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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Babies At The Bar Part 1: Violations of Law by NYSUT and NYC DOE Attorneys

Michael Bloomberg and Michael Cardozo

 From Betsy Combier:

First, I am not an attorney, just a writer/journalist. I, like most people, have opinions. Below are a few of them.

The New York City Department of Education as set up by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his sidekick New York City Law Department Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, (see below for a 2009 rebuke from the NY Appellate Court Judges) are breaking the law. Specifically, New York State Education Law Section 3020-a. Lawyers who work for The Gotcha Squad and prosecute tenured teachers brought up on bogus charges of misconduct and/or incompetency know this, so do NYSUT Attorneys, and attack anyone who notices their lawless procedures in bringing "Just Cause for Termination" to all cases of 3020-a arbitration. 

Both NYSUT and the DOE Attorneys are contracted to "prosecute" teachers under the presumption that all individuals brought to 3020-a are guilty of the charges. Other presumptions that effect all cases are: the case must look at ONLY the specifications, and nothing else (i.e., the principal is breaking the law with special needs children, stole money, has skeletons in his/her closet, the person making the charge is not in the school, didnt see what happened, wasnt there...). Obviously, anyone who says that ALL facts must be brought in to the hearing to give motive and prove innocence is someone who must be tarred and feathered. That's me and the lawyers I work with, but  we do not care about this fluff and stuff, and all of that leads to a stronger case in court for any kind of appeal against the arbitrator.

For instance, on April 19, 2013, I walked by a hearing room with the door open, at 49-51 Chambers Street, and I heard NYSUT Attorney Maria Elena Gonzalez Lichten telling Arbitrator Stephen O'Beirne how "she" put my email on her blog, and...". You dont think that the Attorneys speak to arbitrators only about the cases they are doing before them, do you? Anyway, I am posting the stuff I have already placed on this blog about Maria Elena Gonzolez Lichten, wife of Stuart Lichten, to update Mr. O'Beirne on what I have written, see here, here, and here. Mr. O'Beirne is an excellent Arbitrator, in my opinion, and can see through this infantile approach to squashing opposition to the Plan ("terminate any DOE employee who has tenure and is brought to 3020-a") . By the way, Mrs. Lichten, when you said in your email that I lied, I am still waiting to hear about what, so that I may address whatever it is that I lied about? My email address is, as you know.

Now to the charging process and determination of probable cause. If you are handed your specifications with a cover letter that says "...Principal __________ has found probable cause on the charges preferred against you" tell your attorney to ask, on the record and to the arbitrator, how the principal can find probable cause against you, considering the fact that Education Law 3020-a states that the school board must go into Executive Session and vote on whether there is probable cause, bring in Appendix A, usually served with the specifications - if you dont get this document, print out Education Law 3020-a and bring in those pages. (New York State Education Law 3020-a(2)(a)). New York City is part of New York State, and as far as I know, no agreement which conflicts with the law is valid.

The April 15, 2010 so-called 'agreement' signed by Joel Klein and Mike Mulgrew cannot be legally binding because Joel Klein signed the 'agreement' as chancellor, and he was never legally chancellor because he never had a contract, required by Education Law Section 2590-h. I wrote the "Who Are You Kidding Award Goes To Joel Klein" in 2007, but Mike Bloomberg never gave out any contracts to Klein, Black or Walcott. On January 7, 2013, Arbitrator Roy Watanabe asked DOE Attorney Lisa McFadden if Walcott had a contract. She said yes, and brought into the 3020-a hearing the waiver given to Walcott by New York State Commissioner David Steiner, giving Walcott permission to be chancellor:

Waiver from Steiner To Dennis Walcott

I am not a lawyer, but I believe that as Mr. Walcott did not sign this document, there is no term of office, and for many other reasons, this is not a contract, howevermuch the Gotcha Squad says it is. Compare with the contracts of Harold Levy and Rudy Crew in my 2007 article "The Who Are You Kidding Award Goes To Joel Klein"

I noticed what they were doing eight years ago. For 5 years I remained a silent observer, writing notes on everyone from a corner by the wall as a member of the public. Then someone at the DOE made up that I taped during a hearing, and this was completely false, but I became the omen of doom when the Attorneys realized that I knew what the fraud was. NYSUT Attorney Shawn T. Kelly, for example, on May 25, 2011 while everyone at 49-51 Chambers Street was on the sidewalk due to a firedrill, screamed "Dont talk with Betsy Combier, you will be terminated..." and other nonsense.

Then there are the screamers and naysayers from the DOE, Ian Nikol, Nancy Ryan, Dennis Da Costa, and Mallory Sullivan, all Department Attorneys who would rather scream  at me and try to get me run over by a bus than address the fact that they are harming innocent people without just or probable cause.


