Bench Mark: My New Year's resolution

By Hon. Robert J. Lunn
The Daily Record Newswire

Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve.
Middle age is when you’re forced to.

— Bill Vaughan

Happy New Year to all of my readers! It’s difficult to believe that we are actually in the year 2011, but here it is. And this column is part of a necessary yearly ritual to immediately adjust to the new four-digit calendar year.

You know the drill. For the first 30 days or so you try to undo the last year and the reflexive impulse to write “2010” on everything from letters to memos to checkbook entries.

The upside is that at least you don’t have to struggle to reset the time on programmable thermostats, oven timers, microwaves, car clocks and radios. I find that to be so much more annoying and frustrating.

I concluded that if I wrote about the year, or more specifically the year-end, it could help me in the adjustment process. So, here goes. Bear with me.

You may choose to think of this as somewhat selfish and analogous to the annual holiday letter from friends and family, the pre-packaged fruitcake better used as a doorstop, or the crazy uncle who drops by unannounced in December. But try to broaden your thinking.

Put down this column right now and slip into the ugly sweater gift you received — the one with the reindeer or Santa embroidered on the front of it and pay attention to my “year-end leaving 2010 slipping into 2011” observations.

First, many of those unwanted gifts must have included trial gym memberships because it is obvious that everyone, and I mean everyone, is now crashing my local health club.

There are no more lockers or treadmills, or elliptical machines available for use and the lines are truly daunting. Nothing good can come from these “Johnny-come-lately” newcomers acting on their 2011 resolutions.

Please choose resolutions that don’t negatively impact others. We know you will be gone from the gym by March but that does nothing to alleviate the present annoyance and aggravation.

Personally, I have chosen to adopt a resolution that is designed to affect no one other than perhaps myself. I resolve to stop picking on government agencies and writing about their shortcomings in this column. Apparently free speech and opinion columns can be risky and quoting our former president, Bush — not prudent.

In fairness, I should point out that I felt no adverse consequences from my multiple writings in 2009 questioning Obama Care and the legislative process surrounding this new federal law. I experienced no undue delays in the doctor’s office nor any additional billings from my HMO. The same cannot be said of my Nov. 30, 2010 column. It was titled

“The Shifting Acronym” and questioned the intrusive new airport body scans and body searches by the new and improved TSA in the context of the Fourth Amendment and the prohibition against unlawful search and seizures.

Apparently someone in the TSA was not amused. Who knew that my loyal readership had expanded to this point?

For me it began on Jan. 1. How timely! I presented myself at the airport for an early morning flight to Phoenix and the Fiesta Bowl later that evening. I went through the first level of security and presented my driver’s license and former government ID. The TSA official examined the identification and then proceeded to take a green felt tip pen and mark my boarding pass with a broad green band of green ink.

Apparently green does not imply “go” but rather “stop.” How tricky! If your boarding pass gets marked with a green mark, get ready and be prepared. I walked toward the scanner and was told to step inside the full body scan booth.

This was followed by a full body pat down. Weren’t those supposed to be offered as alternative screening procedures?

I received both the scan and the pat down shortly followed by a full inspection and explosives swab of all my carry on gear and my laptop. I was finally cleared to board.

Two days later, I left Phoenix for my return flight home. I attempted to check in curbside. I was told that I would have to go inside the airline terminal to complete my check-in because the computer showed that I had an “international criminal conviction.”

Was I now on the Interpol website? Interpol — the largest international police organization founded in 1923 with 188 member countries. Should I feel honored?

Fourteen years as a state superior court judge and this is my recognition in retirement? Next time I will more actively lobby for the gold watch. And a conviction for what? My wife, Paula, suggested that perhaps it was criminal of me to eat so much pasta in Italy last October. She could be right.

So this is my simple 2011 resolution. Stop picking on government agencies and people in authority.

And lastly, please sleep well tonight. As a retired judge, I have apparently joined grandmas and toddlers for heightened scrutiny by the TSA screeners.

P.S.: I love you all and support everything you do. Take me off your list!

The Hon. Robert J. Lunn served for 14 years (1995 to 2008) on the New York State Supreme Court, his last three as an associate justice of the Appellate Division of the Second and Fourth Departments. He is a partner at Trevett, Cristo, Salzer and Andolina. Lunn is the contributing author to three publications from West Publishing, the most recent being The Companion Handbook for Pattern Jury Instructions. He can be reached at rlunn@