Activists, judges

I am the subject of "The Scourge of Her Conviction" by Kristen Lombardi [February 2—8], purporting to be about my arrest, conviction, and six-month incarceration on a "disruption of Congress" charge. Such a story shamelessly covers up the corruption of federal judicial selection involving a Who's Who of the high and mighty in New York and Washington. It hardly befits a newspaper that holds itself out as maintaining a tradition of "no-holds-barred reporting and criticism."

Among the high and mighty who get off "scot-free" or virtually so: senators Schumer and Clinton. Your story makes it appear that they—and likewise the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee—could freely ignore documentary evidence of corruption by New York Court of Appeals judge Richard Wesley, which I presented to them weeks before the committee's May 22, 2003, hearing to confirm his nomination to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Indeed, you nowhere identify that senators Schumer and Clinton were duty bound to examine that evidence and had the power to prevent the nomination from proceeding to a hearing. Nor do you mention that the nomination was the product of a political "agreement," announced by Senator Schumer in a press release—let alone explore Governor Pataki's role in that "agreement." Omitted is that Judge Wesley was a pal of the governor from their days in the New York legislature and the governor's first appointee to the New York Court of Appeals. Also omitted is the Center for Judicial Accountability's evidence-based assertion that the nomination was a "payback" to Judge Wesley for having protected Governor Pataki in a politically explosive public interest lawsuit directly implicating him in the corruption of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and "merit selection" to the New York Court of Appeals.

As to the documentary evidence of Judge Wesley's corruption in that lawsuit, you make no qualitative assessment—and garble what Judge Wesley did and what the lawsuit was about. Indeed, you so completely protect the guilty that you do not call the commission by its name, but euphemistically refer to it as "the state's judicial-review board."

Senator Schumer is a Harvard Law School graduate, Senator Clinton a graduate of Yale Law School. What were their findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to what you describe as the "27-page memorandum that outlined, in meticulous detail, the center's opposition"? And why has the Voice, which has a copy of that March 26, 2003, memorandum and the pertinent substantiating evidence of Judge Wesley's misconduct in the commission case and in an earlier case challenging the constitutionality of billions of dollars of New York bonds, not itself come forward with findings of fact and conclusions of law?

That you smear me as a "pest" and otherwise besmirch my proper and professional advocacy only further underscores your betrayal of fundamental standards of journalism. Voice readers can judge this for themselves by examining the paper trail of documents pertaining to the "disruption of Congress" case, posted on the center's website, judgewatch.org.

Elena Ruth Sassower
Coordinator, Center for Judicial Accountability Inc.
White Plains, New York

Kristen Lombardi's story about Elena Sassower was great. I would like to add two points. First, the day Ms. Sassower was sent away for six months in jail—June 28, 2004—ironically was the very same day America was turning over sovereignty to Iraq to establish the rule of law and democracy there. Second, Ms. Sassower got six months for one bogus misdemeanor "disruption of Congress" charge, while Martha Stewart got only five and a half months for her conviction on four felonies. Proportionate sentencing or retaliation?

I have heard of the "chilling effect" on free speech, but this was meant to send an arctic freeze to Ms. Sassower and others. Congratulations to Ms. Sassower, Ms. Lombardi, and The Village Voice for giving voice to the First Amendment and spitting fire on the freeze.

Gary L. Zerman
Valencia, California

As a fellow legal reformer, I applaud Sassower's dedication to the work she performs to all our benefit at the Center for Judicial Accountability.

Few Americans realize that our courts (both state and federal) have degraded to the point that real justice is an aberration; citizens are harmed just by the reasonable attempt to use the courts. The factors causing the perversion of our lawful right to justice remain largely unexpressed and even, some would say, suppressed by that branch of government, which should, by logic and reason, be most responsive. Certainly, Elena's case would support the idea of our judicial branch of government's having a desire to operate unlawfully, without any real scrutiny or accountability, with vengeance and retaliation.

Julie Star-Alexander
Las Vegas, Nevada

Elena Sassower was doing what was her constitutional right. She came to the hearing armed with documentation supporting her objection to having Richard Wesley, a New York Court of Appeals judge, become a sitting judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. What literally galls me, and all activists, is that the people that we count on for help, the ACLU, Public Citizen, People for the American Way, and Common Cause, were not there for her. It is downright frightening to believe that the better you are as an activist, the less likely you will have recognizable allies come to your aid.

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