The charges stem from a complaint that the commission filed last year against Judge Holzman, who, as the Bronx surrogate since 1988, oversees wills and the estates of people who die without wills. The charges focused on excessive fees billed to estates by Michael Lippman, who was a lawyer for the public administrator in the Bronx, and what Judge Holzman did when he learned of the fees. Betsy Combier, Editor, adds: "It was Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Renee Roth who assisted Attorney Kenneth T. Wasserman and New York Public Administrator Ethel Griffin in stealing my mom's estate after her death. The CJC knew all about the Surrogate Courts' scams in the Bronx and in the other boroughs of New York City and New York State way before they took action in the case of Lee Holtzman. This is the theater of taking care of corruption, not a remedy.
Bronx Judge in Misconduct Case Should Be Forced Out, Head of Panel Says
By RUSS BUETTNER, NY TIMES
The administrator for the New York State Commission on Judicial Conductwill recommend that the Bronx surrogate judge, Lee L. Holzman, be removed from office as a result of hearings into charges of official misconduct, the panel announced Monday.
The charges stem from a complaint that the commission filed last year against Judge Holzman, who, as the Bronx surrogate since 1988, oversees wills and the estates of people who die without wills. The charges focused on excessive fees billed to estates by Michael Lippman, who was a lawyer for the public administrator in the Bronx, and what Judge Holzman did when he learned of the fees.
During a first round of hearings in December and January, Judge Holzman said that in 2006 he had been shocked to learn of the excessive fees and other accusations of malfeasance by Mr. Lippman and his supervisor, Esther Rodriguez, then the Bronx public administrator. Judge Holzman fired Ms. Rodriguez and set up a repayment plan for Mr. Lippman.
The referee who presided over those hearings, a retired State Supreme Court justice, Felice K. Shea, found that the commission’s lawyers proved that Judge Holzman should have fired Mr. Lippman and referred the matter for possible criminal prosecution.
Justice Shea said the evidence showed that Judge Holzman’s decisions were influenced by his “long and close relationship” with Mr. Lippman.
In a report issued last week, Justice Shea rejected a finding of misconduct on other charges, including that Judge Holzman should have disqualified himself from cases in which Mr. Lippman was involved during two years when Mr. Lippman helped with the judge’s re-election.
Robert H. Tembeckjian, the administrator for the Commission on Judicial Conduct, said he would recommend that the full panel remove Judge Holzman in its final hearings on the matter, scheduled for Sept. 20.
If the commission, which has 11 appointees, votes to remove Judge Holzman, he can still appeal to the state’s highest court.
Judge Holzman’s lawyer, David M. Godosky, said he was heartened that the referee rejected a misconduct finding on some charges and was confident that his client would prevail.
“We don’t think there is any merit to any of the claims, and ultimately all of them will be dismissed,” he said.
Judge Holzman has portrayed himself as a victim of dishonest employees. Ms. Rodriguez had direct supervisory responsibility for Mr. Lippman. And Judge Holzman said he only learned of Mr. Lippman’s billing practices after firing Ms. Rodriguez, whom Judge Holzman found to have made troubling payments from estates to a man for cleaning out the homes of deceased people. Ms. Rodriguez has since pleaded guilty to two felony counts and is awaiting sentencing.
The commission argued that Judge Holzman was responsible, by law, for making sure that the court’s employees followed proper procedures.
Mr. Godosky said Judge Holzman did not report Mr. Lippman for discipline and prosecution in 2006 because he did not yet feel he had sufficient evidence to prove such a serious allegation. Mr. Lippman continued to handle estates in the public administrator’s office until 2009. He was indicted in 2010 on grand larceny and other charges and is awaiting trial.
New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct Report on Bronx Surrogate Judge Lee Holtzman
Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman let lawyer pal loot estates, panel finds
BY GREG B. SMITH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman let cronies loot the estates of Bronx residents who died without wills, the court's watchdog agency charged Monday.
Holzman repeatedly approved dubious fees for a lawyer pal who was his chief campaign fund-raiser and allowed estate cases to languish for up to 10 years, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct charged.
Commission probers recommended the agency's board take disciplinary action against Holzman. The penalty could range from reprimand to removal.
The charges come two years after the Daily News exposed Holzman's lax oversight of estates in the Bronx, revealing fees the judge approved for his top fund-raiser, lawyer Michael Lippman.
Lippman, who raised $125,000 for Holzman's 2001 campaign, was for years counsel to the Bronx public administrator, whose office oversees estates.
In a complaint Monday, the commission said that between 1995 and mid-2009, Holzman repeatedly approved Lippman's fees without documentation that Lippman had done anything to earn them.
Over several years, Lippman collected "advances" on these fees at a time when he faced daunting debts, including foreclosure on a $400,000 mortgage and $1 million in gambling losses.
Last year, Lippman was arrested on charges of billing for $300,000 in work he hadn't performed. He's denied wrongdoing and awaits trial.
In the complaint, the judicial conduct investigators declared Holzman had "allowed a social, political . . . relationship to influence his judicial conduct."
The investigators found Holzman discovered problems with Lippman's fees, but didn't report him to law enforcement. Instead, he quietly tried to work out a repayment plan with Lippman.
Holzman's lawyer, David Godosky, called the commission's charges unwarranted and noted that Bronx prosecutors say Lippman deliberately deceived Holzman "in an effort to hide the excessive fees."
The commission said Holzman let some estate cases linger for up to a decade - and let a former public administrator hire her boyfriend to clean some of the properties. Investigators said the man billed for work he did not perform.
The complaint also said Holzman's lack of oversight resulted in the public administrator putting estate money into risky investments that went bad.
Last week, a judge rejected Holzman's bid to keep the charges secret. A hearing on the charges has been postponed because Holzman says he can't mount a fair defense because Lippman won't testify on his behalf as a result of his pending criminal case.
In my case, the Surrogate Court in New York City was commissioned by Guide One Insurance Company, Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church's Pastor Fred Anderson and the Trustees, Attorney Kenneth T. Wasserman, The NYC Public Administrator Ethel Griffin, and then Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, followed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (now Governor of New York State) to steal, plunder and control my mom's estate. If the Commission on Judicial Conduct, current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and current NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo acted on behalf of all the people who have been harmed by the Surrogate Courts' RICO scam none of the massive theft would be happening. But nobody is doing anything, and are too afraid of Andrew Cuomo and his goons to do anything.
When Ethel J Griffin sells codos, where does the money go?
Kenneth T. Wasserman, Attorney and Fixer for the Courts
The Corruption of New York State Courts: Andrew Cuomo and Grand Larceny in Surrogates' Court
Without a Prayer For Relief: The NY State Supreme Court is Bought By Guide One Insurance Company and a Church, Madison Avenue Presbyterian
RICO in the New York State Unified Court System: How the Courts Steal Your Property, Your Children, and Try To Destroy Your Life...And How You Can Stop Them
RICO in the Unified Court System
Bad News For Margarita Lopez Torres Who Loses Her Bid to Return NYC to a Fair and Independent Judicial Selection Process
The Corruption of Jonathan Lippman and the NY State Unified Court System
Religious Racketeering: The Insurance-Church-Judicial Complex
Judicial Corruption and Resources: A Personal View