Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Commission on Judicial Conduct slams judges for using their position to get out of traffic violations

Debate sparked by upstate case involving town justice accused of fixing ticket

A state panel is probing whether it’s out of order for judges to have special license plates that could get them off the hook if they speed or run red lights.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct says it has repeatedly slapped jurists for using their position on the bench to get out of traffic violations.

In a letter sent out this month, the commission asked whether judicial plates “distort the normal process of enforcing traffic laws” and put traffic cops who stop judges in an awkward position.
Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian said that the debate was sparked by an upstate case involving a town justice accused of fixing a ticket, but that the issue has come up in the past, usually outside the city. He said the panel is looking at the purpose of the plates, and whether they could put judges in danger when they’re not on the job.
If the plates are mainly used for courthouse parking, he said, placards or just a simple list of license numbers might make more sense.

But parking placards have caused problems, too. The commission has sent confidential warnings to city judges caught with official-business placards on the dashboard when they were nowhere near a courthouse.
“In the last six years we’ve probably sent five or six letters of this type,” Tembeckjian said.

He said that that after an initial warning, a judge caught using the placards improperly again faces public admonition.
“Most judges behave appropriately with these placards and don’t abuse them,” he said.

After getting input from court officials, judge groups, bar associations and civic organizations about whether judges-only plates pose ethical problems, the commission will issue a report and recommendations.

Tembeckjian said no one has yet weighed in on the commission’s call for comments, and several judges who represent judicial groups in the city did not return calls from the Daily News

One Brooklyn judge told The News he doesn’t have the plates because he doesn’t want to draw attention to his vehicle, and he estimated that half the colleagues in his courthouse drive incognito, too.
A Manhattan Supreme Court justice who asked not to be named said he was offended by the suggestion judges would use the license plates for personal gain. “I assure you that no one is using the plates to park in front of Bloomingdale’s,” he said. “We take this job very seriously.”

NYS Government and Judicial System Overrun With Corruption: Sheldon Silver, Vito Lopez, Naomi Rivera, Jonathan Lippman

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Assisted Vito Lopez In A Coverup By Giving Victims $103G Public Funds As Hush Money

