Saturday, November 7, 2009
Indicted Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge-Elect Nora Anderson Continues to Look At Jail Time
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Judge Drops Most of Criminal Charges Against Judge-Elect
Case Against Surrogate-Elect Survives Dismissal of 8 Charges
The New York Law Journal by Daniel Wise - November 2, 2009
A judge has thrown out eight criminal charges against Manhattan Surrogate-elect Nora Anderson but has retained two felony charges that could send her to prison for up to four years if convicted. Acting Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Obus in Manhattan on Friday dismissed four felony and four misdemeanor counts charging Ms. Anderson and her mentor/former boss, attorney Seth Rubenstein, with masking the source of $250,000 pumped into Ms. Anderson's campaign in the closing days of the 2008 Democratic primary. Ms. Anderson won that primary but was suspended without pay before she could take the bench. Justice Obus cited jurisdictional grounds for his ruling, holding that the charges should have been brought in Brooklyn, where Ms. Anderson's campaign headquarters was located in Mr. Rubinstein's office. He allowed the other two charges to stand because they involved acts in Manhattan: allegedly false filings with the New York City Board of Elections, whose headquarters is located in the borough.
At the same time, Justice Obus in People v. Anderson, 5768/08, rejected the defendants' substantive claims that funneling campaign contributions through an intermediary is not a crime. Those arguments, if accepted, would have scuttled the indictment entirely.
The Manhattan Supreme Court decision appears on page 17 of the print edition of today's Law Journal. In court on Friday, Assistant District Attorney Daniel G. Cort told Justice Obus that his office would have to decide which of three options to pursue: appealing; asking Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes to pursue the eight dismissed counts; or proceeding on the two remaining counts. In the event Manhattan Disrtict Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau asks for assistance from Brooklyn, there is a possibility the case would be divided with the two counts being tried in Manhattan and the remainder in Brooklyn. Mr. Rubenstein and Ms. Anderson were charged jointly under the 10-count indictment. According to the government, Mr. Rubenstein gave Ms. Anderson $100,000 and loaned her another $150,000. Ms. Anderson was accused of then directing the contribution and loan to her campaign under her name. One count upheld by Justice Obus relates to Mr. Rubenstein's gift of $100,000 to Ms. Anderson on Aug. 12, 2008, and the other to his loan to her of $150,000 two weeks later. Ms. Anderson reported to the Board of Elections that she gave her campaign $100,000 eight days after receiving that amount from Mr. Rubenstein and loaning her campaign $170,000 on Aug. 26, the same day Mr. Rubenstein made the $150,000 loan.
New York's Election Law does not limit the amounts candidates may give their own campaigns, but other donors to countywide races in Manhattan were limited to $33,122 in 2008. Loans are required to be repaid by the election date or they are considered contributions. Ms. Anderson, 57, a former chief clerk of the Manhattan Surrogate's Court, had worked with Mr. Rubenstein, 82, in Brooklyn at his 26 Court St. office for nine years before entering the Surrogate's race. The defendants agreed that Manhattan had geographic jurisdiction over the two counts involving the campaign finance filings with the city Board of Election. Instead, they moved to dismiss all 10 counts claiming the state's Election Law does not make it a crime to funnel campaign contributions through an intermediary. Justice Obus rejected those arguments, noting that Election Law §14-120(1) makes it a misdemeanor to make a contribution to a campaign in any name other than one's own. He emphasized that the law bars a donor from "directly or indirectly" concealing the true donor's name.
