By Dr. Leon Koziol
Parenting Rights Institute
If you’ve been following my family court matters in recent months, you already know about a racist judge in the City Court of Utica, New York who was assigned as an Acting Family Judge on my never ending custody and support matters. He is Trial Judge #41, a judicial record by most accounts, and he was assigned despite a recent censure by the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct after a hearing judge concluded that he had made racist remarks to an African-American attorney, threats from the bench and abuses of contempt powers in violation of due process.
The Commission Chairman dissented and voted to remove Judge Gerald Popeo altogether as a judge because such misconduct cannot justify continued deliberations for the diverse people served by our courts. So how did this local city judge suddenly end up on my case after judges from as far away as Oswego (Lake Ontario) and Lewis County (near Canadian border) were assigned and disqualified for undisclosed reasons?
As a former civil rights attorney who has clashed with this judge as recently as last summer at a local bar, how could he be deemed impartial by Judge James (Bond) Tormey, the Syracuse Administrative Judge who assigned him after judges #39 and #40 were removed only weeks ago? Very compelling circumstances dictate that this “Acting Family Judge” has been assigned to provoke and finish me off.
These circumstances were embodied in a cross-motion to add Judge Gerald Popeo to my extraordinary hybrid case filed in New York Supreme Court. It is a parental equality case which names the state’s Chief Judge, James “Bond” Tormey and my custody and support judges as respondents. It seeks overdue precedent for victimized parents everywhere, i.e. full legal recognition of parental alienation.
Although a decision on the Chief Judge’s dismissal motion and that of the New York Attorney General has not been formally issued, an argument date was set for May 24, 2018. Such a scheduling order would not have logically occurred if the dismissal motions were granted (already argued). But nothing surprises me anymore given the horrific ordeal I have survived thus far due to relentless retaliation for my public criticisms of our courts.
At the same time I am filing a motion for removal of Judge #41, Gerald Popeo from ongoing lower court proceedings. I have asked the NAACP to join me on that motion with the hope that other groups will follow, both conservative and liberal since this affects people of all political and religious beliefs. Portions of my formal request to the NAACP President is reprinted below.
The NAACP headquarters and Washington Bureau were closed for the past couple days due to the east coast storm but a director at the NAACP Hollywood Bureau responded by phone the same day with a referral to the NAACP legal department. If you would like to join us at the courthouse, upcoming arguments on May 24, 2018 or learn more about the escalating atrocities here, feel free to call our office at (315( 380-3420.
Formal request to NAACP President Derrick Johnson:
March 21, 2018
Dear Mr. Johnson:
On February 12, 2015, the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured an upstate city court judge for abusing his authority, sending litigants to jail without due process, and making injudicious remarks from the bench. Relevant complaints over time came from a district attorney, public defender and African-American lawyer, among others.
The injudicious remarks which a Commission judge found to be true included the following:
(to an African-American lawyer): “Do you know what black people from New York City call black people from upstate?” (no reply) “Country niggers.”
(to a prosecutor on at least two occasions): “Mr. Scully is the perfect cigar store Indian.”
(to a litigant upset with his unfair treatment): “You’re standing there with a grin that I would love to get off the bench and slap off your face. How about 30 days in jail for contempt, that’s hilarious too, isn’t it? What’s wrong with you? We done smirking?”
(to the same litigant ordered to return for a contempt sentence): “(You) gave me a nice, big smirk (while leaving court) … as if to say, blank you, Judge.”
As a successful and unblemished civil rights attorney for more than 23 years, and another ten as a litigant and parental advocate, I have displayed countless facial gestures during jury trials and other proceedings in both federal and state courts. A grin, smirk or other involuntary expression would be routine and rarely, if ever, considered contemptuous . . .
In January, 2010, (Judge Popeo) committed a former client of mine, the city’s first African-American Public Works Commissioner, to jail for non-appearance on a business nuisance case despite a compelling explanation. During his first time ever in jail, the former Commissioner Stephen Patterson attempted suicide after a belt was placed in his cell.
Among the reasons given for the suicide attempt was Mr. Patterson’s inability to find an attorney after a witch hunt was begun against me due to my litigation successes, civil rights forums and whistle blower reports critical of our courts. I was suspended from my civil rights practice due to an ex-secretary influenced by racist adversaries to create ethics issues in my office. Despite my criminal complaints, highly supported internal report and complaints from numerous other victims, she was not timely arrested or prosecuted.
