Leon R. Koziol, J.D.
Former Civil Rights Attorney
Founder, Parenting Rights Institute
Citizen Commission Against Corruption, Inc.
Unless caught red-handed, a judge is unlikely to admit ethical misconduct. Accordingly, courts are preferring circumstantial proof as a more reliable mode of truth-seeking given the advances made in forensic science, recording devices and a growing propensity of witnesses to lie without fear, shame or moral fiber. To hold perjurers liable today would be to fill our jails beyond capacity.
When jurists are the subject of misconduct, however, two species of rules invariably emerge, one for judge defendants and the other for the rest of us. It is an unwritten practice designed to protect the reputation of our judiciary more than it is to achieve justice, see i.e. United States v Cossey, 632 F. 3d 82 (2nd Cir, 2010). We need go no further than this case to prove its existence, again circumstantially.
The DiFiore filing featured a demand for attorney whistleblower protection whenever judges are the government actors retaliating against exercises of critical speech outside the courtroom, see i.e. Garrison v Louisiana, 379 US 64 (1964). This is typically carried out through concocted disciplinary violations which our courts control exclusive of our other branches. In this victim’s case, the actors went to the extreme of sabotaging parent-child relationships in family court.
There has been no official protection for this category of reporters most qualified to expose misconduct at the very core of a properly functioning justice system. In any non-judge case, such a right would be readily acknowledged even if relief was ultimately denied. But here it was met with silence including the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her ensuing denial of an interim stay motion.
This sort of clandestine activity is more prevalent than what is publicized. Witnessed first-hand over a stellar 23-year career in chambers, public venues and country clubs, this attorney finally went public due to the growing harm to countless unsuspecting victims. And as a whistleblower inching closer to conspiratorial activity, I was widely targeted, thereby undermining accountability, discouraging competent investigations, and scaring off news agents.
The record in my civil rights litigation proves this, and it remains unprecedented. On August 14, 2018, the Supreme Court docketed Leon R. Koziol v Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, No. 18-278. Ahead of its time, it sought, among other things, a declaratory judgment granting whistleblower protection. Given the escalating misconduct among jurists, an absolute immunity from civil liability, and the dearth of complaints investigated by authorities, this proved to be a watershed case ripe for review.
But alas, like the other 99% of petitions dismissed, this one fell victim, in part, due to its potential of igniting reputational harm to our judicial branch of government. The following excerpt taken from page six of my petition adds to the rampant nature of circumstantial evidence showing serious misconduct over and beyond that documented in my 12-year record:
An unblemished civil rights attorney (and model dad) was persecuted for exposing corruption and seeking reforms to child custody and support laws, 13-a.
It all began on January 9, 2008 when a judge in Syracuse heard argument during an appeal of four decisions arising from three trial courts regarding his family matters. Petitioner exposed the corrupting of parents and children by domestic courts for fee and revenue purposes. This included an opposing divorce lawyer who was later learned to be a member of the district ethics committee appointed by the same judge’s appeals court, 18-a. On the same day, a first-time ethics prosecution was opened against petitioner under circumstances of illicit directive by that judge.
It featured ten grievances over eight years, six of which were later dismissed on their face but only when a license suspension could be orchestrated through false statements made by the committee’s attorney. That Committee was disqualified in 2010. Replacement lawyers in Albany finished the job using anonymous complaints and solicited ex-clients, 86-a. Three resigned in 2013 for falsifying time sheets.
All discovery requested as early as March 2009 by motion was denied. Over the next several years, it was confirmed through third parties and court records that petitioner’s secretary was solicited in 2008 to tamper with office mail, court calendars and bank accounts to cause ethics violations while concealing file material needed for a proper defense, 70-a. Circumstantial proof strongly suggested that she was granted prosecutorial immunity, 21-a.
Examples include petitioner’s internal report and criminal complaints neglected by county prosecutors and city police until all relevant limitations periods had expired. This secretary was ultimately indicted for crimes committed on later law office employers and sent to jail on multiple felony convictions in 2016, 21-a. Both law enforcement agencies were the subject of successful client cases and civil rights forums, i.e. Patterson v City of Utica, 370 F.3d 322 (2nd Cir. 2004).
I was resoundingly vindicated, albeit belatedly, when circumstantial evidence showed again how judges were perfectly willing to misuse their positions to punish critics behind the scenes. While in office, New York’s top jurist, Janet DiFiore, sent a letter 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.
But before she could be exposed by inquiring media, Chief Judge DiFiore resigned, as she had to, faced with an indefensible position that would assure protracted ethics deliberations harmful to the reputation of the same court system she swore to administer. Appointed by disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo, DiFiore evinced no shame as she was exposed again for her misuse of security after leaving office.
The audacity of this high-level judge, exercised contrary to additional principles of ethics, was not isolated. A predecessor chief judge, Sol Wachtler, may have mentored such elitism with brazen crimes committed 30 years earlier. Appointed by Andrew’s father, Mario Cuomo, Wachtler 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 who ended their affair. He made false reports to the FBI and threatened to kidnap her child under a pseudonym. Ironically, Wachtler was renowned for an opinion wherein he criticized 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 possible run for president and Supreme Court Justice.
From the top down, our nation’s most esteemed public servants are committing misconduct at unprecedented levels. An appeals court judge in Rochester, New York, Nancy Smith, earned the dubious distinction as the first jurist above trial level to be publicly disciplined by a state commission for submitting 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.
These are jurists who have upheld an absolute immunity for themselves that finds no authority in our Constitution. It is routinely applied to civil actions raising the most reprehensible conduct. I sought to limit such immunities in my precedent-seeking case, Parent v State, 786 Supp. 2d 516 (NDNY 2011). However, this valiant effort was derailed by retributions carried out by the very subjects of litigation.
Given the vast number of state agents effectively substituting as parents in our nation’s family courts, I raised a collective violation of our parenting right which the Supreme Court has declared to be “the oldest liberty interest protected by our Constitution,” Troxel v Granville, 530 US 57 (2000). It has become a highly lucrative industry yielding widespread collateral damage which has yet to be exposed.
Conscientious attorneys are justifiably reticent to assume the risk of incurring retributions especially with no financial rewards. That fear has not subsided much since 1980 when attorneys raising advertising rights hid behind a consumers group to achieve some success and then only to advance their profit interests, see Supreme Court of Virginia v Consumers Union, 446 US 719 (1980).
The question then emerges: how many DiFiores, Wachtlers and Smiths are lurking among us?
That number may prove to be staggering. Systemic bias and unconstitutional targeting are 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 expose the wrongdoer. Months later, the insider remains at large with the apparent hope that this will blow over. Instead, it has only bred more distrust.
The late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was more public in her violation of judicial ethics. She launched attacks from chambers disparaging a private businessman’s run for president in 2016. Donald Trump was ultimately successful. Yet she betrayed no guilt or shame until pressured by media criticism. Justice Brett Kavanaugh drew similar criticism by attending a 2022 holiday party hosted by Trump supporters.
Such egotism 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. It is a crevice in the foundations set by the framers of our Constitution. We must all join in a demand for that overhaul with the same kind of chastising dispensed by these same jurists from the bench.
 In a June 27, 2017 report of the New York Bar Association, the state’s 11-court trial structure was condemned as chaotic and antiquated particularly when compared to our nation’s largest state of California which features one trial court. The bar overwhelmingly supported a constitutional convention, but voters turned it down the same year.
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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.
Leon Koziol can be reached at (315) 796-4000 and firstname.lastname@example.org.