D.C., December 17, 2004
ELENA'S RELEASE – STILL NO CONFIRMED DATE
Wish we had better news to report as to a possible earlier
release than the scheduled Christmas Day. Unfortunately, ignoring our
ongoing efforts and protests, D.C. prison authorities have continued their
pattern and practice, up to and including the present day, of deliberate
obstruction and delay of Elena’s legal rights relating to her release
from her present continued illegal incarceration. This, notwithstanding
the prison's own investigator concluded in a written report that proper
procedure had not been followed and that Elena was wrongfully deprived
of her “good time” class credits and would have been legally entitled
to release on December 7th but for the Jail’s non-compliance with its
own published rules.
By failure and refusal to follow those rules, DC prison authorities have
kept her from having her appeals from her illegal detention adjudicated
in a proper and timely manner. This was specifically mandated where prisoner
Elena asserted that she has been retaliated against, threatened and intimidated
for asserting her prisoners’ rights and subjected to attempted coercion
to waive the prison’s liability for its deprivations
of such rights.
Jail personnel have repeatedly informed us that she will not be released
before she serves her full maximum six
month sentence, “no exceptions.” Luckily, this sadistic intent may be
thwarted because Christmas Day falls on a Saturday and the preceding day
is considered a federal holiday, when we are
told that the prison will be without the personnel to perform
necessary processing of her release paperwork.
No time off whatever is being given Elena for good behavior all these
many months in jail.
The Jail has also denied the press its rightful access, wrongfully
failing to respond to, and actually denying,
requests for appointments for in-jail interviews of Elena.
This plainly is calculated to prevent exposure of just
how badly the DC jail treats its prisoners,
especially one who is blowing the whistle on the Jail’s human rights violations.
As of now, we have been told not to count on Elena's release before Christmas
Day! We have also been told that
such can be anytime “up to 12 midnight of that day.” Presumably, the jail
wants to keep her locked up until the very last moment so as to prevent
her supporters from being on hand to give her the hero’s triumphal welcome
she deserves for her principled defense of
our Bill of Rights.
Washington, D.C., December 10, 2004
American Abu Gharib
Warden denies imprisoned Hebrew religious school teacher, judicial reformer
Elena Ruth Sassower promised December 7 release, after more than a month
of unremitting "torture treatment,"all in violation of her 1st
Amendment right to religious freedom, as well as her 5th and 14th Amendment
rights to due process and equal protection of the law.
Ruth Sassower, Cofounder and Coordinator of the Center for Judicial Accountability,
Inc., (CJA) based in White Plains, NY, has been turned down today
by the Warden of the District of Columbia jail for early release promised
for two vocational classes, which would have given her 18 days “good time
credit.” That meant she would be coming home on December 7th, in time
for her to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah - a Jewish holiday that
celebrates religious freedom and freedom fighters -- rather than her scheduled
date of December 25, Christmas Day.
Warden’s rejection of CJA's plea that he adhere to the promised December
7 release date was a severe blow not only to Elena Sassower and her family,
but to the Jewish community of which she has been a vital part. For more
than 15 years, as the Warden was told, Elena Sassower has been a Hebrew
Religious School teacher, conducting weekly Sabbath, as well as the annual
High Holy Day and other holiday services, at two New York Synagogues,
representing more than 1300 Congregants. In a letter written to the Warden
on December 6th, CJA’s Director, as well as Elena’s mother, Doris Sassower
said, “The first night of Hanukkah, a holiday that has been celebrated
by Jews the world over for more than 2300 years, is as important to Jews
as Christmas Eve is to Christians.”
Warden Fred Figueroa conceded his refusal to let Elena go --after more
than five months of time served on a conviction that was pending appeal
-- did not rely on any legal opinion and cited no legal basis. The Warden
claimed that a non-lawyer at the DC Department of Correction told him
that he could not give Elena the credit because she had not "completed
the courses." This ignored the fact that a prison investigator's
memo explicitly admitted that "Inmate Sassower was removed from two
academic programs in which she would have received 18 days good time credit
if she would have been permitted to remain in class There is no supporting
documentation to indicate otherwise due to actions not being supported
by proper disciplinary procedure.”
Jail's refusal to allow Elena to complete her courses, from which she
had been barred on August 31, 2004, was not only a violation of Elena’s
First Amendment right to practice her religion, but of the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendment, as well, which required prior warning and opportunity for the
prisoner to be heard before such disciplinary punishment was imposed.
filed a grievance challenging her removal from the classes, as she had
a right to do under prison procedure. When such was denied, she appealed
it, as she had the further right to do. On November 12, the Jail suspended
Elena's privileges, without notice or explanation, This included NO visits,
NO outside phone calls, even to her lawyers or lawyer-mother, NO
library (limited as it was to only one hour a week), NO outside recreation
(limited to one hour daily, Monday to Friday only), NO canteen, all of
which disciplinary punishments were also wrongful for the same reason.
November 15, 2004, Elena wrote to the Warden that she "was being
subjected to retaliation, intimidation, and threats for a grievance pertaining
to DDA-CTF's violations."