Silver hit by ‘hu$h’ probe

Last Updated:3:26 AM, August 29, 2012
Posted:12:50 AM, August 29, 2012
NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
A state ethics committee created by Gov. Cuomo has launched a potentially damning probe into the six-figure Assembly payout to two of Vito Lopez’s alleged sex-harassment victims — a deal Speaker Sheldon Silver now admits he green-lighted, sources said yesterday.
With his role in the scandal facing intense scrutiny, Silver made a stunning mea culpa last night.
“I now believe it was the wrong one from the perspective of transparency,” he said in a statement, referring to the decision to keep the settlement under wraps.
“I take full responsibility in not insisting that all cases go to the ethics committee.”
He then laid out his mistakes in authorizing the $103,080 settlement:
“The Assembly (1) should not agree to a confidential settlement, (2) should insist that the basic factual allegations of any complaint be referred to the ethics committee for a full investigation and (3) should publicly announce the existence of any settlement, while protecting the identity of the victims,” Silver said.
The rare admission by one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers comes during the opening stages of an investigation by the independent Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which “will focus on the process’’ that led to the taxpayer-funded settlement, a source said.
Probers are interested in what led to the deal, who did the negotiating and how the final terms were hammered out, sources said.
Cuomo — who created JCOPE last year to police the state government — yesterday said investigators should probe Lopez’s alleged sexual misconduct.
“What’s really troubling here is a person coming forward and saying they were harassed by a public official,” he said. “If there were repeated instances of it, I think he should resign everything.”
Still, the governor defended the use of public funds to settle sex-harass cases.
“This would not be the first harassment case that the state settled . . . It’s the obligation of the state to settle the claims, if you can,’’ he said.
The costly deal involved two women, The New York Times reported.
The deal also was well-known to more state officials than previously thought, The Post has learned. A lawyer in Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office reviewed the settlement and made a recommendation on it, although neither the lawyer nor Schneiderman was involved in its approval, said a top aide to the AG. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office cut the check for it.
Lopez, 71, yesterday resigned as Brooklyn’s Democratic Party leader, but vowed to hold on to his Assembly seat, despite calls for his ouster.
He was censured and stripped of his position as head of the Assembly’s Housing Committee by Silver on Friday after the Assembly’s ethics panel charged that Lopez groped at least two young female staffers.
It was then revealed that two other women claimed he had sexually harassed them — but Assembly leaders quietly dealt with them by negotiating the settlement.
The president of the National Organization for Women of New York City, Sonia Ossorio, said Silver’s feet need to be held to the fire.
“This earlier complaint was never reported to the Assembly’s ethics committee,’’ she said.
“Sheldon Silver is now in the hot seat with Lopez, and he has a lot of explaining to do.”
A Silver spokesman previously said that the only time complaints aren’t investigated by the ethics committee is when victims insist that they not be “for reasons of personal privacy.’’
Gloria Allred, lawyer for at least one of the women in the settlement, said in a statement yesterday, “We have never requested or insisted that a legislative committee or other body not proceed with an investigation.”
Lopez denied the charges in a statement yesterday, saying, “I never sexually harassed any staff, and I hope and intend to prove in the coming months the political nature of these accusations.”
Kevin Mintzer, the lawyer for the two other women whose complaints led to Lopez’s censure, demanded that the Brooklyn kingmaker be immediately forced to give up his Assembly seat.
“The notion that Mr. Lopez will continue to be in a position to sexually harass other Assembly employees is intolerable,’’ Mintzer said.
Lopez, in resigning his local party post, said he did so because of an “onslaught of character attacks.’’
They have “put enormous emotional pressures on my family and close friends. I cannot sit by and allow that to continue,” said the pol, who has a longtime girlfriend.
But a Brooklyn party source said Lopez doesn’t want to give up his Assembly seat because he is still hoping to get rid of Lincoln Restler, a fellow district leader who could challenge Lopez’s protégé, City Councilman Steve Levin.
Former Assemblyman Frank Seddio is said to be a front-runner to replace Lopez as party leader.
Additional reporting by Sally Goldenberg, Rich Calder, Fredric U. Dicker, Dan Mangan, Kate Sheehan

From Betsy Combier :
We all remember Wayne Barrett's expose of the corruption inside our Unified Court System, right? Now President Obama has appointed Shelly Silver - oops, I mean Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman - to the Board of Directors of the State Justice Institute:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:
Jonathan Lippman – Member, Board of Directors of the State Justice Institute
The President also announced his intent to appoint the following individual to a key Administration post:
John F. Sopko – Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
President Obama said, “The extraordinary dedication these individuals bring to their new roles will greatly serve the American people. I am grateful they have agreed to serve in this Administration and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:
Judge Jonathan Lippman, Nominee for Member, Board of Directors of the State Justice Institute
Judge Jonathan Lippman is currently Chief Judge of the State of New York and Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, a position he has held since 2009. Judge Lippman has spent his entire legal career in the New York State court system, serving for 40 years in a variety of roles. He was Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, First Department from 2007 to 2009; an Associate Justice of the Appellate Term for the Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts from 2006 to 2007; a Justice of the Supreme Court, Ninth Judicial District from 2006 to 2009; and Chief Administrative Judge of all New York State Courts from 1996 to 2007. Judge Lippman is a member of the Board of Directors of the Conference of Chief Justices, former President of the Conference of State Court Administrators, and former Vice Chair of the Board of the National Center for State Courts. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, which the National Center for State Courts awarded to him in 2008. He holds a B.A. from New York University in Government and International Relations and a J.D. from the New York University School of Law.

