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Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice, and to rob the poor of my people of their rights, in order that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans.
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December 2007

Fearing Class Action, Carrier Removes Lawyer's Dental-Bill Suit to Federal Court

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal

12-14-07 -- A New Jersey lawyer who won a $45 million class action settlement last year from Horizon Blue Cross is suing the carrier in small claims court for not paying his $462 dental bill. . . . And the carrier, saying it fears the suit may be a prelude to another class action, has hired McCarter & English, the state's largest firm, to make a federal case out of it. . . . A dentist charged Eric Katz $600 to fill a decayed tooth with composition bonding, but Horizon Blue Cross told him his coverage under his ex-wife's family policy permitted reimbursement for an inexpensive silver filling only. The carrier pegged the benefit at $138, leaving the rest of the bill to Katz. . . . Katz appealed to the carrier, armed with a statement from dentist Fred Teschemacher that bonding was required because Katz's teeth were "severely eroded."

November 2007

Lawyer-Judge May Be at Center of Land-Flip Fraud

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

11-30-07 --A Garfield, N.J., lawyer who is also the town's judge may have played a central role in a scheme to defraud lenders by obtaining mortgages based on inflated appraisals of run-down properties. . . . A state civil suit points to Garfield solo William Colacino Jr. as the lawyer referred to in a federal criminal case as "W.C.," an unindicted co-conspirator whose legal services, law office, attorney bank accounts and legal assistant were allegedly used in the scheme. . . . Colacino, admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1973, has been Garfield's judge since 1984. He also sat in Wood-Ridge from 2004 until the end of 2006. . . . Neither he nor his lawyer in the civil case, Karen Painter Randall of Roseland, N.J.'s Connell Foley, returned a reporter's call. . . . Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Walsh, the prosecutor in the federal case, declines to say whether W.C. is Colacino or whether W.C. will be criminally charged.

Judge Korpita pleads not guilty to DWI

He could face official misconduct charge

By Michael Scholl, Daily Record
11-28-07 --George R. Korpita is used to presiding over courtrooms from his perches on the benches of the municipal courts of Dover, Victory Gardens and Rockaway. . . . But he got a different perspective of a courtroom Tuesday morning when he made his first appearance as a defendant in state Superior Court in Union County to face charges of driving while intoxicated and careless driving that stem from a Nov. 6 incident in Roxbury. . . . Korpita, 47, did not speak during the three-minute hearing before Judge John S. Triarsi. But he stood behind the defense table next to his attorney, James E. Trabilsy, who entered pleas of not guilty to the DWI and careless driving charges on his client's behalf. . . . Korpita may later face a more serious charge, according to Assistant Morris County Prosecutor Ralph Amirata, who told Triarsi that the investigation into the Nov. 6 incident "is still ongoing."

Garfield judge relieved of duties

By Alexander MacInnes, Herald News

11-28-07 --William C. Colacino Jr., the Garfield municipal judge with alleged ties to an elaborate real estate scheme in Paterson, has been removed temporarily from his seat by Garfield City Manager Thomas Duch. . . . Colacino, who has not been indicted or identified by federal prosecutors in that case, was relieved of his responsibilities last week by Duch, with Bergen County presiding Municipal Judge Roy McGeady replacing Colacino until further notice. . . . "The press has indicated that his initials have come up frequently in this case, but at this point without an indictment, they're just allegation," Duch said. "You're innocent until proven guilty on one side, and on the other side, people are coming into Municipal Court to have cases heard, and they're having their case heard by a judge who keeps being referred to in the press."

Judge Broome reprimanded by N.J. panel

By Madelaine Vitale Staff Writer

11-14-07 -- An Atlantic County judge who imposed improper fines for young motorists caught with small amounts of alcohol in their blood has received a reprimand for not following proper protocol, but not for his tough stand on the issue. . . . A judicial panel concluded that Municipal Court Judge Henry Broome Jr. did nothing wrong beyond charging excessive fines. Broome fined 11 young violators as much as $800 each after they were caught driving with blood-alcohol levels between .01 and .07. The fines were issued between 2004 and 2005 and were later partially refunded after a court order. . . . The "baby drunken driving" law allows motorists younger than 21 to be prosecuted for driving with blood-alcohol levels below the legal limit of .08, but it does not allow a judge to issue the same fines that would be issued to drivers caught with higher blood-alcohol levels.

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Judge Disciplined for Rough Justice But Not for Leveling 'Baby DWI' Fines

Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal 

11-9-07 -- The New Jersey Supreme Court on Wednesday reprimanded veteran municipal court Judge Henry Broome Jr. for multiple ethics violations but decided against discipline for a particular quirk of his jurisprudence: imposing DWI fines not authorized by statute. . . . The court agreed with its Advisory Committee on Attorney Ethics that at the time Broome assessed fines on underage drivers under the so-called "Baby DWI" law, there was genuine uncertainty about municipal court judges' power to do so, since the statute and its legislative history could be construed as ambiguous. . . . However, the court did impose fines upon Broome for other foibles, such as: . . . failing to follow a state-court prohibition against dismissal of charges of refusal to take a Breathalyzer test; . . . participating in plea negotiations while sitting as a judge in a case; . . . negotiating and approving a plea agreement in the prosecutor's absence; . . . accepting plea agreements without first ascertaining the factual bases; . . . warning a defendant who testified in his own behalf that the judge would have him "indicted" if he lied under oath; . . . advising litigants at the start of court sessions of his "$100 policy," namely that fines of that amount or less were due and payable on the day imposed.

Local Lawyer Cited for Contempt Files Ethics Complaint Against Judge

New York Lawyer, By Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

11-9-07 -- A lawyer arrested and held in contempt by a Bloomfield Municipal Court judge has filed a complaint against him with the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, claiming he penalized her for raising a racial-profiling defense in her client's traffic-violation case. . . . Rashidah Hasan, an East Orange solo who is also the director of legal affairs for Essex County College, appeared before Judge Joseph Connolly on Oct. 4 on behalf of her client, DeWayne Smith. Bloomfield police had stopped Smith and charged him with careless driving, driving with no insurance, having a loud muffler and failing to obey police orders. . . . Smith, who is black, believed he was the victim of racial profiling, Hasan says, and she demanded that the police department turn over records of its traffic stops, which might support his claim. . . . After Municipal Prosecutor Paul Sant’Ambrogio concluded his case, Hasan made a verbal motion to dismiss the charges. . . . Connolly, she says, “went into a rage, pounding on the desk,” held her in contempt and ordered her to pay a fine of $100. He told her to pay up at the next scheduled hearing in the case, on Oct. 25. . . . At the second hearing, Hasan asked Connolly to withdraw the contempt finding, arguing that she could not adequately represent Smith under the threat of jail for noncompliance.

Former N.J. Muni Court Judges Plead Not Guilty to Improper Ticket Fixing

Lisa Brennan, New Jersey Law Journal 

11-4-07 --Four former Jersey City, N.J., Municipal Court judges alleged to have improperly dismissed tickets for themselves or others pleaded not guilty to official misconduct charges on Thursday in Hudson County. . . . Superior Court Judge Peter Vazquez, in arraigning Wanda Molina, Pauline Sica, Victor Sison and Irwin Rosen, did not require them to post bail but directed that they be fingerprinted and processed as defendants. . . . Vazquez said the venue of the cases will be moved to another county, since the state's chief witnesses are Hudson County Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli and trial court administrator Joseph Davis, who conducted the initial investigation. . . . Once venue is changed, state prosecutors will present the cases to a grand jury in the new county.

October 2007

Criminal Charges Announced in N.J. Ticket-Fixing Scandal

Lisa Brennan, New Jersey Law Journal

10-24-07 -- Four Jersey City, N.J., municipal judges, including the former chief judge, were charged Monday with improperly dismissing traffic and parking tickets for themselves, relatives, friends or colleagues. . . . Wanda Molina, who resigned as chief judge on Sept. 20, was charged with second-degree official misconduct, as were part-time Judges Pauline Sica and Victor Sison, who took unpaid leaves of absence last month. All three have since been replaced. . . . A fourth judge, Irwin Rosen, also on unpaid leave, was charged with third-degree official misconduct. Since Rosen has not yet been replaced, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner issued an order Monday suspending him from judicial duties. . . . The second-degree charges against Molina, Sica and Sison each carry a potential jail term of 10 years. Rosen faces a possible five-year sentence. . . . Molina is accused of dismissing five parking or traffic tickets for her personal companion. Sica allegedly dismissed a parking ticket issued to Sison, downgraded another for him and downgraded a traffic ticket issued to a member of Sison's immediate family. Sison is charged with soliciting Sica to handle those tickets for him. Rosen allegedly fixed one parking ticket he had received three years ago.

