Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Judge Armando Montano Demoted After Saying "No" To Bronx Democratic Party Chairman

 This is New York, the largest and most corrupt city in America..

Anyone who has had an issue with any State Agency or who is not politically connected or does not have the money to buy influence in the State Courts, can clearly see the corruption that festers in the hallowed halls of injustice here.

We are nevertheless appalled by the Democratic Party, which controls the Judges in New York City, in their arrogance of immunity in demoting Judge Armando Montano for not hiring the Party Chairman's former aide after Montano was elected. He challenged the Party machine, as he should have.

We must break free of the stranglehold that politics has in this city.

Betsy Combier,
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

A Judge Refused to Hire a Party Boss’s Aide. A Demotion Followed.

He said the Bronx Democratic chairman punished him for bucking the patronage system.

Three months after the Bronx Democratic Party announced its support for Judge Armando Montano in the 2017 election for State Supreme Court justice, the party’s chairman had a request: He wanted the newly elected judge to hire the chairman’s former aide as a confidential assistant.

Justice Montano interviewed the person, thought it over and declined. “Damn judge, really?” the party chairman, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, texted him after his decision. “I mentioned I had a recommendation in mind for the confidential role.”

Seven months later, after winning election, Justice Montano was abruptly reassigned in the Supreme Court, where he had presided over felonies, to a part handling domestic violence cases, a less desirable position.

He refused to accept the assignment, and the chief administrative judge, Lawrence K. Marks, stripped Justice Montano of his caseload, chambers and staff.

The former judge maintains the Office of Court Administration punished him at the behest of party leaders because he would not hire Mr. Crespo’s assistant. Court administration officials say it was a routine reassignment that had nothing to do with politics.

Judge Marks declined to be interviewed for this article.

Judgeships are one of the last bastions of machine party power, and Mr. Montano maintains his case highlights a system of patronage that has long existed in courthouses throughout the city, but is especially prevalent in the Bronx, where party leaders maintain a strong hold over the judiciary and district attorney’s office. The party leaders most recently handpicked the borough’s top prosecutor, Darcel D. Clark.

The Bronx Democratic Party has moved to clean up its act since the blatantly corrupt days of Stanley Friedman, the disgraced former party leader who was convicted of federal bribery charges in 1986. Still, it remains one of the most powerful political machines in the city; party bosses call the shots in low-interest races and expect favors — like jobs — in exchange for their support.

“Judgeships are bought,” said one political consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retribution. “The jobs that come out of that office go to the organization — they make the choice of who gets the jobs.”

Mr. Crespo, the party’s chairman, said Democratic leaders only recommend people for positions, and no one is penalized for not hiring the party’s picks.

“We make recommendations, of course,” Mr. Crespo said. “Sometimes they get hired, sometimes they don’t. The perception we hold people accountable is not true.”

At least three people connected to Mr. Crespo and the Bronx Democratic Party have been identified as current or former court employees, including Mr. Crespo’s wife, Virna Lisy Crespo.

Ms. Crespo said she applied for the job after learning about the opening when a friend, who is now a judge, suggested she apply. She said there was “no political push” and that her husband was not involved.

Ms. Crespo was hired as a secretary in 2016 by Supreme Court Justice Ruben Franco in the Bronx and was later transferred to the Supreme Civil Court before leaving the post in February last year, according to Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the Office of Court Administration. Mr. Crespo contends that his wife got the job on her own merits and not through a political connection.

That same judge also hired Ashley Curet, the staffer at the Bronx Democratic County Committee who Mr. Crespo later recommended that Mr. Montano hire. Ms. Curet served as a court secretary for eight months in 2017, according to Mr. Chalfen.

Then, in July last year, Administrative Judge Robert Torres in the Bronx Supreme Court’s criminal section hired Mr. Crespo’s former community liaison, Onelis Ramirez, for a position as principal secretary. Among the three women, Ms. Ramirez received the highest salary of $51,940.

That same month, Judge Torres, who was up for re-election in November and needed support from the party, played a pivotal roll in reassigning Mr. Montano. Through a spokesman, Judge Torres declined to comment on the decision.

