Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bronx Surrogate Court Judge Lee Holtzman Found Guilty of Official Misconduct By The New York State Commission On Judicial Conduct

reposted from Parentadvocates.org

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.
   Surrogate Lee Holtzman   
July 23, 2012
Bronx Judge in Misconduct Case Should Be Forced Out, Head of Panel Says

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?

Betsy Combier

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

The Surrogate Court Grave Robbers

re-posted from Parentadvocates.org
The subtitle of the article on the July 29, 2012 New York Post: "Judges' pals cashing in on estates in NY's crony-filled surrogates system". In NYS the grave-robbers are protected by Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman, Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Chief Judge Judith Kaye and her late husband's law firm, Proskauer Rose, which is protected by Attorney Michael Cardozo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Corporation Counsel and Mayor of New York City, respectively. My mom's estate was stolen from me on July 27, 1998 by court fixer Attorney Kenneth T. Wasserman and given to Public Administrator Ethel Griffin by retired Surrogate Judge Renee Roth, one of the Judges who would not comment on the article posted here. That's ok, Ms. Roth!!! We have the facts. Betsy Combier , Editor
How insiders snatch millions from estates in the scandal-scarred Surrogate Courts
By BRAD HAMILTON and MICHAEL GARTLAND, Last Updated: 10:59 AM, July 29, 2012

If you’re a lawyer in New York, there’s no sweeter deal than getting assigned to an estate case in Surrogate’s Court.

The work is often routine — selling assets, paying bills, contacting heirs — but the pay can reach into the millions.

Landing such a gig requires currying favor with one of the city’s seven surrogate judges, who handle wills and estates. They have the power to appoint lawyers and approve their sometimes jaw-dropping invoices.

The jobs often go to the judges’ friends, associates or campaign contributors, court authorities admit. Looting of the estates can sometimes result.

The most recent example involves Bronx Judge Lee Holzman, who last week faced removal from the surrogate bench after he signed off on legal work that was never done.

The bills, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, totaled $300,000 and went to the judge’s associate, lawyer Michael Lippman, a Democratic Party crony who ran Holzman’s campaign financing, raising $125,000, a court watchdog claims.

Lippman then got into money trouble himself, racking up $1 million in gambling debts and allegedly faking bills to cover his losses.

Prosecutors say they uncovered the cooked books and charged him with fraud.

Another alleged thief preyed on a lucrative and largely unsupervised part of the system — cases in which there is no will.

Such cases go to public administrators, who work with Surrogate’s Court judges in handling their finances.

In May, Richard Paul, the bookkeeper for the Brooklyn public administrator, was indicted for stealing $2.6 million from these estates, allegedly manipulating the check-writing process to get at the cash.

Judges who allow fraudulent pay-outs are “a disgrace to the legal profession and to the state of New York,” said Monroe Freedman, a Hofstra University professor and leading expert on legal ethics. “They should be removed from the bench and disbarred.”

Freedman said an entrenched system of favor-trading, with hints of bribery, has persisted for decades.

“They’re stealing from the client, which is one of the worst things you can do,” he said. “I can’t think of much worse. The judges are not only condoning it, but they’re helping lawyers do it.”

Even when there is no illegality, huge sums vanish.

A decade after Wall Street investment banker Ted Ammon was beaten to death in his East Hampton home, a group of politically connected lawyers pummeled his estate with $10 million in fees, records show.

That amounts to 20 percent of his $50 million fortune, well above the 6 percent rate that court administrators deem acceptable.

The staggering payments helped shrink the inheritance of Ammon’s adopted twin children — son Grego and daughter Alexa — to just $1 million each.

The hefty legal tab was rubber-stamped by Surrogate’s Court judges in Manhattan and Long Island.

One of them, former Manhattan Surrogate Eve Preminger, approved $4.3 million to a single firm, Schulte, Roth & Zabel.

That amounts to $9,710 per day between February 2002 and July 2003.

Preminger had personal ties to the firm. She privately worked with Schulte’s pointwoman on the case, lawyer Susan Frunzi. The two wrote a textbook, “Trusts and Estates Practice in New York,” together.

The judge also owned stock in JPMorgan Chase, which she approved as estate executor.