Top judge denies report that tix-fix probe extends into Guttenberg

by Ken Thorbourne

10-17-07 --The state's top judge denied a report today in the New Jersey Law Journal that Guttenberg's municipal court is a target of the state's ticket-fixing probe, which has resulted in five Jersey City judges stepping down. . . . According to the article, written by reporter Lisa Brennan, "court sources" confirmed that the state Attorney General Office's investigation into improperly dismissed tickets has been expanded to Guttenberg and East Orange. . . . But Tammy Kendig, a spokeswoman for New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, denied that the four-block wide town is part of the probe. . . . "There is an investigation in East Orange being done at the request of the chief justice," Kendig said. "There is nothing in Guttenberg." . . . But the Law Journal isn't taking back its words.

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Cynicism, but no sign of voter revolt over corruption in Jersey

By Tom Hester Jr., Associated Press

10-13-07 -- It sounds like a joke poking fun at New Jersey's soiled political reputation: Government corruption is so widespread in the state that it alone cannot turn off scandal-weary voters. . . . Even as state Democrats seeking to keep legislative control in November's election endure high-profile corruption cases, many New Jersey voters seem to accept corruption as par for the course. . . . New Jersey voters think their politicians are more corrupt than other states and link government corruption to the Democrats, but are no more likely to vote Republican, according to recent polls by Fairleigh Dickinson University and Quinnipiac University. . . . "The results demonstrate how cynical the New Jersey electorate has become,'' said Michael Torpey, who was former Republican Gov. Christine Whitman's chief of staff. ******** Voters might take some comfort in knowing New Jersey isn't the most corrupt state, at least in the eyes of one analysis. The Garden State ranked ninth, based on federal corruption convictions monitored by the Corporate Crime Reporter, a weekly crime newsletter, behind Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida. . . . The study examined convictions in the 35 most populous states and found Utah, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa and Oregon to be the least corrupt. . . . Russell Mokhiber, the Corporate Crime Reporter editor, isn't surprised by polls that show New Jersey voters seem immune to corruption. . . . "In a culture of corruption, the citizenry submits and stops agitating for change,'' . . . Mokhiber said. "Citizens need to stand up and demand a war on corruption to break the cycle of corruption in New Jersey and elsewhere.''

New Jersey Sees Corruption Flourishing [pdf link]

Poll indicates public takes dimmer view despite four years of reforms

A poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute, 400 Cedar Avenue, West Long Branch, NJ 07764 /

10-13-07 -- In the past four years, the state has passed pay-to-play reforms, banned dual office-holding, and pilot-tested public financing of legislative elections. In addition, the U.S. Attorney has arrested or indicted over 100 public officials for corruption. So has the ethics situation in New Jersey improved? Not at all, say Garden State residents. In fact, on most questions tracked by the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll, public perceptions of corruption in the state have worsened since 2003.


Latest 'Ticketgate' judge leaves as Healy replaces 4 others

By Ken Thorbourne, Journal Staff Writer

10-12-07 --Yet another Jersey City Municipal Court judge has been dis-robed. . . . Vincent Signorile, a full-time judge at the court for more than a decade, took an immediate leave of absence without pay yesterday amid an ongoing state investigation into the improper dismissal of parking tickets. . . . Signorile's departure makes it five Jersey City justices who have either taken leave or resigned due to the probe that began last month when two court employees were suspended based on allegations they fixed more than 65 of their own tickets. . . . The most prominent judge to give up the bench has been Chief Judge Wanda Molina, who on Sept. 21 resigned in the wake of allegations she improperly disposed of parking tickets issued to her female companion, according to law enforcement officials. . . . The judges have been falling like dominoes since, with Judges Victor Sison, Irwin Rosen, Pauline Sica, and now Signorile all taking leaves. . . . The state Attorney General's Office, the lead agency conducting the investigation, has refused to confirm or deny whether the judges' resignation and leaves are tied to "Ticketgate," but county and city officials have said the departures are all due to the probe.

In Parking-Pinched Jersey City, Four Judges Are Suspected of Fixing Tickets

By Jonathan Miller, NY Times

10-10-07 --Four of the city’s 10 municipal court judges — including the former chief judge — are being investigated by the New Jersey attorney general’s office on suspicion of fixing parking tickets for friends or family, and in at least one case for a colleague on the bench, officials here say. . . . During the past month, the chief judge has resigned and the three other judges have taken leaves of absence. In addition, the chief justice of the State Supreme Court, Stuart J. Rabner, has assigned the day-to-day operations of the court to a Superior Court judge from Hudson County. . . . In a state regularly buffeted by the indictments and convictions of public officials, the trial court administrator here, Joseph F. Davis, added an ominous note. . . . “People are concerned with what they’re seeing,” Mr. Davis, whose position is part of the state court system, said in a recent telephone interview, “and others may be concerned with our ongoing investigation.” . . . Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy — a former Jersey City municipal court judge himself who appointed the recently-resigned chief judge to her $109,265-a-year position — said he was shocked and saddened.


Yet another city judge ducks out as probe goes on

By N. Clark Judd, Journal Staff Writer

10-4-07 -- Amidst a widening probe into allegations of ticket-fixing in Jersey City, another municipal court judge has left the bench. . . . Victor Sison delivered a terse letter to Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Hudson County Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli yesterday morning announcing he was taking an unpaid leave of absence from his position immediately. His letter does not offer a reason and calls to his New York and New Jersey law offices yesterday afternoon were not returned. . . . Sison joins colleagues Pauline Sica, Erwin Rosen and Wanda Molina in removing themselves from the bench in the past two weeks. All the cases involve what has been described as the improper handling of parking tickets. . . . The New Jersey Law Journal reported Monday that Gallipoli questioned Sica about tickets she may have fixed for another judge. Sison is believed to be the other judge, sources told The Jersey Journal.

September 2007

Court In A 'Fix'

A.G. probes ticket scandal dogging 2 city judges

By Michaelangelo Conte, Journal Staff Writer

9-28-07 -- The inquiry into "Ticket-gate" widened yesterday as the state Attorney General's Office announced it has launched an investigation into issues leading to the resignation of Jersey City's chief municipal court judge who, according to sources, may fixed tickets for a woman she was romantically involved with. . . . It also came to light yesterday that another judge has taken an unpaid leave of absence related to fixing tickets, officials said. . . . Jersey City Chief Municipal Court Judge Wanda Molina resigned Sept. 20 in the wake of allegations she improperly disposed of parking tickets issued to her partner, according to sources familiar with the investigation. . . . Municipal Court Judge Erwin Rosen took an unpaid leave of absence effective Tuesday as a result of allegations he "improperly dismissed one of his own parking tickets," according to the same sources. . . . The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office had been investigating ticket fixing by Municipal Court employees, but Hudson County Trial Court Administrator Joseph Davis confirmed yesterday that the Attorney General's Office has become the lead agency looking into the matter.

Case of Pet-Ridden House Nudges Law on Setting Aside Foreclosure Sales

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal  

9-14-07 -- In a rare defeat for caveat emptor in foreclosure sales, a judge let a winning bidder cancel the $2.6 million purchase of a house because 142 foul-smelling dogs and cats -- some living, many dead -- were found on the premises. . . . Bergen County Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne ruled that Michael Acciardi of Saddle River, N.J., was relieved of his obligation to buy the house next door because of conditions he discovered five days after he won the bid at an Aug. 10 sheriff's sale. . . . Letting successful bidders wriggle out of paying for foreclosed property is so uncommon that Doyne resorted to a 70-year-old precedent to support his Sept. 7 ruling in Wells Fargo Bank v. Philip Tamis, Ber-F-20770-04. . . . Sheriff's auctions can be set aside when there is fraud, accident, surprise or irregularity in the sale, under the hoary Karel v. Davis, 122 N.J. Equity 526 (E&A 1937). . . . Acciardi's lawyer, Gerald Salerno of Hackensack's Aronsohn Weiner & Salerno, argued the case fit the "surprise" element because Acciardi discovered from news accounts that the previous owner had used the house as an ad hoc, perhaps illegal animal shelter.

Judge Faces Discipline for Disparaging Remark on the Bench

Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

9-12-07 -- Municipal Judge Frank Leanza admits he shouldn't have labeled a landlord's excuses for ignoring summonses "a lot of bullshit" but says he was just overly frustrated with the man he characterized as a "slumlord" who for years ignored fines and orders to fix his apartment buildings. . . . During a hearing on Thursday, Leanza, a judge in Guttenberg, N.J., for 17 years, told the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct that his remark from the bench was spurred by acute frustration over a man who had contemptuously ignored court orders to fix his properties or to pay fines. . . . Leanza told the ACJC that the landlord, Dr. Esmat Zaklama, an anesthesiologist, had dodged summonses and warrants until he was arrested on March 7, 2006, and brought before Leanza. At that point, he had racked up at least $200,000 in fines. . . . Leanza said Zaklama told him he had not answered the summonses or warrants because he had been away. That's when Leanza described the excuse as "bullshit." Leanza, whose private law practice takes him to various municipalities in Hudson County, told the ACJC he had run into Zaklama on numerous occasions in town halls. "I knew he hadn't been away," Leanza said in response to questioning by his lawyer, Alan Zegas of Chatham, N.J.