1977 Ruling Cited
Justice Obus, however, accepted the defendants' argument that jurisdiction in Manhattan over the other eight counts could not be sustained on the strength of the New York Court of Appeals' 1977 ruling in Steingut v. Gold, 42 N.Y. 2d 311. In Steingut, which involved former Assembly Speaker Stanley Steingut, the Court of Appeals ruled that jurisdiction could not be based on the premise that "the voters of [a] county would be called upon to vote in an election allegedly tainted by criminal activity localized in a single county." Mr. Steingut had been accused of illegal activities in Manhattan to advance the election of his son in Brooklyn to the City Council. The two pending charges accuse Ms. Anderson and Mr. Rubenstein of filing false documents (campaign financial disclosure reports) in Manhattan. Four of the dismissed charges carry the same penalty of zero to four years in prison. They relate to filing false campaign disclosure reports with the New York State Board of Elections in Albany and falsifying the reports in the first instance in Brooklyn. The others are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail: two counts of willfully evading the contribution limits in the Election Law and two counts for failing to make contributions in one's own name. Ms. Anderson won the three-way 2008 primary with 48 percent of the vote (NYLJ, Sept. 11, 2008). She raised $613,000, more than either of her two opponents: John R. Reddy, counsel to the Manhattan public administrator, who raised $600,903 and Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Milton A. Tingling, who raised $110,200. Ms. Anderson is represented by Gustave H. Newman and Richard A. Greenberg. Frederick P. Hafetz, of Hafetz & Necheles, represented Mr. Rubenstein. Messrs. Newman and Hafetz both declined to comment. Mr. Cort is the deputy chief of the Manhattan district attorney's rackets bureau. Daniel Wise can be reached at email@example.com.
LexPress: The Filing of Nora Anderson
By Jesse Sunenblick, 9-24-08
The Daily News takes fresh aim at the campaign donations of Manhattan Surrogate candidate Nora Anderson. In other news, the insurrection in the Bronx against Democratic Chairman Jose Rivera continues.
NORA'S REQUIRED READING
A Daily News editorial takes aim at Manhattan Surrogate Judge candidate Nora Anderson, and says she may have broken campaign finance laws during last month’s Democratic primary. Writes the News: “Anderson’s latest financial disclosure filing became public Monday — and the report must now become required reading for investigators at the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The document lays out in black and white Anderson’s wholesale disregard for the law. She and all other candidates were limited to accepting donations totaling no more than $35,000 from any individual for the primary. But Anderson, a trusts and estates lawyer, went way over the cap through a series of transactions with her boss, Seth Rubenstein. Those include a $25,000 contribution and a $225,000 loan, whose balance, under the law, became a donation as of Primary Day. According to Anderson's filing, by that date she managed to repay $13,000.”
THE SECRET COURT
Our Town, August 13, 2008
SURROGATE’S RACE DRAWS BIG POLITICAL GUNS-BUT NOT MUCH INTEREST FROM VOTERS
By Susan Campriello
In New York, sometimes standing out in a crowd can be difficult. On the corner of Broadway and West 96th Street one humid evening, John Reddy, Jr., a candidate for New York County Surrogate’s Court, competed for attention with a pair of people promoting a paint sale and a scattering of MTA employees advising commuters that a station entrance was closed.
In his khakis, blue shirt and red striped tie, Reddy (below and at left) might have blended in with the passing New Yorkers. But he was standing still, two staffers forming a wall of campaign signs behind him.
“Hi, Manhattan Democrat?” he chirped, roughly 30 times a minute, while shaking hand with and passing campaign flyers to anyone who stopped.
One man-one of a small pool of passersby who seemed familiar with the Surrogate’s Court-stopped for a brief chat, expressing frustration at what he perceived as the court’s corruption. Reddy, who is running on a platform of ideas to change the way the court is run, tried to make his case to the man. He did not appear to succeed.
“There’s nothing you can do about it, John,” the man said.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Reddy called after him.
Reddy is not the only candidate talking change in the race to succeed Judge Renee Roth, who is aging off the court at 70 this year. The Surrogate’s Court settles serious matters concerning adoptions, guardians, estates and wills, but once again this year, the debate about its future is a lively one.
And like this Upper West Side corner, the race is crowded, with Judge Milton Tingling and Nora Anderson also vying for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 9 primary.
Surrogate laws and practices are idiosyncratic. The three candidates agree that the general public is unfamiliar with the court, and that lawyers who practice there are not always well informed, either. The candidates also hope to speed up litigation time.
Reddy Hitting the Streets
The primary race has already drawn more attention than usual due to the number of New York City political names it has drawn. As a consultant, Reddy has hired The Parkside Group, which has helped several members of the City Council and State Legislature, as well as current Surrogate Kristin Booth Glenn, win elections.
