The Crime Scene: Mount Vernon City Court
Embattled Mount Vernon City Court Judge Adam Seiden
Embattled Mount Vernon City Court Judge Helen Blackwood
When one appears before a Judge on a matter whether it is criminal or civil, one expects the Judge to have a complete and thorough understanding of the law and to apply the law with without bias and prejudice. The last thing a person would expect from a sitting Judge is for that Judge to be in direct violation of the same laws they are responsible for upholding.
This is such the case in the City of Mount Vernon court, where incompetence reigns supreme and is praised by Mount Vernon’s power brokers. There is one thing in common about the judges that currently sit on the bench in Mount Vernon; they are all guilty of committing ethics violations. Some of these violations may get some of these judges thrown off of the bench, while other violations may land others in the slammer where they belong.
Mount Vernon Exposed™® begins its mini-series “Inside Mount Vernon’s Kangaroo Court”. Since Mount Vernon’s own Judge William “Billy” Edwards became Acting Family and County Court Judge and was transferred to White Plains, the Mount Vernon Court System has become a dysfunctional institution.
Judge Mark Gross, appointed by Mayor Ernest Davis is 2006 decided, without legal authorization, that he would assume the self anointed title of “Supervising Judge” after the Honorable Brenda Dowery Rodriguez retired from the bench in 2009. No such title has existed before Judge Gross’s self anointment. In fact, Mount Vernon always had a Chief Judge that under normal circumstances went to the longest serving elected Judge in the City of Mount Vernon. At the time Gross was appointed to the bench, the Chief Judge was Judge Rodriguez. At the time of Judge Rodriguez’s retirement, the longest serving elected Judge in the City of Mount Vernon was Judge William Edwards.
Judge Edwards was already serving in his capacity as Acting Family and County Court Judge when Judge Rodriguez retired from the bench. With Judge Edwards absence from Mount Vernon City Court, Judge Gross decided that he would create a new title for himself to give himself a sense of power. However his reckless and selfish actions have been met with controversy. Several sources have told Mount Vernon Exposed™®, that Judge Gross treats African- American 18-B attorneys much different from their Caucasian counterparts. Mount Vernon Exposed™® has also heard of situations that Judge Gross routinely and quite possibly on purpose, tampers with the pay of 18-B by decreasing the billable hours due to each attorney and not signing the vouchers in a timely manner.
Also known as "18-B", after the section of the statute which created it, the Assigned Counsel Plan provides free legal representation to indigent criminal defendants in the New York Supreme Court Criminal Division, and to both juvenile and adult respondents in the New York Family Courts.
An "18-B" attorney can be assigned only to eligible defendants/respondents by a Supreme Court Justice or Family Court judge. You must apply for an "18-B" attorney at your initial court appearance, and you must meet financial eligibility guidelines. Generally speaking, if you are unemployed, you qualify for free legal representation in any case to which 18-B applies.
The attorneys who provide 18-B representation are private practitioners. The State of New York reimburses them at a low rate and the Courts must assign more cases than the shrinking Panel can reasonably handle.
Judge Gross’s antics were eventually reported to Judge Alan D. Scheinkman, Administrative Judge for the 9th judicial district. Sources have told Mount Vernon Exposed™® that a few weeks ago Judge Scheinkman came down to Mount Vernon City Court and reprimanded Judge Gross about his self anointed title. Judge Scheinkman also explained to Judge Gross that the position of “Supervising Judge” does not exist in the City of Mount Vernon.
Many taxpayers even argue the issue as to why Judge Gross was even appointed to the bench in the first place. Judge Gross’ ethics violations and abuse of taxpayer dollars began long before he even became a Judge in the City of Mount Vernon.
Judge Gross was counsel for the Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply from July 1990 through January 2006. His annual salary was $10,000 and remained at that level until he resigned. During this time he contributed 3% toward his pension. However, there is something wrong with this picture. Judge Gross was never a full time City of Mount Vernon employee. Instead of getting a retainer for $10,000, Judge Gross opted to be added to the City of Mount Vernon payroll at the least amount possible that is required to receive health benefits and pension credits in the NYS retirement system. Mount Vernon Exposed™® has learned that a formal complaint was sent to NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and NYS Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli requesting an investigation into Judge Gross’ perfidious activities.
Mount Vernon Democratic Committee Chairman Devereaux Cannick and also a partner of the law firm Aiello and Cannick was also improperly listed as an employee of the Mount Vernon School System. As a result of the investigation conducted by NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the law firm of Aiello and Cannick was ordered to repay $75,000 to NYS and forfeit all credits to the pension system.
JUDGE ADAM SEIDEN
The next character that is part of the Kangaroo Court in Mount Vernon is Judge Adam Seiden. Mount Vernon Exposed™® has learned that a complaint was recently filed with the NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Judge Seiden has engaged in conduct that is in violation of opinions issued by the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Professional Ethics and the New York State Court system's Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics.
In 1992, the above mentioned bar association directed that part-time judges should not appear before zoning and planning boards in municipalities where they serve.
Judge Seiden has represented numerous applicants before the City of Mount Vernon Planning and Zoning Boards.
Some of the properties that Seiden has represented applicants before the planning and zoning boards are: 520 E. 3rd Street; 24-26 E. Devonia Avenue, and 440 Franklin Avenue. There are many more.
At the time Judge Seiden appeared before the zoning board, the applicant, Ralph Tedesco, was Commissioner of buildings for the City of Mount Vernon. The applicant of 440 Franklin Avenue, Terrence Horton, is currently the Commissioner of Public Works for the City of Mount Vernon.
Judge Seiden was successful for all of the above mentioned applicants that appeared before the zoning and planning boards. However, the City of Mount Vernon and the applicant for 520 E. 3rd Street are facing legal challenges in New York State Supreme Court from a neighboring business who contends that the project was rushed through without appropriate review from city officials.
Sources have told Mount Vernon Exposed™® that Judge Seiden acts as if the world revolves around him when it comes to his court calendar. Mount Vernon Exposed™® has learned of one instance when Judge Seiden allegedly delayed his court calendar, without notifying court personnel, because he had a previously scheduled real estate closing the same morning.
JUDGE HELEN BLACKWOOD
The last and newest member to the Kangaroo Court is Judge Helen Blackwood. With less than a year on the bench, Judge Blackwood has managed to surpass her superiors when it comes to questionable behavior and ethics violations. Judge Blackwood was appointed to the bench in April 2009, by embattled Mayor Clinton I. Young Jr. Blackwood narrowly cruised to victory in the September 2009 Democratic primary by just over 100 votes.
Judge Blackwood has also joined her colleagues being on the receiving end of complaints filed with the NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct. Judge Blackwood was accused of violating several statues of Part 100 of the Chief Judge Administrative Judge Rules concerning Judicial Conduct.
The incompetence displayed by the judges that make up Mount Vernon’s Kangaroo Court can be directly attributed to the leaders that appointed the Judges to the bench and the Democratic leaders who nominated these creepy individuals to public office.