NY POST NOVEMBER 26, 2007
RULE OR GET OFF THE BENCH
November 26, 2007 -- If state Supreme Court Justice Helen Freedman won't even issue a ruling on years-old legal moves to end decades- old court oversight of city homeless shelters, maybe she should do something really radical - like quit.
Alas, she's been the city's self-appointed shelter czar for 25 years now - and her recent decision to convene yet another panel to re-hash the issues all over again suggests that she has no intention of parking the gravy train.
Let's be blunt: This case has become a farce - even by
Judges are supposed to judge - not operate shelter systems.
Nearly every observer this side of
Five years ago (when Freedman's self-ordered oversight of city shelters was only two decades old), she set up the first panel of experts to review the case.
Their unanimous opinion: End it right away - and do everyone a favor.
Even many "homeless" advocates - including a coalition of housing groups and the (cluelessly liberal) New York Times - have wanted the court to vacate the consent decree that's let Freedman run shelters for a quarter century.
Instead, she twiddled her thumbs, even though it was her own handpicked panel that said all the issues of the '83 case had been resolved long ago and that the matter should be put to rest.
Now, three years after that panel's recommendation, she finally issues a ruling - setting up yet another panel to study the case all over again.
And get this: She named a former head of the plaintiff group, the Legal Aid Society, to the three-member panel.
Where's the judicial "impartiality" in that?
Freedman has her teeth in this and won't let go. No doubt, if the new panel also demands an end to the case, she'll find some other way to delay yet again.
It's not right.
Never mind all the time and money wasted over 25 years.
The biggest problem is that her continued oversight actually makes it difficult for officials to improve the system.
Even the most minute changes must be crafted so as to pass muster with Freedman - right down to the kind of formula served to babies of families seeking aid.
Yet Freedman isn't a part of an administration elected by
She doesn't have to worry about the budget or tax implications of her rulings.
And her reign over this issue means voters can't fairly hold City Hall accountable for its shelter policy.
Enough is enough.
Mayor Bloomberg and his Department of Homeless Services, building on Giuliani-era reforms, have created a fair and humane shelter system.
Freedman has no moral claim on the system, if she ever did.
As for the ethics of her obstinacy - well, maybe it's time for Judith Kaye, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, to have a sidebar conference with her obdurate colleague.
Quite apart from the specifics of the case, Judge Freedman's conduct is disrespectful of the rule of law.
She needs to quit it.