Chung Seto and Kevin Wardally of Bill Lynch Associates, who have worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, among others, are overseeing Tingling’s fundraising and campaigning. Tingling also counts former Mayor David Dinkins and Rep. Charles Rangel as two of his most public supporters. Nora Anderson has Michael Oliva, a longtime grassroots organizer and political strategist, managing her campaign, while Lisa Hernandez Gioia of The Esler Group, which has consulted for Gov. David Paterson among other candidates, is doing her fundraising.
Tingling, who has been a Supreme Court justice in Manhattan for seven years, has also been out meeting voters. Recently, Council Member Inez Dickens stood next to Tingling along 135th Street, introducing him to the people trickling into the subway station.
Tingling Hitting the Streets
“Good morning, good morning! This is Judge Tingling, he’s running for Surrogate’s Court. Please support him, he’s from my community,” she shouted, nearly drowning out buses and trucks on Lenox Avenue. Behind her, staff from a consulting firm handed flyers to commuters. Tingling greeted people more intimately, turning every handshake into an elongated grasp. One woman stopped, looking confused. The candidate approached asking slowly, “No habla inglés?” When she shook her head, Tingling turned his flyer over, revealing his qualifications written in Spanish.
Translators, Tingling said, are just part of his two-pronged approach to making the court more accessible to Manhattan’s diverse population. Translators could not only assist those involved with cases in the court but can help teach people about wills and estates. Such meetings could take place in the satellite court offices Tingling said he hopes to open, if elected.
Most people know little about the Surrogate’s Court beyond being familiar with celebrity cases, like those of Woody Allen, Brooke Astor and J. Seward Johnson. Tingling hopes to enhance the court’s profile so that the first experience the average New Yorker has there is not as a litigant.
Anderson Hitting the Streets
“There are cases going on there, there are people being affected all the time, but nobody knows,” he said, “It’s basically a secret court.”
Reddy also hopes to open the court by making it more friendly and welcoming to those unfamiliar with the Surrogate’s practices. A probate law instructor, Reddy believes that as more lawyers become familiar with the court, the court will become less of a mystery to litigants. His 13 years as counsel to the public administrator, which handles estates for people who die without a will and wills with vague instructions, have prepared him for the bench, he argues.
Anderson, who was a clerk in the Surrogate’s Court for nearly five years under former Surrogate Eve Preminger and has litigated in the court, has a different idea for speeding up proceedings. If elected, she would rotate clerks. This, she argues, would allow clerks to master all areas of the court and be better able to assist litigants. Rotating existing staff would also eliminate the need to hire, and pay, more clerks, she said. Anderson also said she hopes to encourage would-be litigants to settle out of court, since proceedings can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful.
Anderson has cut back hours with the Brooklyn law firm Seth Rubenstein, P.C. in order to spend time campaigning at greenmarkets, street fairs and on sidewalks. On one recent evening, she hopped, teetered and pirouetted in heels along Eighth Avenue between West 22nd and 23rd streets, dodging and following potential voters. Wearing a tailored black suit over a sleeveless knit zebra-print top, she tried to get pedestrians to stop and talk.
“Hi, I’m running for Surrogate Court and I need your support,” she said. “Hi, I’m running to be a judge. I’ve got a great website.”
But there wasn’t much time for Anderson to talk about campaign specifics. If she wasn’t explaining how to register as a Democrat, she was shouting out summaries of what the court does and what she would do as judge, if elected.
“A large part of this campaign,” Anderson said, “has been education.”
Manhattan Surrogate’s Court is where estates and contested wills are settled and adoption decisions are made.
The court’s two judges are each elected to serve 14-year terms, but they must resign at the end of the calendar year in which they turn 70, as Judge Renee Roth will in December.
With no Republican running, the winner of a three-way Democratic primary, on Sept. 9, will join Judge Kristin Booth Glenn, who was elected in 2005, on the bench.
Nora Anderson was a clerk in Surrogate’s Clerk, John Reddy, Jr. is counsel to the Public Administrator and Judge Milton Tingling has served as a judge in criminal, civil and supreme courts.
Though all three candidates have been endorsed by organizations and individuals across Manhattan, the county Democratic committee is backing Tingling.
