Saturday, April 01, 2006

A "bourgeois rioter" bites the dust:

ALBANY -- Thomas Spargo, a politically active state judge who flew to Florida in late 2000 to help battle for George W. Bush during the presidential election recount, should be removed from office for hitting up lawyers to give to a defense fund for him, a state commission recommended Friday.

So, what exactly did he do to deserve removal from office? Oh, this:

...the commission found that Justice Spargo, who was assigned to Ulster County Supreme Court in 2003, had solicited a $10,000 contribution from Bruce Blatchly, a lawyer who frequently appeared before him.

It also found that Justice Spargo arranged a lunch at a restaurant in Kingston in late 2003 with several lawyers who all had cases before him. When Justice Spargo was away from the table, a friend of the judge's asked the lawyers for similar contributions. None of the lawyers donated money, the commission said.

And this:

According to the commission, Justice Spargo distributed $5 coupons and free alcoholic drinks as a candidate for the post in 1999. In addition, the commission said, Justice Spargo accepted the district attorney-elect as a client of his law practice in 2000 even though, as a town justice, he presided over cases brought by the district attorney's office.

And this:

The panel also found he paid a Rensselaer County Independence Party head and an Albany County Democrat $5,000 to cross-endorse him at the 2001 Supreme Court nominating conventions.

Now, what did Spargo do in Florida, for which he wasn't disciplined?

In 2000, Justice Spargo made news when, as a town justice, he took part in a nationally televised rally in Florida on behalf of George W. Bush during the presidential recount.

Er, that wasn't a "rally" -- it was the notorious "bourgeois riot."

According to Down and Dirty, Jake Tapper's book on the Florida recount, there exists a photo of Spargo -- then in his late fifties -- "clapping and chanting" at the riot that shut down a recount of punch-card ballots on November 22, 2000.

Tapper's description of Spargo makes him sound like a real piece of work:

Spargo's known for trafficking in the ridiculous, like a 1990 lawsuit against then-governor Mario Cuomo for claiming his family's Queens home as his voting residence, though the governor, of course, primarily resided at the governor's mansion in Albany. Or his 1998 suit on behalf of defeated attorney general Dennis Vacco against newly elected Democratic attorney general Eliot Spitzer, in which Spargo alleged, but never remotely proved, that fifty thousand illegal aliens voted on Election Day.

But wait -- there's more.

He'd been counsel to the state GOP until he resigned in 1990 under investigation of an ethics commission. This involved the role, if any, that he played in a 1985 campaign-financing scandal that funneled cash from the developers of a Poughkeepsie mall to local officials. After Spargo failed to submit to questions about the alleged political payoffs, a state supreme court justice issued a warrant for Spargo's arrest. This was lifted when Spargo agreed to testify before a State Commission on Government Integrity investigation, though his testimony was hardly forthright, as he did, indeed, invoke the 5th Amendment nineteen times.

That's why this scene seems especially satisfying:

Justice Thomas J. Spargo was hearing cases Friday when his secretary entered the courtroom with a note.

The state Supreme Court justice read it adjourned the proceedings. "I've just been removed from the bench," he said. "I have to go."

Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, Your Honor.

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