Cuomo’s on the case

Last Updated:8:05 AM, August 29, 2012
Posted:10:27 PM, August 28, 2012
Gov. Cuomo yesterday took effective custody of the Sheldon Silver-Vito Lopez sexual-harassment scandal — urging his hand-tooled Joint Commission on Public Ethics to work its way to the bottom of Albany’s latest bubbling cesspool.
JCOPE was Cuomo’s idea, and six of the agency's 14 members — including Executive Director Ellen Biben — are Cuomo retainers of some standing.
Ellen Biben
As is Letizia Tagliaferro, named by Biben yesterday as JCOPE’s director of investigations and enforcement.
These are people of considerable talent, as well. They’re well-equipped to make quick work of the Silver-Lopez scandal — should they choose to do so.
And if they don’t — well, it’s on Cuomo.
Late yesterday, the governor publicly called on JCOPE to investigate the sexual-harassment allegations against Lopez.
Good for the governor.
But any investigation that doesn’t include a thorough public airing of just how the Assembly came to make a surreptitious $103,000, taxpayer-funded payment to make the Lopez claim go away will be no investigation at all.
Silver, of course, had to be right in the middle of it all; no payment of any sort would have been made without the Assembly speaker’s imprimatur.
So a serious probe by definition means that Cuomo and Silver are hell-bent for a major collision.
Fine by us.
Cuomo came to office promising “a new day in Albany” and a vow to “restore honor and integrity to government.”
Not that he’s in any way responsible for Lopez’s misdeeds, of course. Nor for those of Albany’s legion of legislative malfeasors.
Silver, on the other hand, has been an enabler of misconduct for years — going back at least to when he used tax dollars to bail one of his own key aides out of a sexual-misconduct mess.
Authorizing Lopez’s payout, in other words, was just another day at the office for the speaker.
And, in that respect, getting to the bottom of Silver’s behavior is — institutionally speaking — of far more importance than determining who Lopez groped and when he groped them.
Lopez, it appears, is just a pig.
Silver is one of the most powerful elected officials in Albany — not someone who should be rolling around in the muck with all the other oinkers.
Silver said yesterday that he believes the secret payout was “wrong . . . from the perspective of transparency.”
Said Cuomo: “I think JCOPE should do an investigation of the allegations that have been made and let’s have the facts.”
From his lips to Biben’s ear.
We don’t doubt that she’s listening.
From Betsy Combier:
You cant make this stuff up. Let's see how Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Governor Andrew Cuomo get out of this one. We, the public dont need any of these cheats, including Cuomo.

Eric Schneiderman

Silver Lopez New York's Joe Paterno Sandusky
Pay to Play Sexual Abuse Cover Up
Albany's Blue Wall of Silence: No Outrage By Members 

Lopez, as sketchy a pol as they come, now turns out to be a serial molester. And Silver has been an enabler — and, effectively, his paymaster.  Vito Lopez needs to go. Shelly Silver needs to come clean.  Now. . calls Vito Lopez a "serial molester" & NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon SIlver his "enabler"  * Daily News: Speaker Sheldon Silver’s handling of case against Vito Lopez needs full probe"A hushed up settlement with tax dollars is not in the public interest * Albany’s enforcement mechanisms — supposedly bolstered by Cuomo — broke down badly when it came to Lopez."  * Rumors of an Albany housecleaning have been greatly exaggerated * The Times urges Lopez to resign from the state assembly and demands the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics begin investigating the matter:   The Daily News calls for a full probe of the Lopez harassment incidents and the events that led the Assembly to settle one claim:  * Newsday praises state officials for getting serious about cleaning up Albany, but worries that pols will continue to violate the law or breach ethical standards: * The TU says it’s time for Lopez to go. *State Paid $103,000 to Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Vito Lopez(NY Mag) * Vito Lopez Sexual Harassment Claims Settled By Sheldon Silver's Authorization Of Secret Payment(Huff Post) *"this could be worse than the Michael Boxley affair"-- re: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's handling of Vito Lopez case.* Tax $ Settled Assembly Sex Claim: Report(NBC) * “Vito Lopez is a sexual predator who should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law with both criminal and civil charges against him,” Lincoln Restler said. “His corrupt reign has, fortunately, come to an end.” * Citizens Union would like JCOPE to take a look into the settlement with Lopez’s first sexual harassment allegation. *  Governor Cuomo agreed that the ethics panel needs to do something. * Cuomo Wants Facts In Lopez Investigation(YNN) * Gloria Allred, who represented at least one woman who settled with Lopez, said her firm has “never requested or insisted that a legislative committee or other body not proceed with an investigation.” * (Another Bragg piece): NYC Councilman Dan Halloran is campaigning for Congress on a shoestring budget, and was able to travel to Israel – in style – thanks to funding from a Brooklyn nonprofit, the World Committee. 

