Judy Kay-Wolff

PUNITIVE DAMAGES

For weeks I have been following ludicrous discussions on Bridge Winners about accusations, warnings, charges, appeals, AWMWs and various other ugly altercations between players, committees, directors and management.

No one knows better than Yours Truly the furor and frustration of not being in control — especially when you have done nothing wrong.   I won’t bore you with all the details as they are known by hundreds — from an incident that occurred about five years ago when my partner and I lost a preposterous appeal (unappealable by the bridge gods) and followed by an Award without Merit Warning.  I believe they bless you with three of them before any serious action is taken — like shooting, bludgeoning, hanging, etc.. 

My partner and I fought it but our arguments fell upon deaf ears.   All we wanted was to have the AWMW removed.   We had a meeting with Jay Baum (then CEO), Harriet Buckman (then ACBL President) and Legal Counsel for the League — Peter Rank — all to no avail.   It was at that point (about fourteen months after the debacle) that I told them candidly we had hired an attorney and were going to take legal action. It was then AND NOT BEFORE WE WERE ADVISED WE COULD DO NOTHING UNTIL WE CAME BEFORE SOME KIND OF CONDUCT AND ETHICS COMMITTEE (THEN HEADED BY GEORGIA HETH).  Why did it take so long to learn our rights?????   We had decided to go to the ends of the earth and if that meant COURT, so be it.   It took Bobby a few moments to represent our viewpoint (about the taking advantage of a 20 second huddle by our opponent whose partner balanced with 5 points) until they removed the AWMW.

With all the different viewpoints (forever involving politics — and now with Professionalism and money on the horizon), the ACBL better get their act in shape and do some serious thinking of how to handle these disputes.   I have less than no respect for the manner in which  matters are being handled at the present .. and hard to imagine them getting any better until some practical person finds himself or herself in charge and initiates a better policy .  We need an individual — one who really loves the game of bridge, has the time to devote to it and does not want to see it go down the drain!!!


14 Comments

Howard Bigot-JohnsonMay 13th, 2012 at 6:46 am

Dear judy , What you have to say and the way in which you say it make your blogs truly great reading. You never seem frightened to name NAMES. Such courage…but also conviction and confidence in your rightful claim to occupy the higher moral ground.
As I have mentioned in many of my articles on bias, individuals will often lose out to committeees, who have far too many cosy and close relationships within themselves…..but also with ” favoured ” outsiders who I guess happened to be those you were complaining about. Objectivity and impartiality are often two qualities lacking in committees , who allow their power to blinker and/or corrupt their judgement .
However , once you declare yourself to be a highly vocal critic , their ability and willingness to listen to ( or even accept ) your views goes into sharp decline. That is the tragic reality of the human condition.
Yours HBJ

LouMay 13th, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Judy

Will you ever let your one sour incident go? The AWMW was expunged. Get on with your bridge life

Judy Kay-WolffMay 13th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

TO ‘Lou” (or really DANNY S.) using LouJimBabe@yahoo.com. as his pseudonym to mask his real identity and not reveal himself to the public:

(By the way, what blogger or commenter doesn’t know that his email address can be verified by the receiver?????? How naive!).

The reason for the constant reminder of my ill-fated bridge appeals case is, like other much more important real events in history, to caution others what too much power, in the hands of ignorant, biased and malicious people can cause to the discredit of whatever subject they attack.

This particular malady is ever prevalent in bridge political power where small minded people, sadly lacking in what is always necessary in their job where fairness, knowledge, conscientiousness and intelligence are needed, do nothing less than satisfy their evil instincts of revenge and hate in order to soothe their many complexes.

Until some leadership (even a small amount) is shown in the appeals process, with precedents and consistent bridge judicial decisions the rule of the day, (monitored by others who thrive to make the game the best it can be), we, as a group, will remain at the bottom of the ladder, always subject to the moods and whims of people who just do not belong in that position.

