New York’s Lawyers and Judges Behaving Badly, From New York Law Journal

https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2018/12/30/lawyers-judges-behaving-badly/
Tara-Lenich-Article-201612051956
Tara Lenich, admitted to forging judicial orders to run illegal wiretaps on a fellow prosecutor and a New York City Police Detective, sentenced to one year in prison in early 2018.

Edmund-Duffy
Edmund Duffy’s five-decade legal career, during which he rose to prominence as the former heard of the China practice at Skadden, officially ended 02/08/2018, when he was automatically disbarred after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography.

AP-Robert-Cicale-web
A Suffolk County District Court Judge was suspended from the bench after he was arrested and charged with burglary. He was caught with women’s underwear that he allegedly stole from a private residence.

Evan-Greebel-Article-201710202147
Evan Greebel, a former partner at Kaye Scholer and Katten Muchin Rosenman, was sent to prison for working with disgraced pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli to defraud investors.

ravelo-keila-Article-201810091948
Keila Ravelo was sentenced to five years for conspiring to defraud her former law firms and clients out of $7.8 Million, using bogus litigation vendors. Prosecutors said that the former Hunton & Williams and Willkie Farr & Gallagher partner used the money to fuel a lavish lifestyle.

Frank-Aquila-Article-201809281858
Prominent M&A partner Frank Aquila deleted his Twitter account after tellling White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders she should “Rot in Hell You Bitch” for defending Sen. Lindsey Graham amid the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

Aaron-Schlossberg-Article-201805171926
Manhattan attorney Aaron Schlossberg’s rant against employees speaking Spanish at a Mexican Restaurant provoked a firestorm on social media.

Anna-Lushchinskaya-Article-201812142118
Another viral video captured a second New York City lawyer who directed racially charged comments at bystanders.

Gavel-and-Book-Article-201710162142
“Egragious and outragesou” conduct by ex-Mintz Levin associate Anthony Jacob Zappin during his pro se legal war with his former wife, also an attorney, led to his disbarment.

Judicial-Robe-Article-201712011528
New York’s high court unanimously said that Civil Court Judge Terrence O’Connor’s “intemparate” and “inappropriate” behavior in the courtroom were bad enough, but his decision to not cooperate with an investigation into his actions also contributed to his removal from the bench.

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From Our Friends at Livinglies, Neil Garfield

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/95852/posts/2112751964

How to Use and Oppose Judicial Notice

One of the biggest bluffs used by claimants in foreclosure and eviction proceedings is the request for judicial notice. If unopposed, this results in myths being propagated as facts. Just because a document exists or has been uploaded to SEC.GOV or any other site doesn’t mean the source or the content is credible or reliable.
If I manage to record a deed purporting to transfer title that doesn’t mean that title is transferred nor that my ownership is to be presumed. The same is true if I upload the same fabricated deed to SEC.gov or any other site on the internet.
Judicial notice is erroneously applied as a vehicle for shifting the burden of proof. The basic rule of evidence is simple: the proponent of evidence must prove the truth, credibility and reliability of that evidence, even if it is admitted into evidence. Otherwise the evidence is admitted with zero weight.
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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.
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Most states essentially have the same statute in their laws of evidence, like this one from Florida:

90.202 Matters which may be judicially noticed.A court may take judicial notice of the following matters, to the extent that they are not embraced within s. 90.201:

(1) Special, local, and private acts and resolutions of the Congress of the United States and of the Florida Legislature.

(2) Decisional, constitutional, and public statutory law of every other state, territory, and jurisdiction of the United States.

(3) Contents of the Federal Register.

(4) Laws of foreign nations and of an organization of nations.

(5) Official actions of the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the United States and of any state, territory, or jurisdiction of the United States.

(6) Records of any court of this state or of any court of record of the United States or of any state, territory, or jurisdiction of the United States.

(7) Rules of court of any court of this state or of any court of record of the United States or of any other state, territory, or jurisdiction of the United States.

(8) Provisions of all municipal and county charters and charter amendments of this state, provided they are available in printed copies or as certified copies.

(9) Rules promulgated by governmental agencies of this state which are published in the Florida Administrative Code or in bound written copies.

(10) Duly enacted ordinances and resolutions of municipalities and counties located in Florida, provided such ordinances and resolutions are available in printed copies or as certified copies.

(11) Facts that are not subject to dispute because they are generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court. (e.s.)

(12) Facts that are not subject to dispute because they are capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned. (e.s.)

(13) Official seals of governmental agencies and departments of the United States and of any state, territory, or jurisdiction of the United States.

History.s. 1, ch. 76-237; s. 1, ch. 77-77; s. 1, ch. 77-174; ss. 3, 22, ch. 78-361; ss. 1, 2, ch. 78-379.

A quick review of this statute, essentially the same as all others, reveals that it is not intended to be used as proof of contested facts. The fact that a document obviously exists may not be subject to contest unless the objection is that the document was prepared expressly for trial and not as part of whatever transaction is being contested.

