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  1. #1
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    Broken Bench-In Tiny Courts Of New York

    I wasn't quite sure where to post this....It is a very long article, but very worth while reading.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/25/ny...th&oref=slogin

    Broken Bench
    In Tiny Courts of N.Y., Abuses of Law and Power

    By WILLIAM GLABERSON
    Published: September 25, 2006
    Some of the courtrooms are not even courtrooms: tiny offices or basement rooms without a judge’s bench or jury box. Sometimes the public is not admitted, witnesses are not sworn to tell the truth, and there is no word-for-word record of the proceedings.

    Skip to next paragraph Broken Bench

    “This Is Not America”
    Part 1 of 3 A yearlong investigation by The New York Times of the life and history of New York State’s town and village courts found a long trail of judicial abuses and errors — and of governmental failure to curb them.



    Out of Order: Town and Village Justice





    Nearly three-quarters of the judges are not lawyers, and many — truck drivers, sewer workers or laborers — have scant grasp of the most basic legal principles. Some never got through high school, and at least one went no further than grade school.

    But serious things happen in these little rooms all over New York State. People have been sent to jail without a guilty plea or a trial, or tossed from their homes without a proper proceeding. In violation of the law, defendants have been refused lawyers, or sentenced to weeks in jail because they cannot pay a fine. Frightened women have been denied protection from abuse.

    These are New York’s town and village courts, or justice courts, as the 1,250 of them are widely known. In the public imagination, they are quaint holdovers from a bygone era, handling nothing weightier than traffic tickets and small claims. They get a roll of the eyes from lawyers who amuse one another with tales of incompetent small-town justices.

    A woman in Malone, N.Y., was not amused. A mother of four, she went to court in that North Country village seeking an order of protection against her husband, who the police said had choked her, kicked her in the stomach and threatened to kill her. The justice, Donald R. Roberts, a former state trooper with a high school diploma, not only refused, according to state officials, but later told the court clerk, “Every woman needs a good pounding every now and then.”

    A black soldier charged in a bar fight near Fort Drum became alarmed when his accuser described him in court as “that colored man.” But the village justice, Charles A. Pennington, a boat hauler and a high school graduate, denied his objections and later convicted him. “You know,” the justice said, “I could understand if he would have called you a Negro, or he had called you a ******.”

    And several people in the small town of Dannemora were intimidated by their longtime justice, Thomas R. Buckley, a phone-company repairman who cursed at defendants and jailed them without bail or a trial, state disciplinary officials found. Feuding with a neighbor over her dog’s running loose, he threatened to jail her and ordered the dog killed.

    “I just follow my own common sense,” Mr. Buckley, in an interview, said of his 13 years on the bench. “And the hell with the law.”

    continued at link

  2. #2
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    This is seriously scary! What can be done to stop this?

  3. #3
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    This is more then "seriously" scary, it is " a person's worst nightmare, if passing through the town, or a resident of the town.

    This is not a court, not a court of law as it has a semblance to "town" hall meetings, except at those meeting, no one has the "right to deny you bail, order of protections, jail you without cause for a period of time".

    This is a "star chamber" type of kangeroo court.......

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberLaw
    This is more then "seriously" scary, it is " a person's worst nightmare, if passing through the town, or a resident of the town.

    This is not a court, not a court of law as it has a semblance to "town" hall meetings, except at those meeting, no one has the "right to deny you bail, order of protections, jail you without cause for a period of time".

    This is a "star chamber" type of kangeroo court.......
    I'm following the articles in the NYT. (There's an other one today.)

    Absolutely shocking!

  5. #5
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    I read the "full" article that the link was posted. But I do get The Times headlines sent to my inbox though.

    Gee, a shiver went up my spine.....

    O.K. read part two, I don't know of any elected position where you can made serious mistakes, learn on the job, and have such power over people.

    You don't have a lawyer, then you are guilty.

    Ex parte, what is that, never heard of that before.....

    Un real.......really beyond my "knowledge" and to think that some of us went to school for three years to learn the law.........and we have people like this who have more power in the court room and are fishermen, bricklayers and farmers.........ticks me off, just a tad.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberLaw
    I read the "full" article that the link was posted. But I do get The Times headlines sent to my inbox though.

    Gee, a shiver went up my spine.....

    O.K. read part two, I don't know of any elected position where you can made serious mistakes, learn on the job, and have such power over people.

    You don't have a lawyer, then you are guilty.

    Ex parte, what is that, never heard of that before.....

    Un real.......really beyond my "knowledge" and to think that some of us went to school for three years to learn the law.........and we have people like this who have more power in the court room and are fishermen, bricklayers and farmers.........ticks me off, just a tad.
    Cyber, are you seriously asking what "ex parte" means? It usually refers to communications outside the official court trial and without all parties involved, such as the "judges" in the article doing their own investigations and/or talking to one of the parties in private.

  7. #7
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    I was kidding, of course........how could you think anything differently.

    I was being......well Canadian humor....

