Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New York State CJC Decides Not To Remove Bronx Surrogate Judge Lee Holtzman

NYS Judicial Conduct Commission Rules Censure, Not Removal, For Bronx Judge Lee Holzman

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Bronx County Judge Lee Holzman should be censured -- not kicked off the bench, as Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian recommended in a rare move this summer.
holzman walking.jpgDaily News investigations revealed that Holzman appointed a friend and political supporter, Michael Lippman, to oversee the estates of Bronx residents who died without wills -- including signing off on $1.5 million in advance fees before Lippman even did any of the alleged work.
Lippman, who had first gotten the estate jobs from Holzman in 2006, according to the Commission, got arrested in 2010 on charges of pocketing $300,000 in excessive fees and faking documents to cover his tracks.
The Dec. 13 Commission determination, made public today, found that Holzman’s doings reflected “poor judgment, rather than knowing concealment of criminal behavior or intent to deceive.” 
The panel also took note of the fact that by law, Holzman, 70, must step down at the end of this year anyway, and cited his “lengthy and unblemished tenure as a judge.”
Three Commission members concurred with Tembeckjian's recommendation to bounce Holzman.
“The Commission and I play different roles in the formal disciplinary process.  I prosecute and make a recommendation, the Commission members render decision, and sometimes we disagree," Tembeckjian, who serves as the group's counsel, said in a statement.
“I believed removal from office was the appropriate result based on the judge’s egregious misconduct.  A majority of Commission members voted instead to censure.  Naturally, I agree with the three who dissented for removal, but now, as always, we move on in good faith to the next case.”
The full determination appears below.

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