Courts often overstep by becoming the lawyer for the claimant in foreclosure or eviction. As an example of the court stepping into the shoes of the claimant, there is the issue of judicial notice. You should research this. Because judicial notice is intended to be used as follows:
  1. For judicial economy — i.e., acceptance of facts that are virtually incontrovertible and not requiring proof. VERSUS your objections to the content of those documents. The requirement of absolute credibility is essential for judicial notice. There is no prejudice to any party by requiring actual proof of the documents and its contents. Judicial economy does not trump the rules of evidence which are designed to ferret out the truth not to assume facts that are untrue or that could easily be untrue because they came from an interested party.
  2. For documents, the only application of the judicial notice doctrine is that the documents exist and are maintained on a completely trusted site and not that what is written on them is true.
  3. In the case of government documents prepared by government with no interest in making any claims or defending any claims but simply in the ordinary course of record keeping, the record is subject to judicial notice and the content is generally presumed to be true unless disproven by the the opposing party.
  4. Judicial notice is completely inappropriate where the documents were prepared by parties with an interest in the outcome of litigation and claims and are not inspected, reviewed or scrutinized as to accuracy.
  5. Verifying facial validity of a document is NOT the same as verifying the statements contained on the document.
  6. For documents the source must be an independent third party source with no interest in the outcome. So if a fabricated assignment of mortgage is recorded in the county records, then the the existence of the document may be judicially noticed without any presumptions of the veracity or sufficiency of the statements contained in the assignment.
  7. Failure to object to the introduction of the document MIGHT be grounds for admission of both the document and its contents. The ability of the opposing party to present evidence that the document had been fabricated and that the statements contained within it are untrue or misleading is not barred by failure to object.
  8. The fact that it is admitted in evidence does not mean that should be given great weight by the trial court. Any evidence submitted by a party who has a direct interest in the outcome of litigation is to be viewed skeptically and requiring corroborative proof.
  9. Judicial notice is NOT appropriate for the PSA or anything else if the request for notice directs the court’s attention to SEC.GOV. This is an effort at misdirection.
  10. SEC.GOV is merely a repository for uploading documents with no more official capacity than box.com or dropbox.com. The fact that a document is there is NOT an indication that the document is an official document. The SEC has not reviewed it or approved it in any way, manner shape or form.
  11. BEST Evidence: Only the original document produced in court would be sufficient evidence of the document’s existence and then only if it was complete and signed — which means that the mortgage loan schedule is attached as the original mortgage loan schedule attached the trust instrument, the prospectus and the servicing agreements when they were originally executed.
  12. It is a common ploy to upload documents to SEC.Gov and then request judicial notice. This is wrong.
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2015 AJC Article About Georgia’s Corrupt Judges. Nothing Has Changed, But They Aren’t Still Going After Judges

A 2015 article, in AJC about Georgia Judges:
http://www.myajc.com/news/local/justice-for-judges-you-have-the-right-remain-silent-your-honor/x4ICZOux5H5B5MVG6LCeaJ/

Justice for judges: You have the right to remain silent, your honor
atlanta-news …
Posted: 1:06 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, 2015


More than five dozen Georgia judges have stepped down from the bench in disgrace since the state’s judicial watchdog agency began aggressively policing ethical conduct eight years ago.

More lately, however, the jurists aren’t just leaving the court in disgrace. Some are leaving in handcuffs.

Earlier this month, former North Georgia magistrate Bryant Cochran was sentenced to five years in prison by a federal judge who said Cochran had destroyed the public’s faith in the judiciary. In June, a one-time influential chief judge from Brunswick was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury. And a specially appointed district attorney is now considering similar charges against a former DeKalb judge.

These criminal prosecutions were brought after the state Judicial Qualifications Commission launched investigations of the judges. Instead of being allowed to step down from the bench and return to a law practice, these judges are hiring criminal defense lawyers.

“I don’t remember seeing anything like this — so many judges facing criminal prosecution,” said Norman Fletcher, former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. “I do think it puts a black cloud over the judiciary.”

Cochran, a Murray County magistrate for eight years, was convicted of orchestrating a plot to plant drugs on a woman shortly after she publicly accused him of propositioning her in his chambers.
Related
Photos: Georgia judges booted from the bench
Photos: Georgia judges booted from the bench

When Angela Garmley, of Chatsworth, appeared before Cochran in April 2012 on a routine legal matter, Cochran said he’d grant her a favorable ruling in exchange for sex, prosecutors said.

Garmley previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Cochran told her he wanted a mistress he could trust and asked her to return to the courthouse the next day wearing a dress with no underwear.

Instead, Garmley went public. Days later, she was arrested after a traffic stop in which police claimed to have found a container of methamphetamine stuck to the bottom of her vehicle. The charges against her were soon dismissed, and a subsequent GBI and FBI investigation led to the case against Cochran.

All told, the magistrate was convicted of six counts, including one that he sexually assaulted a county employee over a six-year period.

“Cochran used the power of the bench to victimize a citizen seeking justice and to exploit his staff,” U.S. Attorney John Horn said. “There is no greater breakdown in the justice system than when the judge himself violates other citizens’ rights to simply advantage himself.”

‘I actually hoped that I would die’

Just weeks before Cochran was sentenced to prison, a Fulton grand jury indicted former Chief Judge Amanda Williams from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit on two felony counts. She is charged with giving a false statement to the Judicial Qualifications Commission and violating her oath of office.

In 2012, Williams resigned from the bench after being accused of running her courtroom under tyrannical rule and indefinitely locking up drug court offenders. One defendant, Lindsey Dills, was sentenced by Williams in 2008 to indefinite detention in solitary confinement with no outside contact

Dills, previously flagged as a suicide risk, slit her wrists after 61 days in detention.

She survived, saying later on the “This American Life” radio program, “I actually hoped that I would die. But at the point that I figured then, well if I die, great. If I don’t, at least someone will freakin’ hear me.”

The Fulton indictment alleges Williams made a false statement when she told the judicial watchdog agency she gave no direction to the sheriff’s office regarding Dills’ incarceration.

Williams’ lawyers declined to comment on the charges.

Investigation continues into DeKalb judge

Meanwhile, another state prosecutor is considering similar charges against former DeKalb Superior Court judge Cynthia Becker.

Becker stepped down in March after the commission launched an investigation into her handling of the high-profile corruption case against former Schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis.