AN INSIDER’S EXPERIENCE
Nora Anderson wants to replace her boss.
A former clerk in the Surrogate’s Court, Anderson worked under Judge Eve Preminger and later under Judge Renee Roth, who will retire by year’s end.
Anderson has never sought office before and said she has cut back on her hours at the Brooklyn law firm Seth Rubinstein, P. C. to devote time to campaigning. Although she still accepts and tries cases, the campaign takes up most of her time and energy. After spending all day with voters and supporters, she returns to her Upper West Side apartment only to sleep.
Anderson studied biology at Hampton University and worked briefly in a laboratory researching cures for tropical diseases before deciding to pursue a law degree instead. She attended Brooklyn Law School at night while working full time in the Office of General Counsel at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
Anderson argues that her experience in Surrogate’s Court makes her the best candidate. She knows the law, the court and how the appeals process works, she explained, so she can write the strongest decisions.
As a former clerk in the court, Anderson said educating clerks in all aspects of the law and probate proceedings will help things run more smoothly. Rotating clerks around the various departments will also expose them to all aspects of the Surrogate’s Court, eliminating the need to hire more personnel. This will streamline work, too: file clerks sometimes direct lawyers to complete or edit forms in different ways, causing delays in paper processing and, ultimately, overall proceedings. Anderson also wants clerks who help litigants without representation to help attorneys who are unfamiliar with the laws surrounding the execution of wills and the settling of estates. And finally, as a lawyer, Anderson said she has a better understanding of litigators’ busy schedules and overhead costs.
Her overall goal, though, is to help more New Yorkers avoid actually going to Surrogate’s Court to settle estates. Trying a case in any court, she said, usually takes more time and money for litigants than if the parties involved can settle the issue themselves. The stakes are also higher.
“When you come to court,” she said, “You’re putting you life in the hands of a judge or a jury.”
READY FOR SURROGATE’S CHANGE
Surrogate’s Court cases that capture public attention usually involve large estates once owned by wealthy individuals. But John Reddy, Jr., counsel to the Manhattan Public Administrator, knows that the court serves New Yorkers from all walks of life, and battles there are not just about money.
“It’s about all kinds of things,” he said, including appointments of guardians for children and ill individuals, as well as estates.
Reddy is a newcomer to political campaigns, but he is familiar with the struggles and issues that New Yorkers face when a loved one dies. He considered running in the 2005 election to replace Judge Eve Preminger on the court, but ultimately decided not to get in the race due to injury and illness within his family.
Born into a family of workers and craftsmen, Reddy naturally drifted toward construction. He switched gears as an undergraduate at Fordham University and decided to become a lawyer instead, earning tuition for New York Law School by working as a vendor at Shea Stadium and in a Queens steel mill.
During the campaign, Reddy has not stopped working at the Manhattan Public Administrator, which handles estates for people who die without a will or with vaguely worded documentation. He said that his experience there makes him the top choice in the Surrogate’s race. When he was first hired 13 years ago, Reddy was charged with closing more than 2,000 cases that had been open for at least four years. He finished up all but 40 within three years, he said, and he hopes to repeat that record with other open cases at the Surrogate’s Court.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Reddy taught attorneys about probate law, which covers will verification and, if there is no will, how property distribution and tax payment should be handled. He has participated in will and estate workshops for minority lawyers, and educated potential guardians about their duties.
Guardianship is one area that Reddy would like to change, if elected to the court. Judges have often appointed friends to certain cases, which is not fair to those who do not have ties to a judge, Reddy argues. He proposes having potential guardians apply with the court and be selected through lottery.
It’s up to the Surrogate judges to push for important changes like these, he said, because if they do not speak up, no one else will.
“It’s a process,” he said, “and it needs to move forward.”
OPENING UP THE COURT
The way Judge Milton Tingling sees it, the Surrogate’s Court is often about the bottom line. A family may come into the court, for example, to gain access to a deceased breadwinner’s bank account to pay bills.
“Surrogate’s Court is a place that you have to go, and it affects you on an immediate level,” said Tingling, who is a New York State Supreme Court judge.