Patronage in the New York City courts has a long history. Nearly two decades ago, Judge Margarita Lopez Torres of civil court in Brooklyn fell out of favor with the Democratic machine when she refused to make patronage hires. The party declined to back her re-election bid. She ran anyway and beat the party-backed candidates. But then party leaders blocked her efforts to be interviewed to become a Supreme Court justice.

Democratic Party leaders effectively control judgeships in New York City. Because they have a well-oiled machine for collecting signatures for nominating petitions, they can determine who gets on the ballot as delegates to “judicial conventions,” which select the party’s judicial candidates. Those candidates usually face little Republican opposition in the general election.

The convention method, which is unique to New York State, survived a challenge before the United States Supreme Court in 2008, though some justices were critical of the system. One noted: “The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.”

Dennis R. Hawkins, executive director of the Fund for Modern Courts, a watchdog group, called the state’s judicial election process “an undemocratic, closed system” that allows patronage to flourish.

“This whole convention thing enables this kind of thing to happen,” Mr. Hawkins said. “Do we really want that as part of the judiciary?”

One Bronx judge who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said that party leaders often make recommendations. The judge hired some and rejected others, the judge said.

They make suggestions — after all, they support you for election,” the judge said, noting there was no pressure to hire. “They have people who do election work for the party and make it possible to be elected. The incentive? Maybe there will be jobs in it for them.”

Mr. Chalfen denied that there was anything political about the decision to send Mr. Montano to the integrated domestic violence section, which deals with criminal, family and matrimonial matters.

 It was a routine reassignment to fill an operational need, he said. The domestic violence section, Mr. Chalfen said in a statement, is “extremely important and assignment to such a court is hardly a demotion.”

 Justice Montano was ultimately forced from the bench in July 2018. The administrative board of the courts, which consists of the presiding justices of the four appellate departments and the chief judge, decided not to extend his tenure because he had refused to accept the assignment to the domestic violence court, Mr. Chalfen said. Under state law, Justice Montano needed the board’s blessing to serve past the age of 70 under state law.

 The Office of Court Administration filed a complaint against Justice Montano with the Commission on Judicial Conduct after he refused to accept the new assignment, but the review was closed following his departure from the bench.

 Justice Montano had asked the commission to grant him a public hearing and had hoped to use it to expose a system he has said is overwhelmingly political and perhaps corrupt.

 “It is unethical and possibly criminal to allow the Democratic Party leader to use the courts as a patronage mill,” the former judge, 70, said during an interview at his lawyer’s Midtown office. “It’s something that should be addressed. If you play ball, go along to get along, you compromise your integrity and compromise the court system.”

 The former judge, the son of a longtime Bronx assemblyman, was a defense lawyer for 34 years before being elected as a civil court judge in 2013. In 2017, he was nominated at the Bronx Judicial Convention to the Supreme Court. There, he said, he helped cut down on a backlog of cases.

 “No one will give him the chance to show there is political corruption,” said Paul Gentile, the former judge’s lawyer. He said his client unfairly has the reputation now as an insubordinate judge. “It’s in every court. It adds up to the fact that we don’t have an independent judiciary.”
Jan Ransom is a reporter covering New York City. Before joining The Times in 2017, she covered law enforcement and crime for The Boston Globe. She is a native New Yorker. @Jan_Ransom

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Attorney Thomas Liotti Sues To End Political Party Cross-Endorsements of Judicial Candidates.

Attorney Thomas Liotti

We are not fans of Attorney Thomas Liotti, but his action against corruption in the courts is a step in the right direction.

As far as hiring him for your case, be ready to have newspapers telling your story, and don't expect answers to your telephone calls anytime soon.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Lawsuit filed against judicial cross-endorsements
By Celeste Hadrick,, Newsday, updated July 25, 2019
Celeste Hadrick covers government and politics in Nassau County.

Garden City attorney Thomas Liotti, who has represented high-profile clients and helped remove a Nassau County Court judge, is looking to put an end to political party cross-endorsements of judicial candidates.