Shortly before trial, Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction charge. Prosecutors agreed to recommend Lewis be sentenced to 12 months on probation if he provided truthful testimony against Pat Reid, the school district’s former chief operating officer, and Reid’s ex-husband, architect Tony Pope.

Reid and Pope were convicted, but Becker found that Lewis had not been truthful in his testimony. She declined to honor the probation deal, saying she intended to sentence Lewis to a year behind bars for his “abhorrent” behavior and for “the words I heard out of his mouth when he testified.”

Over the next few days, Lewis’ lawyer, Mike Brown, filed a flurry of motions. He asked Becker to reconsider her decision. He asked her to grant Lewis a bond so he could be out of jail until she presided over a hearing the following week.

Becker refused all such requests and said she’d take up the matter when she returned from a trip out of town to attend the Army-Navy game.

‘He never asked for bond’

Becker’s problems stem from her Sept. 8, 2014, appearance before the Judicial Qualifications Commission at the Marietta law office of commission member Robert Ingram.

Right off the bat, members asked Becker about her handling of Lewis’s case. Becker initially responded that she came prepared to talk about a complaint lodged by a woman who said Becker had been rude, not the Lewis case. Even so, she agreed to answer questions about what happened in the days after she sentenced Lewis to one year in prison.

It wasn’t long before Becker gave the commission incorrect information.

“He didn’t ask for bond,” Becker said at one point, referring to Lewis. “Not to me. He never asked for bond. … No one presented me a bond.”

Court records, however, show that Becker knew about Lewis’ request for bond. During an exchange of emails on Dec. 11, 2013, Becker told parties she would not consider the bond until she returned to town the following week.

In March, the judicial watchdog commission filed ethics charges against Becker, including an allegation that she made a false statement when she told the panel Lewis had not asked for a bond. If the commission finds against Becker, it could bar her from serving as a senior judge.

Because Becker made those statements in Marietta, the Cobb District Attorney’s Office has jurisdiction over the case. But Cobb DA Vic Reynolds recused himself, leading to the appointment of Parks White, the district attorney for the Northern Judicial Circuit.

If White obtains an indictment against Becker for making false statements about the bond, he will have to convince a jury she did so willfully and intentionally, not that she was mistaken because she had been caught off guard.

White declined to say what he plans to do.

Becker’s attorney, Brian Steel, said his client did nothing wrong. “She’s a wonderful person, an honorable judge and she committed no crime whatsoever,” he said.


Robes gallery

Over the past decade, dozens of Georgia judges have resigned from the bench. Most have been allowed to retire to spend more time with their families, resume a law practice or, in one case, successfully run for a seat in the state House of Representatives. Here are some of the judges who have had to step down from the bench in the face of ethics or criminal investigations:

Paschal English

Chief Judge Paschal English of the Griffin Judicial Circuit made a name for himself in 2002 as the beloved “Pappy,” one of the final four “Survivor: Marquesas” castaways on the CBS TV show. Eight years later, English abruptly resigned amid revelations he was having an affair with an assistant public defender who had cases before him. During an investigation, it was disclosed that a sheriff’s deputy had caught the two having sex in a parked car.

Johnnie Caldwell Jr.

Caldwell had served as the Griffin Judicial Circuit’s district attorney for 13 years when then-Gov. Zell Miller appointed him to the Superior Court. In 2010, Caldwell stepped down after accusations that he made rude, sexually suggestive comments to a female attorney. Two years later, Caldwell won the Republican primary and ran unopposed in the general election to win the District 131 seat in the state House.

Frank R. Cox

After serving 14 years as Cobb County’s chief magistrate, Cox resigned early this year citing undisclosed heath issues. At the time, Cox was under investigation concerning complaints about his judicial temperament and how he treated people in his courtroom. During a hearing last December, for example, Cox aggressively questioned an alleged victim of domestic abuse about her heritage and why she wasn’t married to a man with whom she had four children.

Kenneth Nix

Kenneth Nix served a decade in the state House before becoming a judge in Cobb County. In 2010, Nix was the chief judge of Cobb’s Superior Court when he abruptly announced his resignation. He admitted he had “flicked” the bottoms of a prosecutor and investigator after they sat in his lap posing for a photo. The two women countered with a public statement that it was a “sex crime,” not a playful touch. Nix died of pancreatic cancer in 2012.

Shirley Wise

The state Judicial Qualifications Commission referred its initial investigative findings about Wise, the Camden County probate judge, to the state attorney general’s office, which then appointed a district attorney to prosecute her. In 2012, Wise pleaded guilt to the theft of vital records fees and to a kickback scheme involving a county services contract. She was sentenced under the First Offender Act to seven years probation, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $5,500 in restitution. She also agreed not to seek or accept appointment to public office.

William F. Lee Jr.

Lee, of the Coweta Judicial Circuit, was one of Georgia’s longest-serving Superior Court judges when he stepped down in 2012. Lee, who served 37 years, said at the time he was leaving office on his own terms. But he was facing an ethics investigation for cutting a deal for a convicted sex offender without notifying the victim or the prosecution.

David Barrett

In 2012, David Barrett, then chief judge of the Enotah Judicial Circuit, made national news when he pulled out a handgun in his courtroom. He had pretended to offer his pistol to an uncooperative witness, saying if she wanted to kill her lawyer she could use his gun. Barrett may have been making a rhetorical point, but he soon resigned in the face of an investigation.

Jack Camp

In October 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Jack Camp was arrested in an undercover sting when he showed up, armed with two handguns, with an exotic dancer to buy drugs. He had been paying her for sex and together they began using marijuana, cocaine and a synthetic form of heroin. Camp, appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1987, pleaded guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to 30 days in prison. Before he was sentenced, Camp revealed that he had long suffered from a misdiagnosed bipolar disorder and brain damage from a bicycling accident more than a decade earlier.

