Monday, December 31, 2012

NYS Senate Democrats Choose Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins Instead of John Sampson

Kevin Parker Hands John Sampson His Second Loss of the Week

Written by Aaron Short on . Posted in Blog, Features, Heard Around Town, Latest.

State Sen. Kevin Parker

State Sen. John Sampson has had a rough week. Senate Democrats chose state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins instead of Sampson as their minority leader in a surprising 19-6 vote on Monday.
The next day state Sen. Kevin Parker trounced him in the 2012 Stars of New York Dance contest at Long Island University’s Kumble Theater in Brooklyn.
Sampson reportedly spent several hours practicing his choreography but looked a step slow and was no match for Parker, who unleashed a torrent of old school hip-hop steps to Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J, and Salt ‘n’ Pepa songs that brought the crowd to its feet and Sampson to his knees.
Parker was gracious in victory. “It always feels good to win,” he said. “We found a way to turn this ugly duckling into a swan.”
Parker said he did not cast a vote in the leadership race because he couldn’t make the meeting but said Stewart-Cousins matches the ideological goals of the conference. “I’m sure the senator is disappointed, everyone likes to win, but if it is going to be somebody else, Andrea is a great choice,” he said.
Sampson left the theater after the judges declared Parker the winner and could not be reached for comment.
Check out Sampson’s dance moves here,, and Parker’s hip hop stylings here,
UPDATE ON THE VOTE: The internal vote was 19-6. 25 people voted, but Parker did not cast a ballot.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Who Are You Kidding Award Goes To Judge Felice O'Shea For Censuring and Not Removing Bronx Surrogate Judge Lee Holtzman

Hands counting money, stock photo. REUTERS Jo Yong hak

From Betsy Combier:I attended almost every
hearing date of Bronx Surrogate Court Judge Lee
Holtzman's "trial". What a theatre performance
he gave! I attended partially due to the fact that Manhattan Public
Administrator Ethel Griffin stole the estate of my mom, with the
assistance of former Manhattan Surrogate Judge Renee Roth and
Attorneys Kenneth Wasserman, Eli Uncyk, Peter Schram, and
Jonathan Landsman. Even Eliot Spitzer was involved in not only the
theft of my mom's estate (her Will - which left me her apartment in
NYC - was declared null and void by Renee Roth and then by Nora
Anderson's replacement, Judge Troy Webber) but hundreds of others
from the rightful heirs.
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
Dont forget to listen in the article above to
the taped conversation between me and NYPD detective Ahearne
about how 1st Department Appellate Division Judge Karla Moskowitz
paid Attorney Kenneth Wasserman to harass me.


Bronx surrogate fights misconduct 

charge in rare public hearing


By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Bronx Surrogate Lee Holzman asked 
a disciplinary panel Wednesday to dismiss charges of misconduct against 
him for failing to fire a lawyer in his court who improperly billed estates 
hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees before performing any work.
The hearing before the state Commission on Judicial Conduct offered a rare 
glimpse inside what are usually secret proceedings. Holzman waived his 
right to confidentiality last year.
Fewer than a dozen judges have elected to waive secrecy in more than 750 
cases since 1978, according to the commission.
In a crowded hearing room, a lawyer for the commission's counsel and 
Holzman's lawyer painted diametrically opposing portraits of the judge in 
the months after he learned in 2006 that lawyer Michael Lippman had been 
billing legal fees in advance, a violation of the court's protocol.
"The surrogate put in place measures to remedy the problem and protect 
the public," said Holzman's lawyer, David Godosky. He claimed the judge 
was the only one to act to fix the issue, while investigators from the FBI, 
the city's Department of Investigation and the Bronx district attorney's office 
did not charge Lippman with any wrongdoing for years.
But Mark Levine, the lawyer for the commission's counsel, told the commission 
that Holzman had abandoned his duty to the public and urged it to remove him 
from the bench.
"Don't let him fool you," Levine said. "This was a clear abrogation of judicial responsibility."
The commission filed charges against Holzman after Lippman, the counsel to 
the public administrator, was indicted in 2010 for stealing $300,000 in excess 
fees. Lippman has pleaded not guilty.
The public administrator handles estates for which there is no designated heir.
Rather than fire Lippman, Holzman instead demoted him and instituted a 
repayment structure in which Lippman would turn over any new fees he 
earned to repay the money he had improperly collected in previous cases. 
Holzman said Wednesday he was unaware of the extent of Lippman's 
transgressions in 2006.
Last year, a judicial referee, retired state Supreme Court Justice Felice 
O'Shea, conducted a three-week trial to determine whether any of the 
commission's misconduct charges should stand.
In her July report, O'Shea concluded one count of misconduct should be 
sustained for Holzman's failure to terminate Lippman but recommended that 
he be cleared of other charges, including claims that he broke the law by rubber-stamping Lippman's fees without enough documentation and that his lack of 
oversight led to corruption in his court. She also found that Holzman had 
allowed his personal affection for Lippman to color his judgment.
Wednesday's hearing was called to hear arguments from both sides on whether 
the commission should accept all, some or none of O'Shea's findings.
Holzman defended his decision, telling the commission it was an appropriate 
response that would ensure estates were made whole while forcing Lippman 
to complete the work for which he had already been paid. Lippman did not 
earn another penny after 2006, he said.
But Levine said Holzman's motives were far more self-serving. He said 
Holzman had no desire to expose himself to scrutiny and wanted to protect 
Lippman, whom Levine described as a longtime friend of Holzman's.
"He was not my friend," Holzman said in response. "There was absolutely no 
attempt to cover it up."
Holzman is retiring at the end of the year after having reached the state's 
mandatory retirement age, but Levine said his actions still warranted removal 
and would serve notice to other judges that such conduct will not be tolerated.
The commission, which met after the hearing in private to discuss the matter, 
will issue a written decision, likely later this fall. If the commission disciplines 
Holzman, he will have 30 days to appeal its decision to the court of appeals.
The case is the Matter of the Honorable Lee Holzman.
For the commission: Mark Levine.
For Holzman: David Godosky of Godosky & Gentile.
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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.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

