Monday, September 21, 2020

Judicial Watch Sues State of Illinois For Failing To Allow Public Access To Voter Roll Data


                                  Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch Sues State of Illinois for Refusing to Disclose Voter Roll Data in Violation of Federal Law

Judicial Watch Analysis Finds Dirty Voting Rolls in State
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a lawsuit against the state of Illinois, the Illinois State Board of Elections, and its director for failing to allow public access to its voter roll data in violation of the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
State officials refused to allow the non-profit Illinois Conservative Union and three lawfully registered Illinois voters to obtain a copy of the state’s voter registration list, despite their lawful request for those records under federal law. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on their behalf in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Illinois (Illinois Conservative Union et al v. Illinois et al. (No. 1:20-cv-05542)).
Federal law provides that states “shall make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters.” 
On July 24, 2019, the Illinois Conservative Union sent a public records request under this provision to the Illinois State Board of Elections, requesting information about the maintenance of voter rolls, including the most recent voter registration list for Illinois. The request noted that the records “would be used solely for purposes intended by federal law, namely, to ensure the accuracy and currency of the official list of eligible voters,” the complaint said.
The State Board of Elections denied the request, claiming that only political committees or governmental bodies may receive copies of records. The State Board did allow a few Illinois Conservative Union members to travel to Springfield, Illinois during working hours and afforded them the opportunity to review Illinois’ millions of voter records one at a time on a computer terminal, with no ability to sort or organize records. By this lawsuit the Illinois Conservative Union seeks meaningful access to the records it requested. 
As several federal courts have recognized, the public records provisions of the National Voter Registration Act were intended to enhance the ability of private groups to monitor whether states are removing ineligible voters from their voter rolls. In April, a federal court in Maryland noted that organizations “such as Judicial Watch” have “the resources and expertise that few individuals can marshal. By excluding these organizations from access to voter registration lists,” the purpose of the federal law is undermined. That court ordered Maryland to produce complete voter registration records requested by Judicial Watch. 
In Illinois, Judicial Watch’s research found that 14 out of 102 counties (14% of all counties) have more registered voters than citizens over 18, while Illinois as a whole has 660,000 inactive registrants.
“This lawsuit aims to open up Illinois voting records so private groups can tell whether they are dirty,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Illinois voters and citizens have a right to review election rolls under federal law and Illinois’ refusal to make them available suggests the state knows the rolls are a mess and won’t stand the light of the day.”
Judicial Watch is a national leader for cleaner elections.
Earlier this year, Judicial Watch sued Pennsylvania and North Carolina for failing to make reasonable efforts to remove ineligible voters from their rolls as required by federal law. The lawsuits allege that the two states have nearly 2 million extra names on voter registration rolls.
In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a voter-roll cleanup program that resulted from a Judicial Watch settlement of a federal lawsuit with Ohio. California settled a National Voter Registration Act lawsuit with Judicial Watch and last year began the process of removing up to 1.6 million inactive names from Los Angeles County’s voter rolls. Kentucky also began a cleanup of hundreds of thousands of old registrations last year after it entered into a consent decree to end another Judicial Watch lawsuit.
Judicial Watch’s 2019 study found 378 counties nationwide that had more voter registrations than citizens old enough to vote, i.e., counties where registration rates exceed 100%. These 378 counties combined had about 2.5 million registrations over the 100%-registered mark.
Judicial Watch Attorney Robert Popper is the director of Judicial Watch’s election integrity initiative. Judicial Watch is being assisted by attorney David J. Shestokas of Orland Park, Illinois.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Former Judge Andrew Napolitano Files Libel Suit Against Accuser


                                                         Andrew Napolitano

Fox News Analyst Andrew Napolitano Files Libel Lawsuit Against Sexual Assault Accuser

The lawsuit was filed by law firms Clare Locke and Cole Schotz.

Four days after he was hit with a decades-old sexual assault lawsuit, Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano fired back with a libel suit against his accuser.

Napolitano filed the libel suit in the District of New Jersey, and is seeking to transfer the sexual assault case from the Southern District of New York to the Garden State. Napolitano said his accuser, Charles Corbishley, made up the sexual assault story and is trying to extort him.