Will Americans Rise Up Against The Corrupt Justice System?

By Bill O'Reilly, Fox News

9-7-07 -- On August 4, three young college students were murdered in New Jersey by a gang of thugs, which included two criminal illegal immigrants. Now, the young woman was nearly killed, her face slashed in that attack. . . . Reports say Peruvian Jose Carranza, who was out on bail after being charged with child molestation and assault was the shooter. The judge who allowed Carranza out on the street is Thomas Vena who actually cut Carranza's bail in half, allowing the man to walk out of jail and into the murder zone. Well, the State of New Jersey investigated Vena and has released this report. . . . Quote, "Judge Vena's bail determination was made with knowledge of Carranza's criminal history and the nature of the charges. And an awareness that the prosecutor had previously consented to bail of $150,000 with knowledge that the victim's allegations, included a history of sexual abuse extending over time and occurring in two municipalities." . . . Nevertheless, the State of New Jersey has concluded that Judge Vena's bail cut for Carranza wasn't wrong. But, of course, it was wrong, and so is New Jersey. Number one, the state ordered the investigating officer in the case not to take Carranza's illegal status into account. That is insane. . . . Number two, Vena should have known Carranza was here illegally and was a chronic criminal. We're sure the judge did know that. Why would any judge, then, take the chance of putting a guy like that back on the street? Doesn't make any sense.

August 2007

N.J. Judge Sued Over Handling of Scratched Maserati Incident

Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal 

8-22-07 --When Judge George R. Korpita emerged from a Rockaway Borough, N.J., restaurant and saw scratches on his Maserati and Warren Hartzman leaning on it, he did not respond in a judicial manner, according to a U.S. District Court suit. . . . Hartzman ended up being criminally charged with scratching the car, and while the case was pending on Korpita's docket, the judge pressured Hartzman to pay for the damage, the complaint says. . . . The suit, filed Aug. 13 in Newark, N.J., includes a civil rights count under 42 U.S.C. 1983, a deceit count and a malicious abuse of legal process count against Korpita, who sits in Rockaway Borough. . . . Hartzman also sued Korpita and the police department for malicious prosecution. And he claims that Korpita, the borough and the police intentionally or negligently inflicted emotional distress, falsely arrested and imprisoned him, and wrongfully enforced the law. The suit alleges that the police took Hartzman into custody for several hours without charging him. . . . Hartzman is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief finding that Korpita is unfit to serve on the bench and enjoining him from doing so. In addition, Hartzman is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. The suit is Hartzman v. Korpita, 07-3848.

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N.J. Court: Malpractice Deadline Is Tolled
by New Lawyer's Advice

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal 

8-17-07 --The six-year statute of limitations on legal malpractice can be a fuzzy concept in matrimonial cases, and a New Jersey appeals court showed why on Tuesday. . . . A three-judge panel ruled that a wife who agreed to an alimony settlement in 1994 could sue for malpractice almost 10 years later because she did not know she had a case against her lawyer until another attorney told her so. . . . Defendant Christine Farrington argued that the statute of limitations ran out in 2000 -- six years after the client began feeling disappointed about the settlement and six years after her accountant allegedly told her the settlement could have been better. . . . That was enough to start the six-year clock in 1995, a trial judge ruled last year in throwing out the malpractice case. . . . But the appeals court reinstated the claim in Viglione v. Farrington, A-3912-05, saying the cause of action did not accrue when the client had a premonition that something went wrong. It accrued when another lawyer told the client she might have a malpractice case.

3rd Circuit: Time to Cure Mortgage Default Ends at Auction

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

8-10-07 -- New Jersey homeowners facing foreclosure will have to move faster to cure a mortgage default, under a federal appeals court decision. . . . The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the right to cure ends when the property is sold at auction, rejecting the owner's argument that it continues until the deed is delivered to the purchaser. . . . The ruling in the closely watched case, which drew amici on both sides, resolves a more than decade-old split among federal bankruptcy and district judges in New Jersey. . . . "Having finally been given the opportunity to break what is a virtual tie between the New Jersey federal courts," the court held in its Aug. 3 decision that 11 U.S.C. §1322(c)(1) does not afford the debtor a post-auction right to cure. . . . The relevant provision, §1322(c)(1), enacted as part of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994, allows a Chapter 13 debtor to cure a home mortgage default "until such residence is sold at a foreclosure sale that is conducted in accordance with applicable nonbankruptcy law."

Business and Legal Reports, Inc.

N.J. Appeals Court: Client's Illegitimate Purpose Isn't Necessarily the Lawyer's

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal 

"This court has just said that a lawyer cannot be held liable for malicious use of process even though anybody else can be liable for the very same thing. That's a pretty outrageous position to take."

Co-counsel Joan Pransky

8-6-07 -- A New Jersey state appeals court cleared a law firm of malicious civil prosecution on Wednesday in a decision that champions the right of lawyers to advocate zealously even when they know a claim is baseless. . . . Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla represented a beach club owner in a failed defamation suit against a neighbor. The neighbor, having won, countersued the club owner and the Middletown, N.J., firm, alleging the first suit had no purpose but to stifle her free speech rights maliciously. . . . The appeals court found, however, that lawyers cannot be liable for malicious prosecution unless they are acting for an illegitimate purpose of their own. And the fact that a client has an illegitimate purpose does not automatically mean the lawyer does too, the three-judge panel said in Lobiondo v. Schwartz, A-4325-04. . . . The decision "insures that representation will be available when the client's claim has only marginal merit and may be pursued by the client for other than legitimate purposes," the court said.

Judges Jack Lintner, George Seltzer and Christine Miniman, writing per curiam, said they could find no reported decision on the issue. Their own opinion is not published either, but lawyers in the case say it should be.

New Jersey Upholds Fee Arbitration Gag Rule

HALT ejournal

Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected a proposal that would have allowed consumers in the state to speak publicly about the bar's lawyer-client fee arbitration system, which was established to help clients resolve fee disputes with attorneys.  The justices decided not to adopt written recommendations from HALT and the court's own Professional Responsibility Rules Committee to let clients comment about the nature of the fee dispute, the arbitration process and the result. 

The Court provided no reason for maintaining the gag on clients in fee arbitrations, but lawyer groups across the state, including the State Bar and county bar associations, had launched vocal opposition to the proposed change. 

"The old boys' network is at it again," stated HALT Senior Counsel Suzanne M. Blonder.  "By muzzling consumers from disclosing information about their fee disputes or the arbitration system, the local bar protects itself from scrutiny and regulation."

The impetus for the proposed change came from R.M. v. Supreme Court, 185 N.J. 208 (2005), in which HALT helped convince the New Jersey Supreme Court to abolish its gag rule in lawyer discipline cases on First Amendment grounds. 

By refusing to offer participants in the fee arbitration system similar latitude for public comment, HALT believes the Court sends a mixed message to consumers: that they can speak freely when they file an ethics complaint against a lawyer but must remain silent when they challenge his fees.

"Out of an abundance of caution, New Jersey consumers may restrain their speech in both contexts, or worse yet, get held in contempt of court for inadvertently violating the muddled fee arbitration gag rule because they were unclear about the circumstances under which they could speak freely," explained Blonder.  "Either way, the public is left frustrated with a system that they view as already stacked against them."

HALT's 2007 Fee Arbitration Report Card, to be released next month, will give New Jersey significant demerits for its decision to uphold its gag rule. 

Click here for the New Jersey Supreme Court order.

Click here for HALT's comments to the Court.

One of NJ's Most Powerful Corrupters

David E. Johnson, Jr.

New Jersey's Corrupt
Attorney Grievance System

A Full Investigation by the FBI is a necessity!!!

 The corruption and fraud in

the New Jersey Judiciary including its

Office of Attorney Ethics,

Disciplinary Review Board

& Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct

is out of control.

Californian Can Be Sued in N.J. for Alleged Libel on Internet

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal 

8-6-07 -- New Jersey's long-arm jurisdiction over Internet disputes just got a little longer. . . . A state appeals court ruled Thursday that a California resident accused of making libelous statements in a Web-based forum can be sued in New Jersey because the material was "targeted" toward a New Jersey audience. . . . Many state courts have ruled that posting libelous material in open forums that can be seen everywhere does not vest jurisdiction in the victim's state. Where the libeler posts the comments is what counts. . . . But in Goldhaber v. Kohlenberg, A-5114-05, the allegedly libelous material was not only directed at a New Jersey resident; it included disparaging or insulting references to a town, a police department and the New Jersey resident's neighbors. . . . Given such targeting, the defendant had reason to foresee he would be hauled into court in New Jersey, Judge Dorothea Wefing said, joined by Judges Lorraine Parker and Joseph Yannotti.

