By Charles F. Otey, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Closing out an active and productive year, members of the Kings County American Inn of Court, led by outgoing President Justice Ellen Spodek, gathered last Monday within the cozy confines of the Red Gravy Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue.
Among those enjoying the salute to Justice Spodek were her parents — retired Justice Jules Spodek and irrepressible mom Horty, who served as “campaign manager” for both of them as they moved up to the Kings County Supreme Court.
Topping the agenda was the installation of a new slate of officers by Inn Master Appellate Division Judge Cheryl Chambers, headed by President David Chidekel. Among those “moving up” in the chairs were Justice Arthur Schack, who now serves as the Inn’s president-elect, and Acting Supreme Court Justice Miriam Cyrulnik, the Inn’s new counselor.
Since its inception, the Kings Inn — founded by Justice Marsha Steinhardt, retired Justices Gerard Rosenberg and Abe Gerges and former Justice Edward Rappaport — has faithfully followed the traditions of the London Inns of Court, established more than 800 years ago.
The purpose of these Inns is to provide a collegial atmosphere in which younger barristers may socialize with and learn from more experienced members of the bar. In keeping with this, the Inn holds regular Continuing Legal Education sessions, often with well-prepared, illustrative skits.
President Chidekel has been a standout performer in these didactic dramas and will undoubtedly bring his thespian proclivities into play during his upcoming term. Based on his record, the new Inn leader believes that preparation for a skit used as a learning device for lawyers is, in its own way, comparable to the preparation a skilled lawyer undergoes to get ready for a trial.
Dave Chidekel is one of those who have chosen to go “solo,” which, considering the digital revolution that has affected legal studies as well as office and court procedures, presents a unique challenge. He holds an MBA from Boston University and a Juris Doctor from University of Miami Law School. While others might have been out waterskiing, or sunbathing, the future Inn leader was “hitting the books” and making the Dean’s List.
Giving him a definite background advantage, his MBA has helped him represent business clients who benefit from his extra marketplace expertise and the fact that he was a Cum Laude graduate of Boston University. Not surprisingly, he was awarded a Dean’s Scholarship for Scholastic Achievement from the prestigious university, which dominates a portion of Commonwealth Avenue in Boston’s Back Bay.
Like other solo practitioners in the Inn, he appreciated the varied topics of CLE presentations because he must also keep up with developments in Criminal Law (he served as an assistant district attorney in Kings County for five years), family law and many other areas.
Pro Bono Barrister: Judge Katzmann calls on Inns of Court to aid judiciary
A recent statement by Federal Chief Judge Robert Katzmann underscores the critical role the nation’s Inns of Court can perform. He called on these Inns to help in his cause, seeking “More Public Engagement With Judiciary.”
Acknowledging that the 2013 congressional budget sequester has “pushed the judiciary to the brink,” Judge Katzmann said he “would like the federal courts to take it upon themselves to inform voters on how the system works,” wrote Mark Hamblett in the New York Law Journal.
Chief Judge Katzmann did not refer directly to extremists who are waging well-funded campaigns against jurists who may disagree with their ideological views and inveigh regularly against “activist judges” in their efforts to smear selected members of the judiciary. Nor did he refer to the tendency of many in “The Press” to summarily pillory any judge who dares to release a defendant who then goes out and commits a heinous crime.
Instead, he moved on a higher plane, noting that “If our judiciary is to prosper, it must have the support of the citizenry. We must find ways to bring our constituencies and our communities into the courthouse to educate them about our justice system, to share ideas for improving the administration of justice in our courts, to empower them as citizens to support the federal judiciary and especially to demonstrate the inherent value of public service in their lives and careers.”
Katzmann Sees Need for ‘Young People’s Inns of Court’
Judge Katzmann proposed a number of initiatives in his “Public Engagement” proposals, lead among them being “Expanding the Inns of Court program, which brings together experienced lawyers and judges to mentor younger members of the profession, into middle schools, high schools and colleges.”
Under his proposal, the expanded Inn program “would be accomplished through programs of Oxford-style debates, mock trials and moot courts and other sessions to educate students about current legal topics, concepts of justice and mentor them through their formative years,” Hamblett quoted in his NYLJ story.
Hamblett added that “The Young People’s Inns of Court would be created in every district in the circuit and run in partnership with the Judicial Resource Center, Legal Outreach and bar associations.”
Who Knew Iraq Invasion Would Ignite Mid East Terror?
When Vice President Dick Cheney convinced President George Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to go along with his war in Iraq, didn’t anyone know that toppling Saddam Hussein would throw gasoline onto the incendiary heap of sectarian conflict that has been simmering for more than 16 centuries?
Wasn’t anyone in a position to speak authoritatively and draw on relevant experience to warn Cheney, Bush and Powell that Saddam Hussein was sitting atop a powder keg, brutally wielding power through his Sunni minority sect and routinely slaughtering uppity Shiites and/or Kurds?
Didn’t anyone tell this tangled trio that the fall of Hussein would certainly result in the brutalization of the Sunni minority and enable Shiite Iran next door to exert an even greater evil influence on this country known as Iraq, which was actually artificially “created” by the Great Powers 100 years ago to more effectively exploit and plunder the oil-rich Middle East?
The obvious answer: Yes, former President George H. W. Bush. His son, to his historical discredit, let Cheney and his Neo-Cons go against the president who whipped Iraq in Operation Desert Storm more than 20 years ago, humiliating Saddam Hussein for his illegal invasion of Kuwait.
The senior Bush — certainly a man who doesn’t fear action and marked his 90th birthday by parachuting (in tandem) out of a helicopter thousands of feet in the air — knew, as did his top advisor, Brent Scowcroft, that destroying the Hussein government would set a terrible fire that could not be extinguished by our military, even though it is regarded as the most powerful in human history.
While Republicans, including Mitt Romney, are chastising President Obama for pulling out of Iraq too soon — betraying their short, selective memories once again — they have also exposed the hateful core of those who reflexively oppose anything done, or not done, by our first African-American President.
‘Rule of Law’ Means Little To Washington, D.C. Crew
Is their racism involved in this? Yes, as usual, these days, and it will continue until President Obama and his family leave the White House in 2017. But there is also a dangerous disregard for the rule of law, which started with the fraudulent and, likely, criminal behavior of Dick Cheney and others who misled us into the Iraq War.
Cheney and his friends have made hundreds of millions of dollars building the “war machine” we have today. It works with a “volunteer” army, which largely counts on a low employment rate to gain new recruits. These young men and women are justifiably regarded as heroes when they go into combat and they should — they had nothing to do with the powerful oligarchies and profiteers who “schedule” these wars accordingly to their financial opportunities.
We need a powerful army, especially today, because Cheney started these wars, so easily exposing ancient enmities that military force cannot resolve.
What also needs to be done is an honest and thorough investigation into how the Iraq War started. This won’t be possible so long as the Koch Brothers and their ilk can buy and control most of Congress.
Meanwhile, when will some Democrats work up the nerve to counter the “Impeach Obama” cries with replies of “Impeach or Indict Cheney?” Far-right extremists may be dangerous — especially when they have billionaire sponsors — but Democrats in Washington are just a bunch of weaklings.