Ocasio-Cortez’s Republican Opponent Wants To Hold Judges Accountable

Michael Volpe | Contributor

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Republican opponent in November is realistic about his chances but hopes to take his opportunity to talk about judicial accountability.

Anthony Pappas is a longtime economics professor at St. John’s in New York, and he’s running as a Republican in New York’s 14th Congressional District against Ocasio-Cortez in November.

He said Democrats outnumber Republicans approximately six to one, and he receives little Republican Party support or fundraising. Furthermore, he’s not a traditional Republican.

He said he would have voted against President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, favoring a progressive rate, and he would not have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying something must be done to give health care to all.

He calls himself a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, but he wants to talk about a topic rarely brought up on the campaign trail: judicial accountability.

Who is Anthony Pappas?

Pappas first gained some notoriety when he was able to generate some media attention to his protracted — and he said financially abusive — divorce.

An appearance on a local television show called FIT TV caught the ire of his divorce judge, Anthony Falanga of the Matrimonial Division of the Nassau County, New York Supreme Court.

Falanga threatened to hold Pappas in contempt of court if he spoke about how he felt he was being treated in court: “I am admonishing you right now, you are not to communicate with anybody inside the court system, outside the court system, about how you feel you were being treated or anything like that. If you feel I am violating your right to free speech, you have the absolute right to feel that way and do whatever you feel is appropriate. If I decide to hold you in contempt, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Do you understand?”

Falanga is now a partner at the law firm Jaspan & Schlesinger and did not respond to an email for comment.

Pappas said Falanga and others issued all sorts of bizarre and inexplicable rulings, opening his eyes that judges are at times tyrannical, arrogant and let power go to their heads, and that when they are, there is little recourse for citizens.

Pappas said whether in appeals court, oversight boards, and law enforcement, no one was willing to hold the judges accountable for this behavior.

He said he recently watched the debate for New York attorney general; each candidate promised to be independent of the legislature and the governor, but none promised to be independent of the judiciary.

Stump v. Sparkman

Pappas said there can be no discussion of judicial accountability without talking about Stump v. Sparkman, a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case.

In that case, a judge, Harold Stump, granted a mother’s petition to have her 15-year-old Linda be surgically sterilized; the petition was granted the day it was filed, in chambers, without a hearing.

Linda was even told she was having her appendix removed; she married Leo Sparkman two years later and when they couldn’t conceive, Sparkman sued the judge, along with her mother, the doctor and others.

But in a controversial 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the case against Stump, upholding a lower court ruling that the judge was immune from suit.

As a result, Pappas said rhetorically: “If a judge can take away a woman’s ability to reproduce without a hearing and get away with it, what can’t they get away with?”

Stump v. Sparkman made judicial immunity so broad it’s just about impossible to sue a judge.

When Pappas sued- pro se- Falanga, that suit was thrown out and Stump v. Sparkman used as justification.

He said he’d vote against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because Kavanaugh has shown no indication that judicial accountability is a priority.

Not one senator asked Kavanaugh about Stump v. Sparkman during his confirmation hearing, Pappas noted.

Pappas said that because Stump v. Sparkman is a Supreme Court precedent, it might require a constitutional amendment.

No Judicial Accountability

Pappas said Stump v. Sparkman is only a small part of a larger problem, a total lack of judicial accountability: an issue which he said requires public debate.

“There is no one willing to investigate judges,” Pappas said and other victims agree.

Sunny Kelley’s story was featured in a June Daily Caller article. Kelley said cadre of court professionals including the judges all from the same group, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), ran interference in her case to make sure that her son’s allegations that his father was molesting him were covered up, kept in family court and away from police; she hasn’t seen her son since 2012.

She said she’s met with members of the FBI, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (investigating pedophile rings), and even a task force created to root out corruption in Connecticut about her case; every time, the investigation was shut down.

“I don’t think it’s the agents who met with me who make these decisions,” Kelley said, believing higher-ups stopped an investigation into her case.

Law enforcement has prosecuted some judicial impropriety.

The Kids for Cash scandal is the most notorious.

There, two Pennsylvania judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, received kickbacks from a local prison in exchange for needlessly incarcerating thousands of youths.

More recently, Nashville judge Casey Moreland is awaiting sentencing after fixing cases in exchange for sexual favors.

Earlier this year, multiple members of the West Virginia Supreme Court were indicted for obstruction of justice and other charges relating to an investigation into misuse of court funds; the West Virginia legislature then impeached the entire court.

But, in general, Pappas said, the FBI and other law enforcement do not have an appetite to criminally investigate judges.

The FBI and USDOJ did not readily available statistics on judicial abuse, but an analysis from the TheDC of USDOJ press releases from January 1, 2018, to the present found press releases 27 times for corrupt cops, 15 for corrupt politicians, and only six for corrupt judges, including Moreland.

“Elected officials and law enforcement officers in particular hold positions of significant authority and influence in our society, and their ability to effectively do their jobs depends on their credibility and integrity in the eyes of the American people. Anyone who takes advantage of their position for personal gain or in furtherance of criminal misconduct must and will be held accountable,” the FBI said in a statement.

Nowhere for Help

Judicial victims are often caught in a vortex.

Deborah Goodman is a New York stay-at-home mom whose divorce has gone on without end since 2010; her previous judge, Victor Alfieri, restarted her divorce two-and-a-half years in.

In 2017, another judge, Robert Berliner, ordered her to pay her ex-husband, an executive with Phillip Morris, nearly $300,000 as part of their settlement.

She’s desperately tried to appeal the order and then had two surgeries in 2018; though her ex-husband’s attorney filed a motion while Goodman was still recovering, she said the judge ordered Goodman’s bank accounts frozen in August, even as she cares for three children.

Because her accounts were frozen, her attorney, Patrick Carle, asked off the case, for failure to pay.

“The NYS Assembly Committee on Judiciary does not handle investigations into the conduct of judges. This committee handles legislation around a variety of legislative amendments dealing with state and local courts,” said Democrat Jeff Dinowitz‘s office, after Goodman asked for help.

Dinowitz heads the New York State Assembly Committee on Judiciary.

When she complained to the head judge, Kathie E. Davidson, she was told Davidson “has no authority to intervene in matters pending before other Judges,” and to consult with her attorney.

The appeals court refuses to issue a stay or to rule on her appeal.

Messages to Berliner, Carle, and the press team for the New York courts, were left unreturned.

Ellen Holtzman, her ex-husband’s attorney, declined to comment.

Goodman has been told to file a complaint with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct (NYSCJC), but oversight boards like the NYSCJC are generally feckless.

Annual reports of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct (NYSCJC) and the Florida Judicial Qualification Commission (JQC) show both take action in less than two percent of complaints received.

California’s Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP) gets more than 1,000 complaints every year but publicly disciplines fewer than 10 judges; the CJP received so many complaints both from litigants and judges that California’s legislature ordered the CJP audited in 2016.

The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board later admitted it failed to investigate complaints against Michael Conahan from 2004-2008.

As such, Pappas said it’s imperative that a body is created that prioritizes investigating judicial corruption and abuse though he did not specify what form that body would take.

Pappas said another problem is that the U.S. Supreme Court hears approximately as many cases as it did 200 years ago, even though the population has increased exponentially.

A voicemail and email left with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign were left unreturned.

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