Former State Commerce Commission Chief of Staff
Lesly Devereaux Found Guilty of Corruption

Division of Criminal Justice, Office of The Attorney General, - Anne Milgram, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice, - Gregory A. Paw, Director -- 609-292-4791

8-1-07 -- Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal Justice Director Gregory A. Paw announced that a jury today convicted former state Commerce Commission chief of staff Lesly Devereaux of official misconduct for illegally using Commerce employees to run her private law practice from the Commission’s offices.

Devereaux, 49, of Piscataway, was found guilty by a Mercer County jury of a second-degree charge of official misconduct and a third-degree charge of misapplication of government property related to her misuse of state employees to run her private law practice while at Commerce. Deputy Attorneys General Robert Czepiel and Anthony Picione prosecuted the case before Superior Court Judge Maryann K. Bielamowicz.

Devereaux faces up to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000 on the second-degree charge. She faces a maximum sentence on the third-degree charge of five years in state prison and a criminal fine of $15,000. Devereaux was found not guilty on two counts of the 16-count indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining 12 counts, which involve allegations that Devereaux illegally hired family members as commission consultants and created false documents to cover up her conduct. The state has three weeks to decide whether to retry the defendant on the charges on which the jury deadlocked.

July 2007

Private Communities Can Regulate Residents' Speech, N.J. High Court Rules

Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

7-30-07 --New Jersey's Supreme Court, easing up on its propensity for imposing constitutional obligations on property owners, has ruled that private residential communities may regulate expressive activity within their borders. . . . The justices held Thursday that a homeowners' association's rules regulating placement of political signs, charging rent for use of a community room and setting an editorial policy for its community newspaper were reasonable restrictions on time, place and manner of speech. . . . "[We] conclude that in balancing plaintiffs' expressional rights against the Association's private property interest, the Association's policies do not violate the free speech and right of assembly clauses of the New Jersey Constitution," the justices held unanimously in Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners Association, A-118-122-05.

Court Upholds Curbs on Signs in New Jersey

By Richard G. Jones, NY Times

7-27-07 -- In a ruling that could have implications far beyond New Jersey, the State Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the right of homeowners’ associations to restrict the posting of political signs and other forms of constitutionally protected speech, as long as the restrictions are not “unreasonable or oppressive.” . . . “We conclude that in balancing plaintiffs’ expressional rights against the association’s private property rights, the association’s policies do not violate the free-speech and right-of-assembly clauses of the New Jersey Constitution,” the court ruled unanimously. . . . The case is rooted in the lawns of Twin Rivers, a planned unit development of apartments, condominiums, town houses and single-family houses that is home to about 10,000 people in the central New Jersey township of East Windsor. Margaret and Haim Bar-Akiva challenged whether the Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association could restrict their putting political signs on their lawn. . . . The homeowners’ association rules in Twin Rivers did not forbid all political signs, but allowed signs only in flower beds and windows.

You can access today's ruling of the Supreme Court of New Jersey at this link.

Justice chided for intervening in son's dispute

7-20-07 -- (AP), USA Today — A New Jersey Supreme Court censured one of its own justices Friday for violating judicial ethics when he interceded in a dispute between his teenage son and a high school football teammate. . . . In disciplining Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto, the state's highest court said his conduct "created a risk that the prestige and power of his judicial office might influence and advance a private matter." . . . The court adopted the findings and recommendation of its panel on judicial conduct. It could have removed Rivera-Soto from the bench, suspended him or issued a reprimand. . . . Rivera-Soto's lawyer, Bruce P. McMoran, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. . . . Rivera-Soto apologized last month, admitting in a letter to the conduct panel that some of his actions created an "appearance of impropriety." He wrote that "at no time did I intend to use my office to influence anyone."

N.J. Supreme Court: Lawyer Fee Arbitrations Stay Private

In separate action, justices order review of multijurisdictional practice

Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal 

7-20-07 -- The New Jersey Supreme Court has rejected a proposed plan to open fee disputes between lawyers and their clients to public scrutiny. . . . The justices decided not to adopt the recommendation of their Professional Responsibility Rules Committee to lift the gag of the current rule, R. 1:20A-5, which prohibits parties to fee arbitration proceedings from speaking publicly about them without approval of the Disciplinary Review Board or the court. . . . The PRRC suggested letting grievants comment about the nature of the fee dispute, the arbitration process and any result. Once the grievant spoke publicly, the lawyer could do the same, according to the proposal. . . . The court said "No" in a notice to the bar issued Monday. The court gave no reason, but there had been vocal opposition to the proposal from the State Bar Association and the Bergen and Middlesex county bars.

Court: NJ man can't recoup child support for another man's son

By Rebecca Santana, Associated Press Writer

7-18-07 -- In what it described as a "sad, heartbreaking" case, the state Supreme Court has ruled that a North Jersey man cannot recoup child support payments he made to care for a son he later found out was not his own. . . . The man called "Roy," who, like all the people in the court case was identified by a pseudonym, was told in 1999 by his ex-wife "Bonnie" that their youngest son was actually the child of "Patrick" _ the boy's godfather with whom she'd been having an affair. . . . The next year, "Roy" decided to sue "Patrick" for reimbursement of child support he had paid to take care of the child, "Darren." . . . A lower court sided with "Roy" and ordered the biological father to pay the child support, a decision he appealed. The Appellate Court again sided with "Roy," and it was appealed to the Supreme Court. . . . In its unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that "Roy" was not entitled to a child support reimbursement because under the state's Parentage Act claims must be filed before a child turns 23 years old.

N.J. Ethics Panel Finds Judge Abused Office by Interceding in Son's Dispute, Urges Censure

Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal

7-13-07 --New Jersey's high tribunal for judicial ethics transgressions says censure is the appropriate discipline for State Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto for misusing his office to advance a personal interest. . . . The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, in a presentment issued Wednesday, found Rivera-Soto violated canons of ethics and a court rule by speaking to police, prosecutors and court officials about a criminal case in which his son was the complaining witness. . . . Acknowledging the justice's actions were motivated by concern for his family, the ACJC said his conduct nonetheless created the appearance of impropriety. . . . "He believed that he had sufficiently and efficiently neutralized or removed his office as a circumstance that could have an impact on the proceedings," the committee said In the Matter of Roberto Rivera-Soto, ACJC 2007-097. "He now appreciates, however, the untoward risk that his actions could have been misconstrued and seen as advancing his personal interests."

Click for access to the committee's presentment and/or justice's response.

Widow ordered to pay ex-suspect 50 years later

VoL Asks?

So why is O.J. Simpson responsible for paying over $30M. He was acquitted of murder in his criminal trial!

Court rules wife of victim must give man acquitted of murder $150,000

7-13-07 --Almost 50 years after a police officer was slain, his widow has been ordered to pay $150,000 to the man acquitted of the murder. . . . Elizabeth Bernoskie says she doesn't have the money. Her lawyer calls the court ruling Tuesday "a cruel, torturous experience." . . . Charles Bernoskie, a police officer in Rahway with six young children, was shot to death while on duty in 1958, but it wasn't until 1999 that anyone was charged with the murder. . . . Robert Zarinsky, already in prison for the 1969 murder of a 17-year-old girl and a suspect in the killings of other teenage girls, was linked to the Bernoskie killing by his sister, Judith Zarinsky Sapsa. She told authorities that when she was 16 Zarinsky and a cousin said they had killed a police officer during a botched robbery. . . . The cousin, Theodore Schiffer, corroborated her story, admitted a role in the killing and served three years in prison. . . . Zarinsky, however, was acquitted. Jurors believed he did it but felt prosecutors did not build a strong enough case to prove it, the foreman said. . . . Elizabeth Bernoskie sued Zarinsky for wrongful death and was awarded $9.5 million in 2003. Zarinsky posted his $150,000 mutual fund as a down payment.

Bernoskie v. Zarinsky Opinion


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Frequent Filer's 'Fraud on the Court' Found Actionable

Law schoool graduate previously denied entry to Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bars due to ethical breaches

Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

7-2-07 -- Robert Triffin, who makes a living of buying bounced checks and trying to recover as a holder in due course, has resorted to the courts so often and so perniciously that a New Jersey appeals panel evidently feels enough is enough. . . . Though finding his fabrication of check assignments did not make Triffin liable for common law fraud, the judges said his actions might constitute a fraud on the court itself. On Thursday, they remanded the case, Triffin v. Automatic Data Processing Inc., A-6986-03, to the trial court for a hearing on the possible imposition of sanctions. . . . The court noted that Triffin's conduct is under review by the Essex County, N.J., prosecutor and the state attorney general and that "all parties defending future claims by plaintiff on purchased dishonored checks are on notice to scrupulously explore the legitimacy of any tendered assignments."