Education Law requires a vote by the school board precede a determination of “probable cause” upon which to bring charges against teachers removed from their schools. (Education Law §3020-a, Article 61) This provides all pedagogues protection from vindictive Principals who may want to remove senior teachers from their positions because they make salaries that could pay for two teachers instead of one.

NYS Education Law §2590-g does not address the issue of review and scrutiny of whether there is probable cause to proceed with the prosecution of disciplinary charges against tenured educational personnel. The requirements of NYS Education Law §3020-a and §3020-a (2)(a) , under which tenured personnel may be disciplined for “Just Cause”, are absolute and require that before charges can be brought against a tenured educator, the School Board must:

a. Determine that there is “probable cause” for the proceeding with charges by a majority vote by the Board.
b. Make this determination within 5 days of the charges being filed with the Board.
c. Ensure that the decision to proceed with the charges is not frivolous, arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory.

Without a school board to perform these functions – and, the New York City Panel For Educational Policy (“PEP”) never has taken on this function – there is no oversight by anyone other than the tenured teacher’s Principal to initiate the disciplinary process and Local Superintendent to endorse the Principal’s request to prefer file charges against any educator a Principal chooses to remove from the school the Principal administers.

The lack of independent review and lack of oversight by anyone other than the tenured teacher’s Principal to initiate discipline is not consistent with Education Law §3020-a. This constitutes a de facto denial of equal protection of the §3020-a law, as all arbitrators who sit on the panel to hear 3020-a charges are not permitted by law, collective bargaining agreement, or any other contractual arrangement to make a decision on charges unless they have been voted on by the New York City Board of Education before a tenured teacher is given these charges, pursuant to Education Law §§ 2590-j, 3020, and 3020-a.

The relevant parts are as follows:
“Filing of charges. All charges against a person enjoying the benefits of tenure as provided in subdivision three of section one thousand one hundred two, and sections two thousand five hundred nine, two thousand five hundred seventy-three, twenty-five hundred ninety-j, three thousand twelve and three thousand fourteen of this chapter shall be in writing and filed with the clerk or secretary of the school district or employing board during the period between the actual opening and closing of the school year for which the employed is normally required.”

Section 3020a(2)(a) of The NY Education Law states:

“Disposition of charges. Upon receipt of the charges, the clerk or secretary of the school district or employing board shall immediately notify said board thereof. Within five days after receipt of charges, the employing board, in executive session, shall determine, by a vote of a majority of all the members of such board, whether probable cause exists to bring a disciplinary proceeding against an employee pursuant to this section. If such determination is affirmative, a written statement specifying the charges in detail, the maximum penalty which will be imposed by the board if the employee does not request a hearing or that will be sought by the board if the employee is found guilty of the charges after a hearing and outlining the employee’s rights under this section, shall be immediately forwarded to the accused employee by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested or by personal delivery to the employee.”

Furthermore, Section 2590(j)(7)(b) of The NY Education Law specifically states:

“Charges may be initiated by the community superintendent against any such employee.” There is no mention of a principal finding probable cause. Certainly it is unreasonable to believe that due process exists when a principal charges a teacher without any accountability to anyone for that decision, and then finds probable cause for charging the teacher. Therefore the Just Cause Standard is not reached, and no hearing can proceed.

Before a tenured teacher can be brought up on disciplinary charges, the Education Law lays out a number of procedural hurdles that a Board of Education must comply with. These procedural hurdles are in place to protect the rights of the tenured teacher to fair process, and constitute jurisdictional pre-requisites to a §3020-a disciplinary hearing. Chief among these procedural hurdles is the requirement that probable cause to prefer charges must be voted on by the Board of Education (see, e.g., Education Law §3020-a(2)(a)).

Compliance with this provision is a jurisdictional condition precedent to a §3020-a disciplinary hearing. Without it, the hearing cannot go forward. Prohibition is the appropriate procedural remedy for the assertion of a claim where prohibition is available “to prevent a body or officer from proceeding or threatening to proceed without or in excess of its jurisdiction.” See: Matter of Schumer v Holtzman, 60 N.Y. 2d 46, 51; Garzilli v Mills, 250 A.D.2d 131 (3d Dep’t 1998); Community School Board No. 29, SED No. 3562 (Howard Edelman, a member of the UFT-DOE arbitration panel in New York City -Dec. 14, 1998).

In New York City, §3020-a teacher disciplinary proceedings have become penal in nature and not arbitral in the same manner labor grievances are resolved. Matter of Clayton v Bd. of Educ., 49 A.D.2d 343 (3rd Dept 1975). Submission to these disciplinary hearings are compulsory and the jurisdiction of the hearing officer is derived from statute. Teachers are charged, similar to an indictment in the criminal world, upon determination of probable cause.