Douglas Pullen

Douglas Pullen was the district attorney in Columbus before being appointed in 1995 to the Superior Court for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. In 2011, Pullen stepped down and agreed never to seek judicial office again shortly after a special prosecutor began investigating allegations that a Chattahoochee circuit judge tipped off targets of an undercover FBI operation. Pullen later changed his mind and tried to revoke his agreement with the Judicial Qualifications Commission not to seek judicial office again, but in February the state Supreme Court rejected Pullen’s bid to do so.

Every day it seems, I read something about Judges in this Country, or someone contacts me about them, or I experience them first hand, or perhaps, one of the attorneys that I have worked with feels their wrath.

The judges hate pro se litigants.  The judges hate foreclosure defense lawsuits.  The judges hate almost everything and/or everyone, except their fellow judges, or people they knew while they were attorneys, or maybe their own families.  It has come to the point, that I told someone the other day, we need to get rid of all govt., and all judges, and start anew.

I’m serious.  Most people don’t encounter the crimes that the judges are committing.  Or so I thought.  I have read some things lately, where more and more people are noticing that unless you are a bank, an attorney on the judge’s good side, or a multi-billion dollar corporation, there is no justice for you in the US.

Read on, and see some of what I am talking about.  I have added in parts of articles supporting what I am claiming.  There will be links to the articles, so that you can see for yourself, where the information came from:

From:

Margaret Besen, 51, says that she was unfairly ruled against on multiple occasions by the judge in her divorce case.

Corrupt justice: what happens when judges’ bias taints a case?

Divorced mother Margaret Besen tells her five-year struggle to get justice, just one story in the hundreds of judicial transgressions across the US revealed in a Guardian and Contently Foundation for Investigative Reporting collaboration

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/18/judge-bias-corrupts-court-cases

Judge William Kent’s preliminary ruling seemed like a first step toward compromise. Margaret and Stuart Besen, who agreed their marriage was beyond repair, would remain in their suburban Suffolk County house, living in separate rooms – and keeping away from each other – while sharing custody until a resolution could be reached.

But within weeks, the situation deteriorated. Stuart Besen, a politically connected attorney for the town of Huntington, had an anger problem, Margaret told authorities. The couple’s screaming matches left Margaret feeling intimidated and their children – a daughter, 11, and son, 7 – terrified, she said. So in August of that year she obtained an order of protection prohibiting Stuart from harassing her. Three weeks later, Stuart entered Margaret’s bedroom and hovered over her as she slept, she told police. They arrested him for violating the order, reporting that Stuart had stared down at Margaret with his arms folded on three consecutive nights. She got temporary possession of the family home.

In the years that followed, Besen’s hopes for an equitable settlement dwindled as she battled a series of harsh and hard-to-explain decisions against her. Though she could never prove anything, she suspected that the scales had tipped for reasons unrelated to the evidence in her case. If true, Besen faced what experts say is one of the most troubling threats to our nation’s system of justice: judges, who, through incompetence, bias or outright corruption, prevent the wronged from getting a fair hearing in our courts.

“The decorum and bias and the perfectly unethical behavior of the judges is really rampant,” said Amanda Lundergan, a defense attorney in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, who confronted a nest of judicial conflicts in her state’s rapid-fire foreclosure rulings – dubbed the “rocket-docket” – following the housing market collapse. “It’s judicial bullying.”

Judges in local, state and federal courts across the country routinely hide their connections to litigants and their lawyers. These links can be social – they may have been law school classmates or share common friends – political, financial or ideological. In some instances the two may have mutual investment interests. They might be in-laws. Occasionally they are literally in bed together. While it’s unavoidable that such relationships will occur, when they do create a perception of bias, a judge is duty-bound to at the very least disclose that information, and if it is creates an actual bias, allow a different judge to take over.

All too often, however, the conflicted jurist says nothing and proceeds to rule in favor of the connected party, while the loser goes off without realizing an undisclosed bias doomed her case.

Hundreds of judicial transgressions have been uncovered during the last decade, with results that cost the defeated litigants their home, business, custody, health or freedom.

But court critics say that one reason judicial violations are common is because they frequently go unpunished. When litigants ask a judge to back away because of a conflict, they risk being told no, then face possible retaliation, so many don’t bother. If a litigant or an attorney files a complaint with an oversight body, there’s only about a 10% chance that state court authorities will properly investigate the allegation, according to a Contently.org analysis of data from 12 states.

Judges state-by-state
Photograph: Contently.org

The analysis shows that a dozen of these commissions collectively dismissed out of hand 90% of the complaints filed during the last five years, tossing 33,613 of 37,216 grievances without conducting any substantive inquiry. When they did take a look – 3,693 times between 2010 and 2014 – investigators found wrongdoing almost half the time, issuing disciplinary actions in 1,751 cases, about 47%.

The actions taken ranged from a letter of warning to censure, a formal sanction that indicates a judge is guilty of misconduct but does not merit suspension or removal.

Actually removing a judge was a rarity. Just 19 jurists in 12 states were ordered off the bench for malfeasance, which is about three per decade for each state. And even that result is becoming less common, with only one removal in 2014 and three in 2013 among all 12 states.

The states examined – California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, Georgia and South Carolina – were chosen because they comprise a representative sample from different populations and areas of the country and because they had matching data for the years 2010 through 2014.

Judicial discipline at the federal level is almost non-existent. A Contently.org examination of the most recent five years of complaint data shows that 5,228 grievances were lodged against federal jurists between 2010 and 2014, including 2,561 that specifically alleged bias or conflict of interest. But only three judges were disciplined during those years and each got the mildest rebuke on the books: censure or reprimand. None was suspended or removed.

