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Judicial Accountability Within The State of New York

Thanks to Gordon MacLean:

In February 2002 The Albany TIMES UNION ran a series of five editorials on the subject of

Judicial Accountability Within The State of New York

It is journalism at its best! The five articles cover just one state in the US, and what you will read in these articles will make your hair stand on end; not just so much because of what is happening in the State of New York but also because of the sheer size of the problem.
   Abuse of power, torts, creative and capricious interpretation of the law, self-serving bias, sentencing people to jail without due process...the list goes on, and it is an escalating problem with no relief in sight.
   The largest number of infractions is being committed at a very disproportionately large rate by the judges with an education as legal professionals, while the articles report that most judges have no legal education at all, but we should obviously not hold that against the latter. They appear on average to be far more honest than their highly educated colleagues, although their larger number makes up for their underachievement in the field of justice abuse.
   Moreover, they seem to be far less able to protect themselves against being taken to account for abuse of their judiciary power than their more highly educated brethren and sisters are.

Of the 3,346 judges in New York state, approximately 2,200 are part-time town and village justices, and only 400 of them are lawyers. Thus, it might seem only natural that the bulk of complaints would be filed against these lower-level jurists. While that is generally true, it's far from the whole picture. In 2000, for example, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct received 346 complaints against lower level judges, investigated 133 of them and recommended disciplinary action in 69 cases.

At the same time, the number of complaints lodged against the 341 state Supreme Court justices, all of whom are lawyers and serve full time, totaled 253. The high number of complaints at both the lower and upper end of the judicial system is both revealing and disconcerting.

While only 133 of the complaints lodged against part-time justices warranted full investigation, for example, roughly half of those resulted in disciplinary action. By comparison, while only 26 of the 253 complaints against Supreme Court justices were investigated, 17 of them, or far more than half, resulted in formal measures ranging from admonition to censure to removal from office.

(Full Story)

What about corresponding articles in all of the other states? What about Canada?  It is not that we don't have problems like that in Canada.  What about any other of the developed nations? Is the situation in New York State the worst, the best or just average with respect to what the justice system in the "free" West has to offer?

As the last article in the series concludes:

An end to secrecy and leniency [when judges are being taken to account], plus an emphasis on accountability — that's the formula for reform.

Justice — equal justice — demands no less.

Why should that cry for equal and equitable justice be voiced only in the State of New York?

Here are the links to the series in the The Albany TIMES UNION:

  1. Privileged Chambers
    When it comes to being held accountable, judges are an insulated breed in New York
    First published: Sunday, February 3, 2002

  2. Justice Denied
    Sometimes the biggest impediment to a fair trial can be the judge
    First published: Monday, February 4, 2002

  3. Conduct Unbecoming
    Judges often receive leniency for outrageous personal behavior
    First published: Tuesday, February 5, 2002

  4. Starving The Watchdog
    Budget cutbacks are hampering the effectiveness of a judicial oversight panel
    First published: Wednesday, February 6, 2002

  5. The Need For Reform
    New York should have a more open process for disciplining judges
    First published: Thursday, February 7, 2002

Thanks to Gordon, a PDF file containing the texts of all five of the articles can be made available if that should be necessary.

See also:

White RoseThe White Rose
Thoughts are Free

Posted 2003 12 03
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)