{ brad brace } on Sat, 28 Nov 1998 23:13:20 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> 600 lawyers in service to Giuliani's police state (fwd)

The N.Y.C. Corporation Counsel: 
600 Lawyers in Service to Giuliani’s 
Corporate Police State
by Robert Lederman, President of A.R.T.I.S.T. 
(Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)

Every day more and more New Yorkers recognize the serious threat
Mayor Giuliani and ‘Giuliani-ism’ represents to freedom.
Unfortunately, criticism of the Mayor focuses on his personality, as
if his repressive policies were simply the result of a psychological
trait. What few New Yorkers grasp is the key role an obscure City
agency plays in carrying out the Giuliani agenda. If not for the
efforts of the more than 600 lawyers working for the Corporation
Counsel, Giuliani’s violations of our rights would be impossible.

Giuliani commands an army of 38,000 heavily-armed police (the
world’s largest police force) but it is the Corporation Counsel’s 600
lawyers quietly working behind the scenes that are his elite troops.
What do Giuliani’s lawyers do to earn their tax-funded salaries?
They defend the Mayor against thousands of legitimate civil rights
lawsuits filed each year by victims of his ever-evolving police state.

Civil rights lawsuits filed against the Mayor are about much more
than getting money. If plaintiffs win these cases not only do they
receive compensation for their damages but the City can be forced to
change its illegal policies. Keeping judges from stopping Giuliani’s
daily human rights violations of Federal, State and New York City
law is what the Corporation Counsel is all about. 

When Giuliani orders the NYPD or other City agencies to prevent
lawful demonstrations, arrest innocent people, spy on political
activists, close legitimate businesses, target racial minorities, sell
public property to corporations, privatize parks, close public
hospitals in minority areas, arrest homeless people, block access to
City Hall, cut essential social programs, confiscate property without
due process, put defendants through the system for non-criminal
infractions of obscure laws or force handicapped mothers into
workfare it is the Corporation Counsel that faithfully defends these
highlights of Giuliani-ism in Federal and State Court. 

To defend such unconstitutional policies the Corporation Counsel
submits false evidence to judges and obscures the facts in each case.
The agency is set up to frustrate any attempt to seek legal recourse
when one is victimized by the Mayor or his henchmen. If a plaintiff
sues Giuliani and wins, the Corporation Counsel appeals to the
highest court possible, regardless of the merits of the case. This is
done to exhaust the plaintiffs who are usually poor and can neither
economically nor emotionally survive the process. Many lawsuits
against the City disappear as plaintiffs and attorneys give up when
faced with years of meaningless appeals and legal maneuvers the
sole purpose of which is to wear them down. 

It’s not unknown for the City to compromise, pressure or buy off a
plaintiffs’ attorney as an additional means of defeating lawsuits.
Fighting Giuliani is a risky job for any New York City attorney. The
banks, multi-national corporations and real estate interests that paid
to put Giuliani in office are the main employers of the City’s tens of
thousands of lawyers. Getting on their blacklist is as close to being
unemployable as a lawyer can get.
It’s useful to examine a well-publicized and fully documented case*
as an illustration of exactly how the Corporation Counsel does its
dirty work. When Giuliani took office in 1994 the police began a
massive campaign to arrest street artists. This was done at the
request of Manhattan’s five largest Business Improvement Districts
or B.I.D.s. These privatization interests see First Amendment
protected activities on public sidewalks as quality of life crimes
interfering with the absolute control of public and private space that
is their goal. From 1994 to 1997 hundreds of artists were arrested.
Their art was illegally confiscated or destroyed, and the artists were
charged with unlicensed vending. Unfortunately for the Mayor there
is a legal problem with this as there is with many of his actions. The
Federal and New York State Constitution’s guarantee of free speech
which the U.S. Supreme Court and N.Y.C. officials had already
determined to cover art, meant artists, like bookvendors, did not
need a license to sell fine art on public property. Internal memos
from the Corporation Counsel and the Manhattan District
Attorney’s offices dated 1994 make it clear that the City knew these
were illegal arrests and had officially determined from the beginning
of the policy to never prosecute them. As a result, despite more than
700 artist arrests not one case has ever been brought to trial.
Nevertheless, the Corporation Counsel strenuously fought the First
Amendment Federal lawsuit artists brought in 1994 all the way to
the U.S. Supreme Court before Giuliani decisively lost in 1997. 