10 Lawsuits Against The NYPD That You Should Know About

Categories: NYPD, Victoria Bekiempis

Yesterday, the Voice reported on a lawsuit filed against the NYPD, which alleges that the department's "Dead or Likely To Die" accident policy leads to botched investigations.
But this is hardly the only suit to hit the department recently.
So we have put together a guide to ten key court claims, which involve everything from negligence to grooming to religion. (Note: some categories include more than one filing, but the number totals ten.)
Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths
We mentioned this before, but Jacob Stevens is suing the department, claiming officers dragged their feet when investigating the car that fatally struck his wife, Clara Heyworth.
This suit, reportedly the first of its kind, puts to question the NYPD's treatment of cycling and pedestrian deaths.
Hasidic Jewish Beards
NYPD recruit Fishel Litzman, a 38-year-old father of three and Hasidic Jew, was canned Friday because his beard was too long. But, you know, having a beard is part of being a Hasidic Jew and all, so he's planning on suing the department. Of note: The NYPD has had problems with religious dress requirements before. Remember that top brass has long struggled with Sikhs, who grow beards and wear turbans as part of their religion.
Muslim Spy Scheme
Not too long after The Associated Press uncovered the NYPD's surveillance of entire Islamic communities in the Northeast, a major Muslim advocacy group has slammed the department with a civil rights suit, demanding an end to spying.
Anti-Gay Muslim Bias
This news just broke today: A Muslim cop hopeful has decided to take the Police Academy to court, claiming it's discriminating against him because of his anti-gay bias, reports theNew York Post. The paper claims that he checked the "'yes' box next to the question, 'Do you believe that homosexuals should be locked up?'" -- which disqualified him for cadet candidacy. He says that Islam treats homosexuality as a sin, so the department's policies are discriminatory, he claims.
Treatment of Occupy Wall Street Protestors
One class-action suit lambastes the NYPD's barricading tactics . Other Occupy-oriented civil court actions claim First Amendment violations and police harassment of demonstrators.
Arrest Quotas
A Federal judge agreed in April to give class status to 22 New Yorkers who say the NYPD's quota system, which officials deny exists, "leads street cops to hand out summonses even when no crime or violation has occurred just to meet productivity demands from their bosses."
Adrian Schoolcraft, NYPD Whistleblower and NYCLU
As chronicled by Graham Rayman, Adrian Schoolcraft was locked up in a psych ward after claiming his commanders manipulated crime statistics. He made recordings inside the precinct confirming these manipulation allegations, however. He's suing the department, as is the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU says Schoolcraft's precinct won't turn over public records.
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Jonathan Cooper, Esq.:Why the NY Lawsuit Against LIPA is a Mere Publicity Stunt

From Betsy Combier:

It seems to me that Attorney Cooper is addressing the Courts' interest in not opening up "Pandora's Box" when wrong-doing occurs. If stealing, plundering, and negligence have been overlooked by the Court in the past, why not keep overlooking it?

This has to change.

Betsy Combier 

I hope I'm wrong about this. But I highly doubt it.

I just had my power restored on Sunday morning, and my phones and internet were just restored two days ago in the aftermath of Sandy. I heard over the radio that a class action lawsuit charging LIPA with negligence has been filed. Since, at least in theory, I would be a member of that class, I certainly hope it succeeds. But I don't think it will.

