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January 6th, 2005

Hamptons Politics

by D. Clark MacPherson

“The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Lawyers!”
-W. Shakespeare, King Henry The Sixth, Part 2


While the Democrats continue to shoot themselves in the foot, the Repub-licans continue to make their “deals” in order to ensure re-election. Southampton Supervisor “Skip” Heaney, who ran unopposed in the recent election, remains in office along with a Town Board that ignores its New York economic base of taxpaying non-resident homeowners. The only Town Board exception to this is, of course, Dennis Suskind who will hopefully run for Heaney’s job in two years.

The Southampton government and its “Justice” Court continue to exist in a cultural vacuum that ignores the needs of New Yorkers as well as the local populace. There is still no night session for residents who cannot afford to take a day off from their jobs to appear in court. Justice Court is an inept, anachronistic little machine with antagonistic clerks and jurists that cater to special interests. Lip service is paid to legal procedure. Debby Kooperstein knows and rules on the law, but DeMayo is aloof and arrogant-apparently considered to be impervious to criticism from anyone except the Republican Party Bosses-while in Wilson’s courtroom the watchword is abuse. This appears to be as true for the treatment of local people as it is for New Yorkers, who are still subject to arrest warrants for building violations. Even the Spanish Inquisition had some rules! In a recent case there was much grinding of teeth in Wilson’s court when an attorney actually showed up for a hearing, despite the fact that no timely legal notice was ever provided. “Prosecutor” Cara Bak was pushing for the arrest of a New Yorker who had only a one-day notice of a “criminal” hearing. Code Enforce-ment Officer Kauth was also pushing for an arrest warrant with his “criminal violation”for a missing fence section (another anti-New Yorker with a badge and rubber gun). Lawyers working for this Town do not study the Fourth Amendment. Especially, not among kids serving as prosecutors, such as Cara Bak, another ill-trained and badly educated lawyer with an attitude. She also doubles as a local attorney for hire. Anyone with a parking ticket?

Code Enforcement Officer Kauth would not return our calls when we inquired as to why no prior notice was ever given about any violations before seeking a criminal warrant and why there was only one day’s notice by mail for a court hearing on a “criminal” matter. Is this not yet another example of the flagrant anti-New Yorker, anti-Semitic, anti-Latino and anti-Black attitude coming through again loud and clear? Although our Constitution calls for separate branches of government, in Southampton the Police, the Prosecutors and the Judicial, work hand in hand to screw non-resident property owning homeowners-unless of course you have a local attorney who’s in on the fix. DeMayo, Justice Court judge and lawyer from Hampton Bays (an unopposed re-elected Republican), was recently missing in action after a bad ruling of his own directing the eviction of a Latino family in Southampton.

There is no daily or weekly rotation for Judges in Justice Court, the busiest of its kind in the country. So if you need papers signed and it’s, say, colonoscopy time for the judge, you’re out of luck. Suzanne Jelly, the head clerk, in this case claimed to be unable to reach DeMayo for weeks but she was either unable or unwilling to “find him” or was just covering. With no interim rotational judge available, papers can just sit on a judge’s desk interminably. Again, the court gets away with “service” on New Yorkers-by dropping an envelope in the mail. That’s illegal.

This is truly a dangerous court that flaunts the laws itself. The Sheriff pays no attention to any of the legal proceedings-and in this case arrived with their big guns and badges and broke up the furniture while doing an illegal eviction. One wonders if the lawyers involved called in some favors in order to get DeMayo, the Justice Court, and the Sheriff to “make mistakes.” Or, is this just business as usual in the Town of Southampton and in Suffolk County?

