Thursday, December 3, 2009

Justifiable spending?

From the NY Post:

State judges are using taxpayer money to buy everything from spa trips to self-portraits to electronics, The Post has learned.

On Nov. 1, New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman doubled the expense allowances for his judges to $10,000 a year each. But the special compensation -- which now costs $12.6 million annually and is intended to reimburse judges for work-related costs -- isn't always spent judiciously.

Meditation retreats, framed photographs of themselves, and a $233 Apple iPod Touch are among the expense claims reimbursed this year by the New York Office of Court Administration, a Post analysis found.

Brooklyn Housing Court judges Cheryl Gonzales and John Stanley decided to get in touch with their inner Buddha by attending a February getaway at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Northern California. Gonzales and Stanley were reimbursed $890 and $780, respectively, for the cost of travel, accommodations and the program.

According to the meditation center's Web site, some of the courses include "Heart Practices for Couples," "The Neurology of Awakening" and "Relationships as Spiritual Practice."

Gonzales' expense allowance has also extended to her associates. She was reimbursed $1,665 for the cost of an entire table at a May dinner of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, a group she chairs.

Other judges have used their allowance to foot travel bills.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Laura Jacobson was reimbursed $2,878.40 to travel to Cuba in late September with the National Association of Women Judges for what one attendee reportedly called a "fact-finding vacation."

Vanity also seems like a justifiable cost to the OCA.

At least 10 Queens Supreme Court judges used their allowances to cover the $390 cost to get photos taken of themselves. The framed photos will hang in a public hallway of the Queens Supreme Court house in the near future, according to the OCA.


Anonymous said...

If i'm not mistaken,judges haven't gotten a pay raise in 9 years......................

Anonymous said...

Yeah, i dont object to paying for the portraits as they are for the public space.

The "vaction" trips are ALWAYS suspect, however.

Anonymous said...

The judges could have avoided this scruity by just taking the additional $$$ as taxable comp instead of putting in for all this silly crap. It sort of takes the wind out of their argument that they "need a raise" to pay for this or that. Is an iPod going to pay for your kids' tutition?

Anonymous said...

As an attorney who knows the Spirit Rock Meditation Center and the programs they run there, you obviously didn't do a thorough job in your reporting.

Contemplative practice and spirituality in the law is a growing sector of interest for attorneys and judges. It incorporates the practice of mindfulness into the stressful practice of law. When you're dealing with sad and horrific cases all day - especially as a public interest lawyer - working on self-preservation and mental health is vital to the practice.

It may sound like hooey to the outside, but it is becoming more and more accepted in legal and academic circles. Here's a link to learn more:

Spirit Rock is one of the only meditation centers in the country to offer these retreats that focus on mindful lawyering. Yes, it's in a pretty place, but it's related to the law, and it's related to work. I know plenty of attorneys and legal professionals whose work and practice has benefited from these retreats.

Anonymous said...

I should also point out that it's the NY Post that didn't do their reporting, (surprise surprise), not Queens Crap. I personally love Queens Crap.