Bloomberg Doing His Best Sargent Schultz "I know Nothing"On Lopez
., asked whether  should resign, says "it's up to the albany legislature to investigate" ., asked whether  assembly payment was appropriate, said "I just don't know what laws are"* Bloomberg Declines to Opine on Vito Lopez’s Woes(NYO)

Silver Spokesman Victim Asked for Privacy  
A spokesman for Silver’s office said that the only situation where a complaint isn’t referred to the ethics committee is when a victim asks for privacy. (WNYC)

Gloria Allred Not True
A statement Tuesday from Gloria Allred, an attorney for the woman, said they have “never requested or instead that a legislative committee or other body not proceed with an investigation.”

The DN editorial board says: Spill the Vito Lopez secrets 

The New York Times called on Lopez to step down, while the New York Post and the Daily News put the heat on Shelly Silver instead.
Shelly buys silence(NYP) Was Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s lightning-fast crackdown last week on a powerful colleague charged with sexually harassing two female interns meant to divert attention from his own misuse of public money? * Last night, in response to a FOIL request, the amount was disclosed: $103,080, paid two months ago. * Assembly Paid $103,000 in Harassment Case(NYT)Sheldon Silver, the New York State Assembly speaker, authorized the secret payment to settle sexual harassment claims against Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, according to Assembly records.Assemblyman Vito Lopez denied charges he sexually harassed female staff members and has “no intention of resigning,” but records showed Speaker Shelly Silver approved a $103,080 payment to settle his claim. Lawmaker Denies Sexual Charges(WSJ) *Looks like Vito's grabby tendencies cost taxpayers $103k(NYDN) * copy of "Quick Pay Voucher" suggesting there was a $100K settlement for a prior Vito Lopez case. * The voucher said the money was used for "legal services." [Erik Kriss] * A Silver spokesman said alleged victims can request that sexual harassment cases not be referred to the Assembly's ethics committee. [Jon Campbell] Lots of Buzz about Lopez stepping down (NYO)
Gevalt. The Senate is a mess. The press should focus on this... RT  Queens Sen. Shirley Huntley indicted 
There is precedent for such action.
Back in 2003, Silver’s chief counsel, Michael Boxley, plea-bargained his way out of a rape charge leveled by a 22-year-old legislative intern — after which it came to light that two years earlier, another staffer had charged Boxley with sexually assaulting her.he.  The first victim subsequently sued — pocketing a $507,500 payment, plus legal fees, with all but $20,000 of the bill being borne by the taxpayers.

Deep Throat: Follow the Money
Daily News The $103,080 does not represent the full size of the settlement" 

NYT leaves out Naomi Rivera when writing about the latest Albany scandals.  Has never talked about  Naomi Rivera
The Bronx establishment is going all-out to save Naomi Rivera.* The Bronx Democratic County Leader Carl Heastie is "unwavering" in his support for Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, who is the subject of four ongoing investigations. [Sally Goldenberg]

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who's judging New Hampshire's judges?