New York Law Journal

Angry Litigants Disrupt City Bar Program

New York Law Journal
Friday, April 16, 1999
BY DANIEL WISE

DISGRUNTLED Family Court litigants, some of them bristling with anger, disrupted a program at The Association of the Bar of the City of New York Wednesday evening.

The most disaffected members of the audience succeeded in sidetracking the program, a presentation by two Family Court judges, Richard N. Ross and Jody Adams, to journalists interested in covering the court.

Many members of the audience expressed heartfelt grievances at the way their cases had been handled. But two powerfully built men in their mid-30s used angry tones and gestures and repeatedly interrupted the two judges. In all, about 35 litigants joined 10 journalists and journalism students, filling City Bar's tiny Stimson Room to capacity.

As a result of the disturbances, both Judge Adams and Office of Court Administration spokesman David Bookstaver said they asked for Bar Association security personnel to come to the room, but none came.

The experience was not new for Family Court officials. About a year ago, many of the same frustrated litigants disrupted a program on the Family Court at the City Bar, forcing the premature departure of Administration for Children's Services Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. [NYLJ, Feb. 27, 1998.]

Demanding Answers

One of the two men at Wednesday's session, who identified himself to a reporter as Posr Posr, repeatedly asked the judges whether he had a right to videotape his own case for "litigation purposes." When Judge Adams said she was not familiar with the rule about cameras in the courtroom, Mr. Posr left the room. A few minutes later he strode back in and angrily deposited a copy of the rule on the table in front of the judges, demanding to know whether his view of the rule was correct.

The longer Mr. Posr went without getting an answer, the more agitated he became, and at one point he used the phrase "jack diddley" to express his exasperation. Though Mr. Posr initially described himself as a journalist, toward end of the hour-long program he complained that his child had been "snatched" from him.

The second angry man in the audience, who was not called on to speak by either judge, shouted out as he stormed about the room that the court was prejudiced against men and allowed perjured testimony. When asked after the meeting to identify himself, he refused to do so.

Security Concerns

Alan Rothstein, the association's general counsel, said when contacted the next day that the association was "very concerned" about the reports of disruptive behavior at the meeting, and would consider additional security. He said the City Bar has two people responsible for security stationed at the desk in the entrance hallway, and they "are empowered to go into a room and deal with security and to call the police if things get out of hand."

Mr. Rothstein described finding the right level of security as "striking a balance" between encouraging public participation and assuring participants they are properly protected. "If we have to increase [the security] presence at future meetings," he added, "we will."

Judge Ross, the supervising judge of the Family Court in Manhattan, described some of the conduct at the meeting as "rude," and the tone of some of the comments as "hostile." But, he said, he never felt personally threatened.

Judge Adams also said she had no concern for her saftey, but added she would have appreciated some security to maintain order. She said further that she was "angry" because the purpose of the meeting was frustrated by comments from audience members.

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