Howard G. Munson
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Howard G. Munson (born July 26, 1924 in Claremont, New Hampshire, d. October 5, 2008 in Syracuse, New York) was a federal judge for the U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York. Judge Munson graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in 1948 and the Syracuse University College of Law with an LL.B. in 1952. He was nominated to the court by Gerald Ford on August 26, 1976, to a seat vacated by Edmund H. Port, was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 23, 1976, and received his commission on October 4, 1976. He served as chief judge from 1980 to 1988, assumed senior status on November 5, 1990 and retired in May 2008. Judge Munson died at age 84, five months after retiring from the bench where he served for more than 32 years.
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One of Judge Munson’s most controversial cases appears in the book Scandal in the Courtroom, Found Guilty without Trial. It was a civil rights suit to recover damages from the malicious prosecution of Frank Langdon for arson, 89-cv-1400. Munson ruled that Frank Langdon could not sue for damages because his arrest was proper due to the existence of a confession. The Langdon case was compromised when the law firm defending him became County Attorneys for Columbia County. They had been asked to sue for damages prior to their appointment. According to the book that remains unchallenged, the charges in the criminal case were dropped before trial when District Attorney Paul Czajka discovered the Sheriff, Paul Proper, established a badly burned man started the fire. Langdon’s arrest had been based on a statement the police wrote that he was forced to sign without the presence of a lawyer after he had requested he be taken home from the Sheriff’s office. Miranda had not been administered.
Judge Munson’s decision Frank Langdon signed a confession admitting to arson provide the police with a scapegoat as the serial arsonist continued to burn building. The result was Frank Langdon was forced from the community and his father, Grant Langdon was denied financing, resulting the loss of the family farm on the courthouse steps. Grant Langdon moved to Ohio with just $200 in his pocket and filed 05:98-cv-00173 pro se. Munson again threw the case out of court, but a motion was made for sanctions against the lawyers who were all aware of the investigation that cleared Frank Langdon of any crime. The case was filed in Syracuse and made answerable in Albany on Judge Munson’s regular court date. Langdon drove from Ohio to Albany to find an empty courtroom. Judge Munson later said there was no record of the motion in Syracuse, although Albany had answering papers on file. Langdon filed affidavits and a request to impeach Judge Munson for altering court records shortly before the Judge resigned.
This can be verified by Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Cincinnati. Her office sent the request to impeach Judge Munson to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee for indictment.
Decision in 89-cv-1400 handed down in Albany June 24, 1991. Recorded by Theresa J. Berical. Judge Munson first denied that the statement written by Investigator Cozzolino needed to be heard at trial. No hearing was allowed where Frank Langdon could testify and his accuser could be questioned. After ruling the statement was a confession he made his decision final. Grant Langdon then addressed the court telling about the exculpatory evidence and his suspect, George Pitcher. He told how Sheriff Proper told about a suspect that was a fireman and sent to arson school failed a lie detector test and that Sheriff Proper wanted to shut him up because he talked to the New York Times reporter. Munson than kept his decision final and seemed to suggest Langdon sue his lawyer if he didn't like his decision.