The bank picked Schulte, then submitted its own bill for $1.6 million.

After Ammon’s widow, Generosa, died of cancer in 2003, the matter moved to Surrogate’s Court in Suffolk County, where Gerard Sweeney, an insider with the Queens Democratic machine, made a windfall.

He and another lawyer, Michael Dowd, were executors to the estate of Generosa Ammon, but also got appointed as lawyers by the Suffolk judge, John Czygier.

Together they scooped up a cool $2.2 million.

Sweeney hired Eisner LLP, an accounting firm that charged $123,000 for just one month of work in April 2004.

State court authorities long ago recognized serious problems in the Surrogate’s Courts.

They conducted two blue-ribbon panel reviews, in 2001 and 2005, and found that there was “an opaque system that operates on the basis of connections and cronyism” and that its own rules were being ignored.

So in 2002, they pushed through reforms, barring court employees and political party leaders from getting fiduciary appointments.

Any lawyer who earns more than $75,000 in a given year on a single case he’s appointed to now must wait a year before getting a second appointment.

There’s also a “sunshine” provision that demands the court system publish the names of appointees and their fees on its official Web site.

But that hasn’t stopped the tide of scandal.

Former Brooklyn Surrogate Michael Feinberg was forced out in 2005 and disbarred for approving excessive fees of 8 percent to a law-school friend.

His successor, Frank Seddio, stepped down in 2007 amid a probe by the watchdog Commission on Judicial Conduct into allegations he sent campaign cash to political cronies.

A commission committee voted to boot Holzman last week, but he’s fighting to keep his job.

His defense is to claim that other surrogates did the same thing — namely, signing off on fat payments without examining invoices, a practice that court authorities say is not OK.

His examples, listed in rebuttal to the charges, include former Manhattan Surrogate Renee Roth, one of the four Ammon judges, who was ripped by the city bar association for handing two-thirds of her lucrative legal assignments to attorneys who funded her election.

Has anything really changed?

Not according to former Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Felice Shea, who was hired as a referee on the Holzman matter and dryly concluded last week that in Surrogate’s Courts “statutory compliance and transparency are not the norm.”

Court spokesman David Bookstaver said the new rules have greatly improved the system.

“They certainly lend themselves to much greater accountability and transparency and have gone a long way to increase the public’s understanding and confidence in the Surrogate Courts,” he said.

Preminger, Roth, Frunzi, Sweeney and Dowd did not return calls for comment.

Before his death in 2001, Ammon doted on children Grego and Alexa, who are now 21, but they stand to inherit far less than what has been paid to the court-approved experts — just $500,000 in cash each, plus $1million for them to share in a trust named after the widow Generosa.

That trust has only one other asset: the East Hampton home where their father was killed by Generosa’s husband, Danny Pelosi.

But the house, valued at $9 million, cannot be sold until their former nanny, Kathryn Ann Mayne, dies.

She gets to live there for free for as long as she wants.

Additional reporting by Alex Freeman


Bronx Surrogate Court Judge Lee Holtzman Found Guilty of Official Misconduct By The New York State Commission On Judicial Conduct

Oh - in 1994 the husband of former Judge Eve Preminger was disbarred. He was re-instated in 2010 with the recommendation of Federal Judge Laval, who told the disciplinary committee that Friedman's
disbarment was "unfair".

A Lawyer Is Disbarred For Lapses Of Ethics
By SETH FAISON, NY TIMES, Published: March 23, 1994

Correction Appended

A prominent Manhattan lawyer was ordered disbarred yesterday for unethical conduct that included making false statements after a Federal judge accused him of improperly slipping a piece of evidence to the jury, then trying to blame his co-counsel when the judge found out.

A panel of five judges from the New York State Supreme Court's Appellate Division based its decision to disbar the lawyer, Theodore H. Friedman, on what it identified as 13 instances of unethical conduct growing out of two personal injury cases. The panel decided the instances "were not simply inadvertent or solitary peccadillos" but "consisted of a pattern of professional misconduct."