Here's why:

In the aftermath of another blackout, New York State's highest court issued a decision issued in 1994 and went to the unusual step of acknowledging publicly their reluctance to impose liability for negligence on a public utility because of broader policy concerns, including potentially devastating financial damages, stating:

"This Court has from time to time addressed the scope of the duty of a utility, or a similarly situated entity, arising from negligence in the performance of contractual obligations ( see, e.g., Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093; Strauss v. Belle Realty Co., 65 N.Y.2d 399, 492 N.Y.S.2d 555, 482 N.E.2d 34, supra; Moch Co. v. Rensselaer Water Co., 247 N.Y. 160, 159 N.E. 896). Consistently, this Court has emphasized that determining the scope of the duty and the consequent sphere of potential liability is fundamentally a policy question, with the objective being to " 'fix[ ] the [entity's] orbit of duty' " so as to " ' "limit the legal consequences of wrongs to a controllable degree" ' " ( Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., supra, 76 N.Y.2d at 226-227, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093; Strauss v. Belle Realty Co., supra, 65 N.Y.2d at 402, 492 N.Y.S.2d 555, 482 N.E.2d 34; Moch Co. v. Rensselaer Water Co., supra, 247 N.Y. at 164-168, 159 N.E. 896; cf., ***689 **271 Palka v. Servicemaster Mgt. Servs. Corp., 83 N.Y.2d 579, 585-587, 611 N.Y.S.2d 817, 634 N.E.2d 189). We noted in Palka that the existence and scope of an alleged tortfeasor's duty, at the threshold, is a legal, policy-laden determination dependent on consideration of different forces, including logic, science, competing socioeconomic policies, and contractual assumptions of responsibility."

Simply put, even if the plaintiffs could prove that LIPA was grossly negligent and incompetent, I don't see a New York court opening Pandora's box and allowing them to recover consequential damages.

In fact, I would be quite surprised if LIPA doesn't move to dismiss the lawsuit from the get-go on these grounds.

Best regards,
Jonathan Cooper Signature

Friday, November 2, 2012

New York State's Corruption Risk Report Card: It Aint Good

The story behind the score

New York’s newly created ethics commission has its work cut out for it in a state government that’s often defined by dysfunction and corruption. Read more from SII State Reporter David King.
Latest state news for New York
Gov. Scott Walker survived his recall election. The same cannot be said for the integrity of campaign finance laws in Wisconsin.
Incumbents targeted for recall are freed from Wisconsin's normal fundraising limits, and can collect unlimited contributions from individual donors. With the election between Walker and his Democratic opponent, former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, seen as a battleground for national partisan politics, money poured in on both sides. But Walker exploited the seemingly infinite loophole to tremendous advantage: By election day, Walker's campaign had received more than $30 million in donations, a total that approached the $37.5 million spent by both sides during the 2010 election,according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Wisconsin received a grade of 'C-' from the State Integrity Investigation for its political financing laws and practices, with reporter Kate Golden finding proper measures on limits, enforcement, and transparency, while also documenting numerous exemptions and back-channels, including the recall election loophole. But in other states, the potentially polluting influence of unlimited, and sometimes unsupervised campaign financing is constant and permanent, borne out of state laws and practices -- or their absence.
Read more 

State integrity news for New York, from the New York Times:
Frustrated with Albany’s tepid reaction to the idea of publicly financed elections, the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and his fiancĂ© are financing a new campaign to press the issue in coordination with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The group has also enlisted two former Cuomo aides to help plot its strategy. The campaign, Protect Our Democracy, will include a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group and a political action committee.
Read the rest of of the story at the New York Times.
Read more 

State integrity news for New York, from the New York Times:
The law allows the disclosure of the names and pensions of retired public workers. But it exempts disclosure of the name of a “beneficiary” — which has long been interpreted to mean a person receiving the benefits after a retiree dies.
A state court ruling last year, however, found that a retiree could also be “beneficiary” and, therefore, could be shielded from disclosure. It is now up to the State Legislature to undo this ridiculous ruling and clarify an important law.
Read the rest of the story at the New York Times.
Read more 

State integrity news for New York, from the New York Times:
Cuomo administration officials argue that the governor pushed hard for ethics reform last year that, among other things, would require 501(c)(4) groups to disclose their donors.
Mr. Cuomo does not need to wait for that to happen. He can demonstrate his commitment to reform by pushing his friends at the committee to disclose all of its donors right now.
Read the rest of the story at the New York Times.
Read more 

State integrtiy news for New York, from the Daily Gazette:
The government transparency website Project Sunlight has been expanded by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to include the user friendly New York Open Government feature. Project Sunlight, which contains a collection of information compiled by the Attorney General's Office, will now help voters and government watchdogs hold state government accountable by offering up-to-date campaign contribution, lobbying and state contract data.
“Secrecy breeds corruption, while transparency generates confidence,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “New York Open Government will help the public keep an eye on what their government is doing in order to deter corruption and increase confidence in the public sector..