It’s the story of the life of my ill-fated partner Jane Segal in the ugly debacle depicted in the blog. In the bridge world some wannabe hero worshipers and political parrots sometimes reign and with it comes their evil of overstepping their bounds, pleasing their buddies, and satisfying their instincts to the pleasure of their lynch mob friends, but to the total detriment of what our wonderful game is about and especially to the innocent victims of dishonest and conniving bridge behavior passed on in no trump to what our game is supposed to be about .. and when disseminated, causes the rules of our game to be radically misunderstood.

Judy Kay-Wolff

Judy Kay-WolffMay 13th, 2012 at 4:10 pm

To HBJ:

You win the award for being the most serious, conscientious and truthful writer at the same time as the cleverest, funniest and most creative Bobby and I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Your love for the game is unparalleled.

Best,

Judy

Danny S (and Lou)May 13th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Judy

1. Yes, I knew you could see my email. I was trying to keep this from being personal. I could have easily created a new email address and you would have never known who it was.

2. I stand by my original point: Your appeal was 7 years ago. You lost. It was a bad ruling. Is there a statute of limitations? Can you ever let it go?

3. You want some person to step forward and take charge of appeals. That is not how the process works. There is no one person who could or should do that. If you tried, how would you know you would like everything they did. Who would selecet that person? Someting about power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely spring to mind. What if the person chosen has views that disagree with yours? What then? What happens when this person is involved, either directly, or through friendship with one of the parties?

4. You want precedents. Ok, lets take a simple auction: 1S-5C-X-P. Say the double was after an obvious and agreed to break in tempo. We can agree that a 5332 minimum shouldn’t be allowed to pull. We can agree an 11 card spade suit can. We, and most people will disagree on what lies between. Can a 5530 pull? Can a 7420 pull? Doesn’t vulnerability matter? That would require 4 more answers. Matchpoints vs IMPs? Suit texture? Extra strength so that a slam is also possible?

This is one simple auction. There are 1000’s of others. Millions really. Then there is the issue of misinfoirmation. Even more situations to add to the list. How can precedents ever work in such a complex game? Please enlighten me here.

As long as the laws allow for appeals, we will have this issue, because appeals are, and indeed HAVE to be subjective. There is no way around this fact that I know of.

You call the people involved in committees ignorant, biased and malicious.

Taking these one at a time, in my experience none of the committee members I have served with were ignorant. If there is a question of law we are not sure of, we consult the director, and the law book, to get up to speed.

Biased? Yes there are conflicts of interest, that is certainly possible, but the committee members are expected to, and often do recuse themselves in cases where there is a conflict. As a committee member I often know one or both parties. I would certainly recuse myself if I thought I could not produce a fair, unbiased result.

Malicious? I don’t know where to start when answering that. You are accusing people of doing a thankless job, one where they are giving back to the game of bridge, of doing so for small minded reasons that, frankly make no sense.

Thanks for listening

Judy Kay-WolffMay 13th, 2012 at 10:26 pm

To Danny Sprung (alias “Lou”).

Your letter convinces me of nothing other than you deliberately used an alias. And, if you felt so strongly, why didn’t you come out in the open and let the readers know who was so disgruntled by my bringing up in your eyes such a godforsaken appeal, ruling and AWMW? (And incidentally why was my appeal deliberately omitted from the last Appeals Case Book to be printed publicly)? No Brainer — even admitted by a couple of those who reviewed the appeals.

So, now you know why I will never let it go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just for the record, my personal health became involved and I was prescribed medication as it affected my blood pressure — but that should be of no concern to you. It was just another mishandling of a simple no-brainer by an inept Appeals Committee. In fact, one of the members came up and apologized for its handling — talking out of the other side of his mouth It was late at night and everyone was tired and wanted to go to bed. If this was so — why was the vote unanimous. Someone is talking gibberish.

