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and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and
disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel
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Holding The Judge Accountable
Justice Teresi is not behaving like an
unopposed incumbent . . .
for good reason
Judges are human beings like anybody else. Whether we say it out
loud or not, they are political creatures who are affected by political
pressure and political considerations. Therefore, it is up to us,
the citizens, to keep account of their actions, like we should
with any other politicians. Judges need to be constantly reminded
that they are working for us, not the other way around.
About a month ago I received a letter from Justice Joseph C. Teresi
of the NY State Supreme Court, Third Judicial District. It began, “Dear
Fellow Democrat.” Yes, that would be me. “As you may
know, I am running for reelection to the Supreme Court...”
One of the perks of being a Democratic Party committee person
is that I regularly receive these amusing letters asking for my
support. Even though the Democratic Party Old Boys hate our guts
and reduced our election district down to one City block, The Wife
and I are still members of the Democratic Committee. We may be
microscopic, but we are on all the mailing lists.
“I am writing to each committee person of your county asking
for your continued support in my reelection campaign,” Justice
Teresi wrote me in his personalized form letter. “My campaign
has been up and running since last October.” That’s
quite true. He's running hard.
On March 29 of this year, Teresi informed the State Board of Elections
that so far he had raised $110,200 for his reelection campaign.
That’s a lot of campaign money for a judge, but so far it's
not the record for a Supreme Court justice. In 2005 one candidate
in the Third Judicial District raised over a quarter million dollars.
But many observers believe that Teresi is going to far surpass
that record before November.
Isn’t that bizarre? Teresi is an incumbent, having served
most of one fourteen year term (!) on the Supreme Court. Sitting
judges don't get challenged very often, especially if they are
supported by a major party. As far as I’ve heard, nobody
has come forward with intentions to challenge Teresi.
So why the early campaigning, why all the money? Clearly, the
man is feeling very insecure. His long term has not exactly been
without controversy and criticism. This guy has left behind a long
trail of anger, mistrust and debris a mile wide. He’s a judge
with a bad resume.
Where to begin. The NY State Board of Judicial Conduct hands out
three levels of punishment to judges: public admonishment, censure,
and removal from office. Admonishment is a light rap on the knuckles,
a minor indiscretion. A censure is a warning that the judge is
screwing up badly. Removal is triggered by open criminality.
Justice Teresi has been censured twice by the Board. The first
time Teresi was censured in 2000 for repeatedly forcing litigants
before his bench to settle cases when he ordered them to do so,
in one case throwing some poor guy in jail because he wouldn’t
back down. Basically, Teresi denied them the right to a fair hearing.
The same censure also detailed a case where he tossed some other
guy in jail without any sworn testimony or evidence that he had
This first censure used the following words to describe Teresi:
biased, improper, impatient, injudicious, and indiscriminate. “By
his actions... [Teresi] failed to ‘respect and comply with
the law’ and to ‘be faithful to the law’ in violation
of the ethical standards.”
The next one is very interesting. In the 2004 censure by the Board,
Teresi was found to have been tampering with a witness scheduled
to testify in his courtroom. He hauled the witness off into his
private chambers. Alone. When she emerged, she no longer wanted
to testify. Seriously. He did that.
They call this ex parte, which means “for one party.” For
those of us who are not judges, it’s called a felony. Teresi
had been warned about this sort of thing two years earlier, but
apparently a warning didn’t mean much to him. Like some wise
guy juvenile delinquent, he seems to have been testing the system
to see how much he could get away with before the system came down
The case was nothing special, a run of the mill DWI. But the witness,
the one Teresi apparently pressured into withdrawing testimony,
was very special. She was a Catholic nun, sister Phyllis Herbert,
director of the Albany Honor Court, which is part of the State
Now, it is unclear exactly why Teresi did this. It wasn't a very
smart thing to do. What made it important is that it was one of
many major indiscretions by Teresi involving members of the local
Catholic Church hierarchy. This particular indiscretion was easily
proven to be a violation, that's why it became the basis for another
Remember the Catholic priest child abuse cases? Lots of adult
men were coming forward and accusing Catholic priests of molesting
them when they were children. It seems that this happened quite
a bit all over the country. The Albany Diocese found itself fending
off a fair number of these lawsuits.
Around this time, an attorney named John Aretakis brought three
of these child abuse cases into court against the Albany Diocese.
As luck would have it, he found himself arguing the merits of these
cases in front of Teresi. Eventually, Mr. Aretakis was able to
construct plausible evidence that Justice Teresi was openly colluding
with the Albany Diocese. Or, as Mr. Aretakis contended, Teresi
was taking orders from the Diocese. Basically, Teresi was taking
one side against the other in his courtroom.
Did I mention that Justice Joseph Teresi is a devout Catholic,
and that he attended Catholic schools? Not only did Mr. Aretakis’ allegations
of collusion with the Diocese lead to the second censure, the allegations
forced Teresi to remove himself from hearing the three child abuse
And that brings us to to a contentious Save the Pine Bush (SPB)
case that came up before Teresi. Contentious, that is, for me.
Back in 2001, SPB tried to stop the Albany Diocese of the Catholic
Church from building a high end fancy "supportive living facility" for
rich old people that they called Avila House. The facility was
planned for Pine Bush land owned by the Albany Diocese right smack
dab on top of a vital migration corridor for Karner Blue Butterflies. Indeed, most experts believed that the Karner Blue could not survive
in Albany without this corridor.
