Part Two of Two
The advantage for me in having the case transfered to the Supreme Court is that the proceedings would become "plenary" instead of "summary" as they are in Housing Court. The case would become a full-blown lawsuit with depositions and other discovery.
The judge interrupted me constantly and out of respect for the justice system I didn't want to interrupt her but it was the only way for me to finish a sentence. Twice I said "I'm sorry" after cutting in or keeping speaking after her interruption and she said patiently to me, as one speaks to a child: "You don't have to apologize!"
As can be expected from a lawyer whose only intellectual exercise is to extract stipulations from cash-strapped tenants, the lawyer was very bad. All he said was "Well, suppose this lady's landlord was crazy, then she would want him to be taken care of by mental health professionals" or something to that effect.
The hearing ended after the judge said that she was setting aside the stip. She said that I had to make an appointment with the PSA man for a mental evaluation and she asked me to come back next Wednesday, the 23rd. She asked kindly if I wanted her to write it down for me on a slip of paper. I declined, got up and said "Thank you your Honor" before leaving. When I looked up the landlord's lawyer had already left the courtroom.
I walked out with the PSA man. I asked him if he had a minute to talk. He said that he had three other persons to see down- stairs. I said that I would talk to him on the way down then, but he stopped at a bench in the hallway. I was tempted to have someone help me. I told him that I didn't deny that I needed legal help but the problem was that I didn't trust anybody. He kept his eyes down and his mouth shut, then he asked me if there was a number where he could reach me to make an appointment. I said that my phone had just been cut off and asked him for his business card. He gave it to me and I said that I would call him next Friday afternoon. He said that by then somebody would have been assigned my case and that 3 PM was fine.
Once I was back home, the feeling of betrayal and humiliation made me almost sick yet the outrage put me in a combative mood. I knew that I had argued my OSC competently, without memorizing any speech. The judge had decided that I needed PSA before letting me argue my case, and my argument had refuted her claim that I was unable to defend or prosecute my case.
I felt very lonely and thought how comforting it would be to have a good lawyer take the burden off my shoulders. Yet I knew that my mother always attacked the weak link, and the weak link was anybody who had a relationship of trust and confidence with me or, as lawyers say, a "fiduciary duty" to me. She had done it already with my two estate lawyers, with the lawyer at the French Legal Aid, with my two notaries, she had done it with my psycho- therapist, with my landlord and with my boyfriends. She had convinced them to become informants against me and to advise me against my interests. How she did it I didn't know. It could be offers of money that nobody could refuse, or it could be threats.
What I knew was that if a PSA lawyer was appointed to me, he would also be turned against me. Besides, I reflected that if I accepted a PSA lawyer I would have to accept the label of "men- tally incompetent" because I was neither senile nor physically handicapped, the only three cases when PSA stepped in. And if I was labeled "mentally incompetent" this would destroy my credi- bility as a witness and all the allegations I had made in my affidavit would lose their sting! It was out of the question. Maybe that was the reason why they were trying so hard to stick me with PSA! So I would have to fight the appointment of PSA.
I called PSA headquarters and said that I was a friend of somebody to whom the court wanted to appoint PSA and asked what was the usual procedure. The man said that the person would undergo a psychiatric examination. At some point I let it slip that I was indeed the person and the man's attitude changed instantly. Now he was talking to me as if I was retarded. He said that if I wasn't mentally impaired then I should have no objec- tion to being evaluated by a psychiatrist, and if I had a problem with that then it was the proof that I had a mental problem!
But I knew that as soon as a health professional made an examination, there was a record, which was confidential but subject to discovery, and I knew that any psychiatrist who examined me would be paid off to make a report saying that I was mentally impaired! And just as you can't un-ring a bell, you can't remove the stigma of mental impairment, ever.