Margaret won a court order of protection barring Stuart from contact with her children for a year. But when Kent issued his final decree less than six weeks later, he awarded Stuart full custody, while Margaret was allowed only supervised visits. And he ordered Margaret to pay back half the cost of her nursing degree and to sell her diamond engagement ring and split the proceeds with Stuart. The judge also reversed the support arrangements. While Stuart would pay $1,500 a month in maintenance to Margaret, she now owed Stuart $153.90 a week for the children, even though she was earning about $13,000 a year as a part-time aide in an assisted-living facility.

Margaret began to look into her husband’s dealings and discovered, through searching public records, that he and judge Kent had possible connections. In 2010, Stuart was appointed as the Suffolk County representative on a statewide commission for vetting local judicial candidates. That same year, an organization based at Stuart Besen’s Garden City law office, the Long Island Coalition for Responsible Government, donated $7,500 to candidate Richard Ambro, who got elected and became one of Kent’s fellow Supreme Court judges in Suffolk’s 10th district. In his role as Huntington’s town lawyer, Besen argued cases before these very judges. He’d entered a circle of judicial insiders.

“I’m in the middle of a large group of people who’ve got money and influence and who are all connected,” said Margaret Besen. “I’m not being afforded an opportunity to get a fair shake.”

Margaret Besen stands in front of the former Besen family home, now unoccupied in Commack, Long Island.

Above:  Margaret Besen stands in front of the former Besen family home, now unoccupied in Commack, Long Island. Photograph: Alan Chin

Margaret had no way of knowing whether the connections she uncovered played any role in how Kent ruled in her case. But her concern deepened when she made an additional discovery about her house. Kent had ordered the Besen home, the most valuable marital asset, to be sold and the proceeds divided, putting Margaret in line to receive possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then she found an online listing offering the property for sale – with the judge’s wife, Patricia Kent, as broker. The home, which was listed for $749,999 with Patricia Kent’s photo and contact information on Realty Connect USA, is currently more than $15,000 in arrears on its property taxes and no longer appears to be actively offered. Margaret was evicted from the house in 2013 and lives in a modest apartment a few miles away. She has yet to receive a penny for her interest in the property.

Scott L Cummings, a professor of legal ethics at UCLA law school, said the case raised “significant ethical red flags”, because of the judge’s wife’s alleged involvement in offering the Besen family home for sale. “Not knowing the details of how his spouse might have been assigned as broker, the idea that a judge might benefit financially from the sale of a property in dispute in a pending matter seems to raise a serious question of impartiality.”

Ronald Rotunda, a professor at Chapman University law school in Orange, California, said: “What judge Kent did here seems odd. The husband makes over a half million a year, she makes $13,000 a year, and the judge orders her to pay child support (which is tax free to him and not deductible for her).”

But a culture of judicial impunity extends far beyond Long Island’s county courts. Indeed, even the US supreme court has been tarnished on this issue.

Justice Steven Breyer owned $215,000 in health-care stocks when deciding on the legality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012. Justice Samuel Alito’s portfolio included $2,000 in stock in The Walt Disney Co. in 2008, the year the court heard Disney, FCC v. Fox Television Stations. And perhaps most famously, justice Antonin Scalia has participated in the Bush v. Gore case, even though his son Eugene’s law firm represented one of the parties. In another case, Scalia remained in the panel despite having gone on a duck hunting trip with former Vice-President Dick Cheney while he was being sued to reveal the details of secret meetings he held with oil company executives in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The online vitriol directed at unscrupulous judges, which began in the mid- 2000s, has built to a howling digital crescendo. Websites including The Robe Probe, The Judiciary Report and The Robing Room, which rate judges the way Yelp rates restaurants, are rife with railing as embittered, mostly anonymous plaintiffs rip into judicial decisions they feel were biased or corrupt.

In an appeal of a case in West Virginia court, A.T. Massey Coal Co. CEO Don Blankenship spent $3m to elect Brent Benjamin, who ultimately provided the swing vote that overturned a $50m judgment against his company. Benjamin rebuffed repeated demands that the newly elected justice recuse himself because of his obvious conflict.

The US Supreme Court ruled that Benjamin’s bias was so extreme that his failure to step aside violated Caperton’s right to due process under the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. The case, which spawned Grisham’s 2008 best-seller, “The Appeal,” underscored the kind of underhanded dealing that has stained the judiciary.

A further nudge for reform came last year when the Center for Public Integrity published a report on financial conflicts of interest. Among its findings: on 26 occasions in the preceding three years, federal appellate judges ruled on cases involving companies in which they owned stock or where they had a financial tie to an attorney appearing before them.

A further nudge for reform came last year when the Center for Public Integrity published a report on financial conflicts of interest. Among its findings: on 26 occasions in the preceding three years, federal appellate judges ruled on cases involving companies in which they owned stock or where they had a financial tie to an attorney appearing before them.

It also created a grading system to gauge how diligent each state was in collecting personal financial information from its judges, including stock ownership and outside sources of income, and how accessible that data was to the public. The center said that 42 states, plus the District of Columbia, failed its test. Six others earned a D grade, while two – California and Maryland – got Cs. California’s score, 77, the highest of any state, was seven points below the federal government’s grade of 84.

The report highlighted the type of conflict that can be most readily identified and that doing so requires full disclosure from the judges. Stock ownership, even if minimal, should automatically disqualify a judge from hearing a case, many experts believe. “If a judge owns a single share in a company involved in a case, he should recuse himself instantly,” says Rotunda, a leading law scholar.