June 2007

State Senate OKs Milgram as next attorney general

By Tom Baldwin, Gannett State Bureau

Associated Press file

The state Senate approved Anne Milgram as attorney general by a 36-0 vote Thursday. . . . Career prosecutor Anne Milgram, who pursued crooks into the streets of New York and human-traffickers into the back alleys of the world, won confirmation Thursday as the state's new attorney general. . . . "Great," said Milgram after the 11-0 vote by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent her nomination by Gov. Jon S. Corzine to the full Senate where she got a 36-0 approval. . . . Milgram, raised in East Brunswick and now residing in Princeton, has been first assistant attorney general to Stuart Rabner who won confirmation to be chief justice of the state Supreme Court Thursday. . . . "Filling his (Rabner's) shoes in the attorney general's office will not be easy, but Anne Milgram has built a career in law-enforcement, fighting for equal justice under the law, particularly for the most exploited and vulnerable," said Gov. Jon S. Corzine. . . . "I am hopeful that you will stay there," Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, told the nominee -- the state's fifth attorney general since 2001 -- who Adler told to "get the best deal for the taxpayers."

Senatorial courtesy only in N.J.

Critics call quaint custom impediment to good government

The Associated Press

6-20-07 -- The dispute that stalled Gov. Corzine's nomination of state Attorney General Stuart Rabner as state Supreme Court chief justice has drawn attention to a quirky New Jersey tradition known as senatorial courtesy, which gives state senators unfettered discretion to block nominations. . . . It mirrors a practice used at the federal level but is unique to the Garden State, according to the New Jersey State Bar Association. . . . "It feeds into how people tend to think the worst about politics in New Jersey," said David Rebovich, a Rider University political scientist. . . . Corzine nominated Rabner to be the state's new Supreme Court chief justice on June 4, but Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, used her unwritten authority to block his nomination, though she never explained why. . . . Senatorial courtesy isn't in the constitution, nor do procedures outline it. The state Supreme Court in 1993 declined to rule on it, and the Bar Association found the practice "unlike that in place in any other state," decrying its lack of criteria. . . . "It's a reality of the political process in New Jersey," said Lynn Newsome, the association's president. "We just want to see it used responsibly and properly." . . . Senate President Richard J. Codey said it's here to stay. . . . "We have the strongest governor in the country, and this allows for, hopefully, a balancing of that power," said Codey, D-Essex. . . . A form of senatorial courtesy is used in the U.S. Senate, though supposedly not for Supreme Court nominees. . . . Corzine was a U.S. senator from 2001 through 2005. He opposed New Jersey-native Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court but did not block it.

Lawyer facing lewdness charge keeps ethics post

By Kibret Markos, Staff Writer

6-20-07 -- A Hackensack lawyer remains vice president of the Bergen County Bar Association and chairman of a regional state ethics panel while facing charges of exposing himself in public. . . . As is common with less serious crimes such as lewdness, Donald M. Onorato will enter the Pretrial Intervention program, a form of probation available for certain first-time offenders, said Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli. A court appearance is scheduled for July 10 in Hackensack. . . . Superior Court Judge William C. Meehan has also placed a condition that requires Onorato, 47, to resign from the bar association if he is to be accepted into the pretrial program, Molinelli said. . . . It wasn't clear Tuesday whether he has accepted.

City lawyer charged in violence

By Michaelangelo Conte, Journal Staff Writer

6-13-07 -- An attorney for the City of Jersey City was arrested twice on domestic violence charges this week after allegedly beating and choking his domestic violence counselor girlfriend, officials said. . . . Jersey City Assistant Corporation Counsel Henry Derek Edley, 57, of Seventh Street in Downtown Jersey City, was arrested hours after an incident at his girlfriend's Laidlaw Avenue home Sunday at 1:09 a.m., officials said. . . . Before his arrest he allegedly made a threatening call to the 38-year-old woman that was recorded on her voice mail and given to police, officials said. When Edley got out of the lockup Monday morning about 7 he was arrested again in connection with the threatening call, officials said.

Browse Our Astrological Reports

The Full Mathesius

6-11-07 -- Editor's Note: For many sitting judges, the idea of publicly criticizing justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court or the operation of the courts is probably tantamount to blasphemy. That's what makes so extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented, the "reflections" by Mercer County Judge Bill Mathesius - the complete text of which follows - and the broadsides he hurls at the justices, the judiciary and various aspects of the court system. Previously disciplined by the high court, he says judges in New Jersey effectively are denied freedom of speech - though he himself has no intention of keeping his mouth - or his keyboard - quiet.

Judge Bill Mathesius

Reflections of a disreputer
(Guaranteed: 85% of this story is 100% true)

By Bill Mathesius, J.S.C.

The decision in In Re Mathesius  was delivered: I was "suspended from the performance of [my] judicial duties, without pay, for a period of thirty days. . ." While reducing the proposed preposterous penalty of suspension for six months to an only ridiculous 30 days, the Supreme Court invited me to take the "opportunity to reflect on [my] position of authority and the manner in which [I exercise] that position of authority." Ever striving to please, I welcomed the invitation. I removed to a remote and undisclosed location to encourage contemplation and reflection. To provide further catalyst to my reflective capacities, I subsisted on a Zen macrobiotic vegetarian diet, an occasional leaf or two of organic radicchio and Evian water, foraging as best I could for native fruits and nuts. The occasional tuna sushi was like gold. I report herewith the product of that reflection:

The Full Mathesius in PDF
Download the complete text of Judge Bill Mathesius' "reflections"

N.J. Justice Admits Ethics Infraction Stemming From Involvement in Son's Dispute

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

6-6-07 -- New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto admitted on Friday that he created an appearance of impropriety by contacting school, police and court authorities in a dispute involving his son, but denied any deliberate misconduct. . . . In a letter to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, he said that in order to "prevent any further harm to the court's reputation" he would waive a formal hearing and stipulate that the charges against him be decided on the basis of the investigatory record and his statement in lieu of formal testimony. . . . "I deeply regret that my actions in defense of my son have raised questions about my integrity and have created the potential to undermine the public's trust and confidence in the court," Rivera-Soto wrote, adding he was "profoundly sorry" for his actions and their effect. . . . But he did not back off from the position, asserted in his May 18 answer, that he sought no preferential treatment when he pressured Haddonfield Township school officials to act, called the town police chief's cell phone, reached out to a prosecutor and two judges and handed his business card to a court employee.

To read Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto’s response to the
judicial misconduct charges
click here.

N.J. Judge Erred in Sitting on Case With Wife as a Juror, Ethics Panel Finds

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal 

6-6-07 -- A New Jersey judge improperly presided at a criminal trial in which his wife was an alternate juror, but in view of the Code of Judicial Conduct's lack of clear guidance, he should not be disciplined, says a state Supreme Court committee. . . . The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, in an opinion released June 1, found that New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson acted in good faith but contrary to the spirit of Canon 2 of the code, which says judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. . . . "The committee believes that the uniqueness of your relationship raised the distinct possibility, if not probability, that Mrs. Smithson would be viewed differently by the other jury members," and that her service as a juror "created a risk of improper influence on the other members of the jury, which justified and required her exclusion for cause," wrote the committee's chairman, Alan Handler, a retired New Jersey Supreme Court justice.

Property rights endangered

Editorial By Mike Presutti

6-04-07 -- When reading a recent ju dicial decision that could implicate regulation of nearly 40 percent of our state's land mass, one cannot help but think of Aesop's fabled eagle that was plucked from flight by a hunter's arrow only to find, on his descent back to earth, his own plumes at the end of the arrow. . . . When we the people act in a collective manner with the perceived interests of the common good, we must give great thought to possible unintended consequences. The light of history must guide our actions and temper our zeal to legislate away all of society's problems. Every student of history knows the plight of some well-intentioned legislation that judicial interpretation or political expedience made unrecognizable, even to its authors. So often, judicial precedent breaks in upon original intent and sets yet another benchmark to break in upon. You do not need a jurist doctorate to understand how this works, you need only know how a ratchet works.

Cigarrest to Stop Smoking in 7 Days!

May 2007

Faulting Lawyers, N.J. Judge Voids Congoleum's Pact With Asbestos Claimants

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal 

5-25-07 -- A New Jersey judge has ruled that Congoleum Corp.'s insurance carriers don't have to fund a $500 million settlement with the company's asbestos claimants because it was a bad-faith deal engineered by lawyers acting collusively. . . . The settlement had been the centerpiece of a prepackaged Chapter 11 petition designed to protect the Mercerville, N.J., floor-products company from claims arising from its use of asbestos before 1983. . . . But the settlement was reached without the consent of the insurance companies that were to fund it and so was not reasonable or entered in good faith, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Nicholas Stroumtsos Jr. ruled on May 18. . . . The settlement was negotiated in 2002 and 2003 by Congoleum's bankruptcy firm, Gilbert Heintz & Randolph in Washington, D.C, and attorneys representing a majority of the potential asbestos claimants, Perry Weitz of Weitz & Luxenberg in New York and Joseph Rice of Motley Rice in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Supreme Court justice guarded after threats from talk host

Posted by Gloucester County Times

5-24-07 -- Washington Township police may have been told to keep an eye on the home of New Jersey justice John Wallace after a self-proclaimed "pro-white" radio host from North Jersey disclosed the home addresses of members of the state's Supreme Court. . . . According to the Newark Star-Ledger, radio personality Hal Turner, who claims an audience of skinheads, neo-Nazis and Klansmen encouraged his listeners to call, write and visit the homes of four of the justices, including the then-chief justice, to show that "they can be gotten to." . . . In his Oct. 25 broadcast, hours after the justices ruled that gay couples are entitled to form marriage-like civil unions, Turner said "And if some very angry people were to go down to some of those judges' houses and tune them up, oh sure, they might get thrown in jail, but that would send a shock wave to the rest of those (expletive) in black robes that they can be gotten to."