This left me vulnerable to “witch hunt” ethics lawyers who were later allowed to resign quietly after a state inspector general discovered their falsified time sheets, the same ones declaring in confidential proceedings that my license reinstatement would be opposed so long as my public criticisms continued. Only many years later, after I was out of my law practice long enough, was this white ex-secretary finally picked up in Illinois and jailed on felony convictions involving later law offices. By that time, countless crimes and injustices occurred without accountability.
There was certainly sufficient provocation for the witch hunt. For example, I saved an African-American Public Safety Commissioner . . . from an orchestrated indictment by a vengeful prosecutor, such charges as “misuse of city stationery.” I obtained a $333,820.32 record jury verdict on a federal civil rights case, Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir. 2004). I settled another at $90,000 for an African-American pastor harassed by the same city.
My work was not limited to race. I was among the earliest locally to win a sexual harassment case, Currie v Kowalewski, 842 F. Supp. 57 (NDNY 1994). I obtained a declaratory judgement invalidating a billion dollar casino compact against some of the nation’s finest law firms in both federal and state courts, Oneida Indian Nation v County of Oneida, 132 F.Supp. 2d 71 (NDNY 2000); Peterman v Governor Pataki, 2004 Slip. Op. 51092(U). First Amendment was also one of my major concerns, sacrificing my position as city corporation counsel to successfully challenge a mayor’s gag order upon public employees, Koziol v Hanna, 107 F.Supp.2d 170 (NDNY 2000).
All that unblemished success changed when I began exposing corruption in our courts, the kind which harms minorities the most. My uncontested divorce became contested, and twelve years later it has become a personal holocaust with 40 trial jurists disqualified to date, a record by all accounts. One was removed from Family Court altogether after he admitted to sexual abuse of his handicapped five year old niece, In re Bryan Hedges, 20 NY3d 677 (2013). A federal judge (Gary Sharpe) dismissed my last civil rights case with an anti-filing order despite his removal from an earlier case due to his claim of a human gene to sentence criminals which would not be discovered for another fifty years, United States v Cossey, 632 F.3d 82 (NDNY 2nd Cir. 2011).
The persecution has been relentless to discredit my public message, punish me into submission and protect a self-regulated judiciary from public disgrace. Its conduct commission refused to credit the “country niggers” remark because it would seriously harm its modern day reputation, not because it was untrue.
Now, because it set Gerald Popeo free, this racist judge has been assigned to finish me off as an “Acting Family Judge” in a forum where he makes a mockery of domestic violence prevention by his violent threats from the bench, where African-American fathers suffer debtor imprisonment to the extreme of being shot dead five times in the back while fleeing unarmed from a child support warrant. I spoke out on the latter event before national media at the Walter Scott funeral, spending a week there in South Carolina for reform purposes . . .
If such persecution can happen to a white civil rights attorney well north of the Mason-Dixon line, what kind of horror could occur to disadvantaged African-American fathers who, like Stephen Patterson, rely on me to protect them? That question is now at the forefront of this letter. I will be appearing before Judge Popeo this Friday, March 23, 2018 in Oneida County Family Court, Utica, New York. I will be filing a motion for his removal from my case with a request that the NAACP join in that motion as an intervenor or supporting presence in the courtroom.
In making this formal invitation, I am mindful of the work load which confronts you daily, but it presents an extraordinary opportunity for national attention and widespread benefit to your members and reputation . . . The chairman of the New York Commission dissented from the rationalizations used to excuse Judge Popeo’s racist remark to an African-American lawyer. He agreed instead with the findings of the judge who heard the evidence and voted in the minority for Popeo’s removal.
Now, as fate and the grace of God would have it, the Commission’s shocking 2015 decision is resurrected in a way least expected. Judge Popeo’s mere censure . . . allowed this travesty to occur. His remarks would have been contemptible even if related at a local bar, yet he made them as a judge in a black robe well into the 21st Century. Our courts are the last places where this can be tolerated in any form.
An intervenor motion by the NAACP supporting mine for Popeo’s removal would send a powerful message to our judiciary at a time when it must earn the greatest respect. So that my life sacrifices for a righteous cause were not in vain, I am including only a few articles regarding the Patterson cases for verification and ask that you favor me with a reply as soon as possible.
Very truly yours,
Leon R. Koziol, J.D.