I took out my law books and read on the subject of mental incompetence. There was such a thing as a person "judicially declared incompetent" and surely this was not my case. There had been a case (Abrons v. Abrons, 1965, 24 A.D.2d 970, 265 N.Y.S.2d 381) in which the court held that it was improper to appoint a guardian ad litem for defendant on application of plaintiff without notice to defendant, an adult, and without satisfactory proof that he, allegedly mentally ill, was incapable of adequate- ly protecting his rights. There was a reference to Mental Hygiene Law 77. I thought grimly that I would have to research Mental Hygiene Law.
Then the fight came into focus: I would have to appeal the judge's order. But first I needed the written order that she had said she would mail me.
On Friday the 18thI called the Housing Court's clerk in the morning, gave my Index number and asked for the status of my case. "No decision" came the answer. That's when I realized the extent of the sham that had been perpetrated against me. I repeated "No decision!" in astonishment and disbelief. The clerk explained that the judge had sixty days to rule on the matter.
I realized that the PSA business had been a set-up intended to make me doubt my sanity and throw me off balance to make me unable to argue my application for an OSC. And the proof that this was a vicious attack jointly orchestrated by the landlord's lawyers and the judge was that, whether the motion to appoint PSA was made by the judge or the landlord, in any event I should have been notified within the delays prescribed by law and given an opportunity to oppose the motion. But there had been no such motion and there was no record of it, it was just an obscene travesty of justice.
In other words, while the judge was pretending to believe that I was unable to litigate my case and protect my rights and interests, she was actually violating them!
Then I remembered a similar experience: a judge forbidding me to do something but not putting it in writing. So I could ignore everything our good judge had said in the courtroom, including making an appointment for a mental evaluation! And going back to court on Wed. the 23rd! So I made a point of not calling PSA and not going to court on the 23rd, to let them know that they didn't fool me.
I called the Housing clerk again the following Tuesday and got the same answer, which this time didn't surprise me. Around that time I had two brief arguments with the building manager which ended with him saying "You need help." Meaning that I'm not in my right mind. The first time I pretended not to understand what he meant and I replied "I know I need help, but you won't let anybody help me!" Then Ruben, an old tenant who works at the office on Saturdays said to me "What happened to you? You look terrible!" and on another occasion, a friend of his asked me what was wrong with me, with my face. When I pressed him to elaborate and tell me exactly what he thought was wrong with my face, he said that my eye shadow was not applied as expertly as he has seen on all the "queens" that he knows.
On Mon. the 21st, there was still no order from Judge Milin in the mail for me.
On Christmas dayI was utterly broke but I dressed nicely, wore my long, red, double-breasted flared coat and went to the soup kitchen at Goddard Community Center to have a Christ- mas dinner. There was a fair number of decent looking people sitting at the tables but at the table I was lead to, my compan- ions were dismal. On my right an old black toothless lady who stank, in front of me an idiot-looking old black man, and on my left two men: an obese black man who spoke loudly during the whole time and a white man who acquiesced to everything the black man said.
The latter spoke of Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones and what should have been done. He also spoke about incest. He also spoke about the technique for professional singers that makes the sound resonate in the sinuses. This immediately made me think of my mother, whose voice had been classically trained. Except for the voice technique, whatever he spoke of was disgusting and he spoke so loud that it was impossible not to hear him.
The food was, of course, turkey, with stuffing, cranberry jelly, and peas-and-carrots. The cut of meat I got was dark and gristly but I was hungry and ate it all. I asked for a second plate, again it was dark gristly meat and I ate it all. Only after I was finished did I see a plate brought to the black man in front of me, and the meat on it was white and cut in thin slices. I had to notice the difference. But to my horror the old black man, when he saw me look at his plate of white meat, started to laugh maliciously with a toothless grin. Was this, also, a cruel set-up? Was my poverty another opportunity to torture me? Was there not a cease-fire on Christmas day?
I took home a third plate of turkey with fixin's, plus all the bread I could carry in a box. I hadn't eaten bread for a long time, and there was a great variety of bread at the dinner.
With the turkey platter, minus the cranberry jelly, I made a soup that was quite good.