Avila: Perhaps a controlled burn could restore this ecosystem
Top officials in the Albany Diocese readily admitted that the
reason for the Avila project was purely monetary. The Catholic
Church, after all, is a corporation. Indeed, it is the original
corporation, the one upon which all other corporations are modeled.
At the end of the day, after the masses and the charities, the
Church's bottom line must be black with not a hint of red.
It seems that the Albany Diocese was going broke because of the
expense of fighting the priest abuse cases. Thus they needed a
new source of revenue. Never mind that their new source of revenue
would destroy an important piece of Pine Bush and perhaps drive
the Karner Blue into extinction locally. God’s creation had
to be ruined to keep the Diocese solvent.
I got into some serious screaming arguments with The Wife over
this case. (Well, she screamed. I turned very quiet.) You see,
The Wife is a third generation Unitarian Universalist. Like most
godless Protestants, she does not understand Catholics. She considers
Catholics to be a kind of exotic Protestant, sort of like Jews
but with more statues and candles. It's not her fault that she
thinks that way, it's the way she was raised. Anyway, like all
the rest of the Protestants, she's going straight to Hell.
I kept telling her that the Avila House lawsuit was doomed unless
SPB directly confronted the issue of back door influence by the
Albany Diocese. No Catholic judge would ever rule against the Church,
and no Catholic politician would support a suit against the church.
Not without very good reason, such as loud publicity. She thought
I was just being nasty.
At the time, The Wife and the rest of SPB didn’t understand
that a good Catholic simply does not defy the will of the Bishop.
If the Bishop wanted to make money by planting an old folk's palace
in the Pine Bush, then as far as the local politicians were concerned
it was a done deal. You see, most of our local politicians are
Catholic. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi is a Catholic. For
this reason, in my opinion, Teresi was very unlikely to fairly
consider the merits of this environmental case.
To make a long story short, in 2003 Teresi found for the Diocese
fast and furiously, and his decision held up on appeal. At about
the same time, Mr. Aretakis was establishing that Teresi has a
bad habit of colluding with the Diocese. It sure looks to me like
Teresi did his Bishop a big favor by quickly handing down this
decision against the Pine Bush ecosystem. If SPB had looked for
and publicized the collusion between Teresi and the Diocese like
Mr. Aretakis did, then perhaps this piece of Pine Bush could have
been saved from destruction.
Today, this important part of the Pine Bush is cut to pieces and
the Karner Blues nearby are dying out. And the rich old folks who
live in Avila House are complaining about how the nearby Albany
City Dump smells really, really bad.
The Wife still hasn’t forgiven me for being right.
Finally, let’s talk about Amadou Diallo. He was a poor,
hard working guy who got ambushed by four panicky, unprofessional
cops on the streets of New York City. These plainclothes cops cornered
him in a doorway and fired some 47 bullets at him, hitting him
Decent folks down in The City were outraged and terrified. Who
would be the next victim of Rudy Giulliani’s out of control
gang of shooters? Personally, whatever the story, I wanted these
dangerous clowns off the streets and preferably locked up. That
could be me cornered in a doorway eating bullets while visiting
The City. It’s bad enough we have to worry about criminals,
we shouldn’t have to worry about armed nitwits with powers
of arrest. I want to be able to trust the cops, not fear them as
As most of you may recall, the trial of the four panicky unprofessional
cops was brought up to Albany to be tried in front of Teresi. And
somehow, the four arrogant shooters were absolved of all personal
responsibility for the slaughter of Amadou Diallo.
I spoke with a member of the jury right after the verdict, who
shall remain unidentified. I’ve known this person as informed
and intelligent, and he/she had good reasons to have not heard
about the case beforehand, thus he/she was selected to sit on the
This person told me that he/she was shocked when he/she emerged
from the trial. Apparently, Teresi managed to suppress a lot of
vital information that the prosecutors did not bother to challenge. “There
were so many things we didn’t know about,” he/she said.
He/she told me that Teresi lectured the jury over and over ad
nauseum, leaning over them and telling them that they had to be
absolutely certain before convicting the shooters. “He practically
told us we had to acquit,” he/she said. “After a while
it got very intimidating. In the end, we followed his instructions.
We could find no reason to convict.”
I asked him/her if he/she would have voted differently if he/she
had known all the facts, but he/she preferred to not offer a reply.
The night after the verdict was handed down, Teresi attended a
congratulatory celebration for the acquitted shooters, at which
he gave a speech to the cheering crowd of misguided cops. So much
for impartiality. Enough said.
“I look forward to working with you in the upcoming months,” wrote
Joseph Teresi at the end of the letter, “to bring this reelection
campaign to a successful conclusion.”
No, Justice Teresi. I don’t think I’ll be working
with you. You’ve got enough big money and endorsements from
big old boys. You don’t need help from a little nobody like
me. And you won't be getting it.
Maybe some day, Justice Teresi, you’ll use your position
to cause me suffering because of what I'm writing here. You'll
swing your gavel and nail my butt to your bench. But I won't pander
to someone like you, even if you are a judge. I’ll take that
risk and keep my self respect.
[TIME FOR DISCLOSURE: The author of the article was raised Catholic. He is still qualified to receive communion
after confession, although he realized recently that he has forgotten
most of the Act of Contrition (“I believe in one holy, Catholic
and Apostolic Church...”) He still styles himself an Ex-Catholic,
and continues to regard Protestantism as a degenerate form of Catholicism.
Thus, he claims the right to mercilessly criticize the Catholic
Church and practicing Catholics whenever he feels the urge.]
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