It was such a disgusting handling of an ACBL matter (including non-recusal by individuals who had personal involvements with me or my husband) — but that is history. Perhaps it wasn’t quite as bad as Heron and Gookin not stepping down as co-chairs of the famous Oh, Shit case against Bobby who both had a history of being his arch enemies. I don’t intend wasting time going into the case, but I am sure you remember the facts and results — loud and clear. Undoubtedly — the worst trial to go down in the annals of ACBL Appeals atrocities with a few closer behind.

When you talk about the non use of precedents because of the “millions of possible bridge problems,” are you implying that bridge has more possibilities than life itself pertaining to the natural law of the land? Precedents can and should be used to search for some objective involvement including similar situations which might apply. True, it would cut into the power, bias, and ignorance of some of the committee members (and TD’s) and cause more work for the (in my opinion under worked ACBL paid employees), but, if used efficiently and properly, can only serve as a positive step to achieve the consistency we should all cherish.

There is nothing you can say to convince me that you have a stellar cast making these decisions. Your peers before you make today’s group look like an intellectual wasteland and have no place holding court. Everyone is an expert — just ask them. A problem that has worsened and headed precisely the wrong way pertains to when professionalism is involved and everyone dreads stepping on another’s toes for fear of losing favor and/or cutting off one’s nose to spite his face or as many self-serving situations as there is sand on the beach.

While I am certainly not anywhere near an expert on appeals or bridge, my early life had me observing Edgar Kaplan (Norman’s usual partner) doing his outstanding job in that area. No one can challenge him as the all time greatest guru of laws and appeals on a daily basis during tournaments and now I am married to one who has recently been elected Chairman Emeritus of the World Bridge Federation Appeals Committee. I would like to think my exposure has been much more thorough and comprehensive than most, including all of those of whom you obviously think so highly.

You tend to your problems and I’ll tend to mine.

Gary MugfordMay 14th, 2012 at 7:45 am

Judy,

Point 1. Those that do not remember the past are doomed to repeat history (That’s MY mangling of the quote, no need to correct it). Point 2. Nothing requires any reader to read any blog posting. Complaining of a recurring subject is … well … sorta dumb. You come as advertised. do I agree with you all the time? No. Am I surprised when you adhere to Point 1? No.

The discussion should move on to solutions. Of which the ones currently extent have flaws. Mostly human flaws. You took the course of staying within the ACBL (along with Bobby) and fighting the good fight. Some, like me, left. Don’t much like politicians and the politicians at the ACBL didn’t much like me.

But even before I went ‘corporate’ with the League, I was a player who got dragged into a committee at a Canadian championship. I was still in high school and my similiarly youthful partner and I managed to best a couple of (then) names in the ACBL. We played a successful Moysian fit when I opted to raise a major-suit response with three card support and a side singleton. At the table, I said something exceedingly dumb. “I just KNEW you were going to make it.” It was gloating teenager style and as stupid a statement as I had ever uttered at the table at the time (I have since done worse [G]). So, the big names decided we were cheating and decided to get back their result in committee. Such was the complaint that we won ONLY 3-2. And were admonished from making such utterances again in the future. My dislike of committees formed from peers of MY OPPONENTS was instant, strong and has remained in place ever since. I have never, ever gotten the feeling that committees were NOT rigged against the lesser names.

Is that wrong? Yes. Heck, I’ve even served on a committee or two at the club level and think I ruled impartially each time. But when the faces adjudging you are unknown, or are known to be politically aligned against you, there aren’t many people anywhere that have total faith in the process.

And that’s never going to change. Bright lights to shine on situations demanding recusals is the best of the meagre weapons on the side of right. Which is why I don’t mind you mentioning the incident again. If Bridge can’t take a little introspection, it sure ain’t worth all the attention we pay to it.

bobbywolffMay 14th, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Hi Gary,

Your tale is an important one and one that needs to be shared and for that I say thank you.