The next day my cat was not feeling well. Her voice was a tiny meow and she was very weak. I noticed a constant smell of poop and finally found the origin of the smell: there was a large turd that distended her anus. She could not pass it and lay exhausted, restless and suffering. She got up and tried again but her rear legs were too weak and she fell. I applied outward pressure on her rectum to help and a large, dehydrated piece of excrement came out but there was more. I decided that she needed an enema and since I didn't have anything I went to Rite Aid and bought a baby ear syringe.
I knew that coffee enemas were radical against constipation so I mixed a little coffe with tepid water, greased the tip and gave the cat this enema while holding her in my left arm like a baby. She had no energy and let me do it without a fight. I put her back on the floor on stacked newspapers. After ten minutes she struggled to get up but all she could manage was to drag herself like she wanted to run away, then she lay on the floor without moving. The enema was taking effect. I grabbed her and held her above the newspaper in a sitting position while holding her tail away and she voided everything.
After that I lay her down on a towel on my bed, dried her butt and saw that her anus had closed and I stroked her gently. I put my ear to her body and she gave a weak purr and curled the tip of her tail to tell me that she felt better.
For the night I put her on newspapers on the floor near my bed and in the middle of the night I awoke to find her with her head resting on another pile of newspapers near the kitchen. I wanted to go back to sleep but she called me so I picked her up and put her next to my head, on her favorite spot on my bed.
The next day I kept the curtains closed and put a pink towel on the lamp. I tuned the radio to the Bach festival on WKCR FM and played it a low volume. I had deluded myself that she was only suffering from constipation but now I knew that she was going to die. I sat next to her and wept, my tears falling on her fur, and repeated to her all the words of affection I had used for her during our eight years together. Her neck was too weak to hold her head and she ate and drank clumsily. When she was finished I cleaned her face.
I had intended to finish my account of the hearing of Dec. 16th but my cat's condition prevented me from concentrating. But a small voice in the back of my head was saying "December 8th! December 8th!"
On Mon. the 28thmy cat was still alive. In the early afternoon I sat in the kitchen to read but every five minutes I looked up through the doorway to see if she was still breathing. I opened the kitchen window a crack and lit a cigar. She had always hated smoke. When she smelled it she gave me a reproachef- ul look. I think that my smoke wafted to her and it finished her. She started to retch violently and threw up what she had just eaten, and then she gave up the ghost. I sat by her in disbelief, with my hand on her heart. I felt it slow down and stop beating altogether, and saw the fixed stare and the open mouth. It was 1:20 PM. In just a few days she had become skeletal.
At 2PM I heard knocks on a door in the hallway and a male voice say "Police, open! We're investigating a robbery." Then I heard the voice of the blind man speaking to the police. Now, a blind man, that's a good witness!
A few moments later I saw from my kitchen window two white males walk slowly to a car parked across the street. One of them wore a windbreaker with the sign "NYPD" in the back. So they were using an unmarked car and were dressed undercover, almost 100 percent undercover. Because without the NYPD windbeaker, how would I know that they were the police?
I asked the man who lives in front of the transexual if he was informed that there had been a robbery. Never heard of it.
Later in the afternoon I called the ASPCA to learn what was the proper way of disposing of a dead pet but all I got were recorded menus and no choice matched my need. Then I called an animal hospital but all the woman could tell me was what her company could do for pets who "passed away". She didn't know if it was against the law to bury a pet in Central Park or any kind of local ordinances, but she did me the favor of giving me the phone number of the Sanitation Department which had a great menu but nothing about dead pets. Your cat dies and then you have to go through this!
Finally the building manager offered to dig a hole in the courtyard and bury my cat there and I accepted. I put my cat in a large box, put a black and white mudcloth scarf on top of her, sealed the box with tape and brought it to the courtyard. I said "Bye bye, Kitty" after putting the box in the hole and turned away and wept when the manager started to shovel earth on top of the box. Then we all went back up the rear stairs, he laughing and joking with another man who came with us, and me weeping.
