Sunday, October 4, 2009

Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge-elect Nora Anderson, Indicted

Sunday, December 7, 2008
Not so fast, Nora
Daily News Editorial, December 7, 2008

It was a busy week for Nora Anderson, the Manhattan surrogate judge-elect who ran roughshod over laws and rules to claim a prize perch in the Surrogate's Court, which awards millions in legal fees to a select club of lawyers.

The week began with Anderson filing her final campaign accounting. The report shows that in the weeks since September's Democratic primary, in which Anderson grossly outspent two opponents - thanks largely to an illegal $202,000 contribution - she raised another $29,260.

Not that she needed the cash - she ran unopposed in November. But she put almost every cent ($28,378) in her pocket, leaving $7.01 in the kitty.

In theory, Anderson was repaying some of the $368,185 she loaned her campaign. In reality, she was skirting an ethics rule that bars successful judicial candidates from repaying themselves with campaign funds.

The Board of Elections certified Anderson's uncontested victory Tuesday, and she lost no time taking the oath of office Wednesday, solemnly swearing to support the Constitution and faithfully discharge the duties of the office of judge. Irony indeed.

Although the Jan. 1 start of her term is only 26 days away, Anderson might want to hold off on tailoring those black judicial robes and trying out the gavel.

Also last week, it turns out, a Manhattan grand jury investigating her campaign's slippery practices was hearing witnesses. And still waiting in the wings is the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, whose rules she has so brazenly flouted.

Nora Anderson gives grounds for investigation on Election Law violation
Sunday, September 14th 2008, 5:35 PM

Barring an extraordinarily unlikely turn of events, lawyer Nora Anderson will be sworn in as a Manhattan surrogate judge on New Year's Day. The next morning, she must be the subject of investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Talk about getting off to a bad start - one that could result in Anderson's removal from office.

Anderson ran a big-money campaign to get the Democratic nod for surrogate in last week's primary. A surrogate presides over the estates of the dead - and gets to award millions of dollars in assignments to lawyers and accountants.

So badly did Anderson want to win the $137,600-a-year post that she put $270,000 of her own money into the race. She also took a $25,000 donation and a $225,000 campaign fund loan from her boss, who happens to be Seth Rubinstein, who happens to be an active trusts and estates lawyer.

All that was okay under New York's lax campaign finance laws until Anderson reached primary day without repaying Rubinstein's loan. That day, Rubinstein's unpaid loan converted to a gift under the Election Law - Article 14, section 114, paragraph 6a, if you are interested.

Big problem. A contribution of that size is barred by law - Article 14, section 126, paragraph 3 - and under willful circumstances can amount to a misdemeanor.

Depending on how the accounting is done, Anderson may have exceeded the contribution limit by $165,000.

And that's not the end of Anderson's, er, sloppiness.

Under court rules, judicial candidates must file a financial disclosure statement with the court system's Ethics Commission within 20 days of becoming a candidate. Anderson got her document in almost two months late and then failed to include the most important information requested on the form: her income.

Anderson campaign manager Michael Oliva says Anderson believed she had until Nov. 4, Election Day, to repay the loan before it became a gift. "We tried to find the answers," Oliva said, pleading that the law was confusing.

To a would-be judge? To a would-be judge who was warned that ignorance of the law would be no excuse when, in April, she attended a mandatory training course on judicial campaigning.

There, Supreme Court Justice George Marlow, head of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, told the assembled candidates, "You, and you alone, as the candidate, [are] ultimately responsible for what you and your committee say and do."

Anderson's violations are no small matter. She blew away two opponents by running a high-visibility campaign paid for by money that, all evidence indicates, she was not entitled to spend. And she cavalierly disregarded the law that entitled the public to inspect her personal finances.

The judicial conduct commission's jurisdiction extends to judgeship candidates. The panel must add Anderson to its docket once she is sworn in. And come to think of it, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau would be fully justified in giving the once-over to Anderson's finagling.

Shot through with errors

The streets of New York became more dangerous for the NYPD last year as the number of people opening fire on cops jumped sharply - but the Finest responded with remarkable restraint.

In the face of a 54% increase in trigger-happy criminals, officers continued an 11-year trend of discharging weapons less often. They deserve commendation for high professionalism.

Which is apparently too much to ask. True to form, as the department released a yearly count of shootings, the New York Civil Liberties Union wondered whether the cops had fired disproportionately at blacks.

Asking the question was an act of irresponsibility because there is not a shred of evidence cops are driven by racial bias in deciding at whom they'll shoot.

The NYPD had 23 million contacts with the public last year. More than 174,000 involved a gun or report of a gun. More than 4,000 ended in gun-possession arrests. And cops fired weapons in a total of 45 incidents.

In 34 cases, the civilian used or threatened to use a gun; in five, a knife; in six, a blunt object. Where does race enter the picture? Nowhere.

Still, the civil liberties union spreads an innuendo of racial targeting by citing the fact that blacks made up 61% of the people who were fired on. Never mind that 75% of people who fired at cops were black; NYCLU legal advocate Chris Dunn urges a full investigation.

He should go one better. The cops shot at not a single woman in 2007. They shot only at men, even though men make up just half the population. Now there's a real disparity for Dunn to decry. Because the way he adds up the numbers, the cops must be out to kill men.

Nuts? Yes. But that's how these folks think.

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