However, until a majority of us, 1. Understands, without defensive reasoning, that what you are saying is as right as rain, and 2. Decides it is time to do something about it instead of inserting negative things about, what should we expect from a group of volunteers who are basically donating their time? 3. Instead of politicizing the process, restrict those volunteers to ones who positively study appeals procedures (and this does not always restrict itself to our best players, who, because of their professionalism within the game, should rather be a cause for recusal rather than making judgments for their own benefit), with specific precedents and their logic provided by the ACBL, and who pride themselves and prove it with objective and consistent performances while on committees. 4. Make everyone involved, accountable to both their decision and their reasons, we will be lost in the Gobi desert, which we have been for more than 40 years.

The above may seem like an onerous task, but all it would take is the loving of our game itself instead of a political connection which will get that person known and at the very least, present them with a modicum of power, which can be used in nefarious self-serving ways.

It is time for leadership in this area to demand improvement, otherwise evil triumphs as it always does, when organizations let it happen.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 14th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Dear Gary:

Thanks for empathizing with my explosion over Danny Sprungs theory ‘enough is enough.’ It is never enough when it continues and stands room for vast improvement as is evident by reading the casebooks and comments. As long as people who are not qualified to sit on committees take up those seats, this will go on — plus the political atmostphere which will continue ad infinitem.

All we can do is bring it to the attention of the public until the uproar gets so unbearable that we are more selective with our decision makers.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your experience. You, of all people, are in a position to know.

Cheers,

Judy

BrianMay 15th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hi Judy,

What were the details of your case? It appears that everyone here knows them, but I don’t.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 15th, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Brian:

The details of my case are unimportant. What does matter is that the appeals committee, chairman and all other people involved were ineffective, biased and even went so far when the stupid verdict was rendered not to publish the finding in the printed report in the monthly bulletin along with every other one from that group (happened to be the last printed issue — now they are on the computer — or used to be). I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want anyone else to see their decision!

The point I was trying to make is appeals are still being abused, biased; politics and prejudice are still predominant; and many individuals on the committees are not qualified to make such important decisions.

The basic information was my LHO after my 1S OPENING, studied quite a while and PASSED with 4/3/4/2 (opening bid) and partner with Q10xxx in clubs (and only 5 points) had no compunction balancing. It went the same way at other tables but the other balancers had the honor and decency to pass and let the opener go down one in 1S for a fair score.

Just consider it another loser for the appeals process of the ACBL.

Gary MugfordMay 15th, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Bobby,

Last century I was a town rep youth softball coach. Did decently, with some of the kids I taught as tweens ending up with the Canadian team at the inaugural World Junior Championships a handful of years later. Had a few Coach of the Year trophies to weight down a shelf or two. Then I retired from softball, driven out by a worsening alergy to August grasses and a dislike for using my spare time helping kids from parents who I disliked. Intensely.

Despite a resume that included that trip to the worlds (I went along as a journalist and unofficial extra coach, ended up doing the PA work for most of the important games … except for the Canadian games, which I did on TV), I would not be allowed to coach a youth house league team today. Don’t have the certification that says that I can. Which I don’t have any trouble with.

We certify directors. Why don’t we certify committee members? Yes, I know it will play havoc on the little six-table Wednesday afternoon club. But if certification only requires successfully passing a quiz, at least being able to say THAT much would lead to better overall results.

So, how about modeling the system on the level system: Club (have to pass a 50-question quiz on-line with a score of 45+), Unit (written 100-question test to be signed and mailed back to ACBL, need 92+), District (100-question timed test, need 96+) and National/International (50-DIFFICULT question test, proctored, need 98+). Right/Wrong based on the actual majority rule. i.e. you have to rule with the majority on the case. Certification good for three years. No cost for the first test, a nominal fee for a second (or more) test to prevent wannabes from just testing until they get the certificate. The National/International test-takers would get case-books. Maybe the District level too.