Tingling has already adjudicated cases in the criminal, civil and supreme courts, and considered running to replace Judge Eve Preminger in 2005. However, he did not run, citing family reasons.
Tingling was drawn to the court through his own experience hashing out problems with his great aunt’s estate a few years ago. Provisions in her will conflicted with language in her mother’s will, which was also problematic.
He decided that if he, as a lawyer, had difficulties with family wills, then the average New Yorker was also likely to encounter trouble.
As Surrogate, he hopes to bring translators into the court and open satellite offices around the borough to make the court more accessible to the public.
Tingling says he is familiar with the many tensions and questions that occur in Surrogate’s court because he is one of three Supreme Court judges who hear guardianship cases (if elected, Tingling’s seat on the Supreme Court would be filled by a judge appointed by Gov. David Paterson, according to the Office of Court Administration).
Tingling is proud to have assigned cases to new lawyers, guardians and the evaluators who select guardians and says he would continue to do so as Surrogate.
He says he would encourage lawyers to take cases pro bono, arguing that lawyers in many large firms already perform work for no pay. As Surrogate, Tingling said that he would create an independent panel of lawyers and community activists without a law degree to recommend appointments for guardianships. This would replace the current system, which allows judges to appoint guardians at their own discretion.
Going forward, he would like to see the Supreme Court absorb the Surrogate’s Court, which, he thinks lacks oversight. With two judges who are their own administrators, the Surrogate’s Court answers to no entity.
“I’m not waiting for oversight,” he said. “I’m opening it up.”
December 10, 2008, 2:16 pm
New Judge Is Charged With Campaign Finance Fraud
By John Eligon, City Room
Nora S. Anderson, incoming Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge, was indicted for campaign finance fraud.
Nora S. Anderson, who last month won the election for Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge, was indicted Wednesday on charges that she concealed the source of $250,000 deposited into her campaign account to make it appear as though the payments came from herself.
Prosecutors said that the money, in fact, came from Seth Rubenstein, Ms. Anderson’s boss and campaign adviser, and he, too, was charged in the indictment.
Under election law, Ms. Anderson was allowed to contribute as much money as she wanted to her own campaign account. Outside donors were limited to $33,122.50 for the primary, prosecutors said.
In need of money to print and mail campaign materials, and to pay staff members to work for her on primary day, Ms. Anderson in August made two large deposits into her bank account. (See a chart [pdf], prepared by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office).
The first, for $100,000, was posted to her campaign account on Aug. 20, one day after Ms. Anderson deposited a check from Mr. Rubenstein for the same amount into her personal bank account, prosecutors said.
The second payment, for $150,000, was wired into Ms. Anderson’s campaign account on Aug. 26, the same day Mr. Rubenstein transferred that exact amount of money into Ms. Anderson’s personal brokerage account.
“Here you have $250,000 coming from Rubenstein made to appear like it was coming from Anderson,” said Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney. “That’s the crux of the case.”
Both Ms. Anderson and Ms. Rubenstein face felony charges of offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records. If convicted, they could face up to four years in prison. They also face misdemeanor counts of knowingly and willfully violating contribution limits, punishable by up to a year in jail if convicted.
After riding a well-financed campaign to victory in the Democratic primary in September, Ms. Anderson came under suspicion when a $225,000 campaign loan from Mr. Rubenstein remained unpaid. Loans not paid by the primary date would be considered campaign contributions, prosecutors said.
But Ms. Anderson, 56, later repaid that original loan by liquidating her brokerage account and taking a loan from her retirement account, said Daniel J. Castleman, the chief assistant district attorney. She was not charged in connection with that initial loan, even though it could have been considered a contribution that exceeded limits.
Even as charges were pending against her, Ms. Anderson had been preparing to take the bench.
Ms. Anderson took the oath of office during a private ceremony last week, according to Janet Mishkin, the principal law clerk for Kristin Booth Glen, one of the two current Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judges.
It is customary for judges to hold private swearing-in ceremonies before they take the bench. But their oath does not become official until Jan. 1, after it is filed with the city clerk’s office.
If she takes the bench, Ms. Anderson will serve alongside Ms. Glen, who administered the oath. She would replace Renee R. Roth.
