Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hear Any Good Lawyer Jokes Lately?

The Union County Watchers has launched a Citizen's Forum, the latest edition of which can be viewed here. In this edition, John Bury, who regularly attends freeholder meetings and writes for NJ Voices, speaks to the issue of the County hiring outside "inside" attorneys in defending lawsuits, as opposed to using the in-house counsel the County already employs.

The questionable attorney hiring practices and the taxpayer funded legal fees got me thinking about Linden's legal eagles. Ed Kologi, John Hudak and Dan McCarthy are politically connected lawyers. To use his own words, Ed is the "overseer". I'm not sure when John Hudak was brought on board, but his hiring must have occurred after he defected from the Linden Coalition for Political Action, n/k/a The Linden Citizen's Association. At some point, the City, in all its wisdom, decided we needed yet another attorney and, apparently, Dan McCarthy fit the bill.

McCarthy doesn't appear at Linden council meetings as far as I know. It's a bit of a mystery what McCarthy does do for Linden, but at a not too long ago council meeting, Ed Kologi assured us that they, the City attorneys, are all a bargain. We do have a sampling of McCarthy's legal skills from daTruthSquad litigation.

daTruthSquad case was one which arose out of another case where the Township of Manalapan was suing its former attorney, Stuart Moskovitz. In the daTruthSquad case, legal eagle Dan McCarthy was convinced that the author of daTruthSquad blog was Da Mosked Man, a/k/a Stu Moskovitz. McCarthy and a merry band of lawyers set out to pierce the identity of the anonymous author of daTruthSquad blog, essentially infringing upon the right of free speech simply on a suspicion that daTruthSquad blogger was Stu Moskovitz, the party Manalapan was suing. The Judge in the case, being well versed on the sacred First Amendment, ruled against McCarthy & his now not so merry band of lawyers.

The malpractice suit that Dan McCarthy was hired as "Special Counsel" ended up being not so special after all. The Township dropped that malpractice suit and, I imagine, their special counsel as well.

A couple of years ago, the Township of Union decided it wanted to redevelop portions of Stuyvesant & Morris Avenues. In order to get their pie-in-sky project going, it would have to use the nasty tool of eminent domain. Eminent domain should not be a tool to take property from its rightful owners on the whims of politicians, but, sadly, it is sometimes.

The first step is to get an expert, or when possible, a non-expert pretending to be one. Pay the expert/non-expert a good fee to conduct a study of the property you wish to take and thereafter submit a report to your liking. In this fashion, you now have the basis to proceed with your eminent domain scheme. If the report doesn't support your position, hide the report and hire another outfit that will write the report the way you want, even if it's inaccurate, false or made up. Of course, you will need attorneys who are also on board with your line of thinking. After all, you pay them to think your way.

The Township of Union, its Planning Board members, its Planning Board attorney, Dan McCarthy, and the Special Redevelopment Counsel learned it doesn't work that way. Here's the very Honorable Judge Barisonek's Opinion on why the Planning Board's determination of the area being in need of redevelopment be vacated. The Opinion is 55 pages long. Besides giving taxpayers and property owners a good look into the sleazy world of eminent domain, the Opinion contains a wealth of information, especially if you sit on a Planning Board or are an elected official who may one day be dealing with an eminent domain issue. As seen in this particulat case, sometimes the advice of an attorney isn't necessarily correct and, in fact, can be outright false.

Besides citing conflicts of interest during Planning Board hearings, some of the other findings by the Judge:

  • "The standard in the report relied on by the Board in making their determination, as well as the advice given to the Board by its own Counsel and Township's redevelopment Counsel were inconsistent with the requirements of the LRHL, the holding in Gallenthin and the constitutional requirements under the Blighted Area Clause."

  • "... taken together the with reliance by the Board members on the improper advice of Counsel as to the statutory and constitutional requirements of LRHL." [emphasis mine]

  • "... I find the neutrality, impartiality and validity of the Board hearing are seriously in question."

Does anyone think politically connected lawyers are a bargain? Not this overtaxed taxpayer. IMO, what they are is a burden.

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