Oh, and when a complaint was made to the Court, Ms. Jelly suggested sending a letter to the Administrative Judge. Guess who that would be? Right. Tom DeMayo. Cute. This leads to some further views about lawyers, the use of influence, and the prognosis and practicalities of obtaining “Justice” in the Hampton’s. The local Justice Court, we know, is comprised of “Judge, Judge”-aka Barbara Wilson, Thomas DeMayo, and Debby Kooperstein. Normally, the Town would be a different branch of government but in Southampton the orders come from Town Hall and the Republican Party. But then there are the lawyers who really grease the court gears: Gilmartin & Gilmartin is a family law firm. In addition to representing people and firms in front of the Town and Village of Southampton, the Gilmartin family members have simultaneously held positions within the administration and on the court. This is not a geographic area that has a big problem with conflict of interest.

And in Westhampton Beach, Dick Haefeli has a law practice that represents companies and individuals in front of the Village Board and local Justice Court, where he is the prosecutor. Here, like the Gilmartins in Southampton, the Kelly family sits on the Court and also has a family law firm that appears in front of this court.

The system of justice on the East End is, well, it’s just so cozy. Isn’t it? When considering an attorney on the East End, whether you are a local resident or a New York weekender, remember the term “on the clock.” It refers to billing, not New York taximeters. Its popular here.

And, While there are many successful legal firms operating in Suffolk County, they also make mistakes in hiring dubious legal talent. Siben & Siben, for example, is known as a succesful personal injury law firm. One of its partners, former A.D.A. Dan Driscoll, was a corrupt prosecutor under Catterson who used to threaten witnesses and, in fact, indicted innocent people as favors to help further civil litigation for friends. That’s Justice in Suffolk County!

Then there is the Southampton Town Attorney’s Office, which is a training ground for the local legal talent. These Katzenjammer Kids learn how to use heavy-handed prosecutorial skills to bludgeon local residents and New Yorkers. They don’t have the intellectual capacity to separate real civil matters from criminal cases. Guatemalans, African-Americans, Colum-bians, and especially New Yorkers are all just pushed out the door sans Due Process. These attorneys are right out of law school but according to Supervisor “Skip” Heaney they are young people who learn to “cut their teeth” on the job-at our expense of course. We have arrogant kids, “cutting their teeth,”-learning how to screw us-with our own tax dollars. Be prepared to genuflect and kiss the asses of these idiots with an agenda if you’re ever in Justice Court. God forbid!

From this powerful vantage in Southamp-ton, where Town Attorneys have a history of drug problems and suicide, they retire to become “respected local lawyers.”

Attorneys, dubious political-types and plain vanilla characters abound in the Hampton’s. Like some of the local Democrats among the Republican majority who have figured out how to improve their lowly position in life. One of these “respected local lawyers” is a variation on “Santa Claus meets the homeless ghost of Shep Miller.” A Mr. Joseph Hallinan, an East Quogue attorney, appears to be a retiree who’s English is a form of puffery that is as senseless as his “pure Castilian Spanish” (a dubious language skill that he boasts about to anyone who will listen). Others report that his Spanish is actually lousy. His clients, however, are not yet aware that he might be as embarrassing to local Democrats as he is to some courts. His politcal stature, that of Democratic Commit-teeman, which he also advertises to anyone who will listen, actually has far less importance in Suffolk County than an Elementary School janitor. However, that fact is not common knowledge in Columbia or Guatemala. His ability to speak some Spanish, has made Hallinan a Latino favorite.

Through his peculiar from of “lawyering” Hallinan has made it hard for some to distinguish his civil clients from criminals as a result of his antics. For those who play by the accepted legal rules of engagement it is important to watch out for people who suck off of the underbelly of a resort economy like the Hampton’s. Legal “extortion” has many forms. When one must choose between paying off an undeserving “gamer” who may be poor and judgment proof but has an attorney with an agenda – or, paying off your own attorney for an endless number of billable hours-such buffoonery becomes a serious annoyance. Hallinan has found his “mark,” in landlords and New Yorkers. Either you pay off to avoid Hallinan’s silly shit, an embarrassment and an annoyance to the court, or you endlessly pay off your own lawyer. Justice can be “served” and yet perverted. Contact us at investigate@sohojournal.com if you’ve been burned. Be warned Rangers.

D. Clark MacPherson

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