Top Federal Judge Chided For Wiping Her Feet on the U.S. Flag
Staten Islanders quick to chide judge for wiping her feet on the flag
The Staten Island Advance by Tom Wrobleski - December 30, 2011
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- An esteemed jurist with a top Boy Scout official for a husband ought to know better when it comes to respecting Old Glory. Judge Loretta Preska, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District, recently posed for an Associated Press photo in her Manhattan chambers for a story about judicial budget crunches.
But it wasn't Ms. Preska that caught people's eye: It was the U.S. flag rug on her floor, literally under her feet. And under a table, too. "It is absolutely wrong," said Charles Greinsky, vice president of the Staten Island District Council, Boy Scouts of America, and a former assistant Scoutmaster. "Even my 11-year-old Tenderfoot Boy Scouts would know it's improper." The U.S. Code says that the flag should "never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise."
And those in Scouting begin learning as young as 7 years old never to let the flag touch the ground when it is being held or lowered. While the regulations make a distinction between actual U.S. flags and items such as rugs and apparel that are in the flag's image, Islanders said that on the floor underfoot isn't the place for any representation of Old Glory. "If I'd opened the newspaper and had seen that cold, I would have been on the phone with her immediately," said patriot artist Scott LoBaido, best known for the project where he painted American flags on buildings from coast to coast.
Ms. Preska, a Fordham Law School grad appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, might be expected to know a thing or two about flag etiquette, especially as practiced by the Boy Scouts. Her husband, attorney Thomas Kavaler, a partner at the high-powered Cahill, Gordon & Reindel law firm, is on the executive board of the Greater New York Councils, Boy Scouts of America, and served as vice president of endowments this year. But LoBaido and others were willing to cut the judge some slack. "She's obviously patriotic," said LoBaido, noting the other U.S.-themed objects visible in the picture. "But it looks like she doesn't realize she has her feet on the flag.
I hope it's an oversight." LoBaido said he had no problem with the flag decoration draped over the back of the judge's couch, also visible in the photo. But putting your feet on the U.S. flag? No way? "Clearly, this is in poor taste and displays improper flag etiquette, but it seems the judge is quite patriotic if you observe her entire office," said City Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-South Shore). "I would encourage her to hang that beautiful tapestry of Old Glory and dispose of this picture."
A district court spokeswoman said that Ms. Preska was not reachable for comment. It's odd that a judge of Ms. Preska's pedigree would find herself criticized for disrespecting the flag. Known as a conservative jurist, she drew the ire of feminists by dismissing the discrimination lawsuit brought by women against Bloomberg LLC. She also sentenced a Somali pirate who attacked a U.S.-flagged ship to 33 years in prison. In 2007, it was reported that Ms. Preska was on President George W. Bush's short list of potential Supreme Court nominees.
She was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District by the younger Bush, but no action was taken on her nomination. The judge has also served on the advisory board of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, which on its website calls itself "a group of conservatives and libertarians" and says that law schools and the legal profession are "strongly dominated by a form of orthodox, liberal ideology."
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