The Corporation Counsel’s office lied to all of the judges in the case
about basic facts concerning artist arrests.  They wasted millions of
tax dollars on a policy they knew was illegal and would be ruled
unconstitutional in Federal Court. The Corporation Counsel’s office
has unceasingly continued its efforts to eliminate street artists’ since
Giuliani lost the case. From 1997 to the present they have illegally
helped the B.I.D.s write a new vending ordinance in order to get
around the legal “obstacle” of First Amendment rights. They’ve
advised the Parks Department to violate the Federal Court’s ruling
that requiring a permit or license for artists was unconstitutional by
creating a permit for artists in City Parks. Almost two years after
they lost the street artist case the Corporation Counsel has not
compensated artists for the thousands of works of fine art illegally
confiscated and destroyed or for the false arrests. Under the legal
guidance of the Corporation Counsel street artists continue to be
arrested. False arrests of the most outspoken artist/plaintiffs have
dramatically increased since they won the lawsuit.

In March 1998* artists filed a second lawsuit focusing on the blatant
14th Amendment Equal Protection violations inherent in creating a
Parks’ artist permit while allowing books and newspapers to be
sold without a Parks’ permit. Again the Corporation Counsel lied to
a Federal judge claiming that the City did not allow book vendors to
sell within 350 feet of any City park and that police arrested book
vendors who did not have a permit. Book and newspaper vendors
sell near N.Y.C. parks in hundreds of locations without police
interference. There is no book or newspaper vendor permit nor could
there legally be. Since 1982 bookvendors have been exempted by
N.Y.C. City law from needing any license or permit. 

Without the efforts of the Corporation Counsel these artist arrests
would have been impossible. Multiply this one example a thousand
times and you’ll understand how crucial the Corporation Counsel is
to fulfilling the repressive social goals of Giuliani-ism. 

Every time a racist cop brutalizes a minority teenager and gets away
with it you are seeing the result of the efforts of the N.Y.C.
Corporation Counsel. When understaffed City hospitals cause
someone’s death due to Giuliani’s budget cuts you are seeing the
efforts of the Corporation Counsel. When law abiding
demonstrators are arrested to censor their anti-Giuliani speech you
are seeing the efforts of the Corporation Counsel. When innocent
people are strip-searched, brutalized, held for days in the Tombs and
then dragged through months of meaningless court appearances, you
are seeing the efforts of the Corporation Counsel. 

It was the Corporation Counsel that wasted millions suing New
York Magazine in an absurd attempt to censor a mildly satirical bus
ad that annoyed the Mayor. It was the Corporation Counsel that
spent millions of tax dollars evicting adult businesses from Midtown
Manhattan so that Giuliani-connected real estate developers could
seize their buildings to make way for the Disnification of Times
Square. It’s the Corporation Counsel that protects the Giuliani
Administration when it violates open meeting laws at CUNY or
before the Taxi and Limousine Commission, cuts funding to Legal
Aid, creates an illegal Charter Revision Committee or bulldozes
community gardens and evicts low-income tenants to hasten
gentrification. Just as the Mafia has a phalanx of highly skilled
lawyers protecting it from the law, the Corporation Counsel keeps
Giuliani from being held accountable for his many crimes.