"For this court to impose any other sanction would ignore our responsibility to the legal profession and the public," wrote the judges, led by Judge Francis T. Murphy. Jury Verdict Ignored

In making its decision, the appellate judges overruled a disciplinary committee of the First Judicial Department of the Appellate Division, which recommended that Mr. Friedman, a negligence lawyer, be suspended for two years. It also ignored a jury verdict in 1988 that acquitted Mr. Friedman of charges that he tried to bribe potential trial witnesses in a wrongful death suit against New York City.

Mr. Friedman and his lawyer, Michael S. Ross, said they were stunned by the decision to disbar and would appeal. Mr. Ross said several prominent Federal and state judges wrote letters to the panel to attest to Mr. Friedman's good character, including Judith S. Kaye, chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals.

"A jury heard the same charges for four weeks and rejected them in a half-hour," Mr. Friedman said last night. "I don't know how a court could come to so contrary a view. I hope that an appellate court will correct this error." To Be Struck From Rolls

While the Court of Appeals determines whether it will consider the case, Mr. Friedman is to be struck from the rolls of the New York State Bar on April 22.

Mr. Friedman, 62, was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1957, a year after he graduated from Harvard Law School. He is not a member of the bar in any other state, said his wife, Eve Preminger, a Surrogate's Court judge in Manhattan.

"I am shattered by this horrible miscarriage of justice," Judge Preminger said last night. "As his wife for 30 years, I can say that my husband is the most honorable lawyer I know. As a judge, I would hope that the court would go beyond the referee's findings and examine the total record, which exonerates my husband."

Several lawyers and acquaintances of Mr. Friedman's described him as a highly successful lawyer who has collected millions of dollars in contingency fees -- payments based on a percentage of the award or settlement -- by representing clients in personal injury suits against individuals, companies and governments.

In 1992, he won a $58.77 million suit for a New York family whose son was seriously injured in a car accident near Cannes, France. He also represented the family of Libby Zion, who sued New York Hospital after she died mysteriously in 1984.

Frank Rosiny, chairman of the New York State Bar Committee on Professional Guidelines, said that fewer than 100 lawyers are disbarred each year in New York State, where more than 100,000 lawyers currently practice. Another lawyer said that most lawyers who are disbarred have been convicted of criminal wrongdoing, like stealing money from a client, unlike Mr. Friedman, who was accused of ethical lapses.

The earliest incident cited by the judges stemmed from a case that was filed in 1978 by Mr. Friedman, who was representing a woman whose husband died in a ship collision. The trial began in 1981 before Judge Pierre S. Leval in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

During the trial, Judge Leval denied a request by Mr. Friedman to include an expert's report as an exhibit, but said Mr. Friedman could refer to it in his summation. After the jury decided in favor of Mr. Friedman's client, it was discovered that the report had been sent with other exhibits to the jury room during deliberations.

Mr. Friedman swore in an affidavit that his co-counsel, Frederick J. Cuccia, was responsible for sending the exhibit to the jury, but Mr. Cuccia was out of the country at the time. Mr. Cuccia later denied responsibility, and the judges ruled yesterday that Mr. Friedman knowingly made false statements in his affidavit.

Most of the instances of unethical behavior reported in yesterday's ruling stem from a second case, in which Mr. Friedman represented the wife of a man who fell down an elevator shaft in 1979 in her suit against New York City.

An investigator hired by Mr. Friedman, Elliot Goldman, was accused of trying to bribe a potential witness in the case. Mr. Goldman was convicted of bribery and solicitation of perjury in 1987.

Mr. Friedman was also indicted for trying to induce a witness to lie in court, but he was acquitted in a Manhattan court in 1988.

Correction: March 24, 1994, Thursday An article yesterday about Theodore H. Friedman, a Manhattan lawyer who was ordered disbarred for unethical conduct, referred incorrectly in some editions to the post held by his wife, Eve Preminger. She is a judge in Surrogate's Court in Manhattan, not a State Supreme Court justice.