Judge Denies Pushing Anybody Around Over Son's Problems With Bully

New York Lawyer, By Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

5-24-07 -- Answering charges that he abused his office's power and prestige to influence a school dispute that led to a court case involving his son, Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto said that "he insisted at all times that . . . the matter be treated in the ordinary course." . . . Rivera-Soto filed his answer Friday to an Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct complaint charging him with violating Judicial Canons 1, 2A and 2B, and Rule 2:15-8(a)(6), barring conduct that brings the judicial office into disrepute. In the Matter of Roberto Rivera-Soto, ACJC 2007-097. . . . The complaint, filed May 11, charged that Rivera-Soto touted his position as a justice when he contacted school, police and court authorities on behalf of his son, Christian, a 15-year-old sophomore at Haddonfield Township High School, who was allegedly being harassed or hit by a teammate on his football team. . . . In his answer, Rivera-Soto admitted most of the complaint's factual allegations but said some actions were taken out of context. For instance, he said, in telling the football coach about his experience as a judge making credibility determinations, he was only suggesting how the coach should assess denials by the teammate, a senior captain referred to as C.L. . . . He said he called the police chief, prior to going with his son to the police station to file a juvenile delinquent complaint against C.L., only to find out how such cases are handled. . . . He gave a court employee his business card - which identified him as a Supreme Court justice - so that she could reach him during business hours, he said.

N.J. Supreme Court: Dream-Refreshed Recall of Abuse Needs No Expert

Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

5-24-07 -- Expert testimony is not required when a plaintiff bases a child sexual abuse claim on recalled memories, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Thursday. . . . Rather, a jury should be allowed to assess the credibility of the plaintiff's testimony in the same way it would any other lay witness, the court decided unanimously in Phillips v. Gelpke, A-1-06. . . . Production of an expert is not needed to explain to the jury how the plaintiff recalled her past sexual abuse, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote. "[T]here was no prodding of plaintiff's memory that necessitated an expert's explanation." . . . The court reversed an Appellate Division decision that said the plaintiff, Melissa Phillips, should have been required to produce an expert to attest to the credibility of her sudden memory recall. She claimed that the memories were reawakened by a dream, without the aid of professional therapy. . . . The court's ruling does not reinstate the $750,000 a Somerset County, N.J., jury awarded Phillips after finding that her grandmother's son-in-law, John Gelpke, sexually abused her when she was between the ages of 3 and 8. Instead, the matter goes back to the Appellate Division for consideration of other issues raised in the earlier appeal but not yet addressed.

Could Lance be headed to the top court this time?

By Wally Edge

Tags: Roberto Rivera-Soto, Zulima Farber, Leonard Lance, Wilfredo Caraballo,

5-15-07 -- Several public officials today expressed surprise at the complaint filed against Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, but legal insiders for years have considered the McGreevey-appointee has one of the Judiciary’s most narcissistic jurists. Even prior to his confirmation to the bench, his former adversaries were quoted in an April 2004 Star-Ledger profile describing him as “pompous,” “arrogant and abrasive,” and questioned whether he had the temperament for the post. . . . Rivera Soto was Governor James E. McGreevey’s third choice to replace Justice Peter J. Verniero who had retired before his term ended anticipating McGreevey would not renominate him to the bench. Both U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares and U.S. Appeals Court Judge Julio Fuentes -- father of Associate Counsel for the Assembly Majority Karina Fuentes -- turned down McGreevey’s offers for the post.

N.J. Justice Charged With Misusing Office to Help Out Bullied Son

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

5-14-07 -- New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto has been charged with abusing his position to influence police actions and court proceedings over the alleged bullying of his teenage son by a high school football teammate. . . . The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct filed a formal complaint on Friday, In the Matter of Roberto Rivera-Soto, ACJC 2007-097. . . . Rivera-Soto allegedly interceded on behalf of his son, Christian, a 15-year-old sophomore at Haddonfield Township High School, who was being harassed and/or hit by a teammate. . . . Rivera-Soto complained to school personnel after the teammate, denoted as C.L. in the complaint, got off with a warning. Things escalated after Christian's mouth was injured in a head-butting incident at practice on Sept. 28, 2006, and the school deemed it accidental. . . . Rivera-Soto allegedly threatened to go to the state police and file a criminal complaint against the vice principal and football coaches personally. He then called the Haddonfield, N.J., police chief on the chief's cell phone about pressing charges against C.L. When an officer showed up at his home, Rivera-Soto handed him a card with his job title and said he wanted C.L. arrested that night, the ACJC alleged.

Formal Complaint In The Matter Of Roberto Rivera-Soto ,Justice Of The Supreme Court :

NJ Supreme Court Justice Accused of Ethics Violation

By Anthony Ramirez

5-14-07 -- Like any father, Roberto A. Rivera-Soto loves his son and does not want him to get hurt. . . . But Mr. Rivera-Soto is a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, and he now faces an ethics complaint charging that he abused his position when he contacted several local officials in an attempt to help his son, who was having trouble with a teammate on his high school football team. . . . In a rare action against a member of New Jersey’s highest court, the state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which filed the complaint on Friday, accused Justice Rivera-Soto of violating court rules, including engaging in conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.” . . . After the justice responds to the charges, the commission will hold a hearing. It can recommend a reprimand or the stronger condemnation of censure, suspension from office or outright removal. . . . If Justice Rivera-Soto, 53, rejects the recommended penalty, he can appeal to his six colleagues on the State Supreme Court. . . . His lawyer, Bruce P. McMoran, said the justice broke no rules and acted reasonably. “He’s a father, and he acted like a father,” Mr. McMoran said. “His son had a problem with another student in school, who is older. And he dealt with it as any father would have, under the circumstances.” . . . The trouble began on the playing field of Haddonfield Memorial High School, where one of the justice’s sons, who was not identified in the committee papers, is a sophomore and member of the varsity football team. He clashed with another student, also unnamed, who is a senior and captain of the football team.

Formal Complaint In The Matter Of Roberto Rivera-Soto ,Justice Of The Supreme Court :

Judges in trouble

By Wally Edge

Tags: Robert Clifford, Florence Schreiber Powers, Rosemarie Williams,

5-14-07 -- In February 1990, the New Jersey Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Associate Justice Robert Clifford, who was convicted of drunk driving. The court said that ''a public reprimand is essential both to vindicate the interests of the judiciary and to maintain the public's confidence in it.'' . . . Four months earlier, Clifford was stopped for driving while intoxicated in Princeton Borough. He refused a Breathalyzer test and was taken to the local police station. Later, he pleaded guilty and lost his license for one year. . . . Clifford served on the state Supreme Court from 1973 to 1994. He was arrested again for DWI in 2000 when his vehicle struck a small bridge in his hometown, Bernards. Because Clifford's earlier conviction was more than ten years ago, the law allowed him to be viewed as a first-time offender. According to the Star-Ledger, "five state judges have been sanctioned by the Supreme Court following drunken driving convictions. Three were publicly reprimanded, one was censured and one was suspended for 60 days after he was convicted of a second driving-while-intoxicated charge."

Big Bad Bills: Padding Hours and Double Billing
Clients On the Rise

New York Lawyer, By Lisa Brennan, New Jersey Law Journal

5-10-07 --More lawyers than a decade ago are padding their bills with unnecessary hours or billing two clients for the same chunk of time, a law professor's survey finds. . . . "The attorneys who responded to the recent survey seemed, on the whole, to be less ethical in their billing practices than those [that] responded to the earlier surveys," says William George Ross. . . . Ross, of Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala., did the survey to update his book, The Honest Hour: The Ethics of Time-Based Billing by Attorneys, published in 1996. He randomly polled 5,000 associates and partners at firms of various sizes across the country. . . . Of the 251 respondents, 54.6 percent said they sometimes pad their billable hours by performing unnecessary work, up from 40.3 percent of respondents to his nearly identical survey 11 years ago. . . . Two-thirds of the respondents had specific knowledge of bill padding by themselves or other attorneys, the same percentage as in the earlier study. . . . Ross also found an increase in the percentage of attorneys who bill two clients at the same time: 34.7 percent, compared with 23 percent in 1996. . . . Typical examples are doing work for one client while waiting in court for another client's case to be heard or working on one client's file while en route on an airplane to see another client. . . . Conversely, the number of lawyers who believe double billing is unethical fell, from 64.7 percent in 1996 to only 51.8 percent in 2007, Ross found. Those who found double billing to be an acceptable practice, however, said it was essential to inform the client of the practice upfront.