Napolitano is represented in the libel suit by boutique law firm Clare Locke. That firm convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reopen Sarah Palin’s libel suit against the New York Times last year. Napolitano has also retained Hackensack firm Cole Schotz.

Napolitano said in his suit that he never had any sexual contact or a private meeting with Corbishley. Napolitano, who was a Superior Court judge in Bergen County when the alleged assault took place in 1988, denied a claim that a now-deceased criminal defense lawyer set up an arrangement in which Corbishley received leniency in exchange for sex.

Corbishley claims he was facing criminal charges when his attorney, Robert Hollis, instructed him to go Napolitano’s home with a snow shovel. Corbishley followed the instructions and was greeted at the home by Napolitano, who instructed him to shovel the driveway. Later, the suit claimed, Napolitano came outside and sexually assaulted Corbishley, who was 20 years old at the time.

But Napolitano’s suit said he did not live in a house with a driveway and a backyard at that time, and instead lived on the 26th floor of a condominium in Hackensack.

“Even though he knew the accusations were demonstrably false, Defendant, both directly and through his attorneys, repeated his fabricated claims by publicizing the scandalous and false sexual assault allegations to numerous media outlets in an attempt to garner publicity for himself and his suit to coerce and oppress Former Judge Napolitano in furtherance of his extortionate scheme,” Napolitano’s suit claims.

Thomas Clare of Clare Locke said in an email, “Mr. Corbishley filed his lawsuit in the wrong venue. In addition to the defamation complaint we filed against Mr. Corbishley today in New Jersey, we also filed today a motion to transfer Mr. Corbishley’s improperly filed New York lawsuit to New Jersey. The courts will take up these threshold jurisdictional issues, and we look forward to vindicating Judge Napolitano in the proper venue.”

Jon Norinsberg, an attorney for Corbishley, called Napolitano’s suit “patently baseless and completely improper. There is already a pending lawsuit in the Southern District of New York dealing with the identical issues. The filing of a second lawsuit, in a different federal forum, violates the ‘first-filed’ rule and warrants complete dismissal.”

In addition, Norinsberg said Napolitano’s claims against Corbishley are “outrageous and completely false. We look forward to exposing the truth of what really happened between Judge Napolitano and Mr. Corbishley, and fully vindicating Mr. Corbishley’s rights in a court of law.”

Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano accused of sexually abusing man in 1980s who faced arson charge in his court

Saturday, September 12, 2020

US Department of Health and Human Services Stopped From Implementing Rule Removing Anti-Discrimination Provisions in ACA for LGBTQ+ Patients

 Department of Health and Human Services’ LGBTQ+ Discrimination Rule Blocked by Eastern District of New York

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

On August 17, 2020, the Eastern District of New York granted the Plaintiffs’ request for a stay and a preliminary injunction precluding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from implementing a recently issued final agency rule that would remove anti-discrimination provisions presently provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for LGBTQ+ patients. (Walker v. Azar, E.D.N.Y., No. 1:20-cv-02834, Order 08/17/20). The Human Rights Campaign challenged the HHS rule on behalf of two transgender women, who sought a nationwide injunction to prevent its implementation. U.S. District Judge Frederic Block granted the request for a stay and preliminary injunction the day before the rule was to go into effect.

Announced in June, HHS’s proposed final rule struck language from existing ACA regulations that afforded protection from discrimination to individuals on the basis of “sex stereotyping, or gender identity.” Those ACA regulations define sex stereotyping as “stereotypical notions of gender, including expectations of how an individual represents or communicates gender to others, such as behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice, mannerisms or body characteristics.” HHS’s proposed new final rule sought to impose a narrower definition of “on the basis of sex,” arguing the ACA did not provide discrimination protection for patients based on a medical provider’s “stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity.” If this new HHS rule were to go into effect, it would effectively remove gender identity and sex stereotyping from the ACA’s anti-discrimination protections, which themselves are grounded in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

In enjoining implementation of HHS’s new rule, the Walker Court noted that the rule ignored the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton Cty. Ga., 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), which was issued three days before HHS’s new final rule was to take effect. This omission was conspicuous because, in Bostock, the Supreme Court held that discrimination “on the basis of sex” encompasses biased treatment predicated on gender identity or sexual orientation. Although Bostock focused on the definition of “sex” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, both HHS and the Court acknowledged the applicability of this decision to Title IX given that “Title VII case law often informed Title IX case law with respect to the meaning of discrimination ‘on the basis of sex.’” The Walker Court thus concluded that HHS’s rule contravened Bostock insofar as it removed protections the Supreme Court expressly recognized.