Liotti on Thursday filed a federal voting rights lawsuit against the Nassau Republican, Democratic and Conservative parties as well as the county and state elections boards, alleging they “conspired and colluded together to deprive registered voters of a freedom of choice in voting rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments of the United States Constitution and the First Amendment’s freedom of association provisions.”

Liotti, who also serves as the Westbury Village justice, contends in the lawsuit that the parties’ cross endorsements “virtually guarantee” the election of candidates who have not previously served on the bench.

Liotti, who filed on his own behalf, cites the expected cross endorsement for Supreme Court this fall of Nassau Democratic elections Commissioner David Gugerty, also the Oyster Bay Democratic leader, and Christopher Ostuni, counsel for the Republican majority on the Nassau County Legislature and son-in-law of former Republican chairman Joseph Mondello, the U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. Neither Gugerty nor Ostuni have served as judges. Gugerty’s wife, Helene Gugerty, is a Nassau County Court judge.

Once elected, judges who were cross endorsed “are beholden to Party leaders and their committees; lobbyists, lawyers and litigants who have supported them,” Liotti wrote in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District. The cross endorsements also guarantee patronage employment of law secretaries, law clerks and other court personnel hired by the cross-endorsed judges, Liotti said.

Liotti asks the court to declare that cross-endorsement agreements are “illegal, unconstitutional and a violation of …. civil rights” and to issue a permanent injunction against cross-endorsements.

Liotti recently represented the estranged wife of former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato in a bitter child custody battle until Liotti was removed from the case by a judge who said Liotti hadn’t acted in the children's’ best interests. Liotti also represented former Nassau Legis. Roger Corbin, who was charged with tax evasion, and attempted unsuccessfully to enjoin Newsday and other media from using photos of Corbin in handcuffs. Liotti also filed complaints against former Nassau County Court Judge Marc Mogil, who was removed for improper judicial conduct.

Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, who is also the state Democratic chairman, said he hadn’t seen Liotti’s lawsuit, but said cross-endorsements “by all accounts, … comply with current law and it is fairly settled law.”

Michael Deery, spokesman for Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo, said, “The Nassau Republican Committee is committed to selecting the best qualified judicial candidates and the lawsuit is without merit.”

Nassau Conservative Party Chairman Dan Donovan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Attorney Thomas Liotti of Garden City, NY; lying loser
The state of Georgia presented Thomas Francis Liotti with a law license in 1977 after he graduated from the University of Delaware Law School.
The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found Tommy guilty of the following misconduct.
Thomas represented a client in an appeal of a criminal conviction rendered in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In his reply brief, Thomas rearranged a number of quotes in such a way as to misrepresent that the statements were sequential and went to show that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. In fact, they were separated and involved different subjects altogether.
In his opening brief, Thomas alleged that the trial judge “sat on” evidence that tended to call the credibility of the government’s informant into question. In truth, the court did not receive this evidence until after the trial was over.
Thomas also alleged in his opening brief that the government overestimated how long the trial would last (saying it would take about two weeks) in an attempt to defeat a motion for a change of venue. In actuality, it was Thomas himself that overestimated the trial lengthy by guessing two weeks, the government disagreed on the record and suggested it would last three or four days.
Making matters worse, Thomas initially argued before the trial judge that his client engaged in an internet conversation that proved his innocence. However, at a later date, Thomas admitted that he had fabricated the conversation because it never took place.
And lastly, Thomas alleged in his reply brief that two of the Secret Service agents responsible for the case against his client were subsequently discharged for misconduct. However, there was no evidence of the agents being terminated and when pressed to present some during oral argument , Tommy backed away from his manufactured assertion.
As a consequence of his misconduct, the enablers for Attorney Misfits sitting on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals punished Thomas by gifting him with a complimentary admonishment.
As we speak (ca. August 2013), Thomas practices with the Law Offices of Thomas F. Liotti at 600 Old Country Road in Garden City, New York, which is about 25 miles east of New York City.

