Corrupt Courts—Part I

Although it does not require using the Noetitek™ system to evidence it, the court system in the USA is in dire need of top-down reclamation and reformation, and Noetitek™ could help achieve it if PluribusOne™ were to be given the chance to apply its resources to the problem.

The Surrogate Courts in New York are a prime example. Surrogate Courts are responsible for handling estates of people who die with or without a will and they play an especially significant role in dealing with wills that are unclear or contested. However, as in the corporate sector, unbridled power to make decisions affecting people’s lives, especially with regard to financial matters—matters that affect almost all other personal and family matters—can yield devastating effects when that power is in the wrong hands and out of control. As stated in a 2008 New York Daily News article: “To clean up corrupt Surrogate Courts, wake up and vote”:

“A rogue’s gallery of chiselers and crooks has flocked to the courts over the years, running up bills and draining money that rightfully belongs to the heirs and descendants of the dead.”

While true, the abuses that the newspaper article cites relate to high-profile multi-million-dollar cases and related criminality, when the more pervasive although less visible problem lies in the impact of corrupt acts and practices on middle class and impoverished heirs who have neither the wherewithal nor capital to afford to ensure that they are treated fairly and according to constitutional principles. And whereas the article was pointing to metropolitan area courts, such courts in upstate New York are not immune to systemic abuses best described as “unconscionable.” Too often they serve as conduits of criminality, whether by corrupt intention or due to inadequate laws or deficient court administration processes.

For example, a friend of mine, John, lived in upstate New York, in the same county as his mother until he and his wife relocated to gain employment. His mother, an elderly widow plainly not of sound mind, died shortly after they moved. John was never notified of her death and did not know that she had signed a will shortly before dying naming a neighbor executor and sole heir to her considerable estate. I was asked to investigate and discovered that she was indeed dead and had been cremated and that the estate had already been liquidated by the neighbor, who happened to be a realtor. She signed the will believing her life had depended on this person who fetched things from the store—small tasks that any Office of the Aging volunteer would have done for her. My traumatized friend contacted lawyers who advised him that unless he had a lot of money to cover court costs and legal fees he could do nothing, and even if he did find funds to litigate, it was unlikely to change anything because it would be almost impossible to prove the will invalid or recover the assets. My friend came back to the area to attempt to recover personal effects without resorting to a lawsuit but discovered that everything had been auctioned or sent to the dump. He never got so much as his mother’s wedding ring or his father’s watch. This was all legal in a nation professing to revere Old Testament principles.

There is a long history of Surrogate Court corruption. In the 1960s, Senator Robert F. Kennedy sought reform for the system in New York. Considering his successes in other matters, had he not been assassinated the courts might have been merged into the general court system by the 1970s, an idea first suggested way back in the 1930s—one that still seems to have merit. Without some kind of enlightened action these courts will continue to elude reform.

A July, 2012 New York Post article focuses on the case of one inheritance that shrank from $50 million to a payout to the infant heirs of $2 million while in the hands of New York Surrogate Court judges. Hofstra University professor, Monroe Freedman, called it a disgrace to the legal profession and to the State of New York. He acknowledged that an entrenched system of favor-trading with indications of bribery has persisted for decades. Again the focus was on metro area courts, but these abuses are not limited to the New York City area or to New York State. A business associate of mine, whose senile father lived in California, had a similar experience to John’s with a Surrogate Court there that accepted a deathbed will naming a nurse both executor and sole inheritor. Again, all pockets were emptied before my associate even knew that his father had passed away, and lawyers encouraged him to abandon hope of recovering anything.

Why is it so difficult to clean up the court system? For part of the answer see the February, 2012 post: “Analysis: Government Hiring Practices.” Most New York judges are elected, not hired/appointed, but candidates for election arise from out of the same self-perpetuating subcultural hotbeds as rank and file employees. The Daily News article’s call to get out and vote is not enough to achieve reformation. PluribusOne™ suggests one small positive step that everyone can take today: write to your State and Federal representatives and call for legislation to abolish “deathbed will”-making and require that all wills be notarized or otherwise held invalid.

Aleksandr Solzheniitsyn said, in The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand-fold in the future.” The even deeper problem is that when wrong-doing is business-as-usual it is not even recognized by its callous perpetuators as being “evil.” I dedicate this post to John, who, robbed of his inheritance—and at a time when he and his wife were struggling financially—became increasingly despondent and committed suicide. This one is for you, John. Rest in peace.

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