Caroline Kennedy’s 800 Pound Gorilla at the OCA
By Harry Reynolds
When there’s an 800 pound gorilla in the waiting room at the OCA, how do they handle it?
Since 1982, the Judiciary Law, § 468-a, requires every New York attorney to file every two years a registration statement with the Office of Court Administration (OCA).
Caroline Kennedy, admitted to the bar in 1990, did not file two recent registration statements with the OCA and accordingly twice invoked the law’s provision that her defaults constituted “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and shall be referred [by the Office of Court Administration] to the appropriate appellate division of the supreme court for disciplinary action” which could include suspension from the practice of law. (Emphasis added.)
The purpose of the registration statement is not only the collection of a fee. Its purpose includes the attorney’s affirmance, in substance, that the attorney has not stolen his client’s money or other property.
Caroline Kennedy by her defaults failed, among other things, to affirm that she had not stolen client’s money or other property.
Contrary to the mandate of Judiciary Law, §468-a, the OCA, without any authorization in law, and in violation of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge who oversees the OCA, twice did not refer Ms Kennedy’s defaults to the Appellate Division for disciplinary action. Instead, OCA recorded her failures to file registration statements by listing her as “Delinquent”, a procedure wholly without any basis in Judiciary Law §468-a, or the Rules of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals or the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge.
OCA’s record describing Ms Kennedy as “Delinquent” was published by it on May 2d, 2013 when my comment concerning Ms Kennedy was published by The New York Times in connection with Michael Shear’s column about the vetting of proposed appointees of the President:
“HarryReynolds Scarsdale, New York
It would be prudent for the President to inquire into why Ms Kennedy is listed as “Delinquent” in the public records of the New York State Office of Court Administration because she has failed to file one or more registration statements which include her affirmation, in substance, that she has maintained her financial records as an attorney in accordance with the rules of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
In short, as in the case of every attorney who registers, an answer must be given to the question whether Ms Kennedy has unlawfully taken or used moneys entrusted to her as an attorney.
Her failure to file requires the Office of Court Administration to refer her to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for disciplinary action which could include her suspension from the practice of law for conduct hindering the administration of justice.
Further, the prospect of Ms Kennedy’s appointment at a time of critical tension with North Korea must have politicians in both parties wondering about the President’s judgment. What would he do if Ms Kennedy, after her appointment, were suspended from the practice of law for conduct hindering the administration of law? Would he laugh and tell the Japanese jokes while they look closely at him for any sign of imbalance?”
On the following day, May 3rd, 2013, the Office of Court Administration, contrary to Judiciary Law §468-a, and without any lawful authorization of the Chief Administrative Judge or the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, and without any published explanation by Caroline Kennedy, changed the published registration status of Caroline Kennedy to “Currently registered” when in law she was in default for years and her case should have been transferred to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court “for disciplinary action” as provided by law.
Could this be true? Was the “Delinquent” Caroline Kennedy rehabilitated at night and woke up on May 3rd as registered and free of a review of her defaults by the Appellate Division? Are we watching an old Shirley Temple movie? Indeed, as bonus is she free of making up for all of those more than forty hours of Continuing Legal Education credits that she had not sat through like the rest of the attorneys down in the tween decks? What happened to Judiciary Law, §468-a? The OCA would do well to publish the miraculous registration statement signed by Ms Kennedy upon which they presumably rely for its making of the unlawful change to the public record. The statement didn’t exist for years before May 3rd, 2013, according to the OCA’s listing of her as “Delinquent” during that period.
New Yorkers aren’t Jack and Jane Bimbos. They know quick change artists when they see them.
The action of the OCA in the Kennedy case raises the question whether the OCA is open to its subjection to political uses by its unlawful policy of not referring to the Appellate Division lawyers who default in their obligation to file registration statements. We ask OCA now for the number of these lawyers and the number of the two-year periods attributable to each of them, for some may not have reported for as many as six or eight years, which brings us to the matter of Congressman Charles Rangel.
Congressman Charles Rangel failed to comply with the registration statute between its enactment in 1982 and 2007, an Olympic leap of a quarter-century that would excite any pedestrian’s admiration for its length. He suddenly became registered in or about 2007 after what must have been a unique discussion with the OCA. The OCA disposed of his default without sending it to the Appellate Division as required by Judiciary Law, §468-a. He may have had a good defense, but it was one determinable only by the Appellate Division under §468-a and, in any case, the OCA does not have any judicial powers.
What does one in New York do when there is an 800 pound gorilla in the OCA’s waiting room and the smell of garbage in the air?
One should call upon Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman both of whom have declared their intention to rid New York of governmental corruption.
Invite them to start here with the 800 pound gorilla in the waiting room at the Office of Court Administration.
Attorney at Law
May 10, 2013