It’s been more than two years since Margaret Besen has seen her children, who are now 12 and 16. There’s no money to pay the court supervisor, so they can’t visit. Nor does Besen have the funds to continue fighting. Kent retired shortly after making his decision.

“The hardest thing in my life is that I can’t be with my children and I can’t have an impact on my children’s upbringing,” Besen said over coffee at a Long Island diner. “A lot of people do not have any idea how the judicial system works or doesn’t work until you’re in it. We think we’re in a democratic society. We think we’re run by rules. But they are not being upheld by the court at all.”

This story was produced in collaboration with The Contently Foundation for Investigative Reporting.

 

In recent years, America’s corporations have created a private system for handling disputes that benefits them greatly while denying consumers their day in court.

Worse, according to a recent series in The Times, that system has become vast and more entrenched as companies increasingly require customers, employees, investors, patients and other consumers to agree in advance to arbitrate any disputes that arise in their dealings with a company, rather than sue in a court of law.

Such forced-arbitration clauses, found in the fine print of contracts, also typically bar aggrieved parties from pressing their claims as a group in a class action, often the only practical way for individuals to challenge corporations. In addition, corporations effectively control the arbitration process, including the selection of the arbitrator and the rules of evidence, a stacked deck if ever there was one.

As if that is not troubling enough, it is extremely difficult to avoid or get out of forced-arbitration clauses and class-action bans, particularly since they were upheld by two misguided Supreme Court decisions in 2011 and in 2013.

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Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, center, with colleagues at a hearing in Denver last week.CreditBrennan Linsley/Associated Press

From 2010 to 2014, corporations prevailed in four out of five cases where they asked federal judges to dismiss class-action lawsuits and compel arbitration, according to The Times’s articles. People who were blocked from going to court as a group usually dropped their claims entirely, in part because class actions are often the only affordable way to file lawsuits. If successful, they can deter future corporate wrongdoing because even small payouts, multiplied over all similarly mistreated customers, can be very large.

Indeed, faced with arbitration, it appears that most people do not pursue remedies to their grievances at all. Verizon, with more than 125 million subscribers, faced 65 consumer arbitrations between 2010 and 2014, The Times’s report found. Sprint, with more than 57 million subscribers, faced six. Time Warner Cable, with 15 million subscribers, faced seven.

Even more disturbing, the shift away from the civil justice system has gone beyond disputes about money. Nursing homes, obstetrics practices and private schools increasingly use forced-arbitration clauses to shield themselves from being taken to court over alleged discrimination, elder abuse, fraud, hate crimes, medical malpractice and wrongful death.

For the most part, Congress has looked the other way. Federal regulators, however, are starting to fight back. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is expected to propose a rule soon to forbid arbitration clauses that ban class actions in cases involving financial services and products. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is expected to issue updated nursing home regulations next year, is considering a ban on forced arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts.

Reversing the broader trend of forced arbitration, however, will require public outcry loud and long enough to stir the White House and Congress to action. Many people interviewed in The Times’s series did not realize that their right to sue had been lost until they needed it. A common refrain was the disbelief that this could happen in America. But it is happening, and it needs to stop.

 

North Georgia newspaper publisher jailed over open records request

North Georgia newspaper publisher jailed over open records request

July 1st, 2016 by Associated Press in Local Regional News Read Time: 4 mins.

A North Georgia newspaper publisher was indicted on a felony charge and jailed overnight last week – for filing an open-records request.

Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, along with his attorney Russell Stookey, were arrested on Friday and charged with attempted identity fraud and identity fraud. Thomason was also accused of making a false statement in his records request.

Thomason’s relentless pursuit of public records relating to the local Superior Court has incensed the court’s chief judge, Brenda Weaver, who also chairs the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Weaver took the matter to the district attorney, who obtained the indictments.

Thomason was charged June 24 with making a false statement in an open-records request in which he asked for copies of checks “cashed illegally.” Thomason and Stookey were also charged with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud because they did not get Weaver’s approval before sending subpoenas to banks where Weaver and another judge maintained accounts for office expenses. Weaver suggested that Thomason may have been trying to steal banking information on the checks.

But Thomason said he was “doing his job” when he asked for records.

“I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any charges to be had,” said Thomason, 37, who grew up in Fannin County. “I take this as a punch at journalists across the nation that if we continue to do our jobs correctly, then we have to live in fear of being imprisoned.”

Thomason and Stookey are out on $10,000 bond and have a long list of things they cannot do or things they must do to avoid going to jail until their trials. On Thursday, for example, Thomason reported to a pretrial center and was told that he may have to submit to a random drug test – a condition of the bond on which he was released from jail last Saturday.

Alison Sosebee, district attorney in the three counties in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, and Judge Weaver say the charges are justified. Weaver said she resented Thomason’s attacks on her character in his weekly newspaper and in conversations with her constituents.

“I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned,” Weaver said.

She said others in the community were using Thomason to get at her. “It’s clear this is a personal vendetta against me,” she said. “I don’t know how else to explain that.”

But legal experts expressed dismay at the punitive use of the Open Records Act.

“To the extent these criminal charges stem from the use of the Open Records Act undermines the entire purpose of the law,” said Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. “The Open Records Act is the vehicle by which citizens access governmental information Retaliation for use of the Open Records Act will inhibit every citizen from using it, and reel us back into the dark ages.”

Another expert said the charges against attorney Russell Stookey may also be unfounded. Robert Rubin, president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said it was wrong for the grand jury to indict a lawyer who “is using the legitimate court process for a subpoena to get records relevant for his case.” The dispute grows out of a March 2015 incident involving another judge who is no longer on the bench. Judge Roger Bradley was presiding over several cases and asked the name of the next defendant. The assistant district attorney announced next up was “(Racial slur) Ray.” Bradley, who resigned earlier this year, repeated the slur and also talked about another man whose street name started with the same slur.