But whether Ms. Anderson takes the bench in January remains unclear, said her lawyer, Gus Newman.
That decision will depend on powers “above her and above me,” he said.
Mr. Newman said his client would be vindicated and was qualified to serve as a judge on the Surrogate’s Court.
“This case is not about any corruption or banality,” he said. “It’s about a claimed violation of election law. “Before these charges she had a totally unblemished reputation. When all the facts come out in the courtroom, it’ll be clear that Nora’s reputation will be restored and that she’s totally innocent of any wrongdoing.”
Mr. Rubenstein’s lawyer, Frederick P. Hafetz, said his client did not commit a crime.
“Mr. Rubenstein acted totally within the election law,” Mr. Hafetz said. “We are confident he will be vindicated at trial. He has a long and distinguished career at the bar. There are no charges of corruption whatsoever in this case.”
Mr. Rubenstein and Ms. Anderson turned themselves in to the authorities on Wednesday morning. They were scheduled to be arraigned later in the afternoon.
Ms. Anderson is a lawyer in the firm headed by Mr. Rubenstein. For the past 10 years, she has only handled Surrogate’s Court cases, Mr. Newman said. Ms. Anderson also spent about a combined five years as the deputy clerk and the head clerk of the Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan.
Surrogate’s courts have a notorious reputation for corruption because their judges — as the handlers of wills, estates and guardianships — have the power to appoint lawyers to lucrative families’ cases.
In 2005, Michael H. Feinberg, a Surrogate’s Court judge in Brooklyn, was removed after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct found that he had awarded $8.6 million in fees to a friend without verifying that the lawyer had done the work.
In July, The Daily News reported that the city was investigating Lee Holzman, the Bronx Surrogate’s Court judge, for fees he awarded to politically connected lawyers.
October 27, 2008
No Competition for Seat, but Facing Investigation
By JOHN ELIGON, NY TIMES
When Nora S. Anderson rode a well-financed campaign to victory in the Democratic primary for Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge last month, it should have cleared a smooth path to the office. She will face no challenger in the Nov. 4 election.
Instead, her fund-raising efforts have drawn the attention of the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors have issued several subpoenas, including two to well-connected political players, in an investigation of Ms. Anderson’s finances and whether she improperly put money into her campaign fund, according to several people briefed on the case.
In April, Ms. Anderson, a Brooklyn lawyer, received a $225,000 campaign loan from Seth Rubenstein, her friend and campaign chairman and the head of the law firm where she works, according to financial disclosure reports. The loan was not repaid by the Sept. 9 primary and could be treated as a contribution under election law, which limits the contribution an individual may give a candidate to $32,000.
According to the most recent disclosure report, filed on Friday, all but $5,900 of the loan was shown as having been paid back. One matter under investigation is how Ms. Anderson acquired the money for the repayment, the people briefed on the case said.
“I guess the question was the loan, and how the loan was paid off,” said Michael Oliva, Ms. Anderson’s former campaign manager, who said he had received a subpoena for records and was interviewed by a prosecutor.
The district attorney’s office would not comment on the case. Ms. Anderson did not return telephone calls seeking comment, and Mr. Rubenstein declined to be interviewed.
Ms. Anderson, 56, has come under investigation before she even has won the position or taken the bench. As the handlers of wills, estates and guardianships, surrogate judges have the power to appoint lawyers to lucrative cases and their work can be highly scrutinized.
Ms. Anderson, a former chief clerk in the Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, defeated John Reddy and Milton Tingling in the primary, clearing the way to become one of two surrogate judges, at a salary of $136,700 a year.
A disclosure report filed 10 days after the primary showed that $197,000 of Mr. Rubenstein’s loan to her campaign was outstanding. If considered a contribution, it would far exceed the legal maximum.
Exceeding contribution limits is a misdemeanor under election law. But the district attorney’s investigation goes deeper, into how Ms. Anderson repaid the loan, people briefed on the case said.
In the weeks before the primary, large deposits made to Ms. Anderson’s personal bank account triggered suspicious-activity reports within the bank, according to a person briefed on the investigation, who requested anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak on the matter. The bank reported the deposits to the district attorney’s office, he said.