Okay, having placed a boulder or two in the path, how do we get good people to take the test? Oh, and there’s the administration level. Thankfully, computers help with generating the tests and we have to hope the people who want to be the good guys of the game will take the tests. Given the popularity of the How Would You Rule and Assign the Blame type-features in Bridge World over the years, the tests might even become a popular form of entertainment.

Once you have a certified pool, then you decide whether 1, 3 or 5 is required for a quorom. (Hope that six-table game includes one certified member). ALL committee decisions entered into an on-line database. Details include deal, bidding and point of contention. Committee members numbers entered. Resulting rulings entered. And IMPORTANTLY, in non-unanimous decisions, a comment from the minority is required.

At tournaments, certified potential members should register with the director at the start of the event. The director then knows the pool before play starts. Some simple computer programming would allow for random groupings with the smallest potential conflict with the player(s) involved.

Not a perfect system. Would take money, time and volunteerism to pull off. And maybe, elements of it are already in place. I’ve been gone a LOOOOOONG time. But having to put your name to a ruling, even if it’s only a certification number and letting the minority argue their point(s) for perpetuity would help. And having the entire rulings database on-line lets the anal among us data-mine for whatever they are looking for. And they WILL do that. That will allow for trends to appear that might benefit from increased scrutiny. Such as issues over non-alerted ‘understandings’ about things like negative inferences not being explained fully. Oh, all partipants identified only by ID numbers. (And even THOSE ID numbers should be maintained by the database. DO NOT USE ACBL ID’s or even the CERTIFICATION numbers. Dedicated data miners would be able to cross-match. But it shouldn’t be easy).

Hope this might move the solution discussion forward.

bobbywolffMay 16th, 2012 at 12:07 am

Hi Gary,

You are right on target, only a simpler version, without any politics involved, could do the job. While mentoring our juniors I prepared aptitude tests which worked sensationally and the same could be done for TDs.

The problem arises in Horn Lake, because both the politics from the ACBL BODs then would merge with the politics from the home office, which would result in friends of the candidate suddenly being Oked without the talent to do so.

As if you didn’t know, the politics of who one knows adds about 50 theoretical points to one’s bridge IQ whether it is picking TD’s, selecting professional teams, getting to know sponsors, making nice-nice with certain top professional players, and might even cause some (bite my tongue) to sacrifice bridge integrity in order to put food on the table.

It is hard to even imagine the fall of the Roman Empire having more graft, corruption and shady politics than what goes on today. But the preceding only causes the process to be out of control, which is much better for the ones who do not have enought talent to win the job.

Strong comments to follow.

Gary MugfordMay 16th, 2012 at 7:44 am

Bobby,

The system I outlined could be computerized to the point where back-scratching would entail actual misdeeds rather than turning a blind eye. Passing the test would be absolute and the brown-nosers would actually have to know their rulings in order to get the certification score for whatever level. And if the computer randomly generated committees of available certified members, stacking would be that much harder.

Now, I’m not naive to the point that I don’t think somebody would TRY to game the system. But there’s a reason why the phony stickers claiming home alarm systems work to a certain point. It eliminates the easy low-lying fruit of temptation. But reducing the human factor (and advertising it) would make things a little harder. Maybe a lot harder. Don’t know until it’s tried.

The precepts of any system is the expectation of honesty. Without it, the system breaks down. My first attempt at a structure was based around taking the ease of easily-given exceptions away. Being a social organization, the ACBL will always have power brokers, power gropers and the powerless. I have tales from every sporting association I’ve ever been part of, or covered in two decades as a sports reporter. It’s inherent in any group of humans numbering three or more (and I’m not that sure of two). Encourage proper behaviour. Scold anything else. But hoping for universal good behaviour … that way lies madness. You HAVE to take enough steps to make the decision to misbehave onerous, lengthy, risky and potentially expulsive.

I know you think better, overall, of your fellow man, without being any more confident in certain decision-making sectors of the Bridge world. Somewhere between your faith and my lack of faith, there MIGHT be an answer.

Other opinions and ideas solicited.

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