A Courtroom Affair...

Excerpts from a Times story:

A Queens man in prison for murder has filed a motion for a new trial, based on accusations that the judge unfairly helped Queens prosecutors and had an affair with one of them, which tainted his judgment.

The accusations came from the judge's former law clerk in a complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Ms. Memblat claimed that Justice Rios began a sexual relationship in 1996 with a Queens prosecutor, Meryl A. Lutsky. Ms. Memblatt charged that Justice Rios openly flirted with Ms. Lutsky in court and made humorous hints of their affair. In an interview yesterday, she said she became concerned about the relationship for fear that it might adversely affect some defendants' cases. Her complaints to the commission were included in Mr. Johnson's motion, which was filed Tuesday...

The source for the story, Ron Kuby gives defense lawyers a nice lesson on how to swing for the fences in a press conference. Here is the printed account of that interview...

Ron Kuby

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Kuby said that Ms. Memblatt's complaint indicated that Justice Rios gave the prosecutor in the case "a secret tutorial" on how to convict Mr. Johnson.

"Is it too much to ask that my client get one fair trial without sex or secret coaching?" he said. "If the D.A.'s office knew Justice Rios had an ongoing sexual relationship with one of their prosecutors, the judge had a real motive to maintain good relations with other Queens prosecutors."

Mr. Kuby said that he was confident Mr. Johnson would get a new trial and that it would certainly include "lots of lurid testimony about sex and corruption in the Queens courthouse."



Anonymous said...

Now over to Tom McKenna to defend the conduct of the Judge and Prosecutor in this case.

Tom McKenna said...

Thanks for the intro. Of course, since as usual we are not given a link to the story, we're only seeing what the poster wants us to see.

Notably absent in his discussion is any hint that the convicted murderer did not actually commit the crime. It's all well and good to go after the judge and the DA (by the way-- any proof of this affair other than the suspicions of a former law clerk-- or is this just character assasination?), but even assuming the judge gave advice to the prosecutor, if the trial itself was fair, it could be harmless error, albeit the judge and the DA ought to be suspended/fired/disbarred. What it all has to do with whether this guy did or did not do what he was convicted of is not apparent. Where was the defense attorney when all this was going on? If the affair was so open and notorious, why didn't he or she do his job instead of waiting until after the conviction. Smells alot like trying to come up with something after the fact to have a better shot on appeal or on habeas.

This is the usual way some criminal apologists operate: don't look at whether the evidence shows the accused did the crime, look at __________ (fill in the blank: how awful the police are; how corrupt the judge is; how evil the victim is; how badly society has treated the accused)

It's the old adage, if you have the facts, pound the facts, if you have the law pound the law, if you have neither the facts nor the law, pound the table.

Indefensible said...

Gosh Tom--I told you where to find the piece. In the New York Times. That is really a silly argument--if you were interested, all you had to do was type "Rios and affair" into Google news and you'd get all the info you wanted. So transparency here is really a non-starter.

But if independent research is too taxing here are two links:

Here's the Newsday Clip:,0,2282373.story?coll=nyc-topheadlines-left

Next, you pose two arguments bolstered by a cute, but frankly, irrelevant maxim. First "Where is the defense attorney?" Um--not privy to the intimate realities of the judge's private life--that's where. Certainly the flirtation was obvious, but had a defense attorney made a motion based on that, he'd probably be held in contempt and reviled by you as using slimy defense lawyer tactics. The affair came to light after the trial in a complaint to the commission on judicial conduct.

Second you make an argument about guilt and innocence which is strange given that in the context of every appeal you talk in terms of process. Tell me Tom, would you want your kid's case heard by a judge who was screwing someone at opposing counsel's law firm? If not, then your argument about "if the trial was fair" is bunk--whether it's fair or not it must also have the appearance of fairness. That's what systemic integrity is all about. That's what you hang your hat on in opposing even meritorious appeals. I certainly didn't present this as an innocent guy getting screwed. I take no position on the case or the evidence. I do, however think that if the allegations are true, the guy should get a new trial. That's what process is all about.

Many prosecutors are willing to keep even innocent people incarcerated to protect the sanctity of process and insure the value of finality. But if you're a believer in process (and you know you are Tom) then you've got to be consistent. A case where the judge is screwing someone on the other side by definition impairs the integrity of the process.

Finally, you seemed to have missed the entire point of the post, which was really about the use of the press and the flair of Kuby's public statements.

Anonymous said...

No, the point is that what Ron Kuby does - "swinging for the fences as the Soro's School of Ethics would call it - is considered ethical misconduct. Gee, what if a D.A, made similar comments pretrial outside a courtroom? Feige would be squealing like a pig!