November 22, Elena was led to believe that she had won her appeal, that
her privileges would be reinstated, and that she might be released on
December 7th, with her 18 days of "good time" credit. However,
because the Jail had not processed the paper work, she was denied the
promised privilege reinstatement, including a "not approved"
pre-Thanksgiving Day visit by her attorney-mother and sister on November
22 and a press visit on November 29.
that date, she was told that for her to get the good time credit, she
would have to sign a written memo that "she had been offered the
opportunity to rejoin the class and refused to do so" (a totally
false statement) and more importantly, waived her grievance. Elena states
that she had simply asked for a copy of the memo before signing anything,
so as to permit her to consult with her lawyers, which the prison repeatedly
refused to let her do.
then, Elena's lawyers have repeatedly sought to meet with the Warden to
discuss her December 7 release, as did Elena herself. These requests have
all been cavalierly ignored. Said one of the lawyers on her legal team
with the law firm of Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, "Ms.
Sassower was clearly entitled to a timely decision on her appeal and her
grivance, and should not have to waive her grievance in order to be awarded
her good time credit."
of canteen was especially punitive to Elena. This, because from the outset
and for more than five months, she had been denied requested kosher food
and could not eat the food provided to her.
the outset, Elena was also denied access to a Rabbi or to the spiritual
comfort of a synagogue service, even while the Jail has an in-house Reverend
for non-Jewish prisoners and took those prisoners to Church who wished
to attend Sunday worship services.
inhumanity and mental torture the Warden has inflicted and condoned is
an American Abu Gharib. At very least and to avoid a charge of anti-Semitism,”
said CJA Director Doris Sassower, "the Warden should have made the
minimal restitution to Elena by granting her the 18 days of 'educational
good time credit' so as to make the miracle of Hanukkah happen for Elena.
Such would have permitted her to return home before the first night of
the sacred Jewish festival of Hanukkah, celebrated by Jews the world over
for more than 2300 years. Especially, as the Warden was told that
was why she had taken the classes in the first place.”
Sassower’s defense against her wrongful "Disruption of Congress"
conviction is being handled pro bono by a team of respected
D.C. law firms, led by world-renowned attorney Nat Lewin, who has successfully
argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT COMPLAINTS AGAINST JUDGE HOLEMAN
BE RECONSIDERED THIS FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 2005
D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure met on January 12,
2005, when CJA's judicial misconduct complaints against Judge Holeman
were again on its Agenda, following the granting of our request for reconsideration
of the Commission's summary dismissal of its misconduct complaints against
Judge Holeman (see story below). However, the Commission took no action,
BUT, most unusually, placed it on the Agenda of a Special Meeting called
for January 28, 2005. At that time, it will reconsider these
complaints, wherein CJA calls for Judge Holeman's immediate suspension
pending investigation by reason of the danger to society. CJA considers
him "a menace on the bench," requiring his ultimate removal.
CJA's documented complaints and request for reconsideration of the Commission's
summary dismissal are accessible from our website by scrolling down to
Judicial Discipline and clicking on the documents listed. There's still
time for CJA supporters to add their e-mailed letters of support, with
ccs to CJA, to 'Cathaee.Hudgins@dc.gov'
address of the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure is
Building A, Room 312, 515 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 2001.
December 15th Meeting of the DC Commission on Judicial
Disabilities and Tenure (euphemism for judicial misconduct)
CJA’s Judicial Misconduct complaints, as set forth in its detailed and
documented FREE ELENA PETITION against Judge Holeman, the very same day
that CJA filed a Supplemental Judicial Misconduct Complaint documenting
the fact that Judge Holeman perjured himself as to his credentials submitted
by him to the Senate Committee voting on his confirmation.
call for his removal was bravely supported by three experienced litigators,
as well as a media representative, who had witnessed the trial proceedings
and been so appalled by Judge Holeman's arbitrary conduct that he presented
to the Commission his personally prepared documentary videotapes, representing
intensive, time-consuming work on his part.
his hand-delivered letter to the Commission prior to its deliberation
of CJA’s complaints against Judge Holeman, this media witness stated “Frankly,
no amount of words can adequately describe the dishonor and diminishment
of public confidence in our judicial system that this judge brought upon
The Commission gave all these complaints, representing hundreds of hours
of research and investigation, its usual peremptory short shrift, in one
of its usual form letters taking "the easy-out" of summary dismissal
to avoid its duty to address these facially meritorious complaints on
Initially, CJA was informed that the dismissal was on the ground that
there was no jurisdiction because it found that there was “insufficient
cause for the Commission to proceed” -- its shorthand for “the complaint
lacks merit”)! After politely expressing our shock and incredulity as
to such alleged basis for dismissal, we received from the Commission the
very next day its December 16 form letter, which came up with a new and
different ground, to wit, “after careful review and consideration,
the Commission has dismissed the complaints because they raise matters
of law exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Court and beyond the
statutory authority of the Commission."
course, this is just boilerplate pretense, as anyone can see from reading
CJA's Supplemental Complaint and the initial complaint, encompassed in
CJA's Free Elena Petition, both online on our website.
once again, we see yet another tax-funded judicial misconduct commission
designed to police the judiciary and protect our citizenry from unfit
judges proving itself unfit for its own job by covering up, rather than
confronting, flagrant judicial misconduct -- a thesis CJA has proved out
many times in countless other cases and as Elena so brilliantly reported
in her seminal 1997 article “Without Merit: the Empty Promise
of Judicial Discipline,” accessible on CJA’s homepage.
request for reconsideration by the Commission, filed the very next day,
is accessible from our website by scrolling down to Judicial Discipline
and clicking on the documents listed.
Open Letter from the Director
Procedural history since
pro bono counsel took over the case