Proving systemic bias of unethical judges offended by public criticisms: The ordeal of an attorney whistleblower

Leon R. Koziol, J.D.

Former Litigation Attorney

Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.

Accountability Pursued for Unrestrained Judicial Misconduct and Whistleblower Retaliation

Release Date: January 8, 2023

Contact Author at (315) 796-4000 and

It goes without saying that any lawyer who regularly exposes judicial misconduct will eventually be targeted. But none more than I was after exposing corruption ranging from my pedophile child custody judge (Bryan Hedges) to a city court jurist found guilty by a state commission of making racial remarks, physical threats and wrongful incarcerations from the bench (Gerald Popeo).

In the end, due to resulting systemic bias, my health, unblemished law practice and nearly my life were taken from me in retaliation. It mirrored the kind of persecution endured by human rights attorneys such as Chen Guangchen who secured refuge in the United States after he was targeted for his criticisms of the Chinese government.

Accordingly, I took on a cause to make systemic bias more transparent. It led to a form of “Innocence Project” that remains unfinished. In whistleblower cases, such bias is highly elusive from a proof standpoint. Public critics are made to appear incompetent and subjected to a form of gang assault. It is routinely dismissed as a fringe accusation devoid of support.

To debunk this myth, I have endeavored to secure legal protection for conscientious whistleblowers beginning with a precedent-seeking case filed with the Supreme Court under docket no. 18-278 and captioned Leon R. Koziol v Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, et. al.  Ahead of its time, it sought to permit circumstantial proof as a conventional means for establishing unlawful retaliation by judges.

Fearless reporting by those most qualified to expose corrupt jurists would be incentivized by carving out an exception to the court-created doctrine of judicial immunity. To be sure, unless caught red-handed, a judge is unlikely to admit wrongdoing. Inasmuch as courts have long preferred circumstantial proof as a more reliable mode of truth-seeking, there is no reason to avoid application of this rule to judge misconduct cases.

Presently, when jurists are the subject of misconduct, two unwritten rules of evidence invariably emerge, one for judge defendants and the other for the complainants. Under the first, damning evidence is blocked in both overt and discreet ways ostensibly to protect the reputation of our judiciary, i.e. United States v Cossey, 632 F. 3d 82 (2nd Cir, 2010).

The DiFiore filing sought to remedy this dichotomy, representing a check on the persecution of attorney whistleblowers. The protracted and depraved manner in which unlawful retaliation was carried out necessitated my alarming memoir entitled, Whistleblower in Paris. As detailed therein, the attorney disciplinary process was weaponized to achieve illicit outcomes.

But my disclosures were so justifiably offensive that the wrongdoers went to the unconscionable extreme of sabotaging parent-child relationships in simultaneously pending family court proceedings. My petition for declaratory relief eventually fell victim to the Supreme Court’s practice of denying roughly 99% of all that are filed. Proceedings included a stay motion denied by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Despite all this, my crusade lives on, having been vindicated when the main defending party, New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, was forced to resign after being investigated by a state judicial commission for misconduct. DiFiore was reported by a non-lawyer for a letter she sent to a disciplinary judge seeking the harshest outcome against the head of the court officer’s union. She did so in retaliation for his criticisms of her safety practices during the pandemic.

This audacious act shows how readily a judge will misuse authority behind the scenes to punish public critics. It is far from isolated. A predecessor chief judge, Sol Wachtler, may have mentored such elitism with brazen crimes committed 30 years earlier. He served a mere seven years in a medium security facility after being arrested for extortion, racketeering and blackmail.

Like DiFiore, Wachtler used high office to interfere with a licensing process of the attorney exposing his misconduct. It featured Wachtler’s debutante mistress. Under a fictitious name, he made false reports to the FBI and threatened to kidnap her child. Ironically, Wachtler was renowned for an opinion criticizing prosecutors who could “indict a ham sandwich” if they so targeted.

Wachtler was reinstated after his disbarment, hired as a law school professor, and rewarded with book royalties from his prison memoir, After the Madness. In it, he defended his misconduct because judges are supposedly trained to think of themselves as gods. This was a man being groomed for a Supreme Court appointment.

Yet another example lies with a middle-level appeals court judge, Nancy Smith, who earned the dubious distinction as the first jurist above trial level to be publicly disciplined in New York. It featured a glowing reference to benefit a prisoner convicted of vehicular manslaughter resulting in the death of two people. Not long after, Judge Smith was elevated to presiding justice of that court.

Taken together with more than 40 trial level jurists removed from my case for diverse reasons, this undeniable record provides sufficient circumstantial proof of systemic bias against those who criticize our judicial branch of government. However, such a record would not be admissible in any single case. The question then emerges: how many DiFiores, Wachtlers and Smiths are lurking among us?

That number may prove to be staggering. Misconduct is only a matter of what a violator can get away with. In Dobbs v Jackson, No. 19-1392, 597 US ____ (2022), the abortion rights case, Roe v Wade was overturned. A version of this opinion was leaked followed by commitments to apprehend the wrongdoer. Months later, no progress has been announced with the apparent hope that this will blow over.

Such elitism sets a poor example for lower judges, attorneys and litigants. It calls for an overhaul of our justice system beginning with oversight and judiciary committee hearings in Congress. This is not a gender, race or political issue but a profound effort to repair a crevice in our constitutional framework.


About the Author

Leon R. Koziol, J.D. practiced law for more than two decades in federal and state courts. A former city councilman, school board attorney and corporation counsel, he developed a diverse professional background to become ideally suited to exposing corruption. He appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes for his defense of landowners targeted for eviction by Indian tribes alleging violations of ancient treaties. In 2004, he secured a judgement in New York Supreme Court invalidating the billion dollar Turning Stone casino gaming compact.

His recoveries feature substantial jury verdicts for victims of government abuse. Case citations include, Koziol v Hanna, 107 F.2d 170 (NDNY 2000); Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir.2004); Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, 132 F. Supp. 2d 71 (NDNY); Peterman v Pataki, 2004 NY Slip Op 51092(U); Currie v Kowalewski, 842 F. Supp. 57 (NDNY 1994) and Parent v State, 786 F. Supp. 2d 516 (NDNY 2011).

The latter was a consolidated case intended as a class action on behalf of parents defrauded in domestic relations courts. It was part of a bold and complex challenge to judicial and sovereign immunity which yielded severe retributions upon the author’s licenses and parent-child relations. The horrific ordeal which led to a near death climax was captured in his book, Whistleblower in Paris, published in 2021.

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