Federal and State judges presiding in New York City courts are
fully aware of the routine contempt for law exhibited by the
Corporation Counsel. Under Giuliani the discovery process, in
which the City is legally required to turn over every piece of
evidence applicable to a lawsuit, has become a cruel farce. Recently,
2nd circuit Federal Judge John S. Martin ruled that the City had
shown "utter disregard and apparent disdain" for his orders in a
civil rights suit and ordered the city to pay $19,800 in sanctions. The
judge wrote that he had seen a pattern in such cases in which City
officials treated court orders with contempt [NYTIMES 9/30/98
“Judge Fines City $19,800 for Ignoring Orders”]. Getting any
documents from the City takes years of hearings, subpoenas and
expense, calculated to bankrupt all but the best-funded plaintiffs
and frustrate their lawsuits. Most incriminating documents are
never turned over by the City at all.

While Giuliani’s repressive policies deceptively masquerading as a
“quality of life” quest may seem relatively benign if compared to a
police state like Nazi Germany there are instructive parallels
between the early reign of Hitler and Giuliani’s agenda. When Hitler
was elected German Chancellor in 1933 he ordered repressive new
laws aimed at eliminating “undesirables” and “protecting public
safety”. “Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free
expression including freedom of the press; on the rights of
assembly and association; warrants for house searches, orders for
confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also
permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed” [from
Hitler’s, Decree For The Protection of the People and the State,
1933]. Hitler’s 1937 Civil Service Law, called for the dismissal of
all officials, including judges, for political unreliability. “The law
and the will of the Fuhrer are one”. Corporate interests fully
supported Hitler’s actions and actually sponsored many of them.
Initially, many Germans were as delighted with the results as some
New Yorkers are with Giuliani’s “accomplishments”. Eventually,
the contempt for law, human rights and freedom that were
characteristic of Hitler’s laws, made the Holocaust possible. 

People think of jack-booted SS men, concentration camps and
marching armies when considering the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Few recall the significant role German judges and lawyers played in
transforming Germany from a democracy where citizens enjoyed the
same rights we take for granted in the U.S., into a fully- fledged
police state where rights, even for blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryans,
were non-existent. German judges and lawyers that dared to criticize
Hitler or rule against him in lawsuits were among the first people
sent to concentration camps. It’s certain that the attorneys and
bureaucrats in the Corporation Counsel will respond to this leaflet
by saying they are decent people just doing their job. Isn’t that
exactly what the lawyers, judges and executioners that worked for
Hitler said in their own defense during the Nuremberg trials? 

During 1998 President Clinton has been publicly humiliated for
lying under oath about a private sexual relationship and now faces
impeachment. During that same time Mayor Giuliani and his lawyers
in the Corporation Counsel lied to the media, to Federal, State and
New York City judges, to the City Council, to Criminal and Civil
juries and to the people of New York City on thousands of
occasions involving the most important issues of public policy and
law. Perhaps that’s why despite criss-crossing the country to
campaign for right-wing Republicans, Giuliani, a man not known for
verbal restraint, has been loath to accuse the President or even to
mention lying, adultery or impeachment.

Among the opportunistic career moves Giuliani is now positioning
himself for are U.S. President, or U.S. Attorney General. Imagine the
damage to the Bill of Rights that could be done were he to have the
power to appoint Supreme Court judges, interpret U.S. law or
command our armed forces. If we sincerely want to eliminate crime
and improve the quality of life for every New Yorker two things
above all others must be done. Investigate the Corporation Counsel
and Impeach Rudolph Giuliani.

Comments? Robert Lederman, President of A.R.T.I.S.T.
(Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)  (718) 369-2111
e mail ARTISTpres@aol.com 

*[Bery et al v. City of New York; Lederman et al v. City of New
York; Lederman et al v Giuliani] For extensive material on this

N.Y.C. Corporation Counsel, Michael D. Hess (212) 788-0303 
Mayor Giuliani’s press office (212) 788-2958 [fax 788-2975]

"Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of
every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of
discretion about what you do and how you do it."
-Mayor Giuliani, New York Newsday pg A3 4/20/98

“State authority must provide for peace and order, and peace and
order in turn must conversely make possible the existence of state
authority. Within these two poles all life must now revolve...Ideas of
'freedom,' mostly of a misunderstood nature, inject themselves into
the state conceptions of these circles”.
 -Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

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