The System is the Crime
Judicial campaign committees around Albany are raising funds from law firms with business pending before the judge and one firm is particularly generous.
Supreme Court Appellate Justice Anthony J. Carpinello's
"I've never done anything unethical in my life," said Carpinello. "I follow the law, and I'm not supposed to know who contributes to my campaign." The law firm, meanwhile, contends it would never give a campaign gift to a judge who could be influenced by it. "If this is somebody we think we can curry favor with by making a contribution, we won't make the contribution," said senior partner John K. Powers. "Because if we can curry favor, so can someone else. And that's not somebody we want sitting on the bench."
If there is a guilty party, it is arguably the controversial process of electing judges throughout New York State. Lawyers are allowed to fork over campaign cash to judges running for
"They're not supposed to know who contributes money to them, but they're also not idiots," said Powers. "Now that it's online, somebody's going to mention to you, at some point, who contributed money."
For next Tuesday's election, Justice Carpinello's campaign has raised in excess of $238,000, more than any of the other 51 candidates running for Supreme Court seats across the State, according to its disclosures to the Board of Elections. "I am fighting for my professional career," said Carpinello. "I've worked so hard to schedule my fundraisers and I do attend because I'm permitted to be there."
A Judicial Reports investigation found that lawyers have handed out more than $116,000 to Carpinello, nearly half of the money raised by his campaign. His political committee has accepted 142 contributions from individual attorneys and 89 from law firms or partnerships, according to disclosures to State Board of Elections.
At the top of the list is
$25,000 in 2004 to Presiding Appellate Justice Anthony V. Cardona of the Third Department;
$20,125 last year to Albany County Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Teresi;
$15,000 in 2006 to Appellate Justice Karen K. Peters of the Third Department;
$15,000 in 2005 to Appellate Justice Edward O. Spain of the Third Department;
$10,000 last year to Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Frank B. Williams (who is also Supervising Judge of the Third Judicial District); and
$10,000 last year to Rensselaer County Supreme Court Justice George B. Ceresia, Jr. (who is also Administrative Judge of the Third District.)
That pattern continues in this year's election. In addition to its gift to Carpinello,
$10,000 to Schenectady County Supreme Court Justice Vito C. Caruso) who also serves as Administrative Judge of the Fourth District.)
$10,000 to Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Stephen A. Ferradino.
$10,000 to Rensselaer County Court Judge Patrick J. McGrath, who is running against Carpinello for Supreme Court in the Nov. 4 election.
Justices Teresi, Peters, Spain, Williams, Ceresia and McGrath did not respond to calls from Judicial Reports. Through aides, Justices Cardona and Ferradino said they complied with court rules forbidding them from knowing any details about their campaign contributors in compliance. In an interview, Justice Caruso said that although he did see lawyers from
"I really do maintain that wall between me and finding out," said Caruso. "Anybody who wants to can go online and find out. Who's stopping me, other than my own ethical feelings about it? People say to you, 'Did you get my contribution?' How the heck do I know? You look kind of foolish that you don't know."
Caruso said he has never disqualified himself from a case because of a campaign gift, and that his court decisions could not be swayed by contributions, even if he did know who gave and how much. According to Powers, all of the solicitations from his firm were initiated by the judges' political committees which often regard the firm and its renowned political generosity as "
Also awkward may be the frequency with which Power's firm appears in the courts of the judges it supports. Teresi, Ferradino, Ceresia, Caruso and Williams serve as
The Latest Conflict
The most recent
The case was settled before trial. Pasquariello agreed to pay Caruso
The majority opinion, written by Carpinello, ruled that the general release was ambiguous. A dissenting opinion argued that the general release was valid. Northeast has petitioned the Appellate Division for leave to appeal to the State Court of Appeals; a decision has yet to be announced. Absent from the court record is the fact that Carpinello's
Sources confirmed that the issue of recusal was not raised in the Caruso appeal. "He probably doesn't know it," said Powers. "And if he does know it, he also knows I gave $10,000 to his opponent [Rensselaer County Court Judge Patrick J. McGrath]. Or maybe he knows that I gave $10,000 to his opponent but not [about] the $10,000 to him. I don't think those things make a difference one way or another. "Is there a chance of [negative] public perception? I guess. Do those who contribute get some sort of favored treatment? If you're talking about certain boroughs of New York City, that already exists
Copyright 2008, Institute for Judicial Studies
From: Expose Corrupt Courts, [blog] October 29, 2008, http://www.exposecorruptcourts.blogspot.com..., accessed 10/31/08. Mark Lagerkvist writes for Judicial Reports and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C.