Legal Malpractice and the Use of a Disbarred Attorney

Actually we’re a little shocked at the facts of this matrimonial action involving Thomas Liotti.  in Coccia v Liotti ;2010 NY Slip Op 00917 ; Decided on February 9, 2010 ; Appellate Division, Second Department  we see some very unusual language from the Appellate Division.  Beyond reinstating [or more correctly put, modifying] the legal malpractice claims, the AD basically granted summary judgment wiping out attorney fees by Liotti on the almost unheard of use of a disbarred attorney and misleading the client into thinking that the attorney was in good standing.
Rather than explain, here is the decisional language:

"The Supreme Court also erred by, in effect, upon renewal, vacating the determination in the order entered September 13, 2007, denying that branch of the initial cross motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the fourth cause of action to the extent that it was based upon a failure to render itemized bills, and in thereupon granting that branch of the initial cross motion. Although the court appropriately reasoned that noncompliance with 22 NYCRR 1400.2 does not require an attorney to return fees already paid to him or her for services properly rendered (see Mulcahy v Mulcahy, 285 AD2d 587, 588; Markard v Markard, 263 AD2d 470, 471), this cause of action sought the return of counsel fees already paid by the plaintiff not only on the ground that the defendant failed to render itemized bills in compliance with 22 NYCRR 1400.2 and 1400.3, but also on the ground that the defendant breached the retainer agreement by virtue of the manner, form, substance, and timeliness of his billing. Based on the contents of the defendant’s submissions on the initial cross motion, the defendant failed to make a prima facie showing that he complied with the provision in the retainer agreement related to the manner of billing. Thus, the court erred in awarding summary judgment to the defendant dismissing this cause of action to the extent that it was based upon a failure to render itemized bills.

The Supreme Court properly, in effect, upon renewal, vacated the determination in [*5]the order entered September 13, 2007, denying that branch of the initial cross motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the fifth cause of action to recover damages for fraudulent inducement, based upon the defendant’s alleged misrepresentation that he would prosecute an appeal from an order in the underlying malpractice action, and in thereupon granting that branch of the initial cross motion. "In an action to recover damages for fraud, the plaintiff must prove a misrepresentation or a material omission of fact which was false and known to be false by [the] defendant, made for the purpose of inducing the other party to rely upon it, justifiable reliance of the other party on the misrepresentation or material omission, and injury" (Lama Holding Co. v Smith Barney, 88 NY2d 413, 421). The plaintiff alleged that she was fraudulently induced into executing the retainer agreement by the defendant’s alleged promise that he would prosecute an appeal from an order in the underlying matrimonial action. She also asserted that she was informed during the course of the representation that the defendant’s firm would address the appeal, but that the defendant failed to prosecute the appeal. Since the plaintiff is, in essence, arguing that the defendant breached the retainer agreement, the Supreme Court appropriately awarded summary judgment to the defendant dismissing this cause of action. " [A] cause of action to recover damages for fraud will not arise when the only fraud alleged relates to a breach of contract’" (Biancone v Bossi, 24 AD3d 582, 583, quoting Rosen v Watermill Dev. Corp., 1 AD3d 424, 426). Further, a representation of opinion or a prediction of something which is hoped or expected to occur in the future does not sustain an action to recover damages for fraud (see Chase Invs. v Kent, 256 AD2d 298, 299).

However, the Supreme Court erred by, in effect, upon renewal, vacating the determination in the order entered September 13, 2007, denying that branch of the initial cross motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the sixth cause of action to recover damages for fraudulent inducement, based upon the defendant’s alleged misrepresentation that the person who would be substantially responsible for her case was an attorney. The plaintiff alleged that she later learned that such person was a disbarred attorney, prohibited from practicing law, and that the defendant fraudulently concealed this information. Contrary to the Supreme Court’s conclusion, we find that the defendant failed in his initial submissions to establish, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff did not justifiably rely upon his representation of this individual’s status as an attorney in good standing.

