Sunday, April 02, 2006

Leon Koziol's Professional Experience

Oh my, those Utica Democrats are angry at me this weekend. Well, it's like I said to a member of the Bruce Tytler campaign after Bruce withdrew from the race: The intensity with which people try to pressure you to quit is usually a good measure of the impact of your message. I'll just keep on keeping on, thanks.

The latest gripe comes from a student writing a blog on behalf of Leon Koziol, who is still using an AOL email and doesn't seem able to get his own web site up. This student is complaining that that, in an article from last week discussing the professional experience of Michael Arcuri and Les Roberts, I "blatantly not included Leon Koziol".

Well, if Leon Koziol's supporters really want me to talk about Mr. Koziol's professional experience, I'll do so, but I don't think they'll like what I have to say.

Leon Koziol's professional experience is that he's a lawyer who advertises for clients on television with hokey commercials. Koziol claims that his cases prove that he'll fight for the little guy, but there don't appear to be important larger issues at the heart of most of his cases. Maybe I'm missing something - I'm not a lawyer, after all - but Mr. Koziol's professional record doesn't seem to show any special kind of sacrifice, courage, or devotion to high-minded ideals. You want to see what lawyers who fight for our constitutional rights really look like? Take a gander at the Center for Constitutional Rights, right here in New York State.

Mostly, Leon Koziol appears to have just been doing his job, representing his clients. The notable exception is Leon Koziol's involvement with the Land Claims issue. Mr. Koziol is proud of his land claims history. I wonder whether that pride is well placed.

The land claims dispute has been for New York's 24th District what Destiny USA has been for the 25th District: An embarrassing squabble over turf that has gone on far too long, with petty local hucksters trying to use the issue as a platform for building political power.

I don't care which side of the land claims dispute you're on. If you touch it, it's political poison. The history of repeated failures in negotiations and agreements scuttled at the last minute through short-sighted maneuvering ought to be a source of embarassment to anyone involved - especially the lawyers.

Like I said, I'm not an expert in matters of lawyering, so maybe what the lawyers involved in these disputes are doing what they're supposed to be doing, playing hardball for their clients without any care for the impact on other people.

Maybe. But, maybe, the role of a really good lawyer is to advise his or her clients in order to promote their best interest in a larger sense.

Take the case of Bill O'Reilly against Al Franken, for example. Bill O'Reilly got all angry about the use of his picture, and the Fox News phrase "fair and balanced", on the cover of Al Franken's new book. So, O'Reilly pushed the legal department at Fox News to sue Al Franken's publisher for trademark infringement, claiming that Fox News owned the phrase "fair and balanced". Bill O'Reilly and the Fox News lawyers were laughed out of court - literally. The entire courtroom erupted into laughter at their ludicrous claims. Al Franken's book, which would have had middling sales without the publicity that came from the trial, shot to number one on the bestsellers lists. The Fox News lawyers played hardball and did what their clients wanted them to do, but served their clients poorly in doing so.

I think it's fair to make a similar judgment about lawyers like Leon Koziol who have been highly involved in Upstate New York's tribal land claims disputes. Maybe they've done a crack job at finding ways to file creative legal motions and make aggressive stands on behalf of their clients, but they've shown exceptionally poor judgment in doing so. A good lawyer in such a dispute would have realized that a quick conclusion would be better for his or her client than years upon years of expensive legal maneuvering and embarrassing publicity.

To my untrained legal eye, the lawyers involved in the land claims disputes appear more self-serving than anything else. They've been skillful lawyers, but terrible leaders.

When it comes to Leon Koziol's prideful declarations about his involvement in the land claims issue, Democratic voters only need to ask themselves this simple question: Would you want Leon Koziol to bring the gridlock of the land claims disputes to other disputes in the United States House of Representatives?

If the answer is yes, then Leon Koziol is the candidate for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Big picture and write up of Mr. Koziol in the Sunday Times