Saturday, September 26, 2009

Senator John Sampson Holds A Second Hearing On the Corruption of the Departmental Discipline Committee

It was standing room only on September 24, 2009 at 250 Broadway, 19th Floor. The second hearing of the corruption in the New York State Unified Court System held under the direction of Senator John Sampson was a success, if you can say that about a hearing on the State Judicial System's destruction of people's lives and careers.

And there were tears, too.

But history was made, and there were enough people like me with blogs, videos, and recording equipment to preserve the essence of the day, which was that New York State has blotched up the judicial system real bad. Below is a statement sent to me from an attendee:

Public Committee on Attorney Conduct

Tel: 347-632-9775 email: Fax: 206-339-3784 Web:
Statement of John T. Whitely
Public Committee on Attorney Conduct

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement to your committee.

Public Committee on Attorney Conduct was formed in 2008 by concerned citizens and organizations for the purpose of replacing New York’s current attorney controlled grievance review system with one overseen and controlled by members of the public.

By way of background, although I hold a law degree from the University of Notre Dame, I have never practiced. Rather, as the chief executive officer of New York Stock Exchange registered and private companies, I have employed lawyers and law firms, and am fully familiar with the crisis situation presently confronting the New York State Bar as charge after charge of favoritism, cronyism and outright criminal conduct has been leveled against members of the grievance committees.

As your committee has heard at its previous session on attorney conduct, there exists clear evidence of corruption and abuse by the state’s disciplinary committees. Charges have included concealment of evidence, obstruction of justice, sexual assault by attorneys, concealment of pilfering of estates by attorneys, abuse of power, fraud, conspiracy and repeated violations of Constitutional rights.

Our purpose in submitting this statement is to place on the record certain facts and circumstances related to the experiences of attorneys, who unfortunately by their own choosing are not able to appear before you today. These particular attorneys – and there are many that fall into this category – are fearful that if they appear publicly to attack the bar establishment, they will be subjected to recrimination by the grievance committees, and precluded from ever seeking reinstatement, should that be their desire. Also, many of these attorneys do not wish to take part in a public proceeding where they would be forced to relive the circumstances of their unjust and illegal disbarment, which in each and every case stands as one of the most disturbing and humiliating experiences of their life.

Case histories of attorneys who have been victimized by the DDC typically reveal serious deprivation of fundamental Constitutional safeguards, as the Committee has often acted under directions from large law firms seeking to protect their own members or to damage competitors. In one situation, for example, an attorney threatening to bring action against a firm for defrauding a court immediately found himself the subject of an investigation and later disbarment by the DDC. Cases also involve the DDC engaging in intimidation and coercion by launching investigations of counsel brought in to defend lawyers charged with ethics violations. Still other situations routinely deny attorneys the right to confront – or even learn the identity of - law firms, who have secretly directed that the commencement of disciplinary proceedings.

In all of these situations, we find a grievance process that resembles the Star Chamber rather than the search for truth conducted consistent with Constitutional rights and protections. Today, without question, we find a DDC wielding total control over procedures and outcome, often violating its own rules and regulations by denying supposed safeguards designed to protect the rights of litigants. In some instances the DDC limits the rights of attorneys to defend themselves by failing to schedule depositions or, where the sessions are held, simply failing to properly record the testimony. In other cases, the committee has misused its estoppel rules by citing foreign state disciplinary rulings where none exist.

And where attorneys seek to challenge the DDC hierarchy for violating its rules and process, the staff can and often does simply ignore such communications. All this can be seen as evidence of the exercise of absolute power by a group of state employees, who have placed themselves above the law. Indeed, recent efforts to make limited changes at the DDC, including the substitution of committee counsel, are widely regarded as nothing more than attempts to rearrange the deckchairs on this ship that’s swiftly sinking into a sea of corruption, self dealing, gross negligence and incompetence.

Unfortunately, there are many cases, which can be cited recounting the very unfortunate and shocking facts related to the illegal actions taken against attorneys by state grievance committees that can accurately be described as criminal enterprises. Surely, if there was evidence that only one attorney, who was subjected to illegal and unethical conduct by the disciplinary committees, such injustice would not be tolerated. But, as you know from testimony that has been provided to your Committee to date, there are many such cases where attorneys- usually powerless, solo practitioners, and certainly never ever members of major New York law firms- have been victimized by a process established to protect, defend, and continually follow the commands of the powerful lawyers and firms that control the grievance committees.

It is time to end this fatally flawed system, which places attorneys in judgment of other attorneys. The very concept of peer review in this context is ludicrous, and would be truly laughable, were it not for the personal destruction, shattered careers and lives, foregone opportunities, and incalculable damages that have resulted from the system of fraud and corruption that has been substituted for justice.

We have been told that it is time for change. It is also time for questions. Why should attorneys, who have already established what we regard as an illegal and unconstitutional monopoly control over access to the court rooms, be allowed to police their own conduct? Why not place criminals in charge of overseeing criminals? Attorneys sitting in judgment of their brethren wind up reviewing the actions either of friends and associates or competitors. In all such situations, there is no way to avoid a direct or indirect conflicts of interest.

Yet, you have already heard supposed leaders of the bar claim that it would be impossible and unworkable to allow members of the public to control the attorney disciplinary process. Well, just as public outrage led to civilians finally overseeing police review boards, it is clearly time for the public to be placed in control of the attorney grievance process as well. The record being collected by your committee shows that the members of the bar have proven that they cannot properly – and legally- police themselves. It is time to end this travesty.

To this end and following the completion of its own review process, the Public Committee on Attorney Conduct will be submitting draft legislation for consideration by your Committee to terminate and replace the current disciplinary committee structure with citizen controlled bodies. We urge you to move forward with all deliberate speed to establish citizen control over all New York State attorney grievance committees.

Finally, PCAC also fully supports the pending requests to Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the epidemic of honest services fraud in the New York State court system, and the appointment of a Federal Monitor to oversee the speedy and lawful transition to the proposed citizen controlled attorney grievance system.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

New York, New York
September 24, 2009

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