| Monday, November 04, 2002 - 04:31 pm |
Some of you are aware of my generally low opinion of some parts of the Office of the Attorney General. They are the real-life inspiration for the fictional Dunce Factory.
So why endorse the man who heads these nightmarish excuses for legal professionals?
Because Spitzer is not responsible for the growth of the moronic minions of stupidity. If anything, it appears that his presence has severely dampened the joy of dunce-based activities in that office. Unlike his predecessor who eliminated consumer and tenant services, Spitzer has quietly restored his office to functionality. Unlike his predecessor, he hasn't used his office as a protection racket to solicit bribes, er, campaign contributions. (Although it is rumored that some AAG's still individually engage in "bribe sharing", or taking a percentage, of corrupt official's ill-gotten gains we have not yet seen any proof that suspicious activity was due to anything more than stupidity).
So he's done something, but after four years in office he should have eliminated all vestiges of the moronic. He campaigned using judicial expressions of disgust with the OAG's handling of cases, yet under him the embarrassment has continued.
If you talk to any attorneys or law clerks that interact with the Litigation Bureau or the State Counsel Division, most have examples of OAG absurdity. If you talk to any pro se litigants who've had to interact with this office they will share horror stories.
There have been examples of OAG attorneys arguing that criminal activity is acceptable. When informed of criminal activity his office consistently fails to investigate, preferring to immediately attack the informant. Not surprisingly the U.S. Attorney's Offices routinely bring indictments, and reap the rewards of publicity and credit, for crimes that the OAG refused to investigate for years. (The most notable example is the real estate tax scheme that cost the city billions of much needed tax dollars- the OAG had information about it in 1998 but instead of investigating argued to defend bribery and tax fraud as "state protected"- What a disgrace!).
At the root of this problem is that some of the OAG attorneys, especially the ones who deal with pro se litigants, have no sense of ethics. At least one has told me that in defending a bribed official OAG attorneys represent the interests of the official and not the interests of the "People of the State of New York". This "we defend corruption at all costs" mentality seems to pervade the State Counsel Division. Fortunately for New York the U.S. Attorneys don't subscribe to the OAG ideology.
I've never said that Mr. Spitzer is anything other than ethical and excellent, but personal ethics and excellence are not enough. In his second term he has to make sure that his personal excellence permeates his office. He has to make sure to purge his office of the remaining dunces. When his office appears in a case it has to reflect the excellence of its ultimate client- the People of the State of New York. While there are, no doubt, many quality AAGs in his office, the dunces are the ones visible and the ones remembered.
His office has an ethical mandate greater than that of private attorneys. Every appearance must be made in good faith, with good reasoning, and honest research. He has to put an end to the petty churning and nonsense his office is currently famous for. He needs to restore the OAG to integrity. Give the office back some dignity and class. The OAG pro se attorneys are working with the public and represent the State. They have to act like professionals when doing so.
They are a form of public relations, if they are petty and unethical it lowers the status of the profession, and of the government, in the eyes of the public. He must let them know that if they insist on being mean-spirited, petty, and just plain moronic, they'll have to find somewhere else to express their inner limitations.
I've seen other Attorney General's offices work with pro se litigants to resolve disputes in good faith. I've even seen them grant relief after judges refused to do so. One has been reported to have said to a pro se that "the judge didn't hear you out, but after seeing your position you were right" and then enter a post-judgment settlement bypassing a judge's biased ruling. "My job is to uphold the law of [the jurisdiction], not to win at all costs." Would a New York AAG ever act in such an ethical and reasonable manner? Not bloody likely. At least one New York AAG was spotted intervening in an appeal that did not in any way involve the State or its officers, arguing against a pro se on behalf of alleged racketeers! Spitzer has to change this.
I'm not asking the impossible. The AAGs discussed are not called dunces because they didn't attend top ranked schools, or edit for the law review. They are called dunces because they often act in bad faith, engage in unethical trickery, and pursue arguments that the average elementary school student knows is frivolous. Spitzer is their boss and Spitzer is responsible-- respondiat superior.
A few years ago at the NYC Bar Association I looked Spitzer in the eye and told him, in front of an audience with the cameras rolling, of the moronic hijinks his office was performing. He delegated my concerns to an underling and nothing was done for years. Only after my media presence grew was any action taken on the specific issues raised. In all fairness, he inherited an office trashed by its former occupant. Originally, he needed time to bring it under his control. But in his second term there will be no excuses.
Vote for Spitzer so he can continue the job he started and be held accountable for results.