The Supreme Court erred in denying those branches of the plaintiff’s cross motion which were for summary judgment dismissing the first, second, and third counterclaims seeking to recover outstanding counsel fees. The Supreme Court, in denying these branches of the plaintiff’s cross motion, reasoned that questions of fact existed as to whether the defendant was justifiably discharged for cause, based upon his alleged failure to perfect and prosecute the appeal from the matrimonial order. However, as the plaintiff correctly points out, this was not the only basis upon which she sought summary judgment dismissing these counterclaims. The plaintiff also argued to the Supreme Court, inter alia, that these counterclaims should be dismissed since, had she known that a disbarred attorney was working on her case, she would have been justified in discharging the defendant for cause.

"[A] client has an absolute right, at any time, with or without cause, to terminate the attorney-client relationship by discharging the attorney" (Campagnola v Mulholland, Minion & Roe, 76 NY2d 38, 43; see Solomon v Bartley, 203 AD2d 449). Where the discharge is for cause, the attorney has no right to compensation, and may not assert a retaining lien on the client’s file (see Campagnola v Mulholland, Minion & Roe, 76 NY2d at 43; Orendick v Chiodo, 272 AD2d 901; Matter of Leopold, 244 AD2d 411). "Misconduct that occurs before an attorney’s discharge but is not discovered until after the discharge may serve as a basis for a fee forfeiture" (Orendick v Chiodo, 272 AD2d at 902). An attorney may be discharged for cause where he or she has engaged in misconduct, has failed to prosecute the client’s case diligently, or has otherwise improperly handled the client’s case or committed malpractice (see e.g. Costello v Kiaer, 278 AD2d 50; Hawkins v Lenox Hill Hosp., 138 AD2d 572).

In her cross motion, the plaintiff alleged that the disbarred attorney was closely involved in her case, and reassured her that he was working on her appeal from the matrimonial [*6]order. The plaintiff alleged that the disbarred attorney not only had contact with her, but also dealt with the husband’s attorney and with the attorney for the children who had been appointed by the court. She claimed that the defendant seemed unfamiliar with her case, consulted with the disbarred attorney, and sought advice from the disbarred attorney when it was necessary to appear in court. The time records which the plaintiff submitted on her cross motion indicated that the defendant intended to bill her for conferring or meeting with the disbarred attorney on several occasions, that the disbarred attorney drafted memos and notes and that, on one occasion, the disbarred attorney accompanied the defendant to court. The plaintiff alleged in her affidavit that, while in court, the disbarred attorney consulted with her and the defendant "on how to handle whatever was in front of the court at that time."

Based upon the plaintiff’s allegations, it appears that the disbarred attorney was engaged in the practice of law (see Matter of Rowe, 80 NY2d 336, 341-342, cert denied sub nom. Rowe v Joint Bar Assn. Grievance Comm. for Second & Eleventh Jud. Dists., 508 US 928 ["The practice of law involves the rendering of legal advice and opinions directed to particular clients"]). A disbarred attorney may not engage in the practice of law (see 22 NYCRR 691.10[e]), and an attorney may be guilty of professional misconduct where he intentionally aids a disbarred attorney to continue to practice law (see Matter of Raskin, 217 AD2d 187). Further, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant knew that this individual was disbarred, yet intentionally failed to reveal this information. Moreover, the orders related to this individual’s suspension and disbarment involve sustained charges of lying to clients and neglecting their cases. By entrusting the plaintiff’s case to this individual to the extent alleged by the plaintiff, the defendant failed diligently to handle her case. Thus, the plaintiff met her burden of establishing, as a matter of law, that she would have been justified in discharging the defendant for cause.

In response to these allegations, the defendant merely asserted that the disbarred attorney’s involvement in the plaintiff’s case had no bearing on the issue of counsel fees since the plaintiff received a "phenomenal result," and that the Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District "took no action with respect to [these allegations]." The defendant, however, never attempted to raise a triable issue of fact as to the level of this individual’s involvement in the plaintiff’s case, and never claimed that he was unaware of this person’s status as a disbarred attorney. Although, on this appeal, the defendant raises a number of allegations in this regard, including that the disbarred attorney was only minimally involved in the plaintiff’s case, these allegations are dehors the record. Accordingly, in response to the plaintiff’s prima facie showing with respect to the defendant’s lack of entitlement to retain counsel fees that she already paid, the defendant failed to raise a triable issue of fact.