The survey appears on the Web site:

April 2007

HALT Urges N.J. to Strengthen Lawyer Fraud Compensation


4-24-07 -- New Jersey's Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection is responsible for compensating legal consumers for money stolen or misappropriated by a dishonest attorney.  . . . Unfortunately, the Fund will only consider for payment claims arising from an attorney's dishonest conduct "provided that...the attorney has been suspended, disbarred or placed in disability inactive status, has resigned with prejudice or has pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of embezzlement or misappropriation of money" (New Jersey Rules of Court 1:28-3).  Yet in 2005, only 1.5 percent of all complaints of misconduct to New Jersey's attorney discipline system resulted in the attorney being removed from the practice of law for any period of time.  . . . HALT is urging the Lawyer's Fund for Client Protection to adopt a standard for considering compensation claims similar to Pennsylvania, which declares that "imposition of discipline...shall not be a prequisite for favorable action with respect to a claim" (Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 521).  HALT also points to Maryland's leadership, which requires "as a condition precedent to the payment of any claim...that final action be taken on the [disciplinary] grievance" but doesn't mandate that a particular disciplinary outcome is required for a favorable compensation decision (Regulations of the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland, Section C). . . . "The function of client protection is best served by providing every victim of a dishonest attorney the full opportunity to seek restitution.  New Jersey should ensure that no defrauded legal consumer is barred outright from receiving much-needed compensation," stated HALT Senior Counsel Suzanne M. Blonder

David Johnson

Image: Carmen Natale

Fewer Lawyers Are Disciplined,
Report Shows

By Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal

Fewer New Jersey attorneys were disciplined last year than the year before, continuing a four-year decline in sanctions for ethics breaches, a new report says.  . . . Total disciplines dropped by 21.1 percent, to 142 from 180 in 2005. And they are down 47.2 percent from 2002, when an all-time high of 269 lawyers were cited for unethical conduct. . . . The downward trend is reflected in final disciplines as well as in temporary sanctions, according to the 2006 State of the Attorney Disciplinary System Report released last Wednesday. . . . The decrease in final disciplines over the four-year period correlates with an increase in diversionary treatment for attorneys charged with minor misconduct that would likely warrant no more than an admonition, wrote David Johnson Jr., director of the Office of Attorney Ethics. . . . Diversionary treatment allows an attorney to admit a mistake and take remedial steps over a period of time, generally not exceeding six months. If the program is successfully completed, the underlying grievance is dismissed with no record of discipline. . . . Diversions increased by 25 percent from a low of 51 in 2003 to 68 in 2004, then by 22.7 percent to 88 in 2005. There was a slight 6 percent decrease in 2006, but diversions stayed high at 83. . . . Johnson offered no other reasons for the decline in disciplinary actions. The disciplinary system did show a 3.1 percent drop in new cases docketed in 2006, but at the same time, the number of formal complaints and other charging documents went up 6.6 percent, to 241 from 226.

N.J. Court Widens Standard for Legal Malpractice Claims

Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal 

4-19-07 -- A legal malpractice claim is not necessarily undermined by settlement of the underlying case, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Monday, poking a hole in a 2-year-old doctrine barring such litigation. . . . A three-judge panel held, in Prospect Rehabilitation Services Inc. v. Squitieri, A-2991-05, that the malpractice suit should not be dismissed if the plaintiff claims the settlement's terms were neither satisfactory nor fair. . . . Monday's ruling points a way around the state Supreme Court's holding in Puder v. Buechel, 183 N.J. 428 (2005), which barred a client from suing her lawyer for botching her case because a second lawyer had negotiated a favorable settlement for her. . . . Puder was based on the court's public policy against permitting double recovery, but the critical factor was the plaintiff's expressed satisfaction with the settlement. Since settlements rarely make clients whole, legal malpractice lawyers predicted Puder was permeable if different facts presented themselves.

'Go Directly To Jail' Rule for DWIs Irks N.J. Bar

Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal 

4-13-07 -- The New Jersey State Bar Association is hollering mad at a policy, enforced by state court regulators, requiring third-time drunken-driving offenders to be hauled off to jail the minute they're convicted. . . . In a resolution made public last Tuesday, the Bar said the Administrative Office of the Courts lacks legal authority to impose such a policy. And what's more, the Bar said, the directive exemplifies a pattern of "overarching and unauthorized exercise of control by the AOC." . . . The resolution was approved by the Bar's trustees in February and sent to Acting Administrative Director of the Courts Philip Carchman, who had announced the lockup policy in an Oct. 25 memorandum to municipal judges. . . . Bar trustee Paris Eliades, who chaired the ad hoc committee that studied the memo and recommended the Bar's action, says, "It's an issue of ever-increasing concern and it seemed the right opportunity to bring it up. We're hoping this creates an open dialogue between the Bar and the AOC."

Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program

Program Guidelines and Related Material

The Supreme Court recently approved the operational details of a Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program for implementation in four vicinages – Bergen, Middlesex, Morris/Sussex, and Union. Those details are set out in the attached set of Program Guidelines. Also attached here are a standardized order of appointment; a parent coordinator registration form; and a standardized case information form. (pdf file)

The Pilot Program Guidelines were drawn in substantial part from rule amendments proposed by the 2004-2006 Family Practice Committee. The Court declined to adopt those rule proposals at that time, preferring instead to test the parenting coordinator concept in a pilot program.

As described in the Overview section of the Program Standards, “[a] Parenting Coordinator is a qualified neutral person appointed by the court, or agreed to by the parties, to facilitate the resolution of day to day parenting issues that frequently arise within the context of family life when parents are separated. The court may appoint a Parenting

Coordinator at any time during a case involving minor children after a parenting plan has been established when the parties cannot resolve these issues on their own. The Parenting Coordinator’s goal is to aid parties in monitoring the existing parenting plan, reducing misunderstandings, clarifying priorities, exploring possibilities for compromise and developing methods of communication that promote collaboration in parenting. The Parenting Coordinator’s role is to facilitate decision making between the parties or make such recommendations, as may be appropriate, when the parties are unable to do so. One primary goal of the Parenting Coordinator is to empower parents to develop and utilize effective parenting skills so that they can resume the parenting and decision making role without the need for outside intervention. The Parenting Coordinator should provide guidance and direction to the parties with the primary focus on the best interests of the child by reducing conflict and fostering sound decisions that aid positive child development.”

Note that no case may be included in this pilot program if it has a temporary or final restraining order in effect pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et seq.).

This material will be published in the legal newspapers and will be posted on the Judiciary’s Internet website: . Questions regarding this material or the pilot program may be directed to Assistant Director Harry Cassidy, Family Practice Division, Administrative Office of the Courts, at 609-984-4228.

/s/ Philip S. Carchman

Philip S. Carchman, J.A.D.

Acting Administrative Director of the Courts

Day Pitney Lawyers Let Off Hook in Malpractice Suit Over Arms-Dealer Loan

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal 

4-4-07 -- A company that loaned $3.5 million to a business owned by a man convicted of trying to sell military parts to Iran illegally cannot sue the lawyers it says failed to warn it of the risk. . . . A federal judge on March 30 dismissed malpractice claims against lawyers from Day Pitney and other firms, finding the lender should have sued the lawyers as part of its state court suit against the borrowers and that, in any event, it was the borrowers' fraud that caused the loss. . . . The case, Keltic Financial Partners v. Krovatin, 05-4324, stems from Daniel Malloy's 1997 arrest and indictment for the attempted sale of 20 Phoenix missile-battery components to Iran. The long-range air-to-air missiles were the type used on F-14A Tomcat jets, which the United States had sold to Iran before 1979, when the shah was overthrown and the country became an Islamic republic. . . . Malloy, who with his wife owned two businesses, International Helicopter Inc. and Aviators Inc., allegedly planned to ship the batteries through Singapore to circumvent the U.S. embargo on Iran arms sales and the Arms Export Control Act.

The Law Firm of Kazmierczak & Kazmierczak Releases Free Informational Website on Social Security Disability and SSI

Kazmierczak & Kazmierczak launches the Ultimate Disability Guide. This site provides free information on Social Security Disability and SSI. It is designed to help anyone with or with out a lawyer pursue a claim for benefits. Explains the law, the process and gives tips on how to win.

4-3-07 -- (PRWeb) Kazmierczak and Kazmierczak a law firm that has handled thousands of Social Security Disability cases nation wide has released a new informational website covering all aspects of Social Security Disability and SSI. This information is free and Karl Kazmierczak shares all of his experience in dealing with the Social Security Administration. . . . The Ultimate Social Security Disability Guide covers in an easy to understand way: How to apply; / How to appeal; / SSA's five step process; / What medical information you need; / What to expect at a Social Security Disability hearing; / Tips on how to win; / The medical listings; / And much more. . . . The site is updated frequently to provide updated and accurate information. If any information on the subject is not found in the site one can simply e-mail Karl Kazmierczak directly.

