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Newsday staff writer

January 12, 2005

HEMPSTEAD, Long Island -- The line leading into First District Court in Hempstead, Long Island, Monday morning was long and frustrating, but it was the punch line in a lawyer joke that got two rabble-rousing comedians arrested.

"How do you tell when a lawyer is lying?" Harvey Kash, 69, of Bethpage, said to Carl Lanzisera, 65, of Huntington, as the queue wound into the court. "His lips are moving," they said in unison, completing one of what may be thousands of standard lawyer jokes.

But while that rib and several others on barristers got some giggles from the crowd, the attorney standing in line about five people ahead wasn't laughing.

" 'Shut up,' the man shouted," Lanzisera said. "'I'm a lawyer.'"

The attorney reported Kash and Lanzisera to court personnel, who arrested the men and charged them with engaging in disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

"They put the handcuffs on us, brought us into a room, frisked us, sat us down and checked our driver's licenses to see if there were any warrants out for our arrest," Lanzisera said yesterday. "They were very nasty, extremely nasty."

The men are founders of Americans for Legal Reform, a group of outspoken advocates who use confrontational tactics to push for greater access to courts for the public and to monitor how well courts serve the public. One tactic is driving a truck around the Huntington area emblazoned with the slogan "Stop The Lawyer Disease." They said their rights to free speech were violated Monday.

But Dan Bagnuola, a spokesman for the Nassau courts, said the men were causing a stir and that their exercise of their First Amendment rights to free speech was impeding the rights of others at the court.

"They were being abusive and they were causing a disturbance," Bagnuola said. "They were making general comments to the people on line, referring to them as 'peasants,' and they were causing a disturbance. And they were asked on several occasions to act in an orderly manner, not to interfere with the operation of the court."

Bagnuola said he did not have the name of the lawyer who complained to officers.

Kash said he and Lanzisera were merely saying out loud that the public was being treated like peons or peasants while attorneys, who wave their security passes to court officers and don't have to stand on line, are treated like kings.

"I'm not surprised this happened because anybody who stands up for their rights is put down because these people want only one thing, and that is control," Kash said.

The men were given desk appearance tickets and are due back in court - as defendants - next month.

Court jesters

Harvey Kash and Carl Lanzisera poked fun of lawyers while in line at First District Court in Hempstead yesterday - but court officers weren't laughing. Here are some of the jokes that got them in hot water:

Q: What do you say to a lawyer with an IQ of 50?

A: Good morning, Your Honor.

Q: How do you tell if a lawyer is lying?

A: His lips are moving.

Q: Why do they bury lawyers 100 feet into the ground?

A: Because down deep, they're good people.

Q: What's the difference between a vulture and a lawyer?

A: Wing tips.
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