Dear Mr. Vice-President:

I now hold the office of Justice of the Supreme Court in New York State. I have been a Supreme Court Justice for the last twenty-four years. The Canons of Judicial Ethics foreclose me from active participation in the political process, but my usefulness as a Judge presupposes that I have some perception about ethical values and the people who espouse them.

So that there be no mistake about my observations about the political process, I have had, among the clients whose legal rights it became my responsibility to protect, The John Birch Society, The New York State Conservative Party, Goldwater for President in 1964, and William F. Buckley, as candidate for Mayor of New York City in 1965.

Let me give you some observations about three individuals, all of whom have held the office of Vice-President that you now hold. The first of them, Spiro T. Agnew, was elected Vice-President in 1968, the year I became a Supreme Court Justice. He slithered out of office, resigning the vice-presidency after he was charged with what clearly was accepting bribes while holding political office.

The second was Richard M. Nixon: along with high-ranking members of his administration, he ended up with the Watergate convictions and his resignation and disbarment as a lawyer in New York State.

The third, the case of Nelson A. Rockefeller, is much to the point. It touches on family values—a matter apparently of much concern to you. Rockefeller was Governor of my state when he proposed himself as a candidate for the Presidency. He became Governor in 1959, before sexual harassment became an issue, and he quickly earned a reputation as a grabber. By 1964, a situation arose covered by the XXth Chapter of Exodus, and more specifically the verse commanding that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and the verse commanding that “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.”

Governor Rockefeller was able, while serving as our Governor, to covet his neighbor’s wife and to commit adultery and to continue on as Governor until he became an appointed Vice-President. After having served as Vice-President, he ended his career as an exemplar of family values by overexerting himself in a midtown pad.

I am not supposed to involve myself in the political process, but I must observe that if your opponents can corral the votes of all the adulterers and persons who have had or procured abortions, there will be a landslide for President.

There is a story that when Henry VIII was the King of England, the custom was that the Bishops of the Realm were expected to make a gift to the King on his birthday. The customary gift was a bag of gold, and the story is that Hugh Latimer, instead of the bag of gold, presented Henry with a copy of the Vulgate with a marker at the passage in Hebrews 13:4—Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

I won’t tell you what happened to Hugh Latimer—you can look it up.

James J. Leff
Supreme Court of the State of New York
New York City

This Issue

June 25, 1992