In finding the Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim (a necessary element to entry of a preliminary injunction), the Walker Court expressly noted that the Supreme Court issued its Bostock decision three days before the proposed rule was set to take effect, but HHS chose not to revisit its new proposed rule in response to the decision. This led the Walker Court to hold Plaintiffs were likely to establish HHS’s decision was arbitrary and capricious in light of the agency’s failure to revisit its proposed Rule when Bostock was decided. Per the Walker Court, “[t]he timing might […] suggest to a cynic that the agency pushed ahead specifically to avoid having to address an adverse decision, [b]ut whether by design or bureaucratic inertia, the fact remains that HHS finalized the 2020 Rules without addressing the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock.”

Walker deals a clear blow to HHS’s effort to exclude gender identity from the protections afforded under the ACA.  It remains to be seen whether the HHS will accept the decision, seek to amend the rule to account expressly for Bostock, or appeal. In the meantime, the rule is on hold.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Aleksandr Pikus is Sentenced To 156 Months in Prison For Money-Laundering and Health Care Scheme

Aleksandr Pikus

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Monday, August 31, 2020

Head of New York Medical Clinics Sentenced to 156 Months in Prison for Multimillion-Dollar Money Laundering and Health Care Kickbacks Scheme

A Brooklyn man was sentenced to 156 months in prison today for his role in a vast multimillion-dollar health care kickback and money laundering conspiracy, the Department of Justice announced today.

Aleksandr Pikus, 45, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York. Judge Donnelly also ordered Pikus to pay $39.4 million in restitution and to forfeit $2,614,233. On Nov. 15, 2019, after a two-week trial, Pikus was convicted by a jury of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing the IRS.

“For nearly a decade, Aleksandr Pikus stole millions of dollars from the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs in a major healthcare kickback, money laundering and tax fraud scheme,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This significant sentence holds Pikus accountable for his leadership role in this scheme and reflects the Department’s commitment to protecting our valuable federal healthcare programs and their beneficiaries from this kind of fraud.”

“The defendant’s key role in an elaborate scheme to steal and conceal tens of millions of dollars from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, was staggering in scope and deserving of the significant punishment he received today,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme. “This office takes very seriously its obligation to protect government funds that provide vital medical coverage counted upon by individuals and families who qualify because of their low income, disability or advanced years.”

“Pikus was the kingpin running a massive money laundering and kickback health care fraud syndicate,” said Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Now, like others who plot to steal from government health programs, he is paying a heavy price for his crimes. Along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to root out individuals who steal vital taxpayer-provided health funds.”

“The defendant’s greed and desire for money drove him to perpetrate crimes against our healthcare system and prey upon the vulnerable in our society.,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Larsen. “Justice has been served and IRS-CI will continue to work alongside our counterparts to uncover these schemes to hold these criminals accountable for their actions.”

According to evidence presented at trial, Pikus and his co-conspirators perpetrated a scheme through a series of medical clinics in Brooklyn and Queens over the course of nearly a decade, which clinics employed doctors, physical and occupational therapists, and other medical professionals who were enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In return for illegal kickbacks, Pikus referred beneficiaries to these health care providers, who submitted claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Pikus and his co-conspirators then laundered a substantial portion of the proceeds of these claims through companies he controlled, including by cashing checks at several New York City check-cashing businesses. Pikus then failed to report that cash income to the IRS. Instead, Pikus used the cash to enrich himself and others and to pay kickbacks to patient recruiters, who, in turn, paid beneficiaries to receive treatment at the medical clinics. The evidence further established that Pikus and his co-conspirators used sham shell companies and fake invoices to conceal their illegal activities.

More than 25 other individuals have pleaded guilty to or been convicted of participating in the scheme, including physicians, physical and occupational therapists, ambulette drivers, and the owners of several of the shell companies used to launder the stolen money.

This case was investigated by the HHS-OIG and IRS-CI, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Assistant Chief A. Brendan Stewart and Trial Attorneys Sarah Wilson Rocha and Andrew Estes of the Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $19 billion. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.