In August, Ms. Anderson made two large deposits to her campaign account under her own name, according to disclosure reports. One was listed as a contribution of $100,000, on Aug. 20; the other was listed as a $170,000 loan she made to her campaign, deposited on Aug. 26, the reports said.
A disclosure report filed on Oct. 2 noted that Ms. Anderson lent her campaign $153,589.33 on Sept. 22 and $44,596 on Sept. 26, the same days her campaign wrote checks to repay part of Mr. Rubenstein’s loan.
Intentionally exceeding contribution limits or concealing the source of campaign money could result in various charges, including filing false records, a felony. Such charges could be hard to prove; even if prosecutors find that Ms. Anderson received large sums of money in her personal account, they must show that those sums were intended as campaign donations, not personal gifts.
Mr. Oliva said he believed that she paid off the loans with her own money and that she had until the day of the general election to repay Mr. Rubenstein’s loan before it could be considered a contribution.
Mr. Oliva said his company, M & M Consulting, was subpoenaed for records pertaining to Ms. Anderson’s campaign finances. He said he was not able to produce any because he did not deal with campaign money.
James R. McManus, the head of the McManus Democratic Association, one of the party’s most influential local organizations, said he also received a subpoena for correspondence with Ms. Anderson. Although he endorsed her, Mr. McManus said, he had no written correspondence with her and did not contribute money to her campaign.
“I had nothing to do with her campaign,” Mr. McManus said.
While the campaign fund-raising rules for any office are voluminous, they are particularly strict for judicial candidates in New York State. According to the Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook, candidates for the bench may not solicit their own campaign contributions or even know who is donating money. Their fund-raising must be handled by campaign committees.
If Ms. Anderson does take the bench, she will join a court that has had its share of scandals over the years. In 2005, Michael H. Feinberg, a surrogate judge in Brooklyn, was removed after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct found that he had awarded $8.6 million in fees to a friend without verifying that the lawyer had done the work.
In July, The Daily News reported that the city was investigating Lee Holzman, the Bronx surrogate judge, for fees he awarded to politically connected lawyers.
David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the State Office of Court Administration, said the rules governing the appointment of lawyers to handle estates or trusts were rewritten in 2003 and 2006 to make the process more transparent.
“Many of the alleged weaknesses in Surrogate Courts were addressed,” Mr. Bookstaver said. And statistics show that the Surrogates’ Courts have not been inordinately corrupt. Surrogate judges make up 6.8 percent of the state’s judges. Of the full-time judges disciplined by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct during the past 30 years, roughly 7 percent of them were with the Surrogate’s Court, said Robert Tembeckjian, the commission’s administrator.
“There’s no special disciplinary problem with surrogate judges as opposed to any other kind of judge,” Mr. Tembeckjian said.
He added that he could not say whether the commission would investigate Ms. Anderson.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Surrogate Roth Appoints Rubinstein into Conflict of Interest
Facts About Manhattan Surrogate Court 2008
“A Manhattan judge who is the subject of a federal conflict-of-interest probe recently presided over a case where the plaintiff was the judge's own lawyer in a multimillion-dollar court fight, The Post has learned. Seth Rubenstein successfully represented the judge, Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Marylin Diamond, in her Surrogate Court battle over the $300 million-pluhttp://manhattansurrogatecourt2008.blogspot.com/2008/07/surrogate-roth-appoints-rubinstein-into.htmls estate of art heiress Natasha Gelman.
Rubenstein was still in Diamond's employ when he was substituted in as the plaintiff in a real-estate brokerage-fee case that was already before her, Helen Miller versus Jane Ardsley Frocks. The elderly Miller died on Sept. 13, 2001, and Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Renee Roth named Rubenstein the administrator of Miller's $300,000 estate. Diamond signed an order naming him the new plaintiff in Miller's suit two months later. His case remained before her until this past February, when the judge issued a one-sentence order recusing herself. – NY Post, July 2, 2003
Mr. Rubenstein also said that in 1982 he removed himself from OCA's lists of attorneys eligible to receive fiduciary appointments, but since then judges have appointed him because of his expertise, a step judges may take as long as they state their reasons for appointing off the list. - NY Law Journal, August 21, 2009