Merit Matters Press Release
February 10, 2012
Is Judge Nicholas Garaufis hangin’ ten?
(This Release is a continuation of and builds on our Press Release issued December 2, 2011 which is available on our website)
It’s nice to have friends. It’s even nicer to go to Hawaii with them, which is what Nicholas Garaufis was scheduled to do between February 4th and 11th when the Federal Bar Council will be holding their Winter Bench and Bar Conference. If he does not want to surf he can always schedule a massage with a Polynesian coconut scrub, or attend the Dazzling Disco Dance reception or participate in the Tennis Social.
One of the goals of the FBC is to promote fellowship among Federal practitioners within the Second Circuit Court of Appeals - in other words, to promote companionship and comradeship characteristic of group solidarity. Hmmm. Sounds a bit like some sort of “stubborn bastion of privilege”. Considering that Mr. Garaufis serves on the Planning Committee for this Conference he must be aware of its goals.
As chance would have it, Lawrence T. Gresser also serves on this Planning Committee. He of the law firm Cohen and Gresser, the “Cohen” part of which was chosen by Mr. Garaufis to be the Special Monitor for the FDNY although the Vulcan Society objected to his appointment.
One of Cohen and Gresser’s lawyers, Thomas E. Bezanson, is a FBC Board Member. So is Mary Beth Hogan, who works at Debevoise and Plimpton. Now why does that firm ring a bell? Oh, that’s right - that’s where Special Master Mary Jo White works. Mr. Garaufis appointed her to oversee the development of the next FDNY entry test.
This firm recently made a substantial monetary tax deductible (thank you very much) contribution to the Federal Bar Foundation, a 501(c) (3) corporation that funds many of the activities of the FBC. Guess who else did? That’s right - Cohen and Gresser.
It’s nice to see friends helping friends, and fellowship being promoted. Mr. Garaufis also engages in this activity with the Hellenic Lawyers Association where he serves as an Honorary Board Member and whose goals include strengthening the professional and social ties among members. His nomination to the Federal bench was non-controversial in part because he was described as having good relationships with Republican Senators; perhaps one could say they were friendly. He even met his future wife when she served on the search committee that recommended his name for nomination (I wonder if family or friend connections got her appointed to that committee?).
Those who have been paying attention to the issues surrounding the lawsuit against the FDNY will recognize why I have presented all of the above. For those who have not, Judge Garaufis has made much of the fact that members of the FDNY recommend the job to friends and family and portrays this practice - which occurs throughout society in all types of careers - as nefarious, racist and something exclusively practiced by the white males of the FDNY. As we can easily see, Mr. Garaufis continues to throw stones in a glass courthouse.
Consider that Mark Cohen was not offered up by any of the parties involved as a good choice to be Special Monitor (and was even opposed by the Vulcan Society) but got the nod anyway - and that his law partner has long standing ties to the person selecting him. Or that there was a real estate deal signed one week before this surprise announcement was made. Or that the amount Mr. Cohen will be paid as Special Monitor is up to the person who chose him - Judge Garaufis.
In December 2011 Mr. Gresser said his firm will continue to expand in 2012 and hire new attorneys (might I suggest a Special Monitor because of their lousy diversity?). Considering the network of helpful friends they have developed I have no reason to doubt Mr. Gresser’s assertion.
None of the above is meant to criticize the Hellenic lawyers, private friendships or least of all the FBC, which was formed in 1932 in response to racism in the legal profession. It is meant to further highlight the hypocrisy of those who benefit from formal and informal connections and then attack others who do the same.
Hypocrisy is also evident when a white male in a profession that is approximately 90% white male criticizes, belittles and implements rules that may endanger those who understand that they are expected to give their lives for strangers. Members of the FDNY did not benefit from a patronage riddled crony system (highlighted recently in the surprise, last minute nomination of Senator Charles Schumer’s brother in law to a Federal judgeship in New Jersey); we earned our jobs via the civil service merit system, a system of equal opportunity that has resulted in blacks being the most overrepresented group in city employment.
Happily, redemption beckons. There is a FBC Diversity Conference scheduled for May 22, 2012 in Manhattan as part of the Continuing Legal Education program. We urge Mr. Garaufis to announce he is resigning his position during this Conference so as to provide an opportunity for a member of an underrepresented group to become a Federal judge. His legacy will be established, his treatment by the media (which he seems so concerned with) will no doubt consist of praise and hurrahs and he will get to apply the harsh, race conscious treatment he has forced on those who simply applied for a job and took a test to himself, thus softening the criticism he has received from many quarters.
I recommend he catch this wave; he’ll be sittin’ on top of the world.
President - Merit Matters