Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Legislator Judith Kaye: Show Me The Money

Dear Judge Kaye,

This morning I read that you announced your intent to file a lawsuit next month if the state legislature doesn't approve a pay raise for New York's judges.

You told the Associated Press:

"I so don't want to do that . . . I've been a lawyer for 45 years, and I know the pluses and minuses of litigation. To me it is a last resort, but I've come just about to the end of my patience . . . If they don't do it now, they'll come back in an election year, and nobody wants to talk about raises in an election year . . . I am ashamed to face colleagues in other states."

Of course, you must know that pay raises should be based on performance. By that standard, I hope you will agree that New York's judges can't simply invent new law when they personally disagree with current law.

Has your Court of Appeals consistently invalidated New York's capital punishment law that my former boss signed in 1995? I was at the news conference in the Blue Room that March day, Judith. Along with my four press office colleagues, we answered call after call from the media. There was one recurring question. It was: Given the liberal and activist reputation of New York's courts, do you believe the law will withstand state judicial scrutiny?

Well, we know what happened, don't we? You, and your colleagues, decided to become legislators. And your Court of Appeals began throwing out death sentences, including the one imposed on serial killer Robert Shulman. Do you remember what Shulman did, Judith? He murdered and dismembered three women on Long Island. I'll spare you the grisly details.

In 1984, you wrote the opinion striking down the state's last capital punishment law. Governor Pataki and his attorneys were well aware of your opinion when they started the laborious task of writing a new bill in January, 1995. It was written to conform to your opinion.

Yet, the Court of Appeals under your leadership vacated death sentences because they were deemed "cruel and unusual." Isn't it true you simply don't believe in capital punishment for any one, under any circumstances? Of course, you don't. So, in your private chambers with no public debate or process whatsoever, you decided to concoct new law out of thin air.

For this grave abuse of power you deserve a raise? Please. You're lucky the legislature doesn't vote to cut your $156,000 salary. And the $136,700 "earned" by judges who agree with you that New York needs an unelected super-legislature.

Please sue for a pay raise, Judith. Kaye v. The People of New York has a nice populist ring to it. As the most powerful judge in New York I want to watch you argue that the State Constitution is a "living and breathing" document that merits a pay raise for one out-of-control decision after another.

I'm sure New Yorkers will evaluate your record, and (this next part is where you always have a problem and you need to pay attention) through their elected representatives, they will let you know if you deserve a pay raise.