Thursday, May 04, 2017

Zito Maligned Over landfill Decision

Judge Zito in shorts instead of a robe,
poses with five cops who never claimed he was biased. 
Friends of Lackawanna is no friend to Senior Judge Leonard Zito. Nor are The Scranton Times editorial board and oneof their columnists, Chris Kelly. They're blowin' oil over a ruling issued by Judge Zito on Monday, denying standing to Friends of Lackawanna and a group of Dunmore residents opposed to the expansion of Keystone Sanitary Landfill. Judge Zito got stuck with this case after the entire Lackawanna Court of Common Pleas decided this was one political potato too hot for them to handle. After all, they have retention races to win every ten years. So they all recused themselves and Judge Zito got stuck with it. He didn't exactly volunteer, but was drafted by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Nobody had a problem with Judge Zito until he ruled against them. Now, he's apparently a mobster.

According to The Scranton Times, the entire region should have standing in a landfill expansion dispute. Never mind the law. Columnist Chris Kelly kicks things up a notch. He has published two columns. In his first, The Jurist Puzzle, he suggests that Zito is biased because he represented several landfills when he practiced law.

Using that logic, I could argue that he should never sit in judgment of a criminal case because he represented numerous criminal defendants and was once the County's Chief Public Defender. Cometo thinkof it, judges who served as prosecutors should never hear criminal cases, either.

What really seemed to piss Kelly off is that Judge Zito refused to discuss his decision with him. Let me get this straight. After insinuating that a judge is biased and in the pocket of Louis DeNaples, Kelly thinks that same jurist should pick up the phone for an ex parte conversation with him about a matter that is still before him?

Are you out of your mind, Chris? One too many Texas wieners?

It gets better. In a second column, entitled It Keeps Piling Up, Kelly concludes that Zito must be biased because a landfill opponent in Williams Township says so. He complains again that Zito refuses to engage in ex parte communications. He apparently made no effort to get other opinions.

Kelly could easily have learned that Zito was a fierce advocate for whomever he represented. He could have learned that Zito distinguished himself as the Chief Public Defender, representing clients who had nothing. Or that he represented one of the region's most difficult clients, Northampton County Council, with ease. He could have learned that Zito represented wealthy people but also represented numerous Slate Belt clients who had nothing. He could have learned that Zito, despite his senior status, is still considered the hardest working judge in Northampton County. He could have learned that Zito is considered a fine judge by lawyers in and out of the county. He could have asked the attorney representing Friends of Lackawanna why no bias claim was made.

But that would be journalism.

I can, and have, taken judges to task at times. But Kelly's Kommentary is as kooky as the landfill he despises so much. .

Kelly must want to be a bottom-feeding blogger like me. Many are called, but few are chosen.


Kathy Lilley said...

As the "landfill opponent" who spoke with Chris Kelly you're way off base with respect to Zito and his landfill dealings. I have no interest or knowledge in other aspects of his career.
But he should have known that the Landfill Business Privilege Tax was in effect when negotiating on behalf of his client Chrin. Documents (and Kelly has them) show that Zito knew that Chrin was required to pay the LBT AND the minimum host fee of $1...not just the $1. This cost Williams Twp millions of dollars. These are facts. Zito may claim he simply forgot about representing Grand Central on this same issue but as far as I know he hasn't made such a claim. As a lay person, I don't think Chrin/Zito negotiated in good faith with Wms Twp Supervisors in the late 90's early 2000.
Finally, I am not a landfill opponent. I am against 1) landfills that do not follow the state/federal regulations and 2)against an expansion of the Chrin Landfill that will take it to the doors of residents as a result of a poor zoning change. ( I do understand that it's more dramatic to tag me as an "opponent"

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kathy no one could say you are objective when it comda to either landfills or Zito. Any decent person writing about this would try to get s more balanced picture. Kelly did not. Zito was maligned.and you certainly are a landfill opponent.

Unknown said...


Judge Zito biased? This is just nonsense! Kelly should come down and sit through any criminal court term, arraignment court or hearing list to watch Zito's dedication to judicial fairness, efficiency, and dignity. Just trying to keep up with the judicial pace the man sets is both exhausting and inspiring. While I haven't always been delighted with every decision, ruling or sentence handed down by Zito, after almost four and a half decades of practice I have yet to find fault with the thoroughness, logic, accuracy or exercise of plain old common sense in what he does.

I know very little about landfills up Kelly's way, but I do know of Zito's unassailable work ethic, fairness, dedication and thoroughness from the bench, as a laawyer and as a community member.


Kathy Lilley said... last comment as I know you have to get the last word :-) And I don't have a dog in this hunt.
I'm completely objective when it comes to Zito. In fact I trust that what Pepper writes may very well be the case with Zito....a great guy, lawyer, judge etc. I'm simply citing ONE situation in which he was, in my opinion, not negotiating in good faith. And I think his involvement with landfills impacted his latest ruling.
I am actually objective when it comes to landfills - we need them since we create garbage and their owners have a right to make lots of money operating them. However, there are regulations in place to protect public health, safety and the environment and I strongly believe that the DEP should enforce those regulations across the board. If you think it's ok for a landfill to (consistently) violate regulations and get away with it, then that explains why you are tagging me as an opponent.
Have a blessed day!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kathy, I do get the last word. This is my blog. And you are far from objective when it comes to landfills and far from knowledgeable when it comes to judges. By the way, you should call them protections, not regulations.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you are biased for Judge Zito, so what is the point of this post.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The point of this post is that Kelly slammed a judge bc of his ex-clients and bc he refused to engage in ex parts conversations.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same judge that Jim Gregory had problems with?

Bernie O'Hare said...

That is irrelevant.

Harvey said...

Baked Ziti is a dish best served cold.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tricia, go to bed.