Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Flacks Report [25 December 2009]

A Digression---Election Workers Pay in Question---Contretemps in the Courts: App. Div. advs. Cardozo---Lebedeff Leaving?---New "Actings"---Betsey Ball Plans Nuptials---Tidbits: Senates & Santa
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A Digression

Here is a digression from historian, mentor, and gadfly extraordinaire Henry Jordan Stern:

" . . . The salaries of all the judges in New York State have been frozen through eleven years of mild inflation due to legislative caprice: the legislators won't give the judges a raise without getting one for themselves. When the backbenchers see their leaders game the system by making substantial sums outside their salaries, they are further motivated to clamber aboard the gravy train. Of course, good behavior and subservience to one’s seniors is the price of a ticket, but a ticket does not guarantee admission if the train is already sold out.

"This does NOT apply to all legislators. There are the good schnooks that live on their salaries, or receive unearned income (dividends and interest are both permitted). Many are truly honest, but they are not usually found in positions of power in the legislature. Some have never had the opportunity to enrich themselves . . . Others are money honest, but politically they are in the pockets of their contributors and their lobbyists. They are somewhat, but not substantially, better than thieves, because they too have sold their offices and abandoned the interests of their constituents for their own political advantage. . . . "

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Election Workers Pay in Question
Poll workers who worked Election Day in November want payday By Celeste Katz, Daily News City Hall Bureau
Monday, December 14th, 2009

What are they waiting for - Christmas?

The elections are long over, but the people who worked the polls in November have yet to be paid - and a dispute over whose fault it is goes on. Mayor Bloomberg's office says the city Board of Elections should go ahead and pay the workers, and the agency will be reimbursed next month. The board counters it doesn't have the millions needed to pay up.

"It's our hope and expectation that we will be able to make those payments" before Christmas, said Board President Frederic Umane. "[But] all we do is file those [requests]. The checks are not cut by the Board of Elections - they're cut by the controller's office." The more than 30,000 poll workers at the city's 1,350 poll sites are paid $200 for the day. Site coordinators get $300.

While the board said this year's runoff election added an extra financial burden, Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna says that's nothing unusual. Special elections and runoffs are not built into the board's budget, he said. If they're needed, the city simply pays for the cost of the workers after the fact.

In the meantime, LaVorgna said, the board has "more than $30 million in unobligated funds that they can use to cover costs. They said the runoff was an unexpected hit of $13.5 million. Thirty is more than 13.5." The city will fill the gap when the budget is modified in January, he said: "There's no reason to be scaring people into thinking they're not going to get paid for the good work they did."

Umane says if the board has $30 million at its disposal, that's news to him. There is some money available, he said, but it's earmarked for other purposes. The city hasn't "sent us a letter or any kind of confirmation that, 'Yes, it's not a problem,'" Umane said. "[We've] provided the paperwork to the city to fund the checks. Now, it's in their court." So ... the workers wait.

"I'm just hoping I get it before the end of my natural life span," said poll worker Richard Iritano of Queens. "The onus is not on us. We kept our end of the bargain and we shouldn't be kept waiting for anything," he said. "Many people are relying on that money because they are strapped. ... Now [the board is] crying poverty? That doesn't work."
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On Thursday, 17th inst., the Mayor's O.M.B. authorized the Board of Elections to take the money from the Board's rent account (which is to pay rent for their borough offices and warehouses) to pay the poll workers, and the Comptroller's office to cut the checks. [Of course it's D.C.A.S. which has to see that the agency's rents are paid.] --A.F.

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Contretemps in the Courts: the Appellate Division advs. Cardozo

There has been a contentious exchange of letters and viewpoints in the N.Y.L.J. this month between the City's Corporation Counsel, Michael--so not Benjamin--Cardozo, and most of the Justices of the Appellate Division's First Department (N.Y.C.L.A. also chimed in, but judges' assns. have remained silent).

