A 2004 "White Plains Person of the Year"
Elena Ruth Sassower was one of three White Plains Persons of the Year chosen in a poll conducted in 2004 by J. F. Bailey for the White Plains CitizeNetReporter of White Plains, New York (http://www.WhitePlainsCNR.com, accessed January 6, 2005). Bailey's report on Sassower follows.
The New Nathan Hale
Elena Sassower is the Chair of the Center for Judicial Accountability. A lifelong White Plains resident, she has spent her career lobbying and campaigning for fair selection of judges in New York State based on competence and judicial experience rather than political favoritism.
In 2003, she was campaigning against the nomination of Richard Wesley to the federal bench in New York because of his alleged conflict of interest when he was on the Court of Appeals and refused to recuse himself on a case involving the governor's commission on judicial conduct.
In May of 2003, she asked to speak at the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wesley’s nomination. She asked her question after Judiciary Committee Chair, Saxby Chambliss, had gaveled the hearing closed. When she asked her question in a polite manner, Chambliss had her jailed on charges of Disruption of Congress. She was convicted last May of the charge and was offered a suspended sentence if she would cease her activity with the Center for Judicial Accountability and stay out of government buildings and hearings (I am paraphrasing the conditions).
She refused, saying that was a threat to her freedom of speech, upon which she was dispatched directly to jail and served six months longer than the convicted bribe artist, Guy Vellella. (Previously in 2003, protesters at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing waved placards and shouted for the firing of Donald Rumsfeld, but they were not jailed or charged.)
Ms. Sassower emerged from prison December 23. She served her full six months. No government official from New York, Westchester, or the City of White Plains spoke up on her behalf or criticized Senator Chambliss for the jailing. No court granted her a stay pending appeal, something they do all the time for big time executive thieves who have bilked the public of millions.
Ms. Sassower appears to have been thrown into jail simply because she was about to show how judgeships are used by political parties to pay off persons to run for unwinnable races and as rewards for doing things for the party. Ms. Sassower’s testimony on Mr. Wesley was to have pointed that out.
In the last decade alone, we have seen Andrew O'Rourke, former Westchester County Executive, given a judgeship after he ran a Quixotic race against Mario Cuomo. The candidate who ran against Eliot Spitzer was given a judgeship, and most recently Larry Horowitz, the last straw man to run against Andy Spano for County Executive, was given a judgeship. Does that look like a pattern to you? It does to Ms. Sassower.
Well, she was going to speak out about it. And she was thrown into jail for it by a U.S. Senator.
Ms. Sassower deserves to be a White Plains Person of the Year because she stood up for free speech and went to prison for it. You have to ask yourself, would you do that for what is right?
Congratulations to White Plains "Best of 2004."
John F. Bailey
January 4, 2005