Eva, a transvestite who lives here was standing almost in front of my window and I heard him say to his boyfriend that the police are after him. Later when I passed the office, Eva was in there and I heard Mitch say to him: "But you were supposed to go to court!" So I'm supposed to feel hounded by the police because I didn't go to court on the 23rd!
In the evening I remembered how, just one week before she died, my cat had sat near me when I was in bed one evening and stared at me for such a long time and with such intensity that I wondered why she was doing this. She knew that she was going to die and she was trying to let me know! I consoled myself with the thought that I had given her a good life. I had saved her from mistreatment and given her all the care and affection a cat could wish for.
I also was relieved that the financial burden of feeding her was lifted from me. Now what was it about December 8th? There had been a hearing in Housing Court...
On the 29th in the early afternoon there were more knocks in the hallway and again "Police, open! We're investigat- ing a robbery!"
On Wed. the 30th, in the early afternoon there was a knock on my door. I was dressed in a red and white plaid shirt and white corduroy pants, neatly made up to counteract the sorrow I felt. I had removed the cat box, tidied up my room, and it was neat and pleasant looking.
"Who is this?" I asked. "I'm David Thornton from PSA" a voice replied. I turned on my tape recorder and opened the door. He was a tall, thin black man with close cropped hair and very dark skin. He wore a dark flannel suit under a winter-lined trenchcoat and black wingtips.
After he leftI was in a daze. He had said that he didn't think that I needed PSA but could I believe him? I didn't know. He had never looked me in the eyes except when he said that. He had not filled out any official looking questionnaire, although he had brought one that he didn't want me to look at. He had jotted notes down on a folded sheet of paper. He had smiled only once and when he did his narrow, long and convex teeth gave him a fearsome air.
I needed time to let things settle to see clearly. But the events of Tuesday, December 8th were coming back to me.
On that day, as I was leaving the building to go to Housing Court, the building manager observed that I was wearing a grey flannel suit under my navy trenchcoat and he exclaimed with surprise and derision: "So, you're all dressed up to go to court!"
When I looked for my case number on the board, I noticed that all the cases except mine were cases of New York City Housing Authority. Which meant that all the tenants present in the courtroom lived in the projects. My case had been added by hand on the computer printout.
As I waited in the courtroom, I observed that all the tenants were dressed in sweat suits and sneakers or other casual attire. There was in particular a fat black woman dressed in a hot pink sweat suit, who sat alone at counsel table and spoke to the judge, left the courtroom for a while and returned to sit a counsel table and spoke again to the judge who smiles benevolent- ly and spoke in her soft voice. Except for the lawyers I was almost the only one wearing a suit, but that didn't bother me one bit. Why should I feel uncomfortable being decently dressed?
I had not slept last night and felt hung over. I saw a female court officer in her late forties with long unrestrained greying hair wearing rings on both thumbs. Yecch. To my surprise it was she who called my case. I approached her desk and she asked me to follow her. We left the courtroom and she introduced herself as the judge's attorney.
The landlord's attorney stood in the hallway and the woman went to him. He gave her a sheet of paper and, looking at it the woman said to me that Petitioner was offering me to settle the matter for a certain amount payable by a certain date.
I had come to court to request an adjournment on the hearing of my OSC and was surprised by two things: 1) an offer to stipu- late 2) being made by a court officer who just introduced herself as the judge's attorney but acting at the same time as Petition- er's counsel.
Since I said nothing she asked me if I agreed with the amount written on the stip. I said that I didn't know what the amount of the unpaid rent was to date, since it increased every week by $123.60. She offered me a calculator that she took out of her pocket to do the math but I declined. She then asked me if I wanted her to do it for me and I told her to go ahead if she liked. She tapped away and announced a result about nine hundred dollars higher than the amount offered for stipulation.
She said that she was going to double-check and a moment later she announced the same amount, with great emphasis, leading me to consider once more the approximate nine hundred dollars differ- ence between the actual unpaid amount and the amount Petitioner offered me to settle for.
She urged me to sign the stip. I said that if I signed it and couldn't pay I was going to be evicted. She answered casually that several warrants of eviction were issued every day in this court, as if it was any consolation to me.