    As in ex parte, what does that mean, never heard of it before.....is that when your "ex" is at a "party" and you are not there too......JK

    For example: What are these "Constituional rights" that you mention....never heard of them before.

    I am not going to "provide" a free lawyer, let those "freeloaders" pay for one themselves. If they can't afford one, then they are guilty. Problem solved.

    What is bail, never heard of that before, you are now "jailed for 89 days because you owe $1.50.

    Really you mean a person is persumed innocent until proven guilty....not in my court. They are guilty, except of course if they are my friends, relatives, drinking buddies, friends of friends, a favour to a friend. Then of course they are all innocent...and will always be innocent.

    Remind me never to get a speeding ticket or what ever in any small town in the USA who has a "Judge with a "High School education". Because I am sure that the words "that is not legal, you have violated my legal rights", would probably land me in jail for a long time.

  8. #8
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    Cyber, please don't be insulted. I thought you were probably joking, which is why I asked.

    I grew up in the U.S. South where common wisdom held that one didn't mess with the local constabulary while passing through small towns.

    I just didn't expect to find the same situation in New York, particularly not in the 21st century!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nova

    I grew up in the U.S. South where common wisdom held that one didn't mess with the local constabulary while passing through small towns.

    I just didn't expect to find the same situation in New York, particularly not in the 21st century!
    Why not? We here in the south don't have first dibs on stupidity lol

    I've been reading up on this and it's a shame what they've been allowed to get away with.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BhamMama
    Why not? We here in the south don't have first dibs on stupidity lol
    Of course not, Mama, and I wasn't South-bashing. But you know the history: devastating war, punishing "Reconstruction," years of Jim Crow and one-party rule. Tended to encourage corruption in out of the way places. (And of course I am talking about 50 years ago.)


  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nova
    Of course not, Mama, and I wasn't South-bashing. But you know the history: devastating war, punishing "Reconstruction," years of Jim Crow and one-party rule. Tended to encourage corruption in out of the way places. (And of course I am talking about 50 years ago.)
    It's okay hon, It was tongue in cheek Sadly, some of it is still around. Just more underground than it use to be.

  12. #12
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    Nova: I did not mean to make you feel badly, sorry...I am in no way insulted or offended, my skin is rather thick........I just thought it is was "rather amusing" (in a good way.)

    I guess the situation all comes down to need and money.

    After all these positions do not pay well, are on a less then part time basis and if you have a "court" that is in a basement of a Fire Hall, then how can the proceeding really have a "legal" air to them.

    The Courts in our City(major 4+ million people) are "hallowed" halls, and are "quite" formal(as in Lawyer's can choose to "slightly" bow as they enter the court as a "sign of respect to the Court and Judge" and "bow" slightly when they leave as a "sign of respect when leaving) the Judge does not miss this and some say it is to "distinguish" the "visitors" from lawyers. I say it is "to get on the good side of the Judge, who will remember this "next time you are before him". We have to wear "Barrister" robes(think penguin).

    The difference in the "Judges" in the USA and Canada, is that in Canada, the only elected "positions" in a small town are political. Judges are all "appointed" so they are all Lawyers.

    So if you need to bring in a small claim case, then you have to file and go to the "small claims" court in your area. Usually these are situated in a "bigger town". Some of these "Judges are "unique" and are "very aware" that they are dealing with "small town people". But they do know that any "decision" rendered is subject to appeal.

    That is why I find it "disturbing" that a little ole "farmer" can have such power, over people with little or no regard for the "acutal administration of Justice" and trod over basic legal principals and rights.

    These decisions can affect a person for life. A person is convicted of a criminal offense(that he did not commit) or whatever and the Judge just convicts him. Now the person has a criminal record. Money lost in civil judgements, bias, people lose their liberty due to "incorrect legal principals" and the "administration of law".

    This is not just a shame, but a "travesty" of "justice, as in what justice.

    Can you imagine, a high school kid is "arrested" for illegal possession of Pot. There was no "cause" to stop him, search and seizure is a joke, he is held without bail, and then the Judge convicts him of possession, when the "initial" act, the "stopping" by LE, was illegal to begin with so everything else "stemming" from that is illegal.

    Now the kid has a criminal record which will affect his Universtity, his employment, his whole life.........that is "messed" because of the "good ole" boy attitude and lack of formal training.

    The law is "VERY complex and high school students in Ontario get more "education" then these judges in the area of law.

    I am glad that this was exposed in the NYT, because I was "shocked" and "dismayed" at the cavalier attitude of these Judges and to think that this is the situation not only in NY, but probably in all the other states.

    Someone needs to 'rethink" the whole "legal small town system" or lack thereof.

  13. #13
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    No problem, Cyber. Just wanted you to know that I do know who you are (as a poster, of course, this isn't personal) and I am well aware that you are very knowledgeable.

    I just wasn't sure if maybe the legal systems of our respective countries used different terms.

    I so agree with your last post! I live in a small town now myself, but we're right over the hill from L.A. (which has its own corruption, of course). But I hope we're not so bad off as some of the burgs in upstate NY.



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