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August 2, 2015 / 17 Av, 5775
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The Earthly Court vs. The Heavenly Court


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I served in the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for many years as an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Senior ALJ, Vice Chairman of the Appeals Board and, finally, TVB Director.

The TVB was established in 1970, when I started with DMV, to serve as NYC’s traffic courts, in place of the Criminal Court. We had growing pains in the early days as we replaced a paper system with a computerized operation. During the early years, when the local offices were not “online” with the central DMV computer files in Albany, all TVB judgments were recorded on computer tapes and the central files were updated weekly.

There were a few occasions when a day’s New York City computer entries were not entered on the central files. So, dispositions – guilty and not guilty – did not update the license files. This resulted in computer-generated suspensions of motorists’ licenses for failing to answer their traffic tickets. TVB kept paper dockets in the local offices, by date, in chronological order.

One of the “lost” days was September 29, 1971.

In early 1973, when I was the Senior ALJ in Brooklyn TVB, a motorist came in with his wife. Tzion Levi (not his real name) explained in Hebrew-accented English that he had been stopped for a traffic violation and was arrested because DMV records showed his license had been suspended at the end of October 1971, for failure to answer a summons.

After he was brought to the police precinct he was given an appearance ticket and told to go to DMV and clear up the suspension on his record before appearing in the Criminal Court on the “driving while license suspended” charge.

From his name, accent, and the fact that they were conversing in Hebrew, I deduced that they were Israelis from Edot HaMizrach (Sephardim) living in New York City.

Mr. Levi insisted that he had answered the ticket in the fall of 1971. I told him that there had been a few days’ entries at that time that had not updated DMV records. I brought out the big handwritten docket books and told him to look for his name and to tell me when he found it.

Sure enough, within a few minutes, he called out to me. I looked at the docket for September 29, 1971; a day I knew was one of those that had not been updated. The docket showed that his traffic ticket for failing to display his license had in fact been dismissed.

After I prepared all the documents to clear his record and gave him whatever he would need in the Criminal Court case against him, I said,

“Mr. Levi, that is one of the days I told you about. You had very few entries to look at because that day was the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, on which we had no trials scheduled, and only a few people came in to answer tickets at all.”

When Mrs. Levi heard that, she began berating her husband: “You went to court on Yom Kippur instead of Bet Knesset!” she yelled. “That’s why they lost the records and you had all these problems,” she screamed at him.

Mr. Levi looked at his wife sheepishly and vowed that in the future, on the holidays, he would go to shul.

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I have written in the past about my visits to the Israeli Misrad Harishui (Israel’s DMV) in the 1970’s and 1980’s. At that time, I served as a Senior Administrative Law Judge in the American DMV Traffic Courts, Vice-Chair of DMV’s Appeals Boards, and Director of DMV Downstate Field Operations.

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I served in the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for many years as an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Senior ALJ, Vice Chairman of the Appeals Board and, finally, TVB Director.

In the early 1970’s, my father, HaRav Moshe Aharon Shapiro, z”l, served as rabbi of a kosher, shomer Shabbos hotel in the Catskills. During one of those summers, my brother-in-law invited us to use his bungalow over the July 4th weekend. On Sunday we drove from the bungalow colony to visit my parents, arriving at the hotel between Minchah and Ma’ariv.

When my wife and I were about to leave Israel after last Sukkos, our son and daughter-in-law told us they were expecting another child to be born about two weeks before Pesach. We realized immediately that it would be difficult for them to make Pesach at home.

Nathan Mark, Esq., who passed away recently, spent many years working as a civil servant for the State of New York, first with the Human Rights Division and later, with me, at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It was in the late 1980s. Retired FBI agent Tim McCarthy, Inspector General for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, took the call in his office from Kevin Green, the head of the FBI-NYPD Inter-Agency Task Force investigating official corruption in New York State and City government.

On the 6th of Adar, 5667 (March 20, 1907) Shoshe and Rabbi Avraham Halevi Shapiro welcomed Moshe Aharon, their sixth (and last) child, into the world in the little town of Nesvizh, near Baranovich, in Russia.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/the-earthly-court-vs-the-heavenly-court/2007/10/31/

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