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Not resting in peace

The family of a young man interred in Cypress Hills Cemetery is suing the Brooklyn bone yard after they discovered that parts of their dearly departed had been accidentally dug up.

The family of Jorge Vera said that the horrid discovery was made when they went to visit his grave site and allegedly found a baseball cap that the young man was buried in. Inside the cap were pieces of the dead man’s scalp, according to a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court last week.

The New York Post reports that Vera, 27, died of cancer back in December, 2006. He was buried at Cypress Hills a few days later.

Months afterwards, workers at the cemetery were drilling a hole at the gravesite to put in the tombstone when the drill broke into Vega’s casket.

When the family went to pay their respects and see the new headstone, they discovered the cap and their family members remains had been disinterred, officials said.

They were so distraught that they demanded that Vega’s body be exhumed and cremated.

In the suit, the Vega family claims that despite all of the hardship Cypress Hill Cemetery allegedly forced them to endure, they were still demanding that they pay $5,234 to have the body removed from the ground and cremated.

Attempts to reach Cypress Hills Cemetery were unsuccessful as this paper went to press.

Reeling in the robes

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct rapped the knuckles of Brooklyn jurists last week, claiming that they shouldn’t recuse themselves from cases that are connected to state elected officials involved in their current pay raise fight.

Although Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Leader Joe Bruno and Governor David Paterson regarding the state’s failure to increase the pay of Supreme Court judges, individual jurists shouldn’t take out their own vengeance, the commission announced in a letter.

“The Commission is aware of recent published reports suggesting that at least some judges are encouraging or engaging in acts of recusal from cases involving law firms which include members of the state Legislature, purportedly based upon frustration over the compensation issue,” they wrote. “While recusal is discretionary, as long as a judge believes he or she can be impartial, recusal is not required in cases involving legislators, notwithstanding the salary lawsuit.”

The Commission fell back on their Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which requires that “judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially and fairly” as well as “the judicial duties of a judge take precedence over all of the judge’s other activities” to bolster their demands.

Over the past year or so jurists like Brooklyn Judge Arthur Schack have recused himself from a number of lawsuits because the law firms involved in the suits had state legislators on their payrolls.

In papers filed in Manhattan last month, Kaye’s attorneys at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz allege that “New York State judges have only received one increase in pay” in the last 14 years.

That raise, which brought them to their current $108,000 to $156,000 salary, depending on the different benches they adjudicate from, as well as their seniority, hasn’t been changed since 1999, they claim.

With no raise in sight, New York judges have been asked to bear “staggering caseloads” that are far heavier than their counterparts in federal court, Kaye’s attorneys said.

After she filed Kaye, who is leaving the judiciary this year once she receives the mandatory retirement age of 70, sent a message to judges in Brooklyn as well as throughout the state – a total of 1,300 – that the lawsuit was their last best chance for reconciliation.

“At this point, we are left with no choice but to take legal action to address this intolerable situation,” she said.

The state’s Unified Court System is listed as a co-plaintiff in the suit.

State officials do not comment on pending legislation.

Despite their pleas that judges don’t recuse themselves from cases with links to state officials, the Commission announced that they “believe that an appropriate increase in the salaries of the statewide judiciary is well deserved and long overdue.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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