Thomason asked for the transcript after he was told courtroom deputies also used the slur.

But the transcript only noted that Bradley and the assistant district attorney used the word.

According to Thomason, the court reporter told him that it was “off the record” when others in the courtroom spoke the word so it would not be recorded in the transcript. He asked to listen to the audio recording, but his request was rejected.

In an article Thomason quoted the court reporter as saying the slur was not taken down each time it was used.

And then Thomason asked Stookey to file paperwork with the court to force the the stenographer, Rhonda Stubblefield, to release the recording.

Stubblefield responded with a $1.6 million counterclaim against Thomason, accusing him of defaming her in stories that said the transcript she produced may not be accurate. Two months later a visiting judge closed Thomason’s case, concluding that Thomason had not produced evidence the transcript was inaccurate.

Last April, Stubblefield dropped her counterclaim because, her lawyer wrote, it was unlikely Thomason could pay the award if she won.

The next month, however, Stubblefield filed paper work to recoup attorney’s fees even though last last year she was cut a check for almost $16,000 from then-Judge Bradley’s operating account.

“She was being accused of all this stuff. She was very distressed. She had done absolutely nothing wrong,” Weaver said of the judges’ decision to use court money to cover Stubblefield’s legal expenses. “She was tormented all these months and then had to pay attorneys’ fees. And the only reason she was sued was she was doing what the court policy was.”

Stubblefield’s lawyer, Herman Clark, said in court Stubblefield was asking for the money from Thomason or his attorney so she could replace the funds taken out of the court bank account. Clark said it was unfair to expect taxpayers to pick up the cost.

To fight Stubblefield’s claim for legal fees, Stookey filed subpoenas for copies of certain checks so he could show her attorneys had already been paid. One of those two accounts listed in a subpoena had Weaver’s name on it as well as the Appalachian Judicial Circuit.

Weaver said the identify fraud allegations came out of her concern that Thomason would use the banking information on those checks for himself.

“I have absolutely no interest in further misappropriating any government monies,” Thomason said. “My sole goal was to show that legal fees were paid from a publicly funded account.”

FreeRepublic: Gun Purchases Continue to Soar

Gun Purchases Continue to Soar
nraila.org ^ | July 8, 2016
Posted on 7/10/2016, 10:19:26 AM by PROCON
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/3447979/posts

Maybe Americans aren’t taking to Hillary Clinton’s sour attitude toward guns. Maybe they’re arming themselves out of concern about terrorists and criminals of a more conventional stripe. And maybe they’re showing what they think of members of Congress who use terrorists’ crimes as the excuse to push for more gun control.
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One way or the other, though, Americans are continuing to acquire guns at an unprecedented level. The FBI reported this week that in June 2016, firearm-related background checks set a new record for any month of June, up 39% from the number of checks conducted in June 2015.

For the first six months of 2016, checks are up 32 percent over the same period in 2015. If the present rate of checks holds through December, there will be over 32 million checks conducted this year, more than double the number conducted during President Obama’s first year in office. There have been 26.5 million checks during the last 12 months, more than in any 12-month period previously.

NICS checks don’t precisely indicate the number of firearms acquired in a given time frame. But the trend in checks makes clear that Americans are acquiring firearms at a record pace. The annual number of checks has risen from 12.7 million during the last year of President George W. Bush’s administration to an average of 23 million during Obama’s second term.
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NICS checks don’t stop criminals from stealing guns or acquiring guns on the black market, and criminals defeat checks by having other people, who can pass checks, buy guns for them. But they continue to deliver data undermining gun control supporters’ perennial boast that gun ownership is declining. If anything, the data suggest that the opposite is true.

Robert De Niro was clearly threatened by the vaccine establishment to censor the VAXXED documentary from Tribeca

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BREAKING: Robert De Niro was clearly threatened by the vaccine establishment to censor the VAXXED documentary from Tribeca… new details emerge
http://www.naturalnews.com/053446_Robert_De_Niro_VAXXED_documentary_censorship_threats.html
Sunday, March 27, 2016
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Tags: Robert De Niro, VAXXED documentary, censorship threats
Robert De Niro

(NaturalNews) There has never been an assault against a documentary film in the history of America like the one we’ve just witnessed over the last 48 hours. The entire mainstream media waged a coordinated, simultaneous attack against the Tribeca Film Festival to censor a film none of them had even seen.

That film, of course, is called VAXXED: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, and it documents the admission of the CDC’s Dr. William Thompson, who admitted taking part in a massive scientific fraud to conceal the truth about vaccines causing autism.

This is the first time in the history of film and media that the totality of the media establishment has condemned a film that none of them have ever viewed, desperately trying to make sure no American ever witnesses the hour and a half of film footage that is now “forbidden” to be viewed in a nation founded on free speech.

A statement has been posted on the VAXXED documentary website:

It is our understanding that persons from an organization affiliated with the festival have made unspecified allegations against the film – claims that we were given no opportunity to challenge or redress. We were denied due process.

We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.

Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed.

Robert De Niro was on a phone call before all this happened
Natural News can now report that Robert De Niro and his wife spoke directly with U.S. Congressman Bill Posey for approximately one hour on Friday, during which De Niro was given numerous assurances by Congressman Posey that the CDC whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson, really did confess to taking part in massive scientific fraud to conceal the links between vaccines and autism. It was based in part on this assurance that De Niro originally backed the film’s screening at Tribeca.

But hours later, somebody got to De Niro. Somebody powerful and connected whom we believe threatened Robert De Niro into silence. This mysterious conversation has not been revealed. De Niro has not released the names of those from the “scientific community” who threatened him, nor have the VAXXED filmmakers been offered any ability to respond to whatever accusations may have been falsely leveled against the film.

