing happened: Senate President Bill Harris got mad. He put the strip joint legislation on indefinite hold.

Harris, an Ashland Republican, has respect among his party's right wing, including the religious element. He is a deeply principled man who hosts a weekly Bible class for fellow lawmakers. Anyone who even hints Bill Harris is controlled by the adult entertainment world is either a comedian or a liar.

But when CCV began to make threats against Harris and other senators, shadowing them at events, vowing to turn loose "prayer warriors" against those who didn't support the stripper legislation, Harris called their bluff.

It's nice to know an adult -- a praying adult -- is in charge of the Senate at a time when far too many of Ohio's elected officials suffer from a stunning lack of vision and a frightening inability to prioritize or lead.

Harris has simultaneously exposed the CCV as self-righteous, moralizing bullies, and -- we hope -- shown his colleagues how ridiculous it would be to bog themselves down in a big fight over something Ohio's local authorities have proven perfectly capable of regulating themselves.

The legislature has better things to do, like looking to the future of this deeply troubled state. If its members want to study strip club fashions and customs, they can do so when they're not on the taxpayers' clock.

I really wish more leaders showed the guts Senator Harris's has shown on this bill. I hope he makes them all think a little bit more before they cast the easy votes that do not make for good legislation. That's my opinion. If you want to air yours or want to make a different comment please leave it here or send it to me via our website at