Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I've never appeared before Cattaraugus County Judge Larry M. Himelein, although I've had occasion to appear in Catt County. Judge Himelein is in the news today because he has accepted censure for trying to organize other judges into a boycott of cases involving the law firms of state legislators who have denied New York's judiciary a pay raise.

The judicial pay raise story gives me a pain. Frankly, it shouldn't be hard to live well in Cattaraugus County on a six figure judge's salary, and although judicial pay does seem to be an issue in attracting talent downstate, I haven't seen that there has been a problem finding people willing to give the bench a try.

That said, it seems to me that there is something notable about Judge Himelein's tactic. He should get credit for bringing attention to the fact that many, if not most, of New York's state legislators have outside gigs. Judicial salaries are tied to the salaries of the legislature, but legislators can have jobs as lawyers or insurance brokers, or all kinds of other things. Many of these sorts of jobs are jobs where a little pull in the state capitol might be a very sweet thing indeed. Fact is, a person who is a state senator or an assemblyman is probably a pretty valuable partner to have. It seems like a safe bet that Senator Neil Breslin, (D-Albany/Hiscock & Barclay)(Chairman of the Insurance Committee, how about that!); or Assemblyman Will Barclay, (R-Pulaski/Harris Beach)(adorably, on the Ethics Committee); or Senator Michael Nozzolio, (R-Seneca Falls/Harris Beach); or Senator Craig M. Johnson, (D-Port Washington/Jaspan Schlesinger Hoffman); or Assemblyman Marc S. Alessi, D-Wading River/Jaspan Schlesinger Hoffman) are pulling down some respectable dough from their firms, and I'd be surprised if the money they were making at their regular gigs didn't make their legislator's salaries look like part-time money.

Fix the legislature and a lot of problems might get fixed is how I reckon it.

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