I explained to the woman that I had evidence that my landlord and his staff were preventing me from working and that I wanted to countersue on that basis.
I believed mistakenly that at the hearing on my Order to Show Cause I would have to prove the merits of my proposed counter- claim and thought that, in order to offer proof thereof I would need to present witness, as in a mini-trial. That was the reason why I needed an adjournment. I explained this to the court officer. Besides, with the lack of sleep I was not able to argue anything today.
Then she suggested that I sign the stip and start a new lawsuit in Supreme Court. This was so disadvantageous to me that I refused vehemently, outraged that the court officer was so blatantly taking the side of my landlord against me, and that she showed total contempt for my right to make my own decisions as a litigant, right protected by the 1st and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.
Then she asked me if I couldn't just move out because the landlord has rights too, and sue him from another address. I said that wherever I lived my rights were violated and moving to another place would not solve my problem.
From the moment the court officer took the stip from the landlord's attorney, the attorney had withdrawn into the back- ground and didn't take any part in the discussion. The din in the hallway was horrific and one had to shout into each other's face to be heard.
We returned to the courtroom. I sat down and the officer went to the bench where she spoke to Judge Milin for a few minutes, waving papers in front of her. Then she went to her own desk, returned to the bench and resumed speaking to the judge for a few more minutes.
Then she left the bench and came to me and handed me a yellow slip with a new court date written on it. She spoke to me as if I were retarded, explaining slowly and carefully that I had to come back to court on Dec. 16, which was a little more than a week from today, so I had time to prepare, and that on the 16th there would be people here in the courtroom who would help me, that the judge would ask them to come and help me. I asked who were the people she was talking about and she said "PSA".
I said thank you and left. But after I had left I didn't understand how I could have been dismissed from the courtroom without once talking to the judge and without a court order in my hand. I had never heard before that a court officer could assume the authority of a judge and hold an ex-parte conference, and then report to the judge in front of a party but out of earshot as I saw her do, and also act as one of the parties'counsel during the ex-parte conference, all with the knowledge and assent of the judge.
When I returned home, the building manager asked me how the court date had gone and I answered that I didn't understand what had happened and that I didn't get a court order. "You go to court and you don't understand what happens!" he said in a tone of sarcastic astonishment.
Now, to go back to the visit of the PSA man, I've figured out the real motive of his visit: cloaked in the authority of a City agency and supposedly acting with my best interest in mind, first he obtained my cooperation in the interview only after threaten- ing me with "involuntary measures", court-ordered forcible entry into my apartment and compulsive psychiatric "help".
He tried to convince me to accept the help of PSA although all he could offer was to apply for a "one-shot deal" in my name, for which I've known for a year that I am not eligible, and the help of a court-appointed lawyer which I have the right to decline and do not want.
After I had rejected these two useless offers he tried to con- vince me to move back to France, saying that even if my mother lived another ten years, ten years was not such a long time after all!
He repeatedly asked me what was the reason why I didn't pay my rent. I was unwilling to give him the reason since it was beyond the scope of his employment and his competency to assess the merits of a legal claim, and even if I failed to convince him, it still didn't mean that I was mentally incompetent.
But he kept asking me and when I relented and explained to him the essentials of my intended counterclaim, he shot it down with derision and sarcasm, interrupting me at a particularly painful point to say "The plot thickens!" I didn't even mention the attempted murder. All I said was that my mother was trying to force me to move back to France and that my landlord was helping her to leave me no other alternative.
And last but not least, the PSA man obtained information about my intentions. I told him that if the judge denied my motion by OSC I would appeal. Well, now he knows, and all the interested parties know. If I appeal, my affidavit with all the explosive allegations will be read by a panel of seven or eight judges. And if our good judge grants my OSC, I'll prosecute the bejesus out of all these lowlives. Their only hope is to kill me but they must have realized by now that it's not such a simple matter either.
And by Thurs. the 31st, there still was no decision.
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