October 13, 2014

Judge Kamins Resigns, Hynes's Fate Unknown

Justice Barry Kamins (left) and Charles Hynes
courtesy of  http://www.vosizneias.com
New York State Supreme Court Justice Barry Kamins has announced his retirement. That was a smart move, since it allows him to exit stage left gracefully and seemingly on his account. That he was run out of office after being caught flagrantly disregarding basic legal rules of which he was certainly aware, and that his forced removal was all but guaranteed had he not quit now, is beside the point. Kamins, an important and well known figure in local legal circles, is a nobody in the eyes of the general public, and his departure caused nary a ripple in the local press. But, it does serve as a reminder: the fate of Charles Hynes is still unresolved.

As now former Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes entered the twilight of his last term, he found himself engaged in an increasingly contentious re-election campaign. Ordinarily, DAs can remain in office forever, if they choose, regardless of their qualities as prosecutors or administrators.

Hynes was undoubtedly aware that local Brooklyn voters (a) don't exactly turn out in droves, and (b) will almost always vote for the incumbent, primarily because he's the only guy they've heard of. This must have given Hynes a good measure of comfort as the race heated up.

On the other hand, chicken after chicken had come home to roost in Brooklyn, and there was a seemingly endless line of other chickens heading back to join their brothers and sisters. A slew of wrongful conviction cases were popping up, each of which contributed to the sense that Hynes and his senior prosecutors valued convictions over justice, that they were aware of, and willing to tolerate, indeed, cover up, misconduct by police officers in their investigations if it helped to force guilty pleas or get convictions.

Case after case appeared in state and federal courts in which cops and prosecutors cut corners, withheld evidence, knowingly presented lying witnesses, and basically did whatever needed to be done to make sure the accused was convicted. (See here, here, here, and here, for discussions of but some of these cases). The repeated publication of these scary examples of prosecutorial misconduct began to dog the Hynes incumbency and Hynes was becoming increasingly antsy. He turned to his old friend and advisor, State Supreme Court Justice Barry Kamins.

According to a Department of Investigation report into Hynes published in the New York Times in June of this year, it appeared that Kamins, then both the administrative judge for the City's criminal courts, improperly acted as an advisor to Hynes throughout Hynes's re-election campaign. Their many discussions apparently involved criminal cases then pending in the criminal courts. This was entirely improper, and Kamins surely must have known this. The DOI report is here:

Kamins was immediately relieved of his administrative oversight duties. However, his status as a sitting judge would depend on the results of a subsequent inquiry. The following complaint was filed on or about May 30, 2014:

Complaint Re Kamins by ml07751

On September 9, 2014, Kamins, his attorney, and the Commission on Judicial Conduct, signed off on a stipulation by which he promised to submit his formal resignation papers by October 1, and relinquish his position as judge on December 1, 2014. The stipulation is here:

Kamins Stipulation by ml07751

Kamins's resignation, both substantively and in terms of his timing, makes good sense. According to a recent article in the New York Law Journal, Robert Tembeckjian, the administrator for the Commission, stated recently, "The allegations were serious, and had Judge Kamins not agreed to resign, I would have been compelled to recommend his removal from office." By any account, it would have been an ugly process that could only have further stained Kamins, who otherwise had an unblemished record and a legion of supporters.

And speaking of poor judgment and imploding careers, spiced with flat out dishonesty, we have Charles Hynes. Unlike Kamins, whose behavior was unethical and reflected an arrogance typical of those who have held power for too long, but was not criminal, Hynes has disintegrated from a once respected prosecutor intent on doing justice to nothing more than a sneak thief in a suit.

Several months ago, the issue of Hynes's deliberate misappropriation of drug forfeiture monies for use in his campaign was handed over to State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for further action. The status of Schneiderman's investigation remains unknown, but one hopes it is proceeding judiciously and thoroughly.

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