Cardozo puts forth ten suggestions for court reform. Some of his suggestions are being or already have been implemented. With the increased work load on the courts because of a more litigious society, recession-caused litigation, and not enough judges, many considered his criticism of the judiciary as unfair. Cardozo finds the bench guilty of negligence in failing to perform their duties. In a word, he calls them lazy. Yet he does not find his own office negligent with their inordinate delays. In addition, Cardozo's diatribe is nothing more than a thinly disguised plea for the appointment of judges ("You let me name the panel, and I'll tell you whom they'll report out."). [Interestingly, Cardozo also criticizes the appointed N.Y. City Family Court judges.]

In answer to those ten "suggestions for court reform," eighteen of the twenty justices of the Appellate Division's First Dept. wrote a letter excepting to and taking issue with the Cardozo Manifesto. The two non-signers? Nelson Roman and Peter Tom. Justice Roman's secretary said that he had no comment and hung up. Roman's reluctance is understandable. Although there is no agency in marriage, his wife Carol Robles-Roman is the deputy mayor for legal affairs and has to support Bloomberg's Law Dept. head. Justice Tom did not return numerous telephone calls.

See the full article and letters in The New York Law Journal on December 7th, 17th, & 21st, 2009.

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Lebedeff Leaving?

Civil Court Judge and Acting Supreme Diane Lebedeff, now assigned to The Bronx, is planning to leave the bench around May of next year.

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New "Actings"

N.Y.C. Civil Court Judges Barbara Jaffe, Joan Kenney, Manuel Jacobo Mendez-Olivero, and George Silver have been appointed Acting Supreme Court Justices assigned to Manhattan. Also, Bronx Acting Supreme, Criminal Term, Analisa Torres has been re-assigned to Manhattan.

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Betsey Ball Plans Nuptials

Elizabeth Ann (Betsey) Ball, chief of staff to N.Y.State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, plans a Fourth of July wedding next year to Peter K. Cutler, the Buffalo, N.Y., mayor's p.r. spokesman. Betsey, formerly based in N.Y.C., ran Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell's campaigns, his district service office, and him.

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Tidbits: Senates & Santa

Interesting tidbits this holiday season: If you wish for improvement of the New York State Senate--all 62 senators claim the Senate presidency--you could go to R.H. Macy, take the lift to the 7th floor, climb onto the lap of the chubby man in a red suit and bushy white beard, and whisper into his ear. . . . It's almost impossible to reach our Federal Senators' New York City offices. Mensch Schumer's office telephone--when it answers--is staffed evidently by newly hired interns who are unfamiliar with current staff. Gillibrand's office answers the telephone perhaps because fewer people are calling. As of last month, her telephone number was still listed with 411 under the name of "Hillary Clinton"! And on the World Wide Web's Whitepages dot com, Hillary is listed with her old telephone number and address as the "owner" of the Senate.

On the afternoon of Christ's Mass day, yours truly decided to visit a number of Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches. None was as crowded as the 24-hr. Apple Mac Manhattan store on Fifth Avenue at 60th Str. (jam-packed with a waiting line to get in), except for Saint Patrick's Cathedral down the road at 51st Str. Incidentally, St. Patrick's had no security checks save for one man at a desk with a sign saying parcels and bags are subject to inspection. He was just there, inspecting nothing--not that he could have begun to check anything of the multitude present in the cathedral. (Yet on quiet weekdays they do. Your correspondent, who has dropped in on evenings to see a friend who works there, has had to undergo bag searches.)

The Rock. Center Xmas tree was gorgeous--and unapproachable, what with the crowd. Fifth Avenue had swanky stores at the building line and schmatah sellers curb-side. At the Bryant Park skating rink (free--paid for by cash-poor Citi Bank), there was an up-to three-hour wait. The Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia clubs were empty. Throughout these travels, but one uniformed police officer was espied, standing forlornly outside St. Pat's.

