Overdue accountability sought for unrestrained judicial misconduct and whistleblower retaliation in the New Year

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 3, 2023

Contact Author at (315) 796-4000 and leonkoziol@gmail.com

After more than two decades as a civil rights attorney, I left the profession to engage in a very unique line of work exposing judicial misconduct. Predictably, this incited horrific retributions from highly influential agents which cost me my health, unblemished reputation and nearly my life in 2020.

In response, I have endeavored to secure legal protection for attorney 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 against conscientious attorneys. 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. This is especially true given the advances made in forensic science, recording devices and public awareness.

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. It reflected the kind of persecution inflicted upon human rights lawyers by tyrannical regimes. Chinese attorney, Chen Guangchen, who fled to the United States in 2011, is only one example.

At the very core of a properly functioning justice system is the mandate of impartiality. In any non-judge case, whistleblower protection would be readily acknowledged as a means for advancing fair outcomes even if relief was ultimately denied. But here silence prevailed as evident in the denial of a stay motion by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the DiFiore case.

My petition for declaratory relief eventually fell victim to the Supreme Court’s practice of denying roughly 99% of all that are filed. But 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. In contrast, lawyers exercising First Amendment rights have had to conceal their identities through third parties, i.e. Supreme Court of Virginia v Consumers Union, 446 US 719 (1980).

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.

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), 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 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. is a human rights advocate who practiced law for more than two decades in federal and state courts. 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 1993 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) 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 divorce and family courts. It was part of a bold 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.