August 7, 2009

Dan Rivera’s New Legal Standard

Sources tell us that the best comedy show in town won’t be Aug. 21’s appearance by comedian Bill Engvall at the Seneca Niagara Casino. Instead, it was the show put on by wannabe-legislator Roger Chenez and our old friends Dan Rivera and Peeping Jim Sacco in Judge Frank Caruso’s chambers yesterday.

Of course, you’d never get that from the treatment that Niagara County Democratic Committee Spokesman Mark Scheer gives it in today’s Gazette. There, in typical fashion, Scheer parrots the Democratic Party line even after Judge Caruso had literally tossed Rivera and Chenez’s suit out of his courtroom—and them with it.

From what several independent observers inside the courtroom (that means people not related to Farnham, Mark) tell us, the audience watching the hearing actually was cracking up as Chenez fumbled through his testimony about why he thought County Legislator Gerald K. Farnham didn't live in his district. One legal observer, who has spent the better part of the last 40 years in courtrooms, told us that Chenez was, “Hands down, the most inept and ill-prepared witness I’ve ever seen.”

Apparently Chenez had a hard time answering a very simple question from Farnham’s attorney, Ned Perlman: “Mr. Chenez, you’ve called this proceeding today to allege Mr. Farnham doesn’t live at 5460 Hinman Road. What proof do you have to offer of that claim?”

Chenez’s answer? “Well, people have been talking.”

Wow! Good job, Roger! The new “people have been talking” legal standard. Now, ol’ Hobbes is no lawyer (although he has watched several episodes of Boston Legal, Law & Order, and *gulp* Ally MacBeal), but he’s pretty sure that “people have been talking” and Chenez’s later answer, “Well, several people told me” doesn’t quite meet the burden of proof.

Apparently, Chenez and Rivera had nothing to say when—and here, we’ll quote directly from Scheer’s press release, “Perlman presented a stack of documents supporting Farnham’s contention, including a monthly bank statement, water, telephone, electric, insurance and other bills — all mailed to Farnham at his Hinman Road address. In addition, Perlman presented a copy of the land transfer agreement between Farnham and LaFarge which includes a clause allowing the legislator to continue to live on the property, rent free, for up to five years after closing date of the sale. Perlman also introduced a copy of a July 2009 mortgage bill for the Saunders Settlement property which was also mailed to Farnham at his Hinman Road address.”

This election season has been one blunder after another on the part of Rivera. First, there were his constant assurances that he’d produce a full slate of candidates. He didn’t—in fact, the GOP-led majority has never had to defend fewer seats. Then, there was Dennis Virtuoso’s ill-conceived efforts to kill a popular measure to downsize the Legislature. Now, he takes up a courtroom’s time with nothing but rumor and innuendo.

And the worst part? If the Democrat Party, or Scheer (but we repeat ourselves) had done a little bit of shoe-leather investigating, they’d have been able to avoid ending up with more egg on their faces than a Denny’s short-order cook. Or, they could have just asked their own process server where he found Farnham. For those of you who missed the Buffalo News the other day, this dispatch from reporter Tom Prohaska was priceless:

[Farnham’s] attorney, Edward P. Perlman, argued Friday that the very process of serving Farnham with the legal papers undermined the suit’s chances of success.

It seems the Democrats’ process server went to the Saunders Settlement Road address where the Democrats claim Farnham lives, but the server couldn’t find Farnham.
So, Perlman says, the process server headed for Hinman Road, where he found Farnham and served him the papers— at about 11 p. m., an hour at which most people, especially those like the married, 64-year-old Farnham, are in their homes.
That’s right: according to Perlman, a lawsuit that asserts Farnham doesn’t live on Hinman Road had to be served to him in his home on Hinman Road.
The suspense of finding out how this lawsuit comes out is just killing us.
We’ve never accused Dan Rivera of having any credibility. But yesterday’s episode is an embarrassment for democracy in Niagara County.


orchardgirl said...

If you're going to write a column, please get yourself an editor. In paragraph nine the sentence should read "Democratic party," not ""Democrat party."

Paladin said...

Honey, the name "Democratic Party" is a misnomer. There ain't nothin' democratic about the Democrat Party.