When I started examining the procedures used by the newly instituted Department of Education, I saw that my knowledge of education law and arbitration, which I got by reading my own books (I am not an attorney) did not give me any clue as to the random and arbitrary nature of the 3020-a hearings I was asked to attend in NYC. So, I studied the lawyers and the arbitrators to try to find out how the law could be ignored. Then the Gotcha Squad realized that I was on to something, and took it upon themselves to attack me.

So now I can write about the lawyers who decided to attack, and will provide my website with the names of the Attorneys who threw aside the lives, careers, health benefits and tenured positions of teachers in order to make a profit.

NY Appellate Bench Rips Cardozo in Law Journal Letter

In a stunning rebuke to NYC’s top lawyer, Michael Cardozo, 18 of the 20 justices that sit in the Appellate Division, First Department have taken him to the woodshed with a letter in the New York Law Journal coming out tomorrow (12/17/09). The response comes due to Cardozo’s attack on the state’s judiciary last week. Cardozo is now starting his third term as the city’s Corporation Counsel.
The appellate court judges are responding to Cardozo’s December 7th column on improving efficiency in the courts, a subject I wrote about a few days ago when both bench and bar came down on him hard in NYC’s Top Lawyer Gets Reamed For Inefficiency (By Both Bench and Bar).
But now it is not simply one panel of judges ripping the city for its own inefficiency, or lawyers writing letters to the paper. Now the vast majority of the appellate bench that hears NYC cases has called Carozo’s “imperious outpouring of advice” “insulting.” They went on to write, led by Presiding Justice Luis Gonzalez (pictured), that:

“We feel compelled to respond to his misguided assertions, his misplaced blame and his attacks on the state trial judges…”
The First Department hears cases from the Manhattan and Bronx courts. And the Second Department, which sanctioned the city just last week in Byam v. City of New York for a decade of delay in providing discovery, handles Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island (as well as other downstate counties).
You could almost see the smoke pouring off the keyboards of the judges as they wrote of Cardozo regarding changes in the use of 60-day reports that judges make to track cases:

In large measure, his facile proposals amount to an echo of reforms that are under way or have already been adopted by our former and current chief judges… Every one of these items has already been implemented by the Office of Court Administration, which on a constant basis compiles and circulates large amounts of information regarding judges’ job performance.
The idea that current reports are being inaccurate implied, to the court, that some dishonesty was going on. The letter stated:

The idea that complaints must be filed with the Judicial Conduct Commission in order to ensure accuracy in 60-day reporting requirements baselessly implies that there is actually a problem with inaccuracy, an implication for which Mr. Cardozo provides no support.
After defending the trial judges against Cardozo’s charges, the appellate judges lowered the hammer on him, placing the blame for much delay and inefficiency squarely at his feet (just as this letter Helene Blank and Marc Dittenhoefer did the other day):

In fact, it is ironic that the Corporation Counsel blames the courts for a failure to deal appropriately with litigation delays, since it is the office of Corporation Counsel of the City of New York that plays a significant role in causing those undue delays. For one thing, there is always a backlog of ready city cases in the dedicated city parts, and, with each part being assigned only two city attorneys, neither plaintiffs’ attorneys nor the trial judges have the means to ensure that ready cases can proceed immediately to trial; the city alone wields that authority. A vast amount of inefficiency impeding the resolution of litigation is also created by the city’s oft-demonstrated cavalier attitude toward its discovery obligations. The city’s almost routine failure to timely and fully cooperate with its discovery obligations, even in the face of repeated court orders, is regularly confronted by city part judges attempting to solve the city’s intransigence (see e.g., Lewis v. City of New York, 17 Misc. 3d 559 [2007]).
What followed then was a litany of First Department cases in which the sanction of attorneys fees was imposed on the city as a result of its “inexcusably lax” responses to discovery orders.
And then a concession about city cases that all the personal injury attorneys in this town already knew, but had always been simply implied by the courts:

[A]s a rule, our courts give far more leeway to the city than we typically do to other defendants in civil actions.
Cardozo isn’t having a very good holiday season. In fact, having so many judges angry at him, I’m thinking this will be his last holiday season in his office.
It’s worth noting, however, that in an interview with the Law Journal that accompanied the letter (can’t find link), Justice Gonzalez said the First Department’s “track record of evenhandedness in our treatment of Mr. Cardozo’s client, New York City,” would continue despite the judges’ criticism. He went on to say, “The bottom line is our judges are always mindful of our ethical responsibilities and our members have always dealt with Mr. Cardozo’s client in a fair and even-handed manner and we will continue to do so.”
The Corporation Counsel has 650 attorneys working for it, and handles a wide range of legal issues on behalf of the city. Background here on Cardozo as he prepared to start his third term.