Total secrecy: Who got to De Niro, and what threats were made against him?
The silencing of VAXXED, in other words, was carried out with the same secrecy under which the entire vaccine industry operates. There is zero transparency, no due process, no discussion and no debate. Robert De Niro may have even been death threated by the vaccine establishment — an industry already steeped in the maiming and murdering of children worldwide. To silence this powerful film, they would stop at nothing… not even threatening Robert De Niro with destroying his professional career or possibly his life or family.

This is the vaccine mafia at work: Threatening people into silence, censoring a powerful documentary, leveling secret accusations in secret meetings, all while ridiculously claiming they alone have a monopoly on scientific truth which can never be challenged, debated or even questioned by anyone.

The mainstream media just committed credibility suicide… everybody knows they’re covering up the truth about vaccines
In the coverage of all this, we just witnessed the mainstream media committing CREDIBILITY SUICIDE. The entire media just followed in the footsteps of North Korea or Communist China, ordering a film festival to censor a documentary that’s so powerful, it threatens the cascade of lies propping up the fraudulent vaccine industry and all its hidden truths (that are about to be exposed).

The same Tribeca Film Festival that happily previewed films like “37 USES FOR A DEAD SHEEP” and “TICKED-OFF TRANNIES WITH KNIVES” has decided that the VAXXED documentary is too dangerous for the public to be allowed to view. But this was not a decision reached with rationality and truth: It was arrived at via the process of media totalitarianism — intimidation and threats aimed at Robert De Niro to force him to silence this film and withdraw it from the festival.

And so for daring to support freedom of expression on this monumental issue the vaccine-pimping media has desperately tried to conceal, De Niro finds himself in a firestorm of accusations and condemnation by the very same media that also blackballed every single story about CDC whistleblower Dr. William Thompson.

What’s so dangerous in this film that no citizen shall be allowed to view it?
Meanwhile, every thinking American has now come to the realization that the vaccine industry is run like a MAFIA and is wholly incapable of withstanding even a single low-budget documentary that, frankly, few people would have ever heard about if not for this outrageous censorship effort. Now, the American people are asking the commonsense question: “What’s so dangerous in this VAXXED film that we aren’t allowed to see it?”

Does the film show people being beheaded by terrorists in bloody machete scenes? Nope, for that you have to watch CNN and other mainstream media outlets.

Does the film feature lunatic quacks spouting total nonsense and gobbledygook? Nope, because if it did, the vaccine industry would want EVERYONE to watch it!

Does the film fabricate total lies and present them as truth? Nope, to see that, you have to watch all the leftist Hollywood revisionist history films like “TRUTH” (which is full of lies, paradoxically).

VAXXED, it turns out, is dangerous because it is credible. It is being attacked and censored precisely because it threatens to crumble the great scientific Berlin Wall of the vaccine industry… an industry built almost entirely on lies, cover-ups, censorship and systematic intimidation.

In fact, all this is on full display right now as you watch this story unfold. The media obediently attacks De Niro while vaccine totalitarians demand absolute censorship of a film they’ve never even seen. They can’t name in particular statement in the film that’s dangerous or false; they are attacking the entire film by essentially demanding that no questions ever be allowed to be asked about vaccine safety. Just the mere existence of the film is, all by itself, a serious threat to the entire vaccine industry.

All this, of course, is nothing short of “scientific intolerance” and cognitive bigotry on parade. For the vaccine industry to even claim that its products are backed by “science” is wholly laughable. Real science, as everyone knows, is unafraid of scrutiny and debate. Real science welcomes debate because real science can defend itself. Any industry claiming to have “science” on its side which is simultaneously terrified of a scientific discussion isn’t based on science at all.

We are now living in a scientific dictatorship run by the very same corporations that are systematically poisoning our children
If you ever needed a reason to see the VAXXED documentary, you now have the best reason of all: This is the film that you’re never supposed to be allowed to witness with your own eyes.

In a film industry filled with wanton violence, on-screen rapings, beheadings, bloody war scenes and scenes of torture, the single most dangerous film you’re not allowed to see is one that presents an idea.

That idea is based on a simple scientific truth about vaccine dangers, and it’s considered so dangerous to the vaccine establishment that it must be banned at all costs, even if it means threatening Robert De Niro with being destroyed or perhaps even physically harmed.

When the vaccine industry resorts to outright censorship and intimidation tactics against film organizers, you know they have something extremely damning to hide. It’s so damning that the mere utterance of a few words in the film apparently threatens to destroy the entire cesspool of lies upon which the vaccine industry was built. Words of truth are so dangerous to the vaccine industry that all such words must never be uttered on film, lest people wake up to the reality that their own children are being systematically poisoned, maimed and killed — knowingly! — by the vaccine industry and its toxic interventions.

Remember: If they can get to Robert De Niro, formerly a champion of free speech and freedom of expression, they will go after anyone and attempt anything that it takes. If they have to call in bomb threats against theaters to have them evacuated, that’s exactly what the vaccine industry will do. If they have to threaten film festival producers with murder — or threaten their families with bodily harm — they’ll do that, too. There is no tactic outside the bounds of an industry that already engages in the widespread maiming and murder of children. If they will kill your child with their vaccines, in other words, they’ll think nothing of threatening a guy like Robert De Niro to get him to participate in their cover-up.

Follow Natural News for breaking news update on all this. I am in direct touch with the film producers, and I am being kept informed of next steps in this epic battle for free speech and scientific truth.

Learn more about VAXXED and vaccines at the following links:

The official VAXXED documentary website (and trailer)

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The official VAXXED documentary Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/vaxxedthemovie/

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