March 2007

Putting the Brakes on Lawyers Driving for Dollars

New York Lawyer, By the Staff of New Jersey Law Journal

3-8-07--Drivers on New Jersey roadways have reason to be grateful to an appeals panel for reversing a ruling last Thursday that would have encouraged lawyers to talk on their cell phones while behind the wheel. . . . The court overturned a decision by Superior Court Judge Robert Contillo in Bergen County, who reduced a fee request in a civil rights case by cutting Richard Lehrich's hourly rate for the time spent in transit - on the basis that he should have used the time to conduct other business by cell phone. . . . The panel said there was no evidence in the record to support the cut but did not mention the statewide ban on the use of handheld phones while driving that took effect during the latter part of the case, in mid-2004. 

February 2007

N.J. High Court Applies Hostile Work Environment Standard to School Sex Harassment

School districts may be liable if teachers know of student-on-student bullying

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal  

School districts can be held liable in damages for student-on-student gay bashing and other forms of sexual harassment if teachers know about it and fail to react promptly, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled last week. . . . At the same time, the court declined to impose strict liability. Instead, liability will depend on how well educators respond to such situations. . . . "When a student is subjected to severe or pervasive bullying on the school bus, in the classroom, or at the playground and a school district fails to adequately respond to that misconduct, that student has a right to redress," Chief Justice James Zazzali wrote for the unanimous court in L.W. v. Toms River Regional Schools, A-111. "However, school districts will be shielded from liability, when their preventive and remedial actions are reasonable in light of the totality of the circumstances." . . . The plaintiff was a Toms River, N.J., student who complained to authorities in grammar, middle and high school that his peers abused him for years with anti-gay comments like "homo" and "faggot" and occasionally assaulted him -- treatment so bad that he felt compelled to miss classes and avoid school buses and after-school activities.

Human Like Me?

The New Jersey Supreme Court Case That Could Define The Fetus.

By Emily Bazelon
2-21-07 -- What should doctors who perform abortions tell their patients beforehand? Of course women need to understand the risks of abortion in order to give their informed consent, as patients do for any medical procedure. But the risks of what, exactly, and to whom? In answering those questions, a case argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday could upend the practices of abortion providers in the state (and get the attention of the rest of the country) by enlisting juries in defining the nature of a fetus. . . . Rosa Acuna was a 29-year-old mother of two when she went to see her doctor, Sheldon Turkish, complaining of abdominal pain. An ultrasound test showed she was between five and seven weeks pregnant. Acuna says she asked Turkish if the "baby was already there," and that he responded, "don't be stupid, it is nothing but blood." Acuna signed a consent form and had an abortion. She says she then went to the library, read up on human development, and decided that her doctor had ended her relationship with a child she'd named Andres.

Former Metro Judge Censured for Chasing Litigant Down the Block

New York Lawyer, By the Staff of New Jersey Law Journal

2-15-07 -- The state Supreme Court last Thursday found censure is the discipline due a judge who, when affronted by a litigant, chased him down the street. . . . On April 19, 2005, Lester Maisto Jr., then a municipal judge in Trenton, left the bench in hot pursuit of a defendant who hurled an obscenity, made a rude gesture and fled from his courtroom. He lost the man after a few blocks, but the incident made the papers. . . . Maisto publicly apologized, but Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer nevertheless declined to reappoint him to his $54,682-a-year part-time judgeship when his term expired in September 2005.

Bill Would Make It a Crime to Use Public Records for Solicitation

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal

2-15-07 -- Lawyers who work in traffic court have been debating for years whether it's good marketing to gather names of potential clients from court records and woo them with solicitation letters. . . . Some say it's savvy business. Some say the profit is too low after the cost of data searches and mailing. And some say lawyers should fear they will acquire a reputation for hucksterism. . . . Now the New Jersey Legislature is thinking of ending the debate by making the mailings a crime. Under a Senate bill introduced on Jan. 29, lawyers who solicit business from court and police rolls would be committing a crime punishable by up to three years in prison -- the same exposure some drug dealers and burglars have. . . . Three years ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Attorney Advertising said it was ethical to send unsolicited offers of representation to people on court lists if the letters contained bold and lengthy disclaimers.

Blame-the-Lawyer Stratagem Fails in ERISA Suit Against Fund Trustees

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

2-14-07 -- A New Jersey federal judge's dismissal of legal malpractice and breach-of-fiduciary-duty claims against counsel in an ERISA case shows that trustees sued for misfeasance can't easily pass the buck to their lawyers. . . . Though he dismissed the claims on procedural grounds, U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano held that even if attorney Gary Carlson knew of prohibited transactions and failed to disclose them, the fund's trustees "cannot show that Carlson's conduct -- rather than that of the actual wrongdoers -- was the proximate cause of any losses they allegedly suffered." . . . Carlson was counsel to the PACE Local I-300 Union and its health fund. The ERISA suit, Acosta v. PACE Local I-300 Health Fund, 04-CV-3885, alleged that the trustees and administrators of the fund drained it of money, paying themselves excessive salaries, leasing fancy cars, using funds for the benefit of the union and other improper purposes. The plaintiffs are hundreds of workers whose health claims went unpaid, the companies they worked for, and health care providers seeking to recover unpaid medical bills.

Judge Paragano Censured

2-5-07 -- Former Union Township Municipal Judge John Paragano has been censured by the state Supreme Court for violating the first two canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct: failing to observe high standards of personal conduct and failing to comply with the law. On July 24, 2004, the judge, who had been drinking heavily, was involved in a brawl with his live-in girlfriend that led to a 9-1-1 call. By the time police arrived, he had fled in his Range Rover with a blood alcohol level of 0.165. Officers caught up with him after he rear-ended a parked car, and his hand and chest were covered with blood. Paragano pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in return for other charges being dropped. Two days later, he resigned as municipal judge. He practices law in Union.

January 2007

New Jersey to veterans: Drop dead?
By Cal Thomas
"to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan"

1-16-07 -- There has never been a more succinct statement about the obligation and privilege the nation has to care for its military veterans than that brief clause in Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. But the New Jersey legislature thinks setting aside a day on which to remember those who have bought our freedom with their blood is not as important as it used to be. . . . New Jersey legislators have unanimously passed a measure that includes a provision to remove the state mandate to teach about Veterans Day in the public schools. And not only Veterans Day; the bill would also remove requirements to teach about Columbus on Columbus Day, the Pilgrims around Thanksgiving Day, and even Commodore John Barry Day, which commemorates the Revolutionary War hero for whom a bridge is named, which spans the Delaware River to connect Bridgeport, N.J., to Chester, Pa. . . . It is the possible repeal of the law to teach about veterans on Veterans Day that has upset a lot of people, including, understandably, veterans. There are few enough who serve in today's all-volunteer military and a decreasing number of citizens who have relatives in the military, or know anyone in service. That makes it much more important for students to learn of the contributions made by veterans to secure the freedoms too many of us take for granted. Those freedoms mark the difference between American schools and those in dictatorial societies that are forced to teach state propaganda.

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"Ethics Essentials: A Primer for New Judges on Conflicts, Outside Activities, and Other Potential Pitfalls." The Committee on Codes of Conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States has issued this very interesting document.

The Law Office of
David Perry Davis, Esq.
31 Jefferson Plaza
 Princeton, NJ 08540
TEL: 609-279-0141
FAX: 732-274-2050

Specializing in NJ Divorce and Family Law
Mr. Davis has been making family court headlines with his Class Action, Civil Rights
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 which can be accessed at:

Anne Pasqua, et al v. Hon. Gerald J. Council, et al


Information on New Jersey’s Attorney Disciplinary System

Did you know that only about 5% of grievances filed against lawyers with the New Jersey attorney discipline system are made public?  The remaining 95% of ethics grievances remain secret forever.  They are dismissed, declined or diverted, behind closed doors, by the lawyers who run the system.  Can we trust a lawyer-run government agency to hold other lawyers accountable?



, I have had more than enough of judicial opinions that bear no relationship whatsoever

 to the cases that have been filed and argued before the judges. 

I am talking about judicial opinions that falsify the facts of the cases that have been argued,

judicial opinions that make disingenuous use or omission of material authorities,

judicial opinions that cover up these things with no-publication and no-citation rules." 
M. Freedman, Professor of Law and Distinguished Legal Scholar, Speech to The Seventh Annual Judicial Conference of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (May 24, 1989), reprinted in 128 F. R. D. 409, 439 (1989).  According to Prof. Freedman, immediately after his speech, a judge sitting next to him said "You don't know the half of it!"


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INAUGURATED ON: February 2, 2006
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