Have a restful Ramadan, a kare-free Kwanzaa, a chappy Channukah, a cool Yule, a splendid Solstice, a happy new Jar, and a roaring-good lunar new Year of the Tiger!

[Editorial assistance: Lauren St. Jude & the Baron of Yorkville.]

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Percy Sutton Dead at 89

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Please link to the A.P. dispatch at:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Flacks Report [2nd December, 2009]

Heitler Replaces Carey---Speculation on Nora---The Gelobters' 50th---Supremes' Caseload

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Heitler Replaces Carey

Supreme Court Justice Sherry Klein Heitler was named today to replace Joan Carey. Heitler, the daughter of the late Supreme Court Justice Alvin Klein, will be the new administrative judge of Supreme Court, Civil branch, First Judicial District (N.Y. County). Carey, a Court of Claims judge, who is retiring at year's end, has reached the mandatory retirement age. It has been reported that Justice Heitler will be stepping down from the Appellate Term.

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Speculation on Nora

There has been speculation as to why the N.Y. County D.A.'s office is seeking to restore two previously-dismissed lesser-included misdemeanor counts in its poorly-written indictment against Surrogate-elect Nora Anderson (as reported in the The Flacks Report [20 Nov. 09]).

Some people have said that the two now remaining counts, both felonies, would be hard to prove, and the D.A. doesn't believe he can convict on the felony charges. The restoral of the two lesser misdemeanor counts would give the D.A. an option to convict her of something, so that she won't "walk," or to plea-bargain, if he loses the top two counts.

Anderson has stated that she is not guilty and shall not plea-bargain. The Surrogate-elect is in the Court, but not yet on the Bench.

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The Gelobters' 50th

Long-time West Side activists Ludwig and Barbara Gelobter, joined by their children and grand-children, celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary this month.

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Supremes' Caseload

To the Editor of the New York Law Journal,

Your story on the Commission on Judicial Conduct investigating the timing of judicial decisions requires comment, not on the case of Judge James P. Gilpatric alone, but on the near impossibility of judges keeping up with the exploding volume of work in the courts.

At Supreme Court NY County (Civil Division), for example, the number of judges has decreased significantly due to retirements and movement to other courts, but have not been replaced. The work they leave behind must be reassigned to other judges, adding to the enormous number of cases already being carried. Today’s New York Law Journal also reports on the influx of foreclosure conferences that will “require the courts to hold ‘tens of thousands’ of additional pre-foreclosure settlement conferences... .” You quote a spokesperson for OCA as saying this will place “a greater strain” on the courts. These conferences are important, even essential, but as they intrude on other motions, we, the judges at whom the Commission peers, cannot also be settling cases, hearing arguments, deciding motions and presiding at trials that may be equally important – at least as statistics. Also, a large number of judges are assigned to the “special parts,” such as the Commercial Division, leaving mounting work for the generalists, and longer waits for attorneys and clients dealing with general civil litigation. Also, with one law clerk and one secretary, it is virtually impossible to keep up with the law firms, inundating us with more and more litigation. Every judge is swamped, surrounded by overwhelming piles of motions from floor to ceiling. Chambers don’t have the time-saving devices of law firms, for example, not even photocopiers; to make a copy of anything (and everything) requires someone to take a walk around the building.

The idea that motions must be read, argued, researched, written, decided within 60 days, no matter how dense, voluminous, detailed and complicated they may be is unrealistic and oppressive. To make judges the scapegoats for all the existing problems may justify the work and funding of the Commission, but will not solve the problems. By the way, judges across the street in the federal courts have far less work, far greater staffs, and a minimum of six months to decide motions. Of course, they also have lifetime appointments and legislative creation to monitor their hours and work product.

No matter what we do, we cannot reasonably be expected to keep up. Think Lucy Ricardo stuffing bon-bons on the assembly line in an effort to meet her quota and you’ll get the picture.

Emily Jane Goodman
, Justice, N.Y.S. Supreme Court

[Published Friday, 20th November, 2009.]