Without A Prayer For Relief

Saturday, July 28, 2012

NYC Public Administrator Ethel Griffin Wants Heiress Huguette Clark's Estate

The Manhattan district attorney has launched a criminal investigation into the finances of Huguette Clark, the reclusive 104-year-old heiress with three empty mansions, who was profiled in a series of articles on MSNBC.com.
The inquiry is being conducted by the Elder Abuse Unit of the New York County District Attorney's Office, which investigated the finances of Brooke Astor, the society matron and heiress whose son and attorney were convicted in 2009 of siphoning $10 million from her. Astor died in 2007 at age 105, with an estate worth $131 million.
Huguette Clark's wealth is said to be roughly four times Astor's, or about half a billion dollars. Clark has no children. It's not known whether she has signed a will. She has lived in New York City hospitals for at least 22 years.
New York City detectives assigned to the office of DA Cyrus Vance Jr. are investigating the Clark case, including the actions of attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock and accountant Irving H. Kamsler, who control Huguette Clark's wealth and access to her hospital room.
A spokeswoman for Vance, Erin Duggan, said the office has a policy of not confirming whether an investigation is being conducted. Msnbc.com confirmed independently that detectives are making inquiries.
MSNBC.com reported last week that Clark's attorney and accountant became the owners of the New York City apartment of another elderly client after his last will and testament was revised six times. The accountant, Kamsler, has a criminal conviction for sending pornography to underage girls in an AOL chat room, according to court records. The attorney, Bock, arranged to sell quietly Clark's Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting for $23.5 million.
Clark's assets include more than $200 million in three unoccupied luxury homes:
• A $100 million Pacific cliffside estate on 23 acres in Santa Barbara, Calif. She hasn't visited it in at least 50 years.
• A country house on 52 acres in New Canaan, Conn., on the market now for $24 million. She expanded the house in 1952 but never moved in.
• A massive apartment in New York City, 907 Fifth Ave. at 72nd Street, the largest apartment on that storied avenue overlooking Central Park. Her 42 rooms on two floors occupy 15,000 square feet. A real estate agent who has sold apartments in that building values Clark's at roughly $100 million. She hasn't been seen here in about 22 years. 
In a series of stories since February, MSNBC.com has reported that Huguette Clark has lived alone, secluding herself in her home with her French dolls and dollhouses for the past half century, and has been in hospital rooms in New York City, though her health was said to be good.
The series of articles on msnbc.com also disclosed:
• Clark's attorney, 78-year-old Bock, arranged to sell the $6 million Stradivarius violin that her mother gave her for her 50th birthday, according to the dealer who handled the sale. The buyer signed a confidentiality agreement when Clark was 95 years old, agreeing not to disclose who sold the violin for at least 10 years.
• Her accountant, 63-year-old Kamsler, pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending pornography to underage girls in an AOL chat room, according to court records. He was using the AOL handle IRV1040 (as in his first name, Irving, and the IRS 1040 tax form). He also, like his client Huguette Clark, had a federal tax lien for unpaid taxes.
• The attorney and accountant became owners of property that was signed over to them by another elderly client in New York City, according to court records. The man, who was attorney Bock's law partner, suffered from dementia in his later years, according to his goddaughter and neighbors. Before he died, he signed over to Bock and Kamsler his New York apartment in the Dorchester, at 57th Street near Park Avenue, as well as his Mercedes and $200,000 — in addition to the $380,000 in fees they collected for managing his $4 million estate.
• Bock and Kamsler arranged to sell Clark's Renoir in 2003 for $23.5 million, and her country home in New Canaan, Conn., is on the market for $24 million.
• Access to her is tightly controlled. Relatives who tried to visit her New York hospital room have been turned away by the attorney, though one persistent half-great-niece got as far as the room where Clark was asleep. (We are not revealing the name of the hospital.)
• The accountant is said to visit regularly. The attorney told msnbc.com in January that he speaks with her frequently by phone and has met her only twice — the first of her seven attorneys to meet her face to face.
Bock and Kamsler have declined to answer questions about any of their actions.
A famous father
Huguette ("hue-GET") Marcelle Clark is the last surviving child of William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), a copper miner and United States senator who in his time was said to be neck and neck with John D. Rockefeller for the title, richest American.
Clark made a fortune in Montana copper, banks and railroads, collected a museum full of art from Europe, and owned the land that would become Las Vegas, where Clark County is named for him.William Andrews Clark was caught in a bribery scandal during a campaign for the U.S. Senate — he was said to describe the Montana legislators this way: "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale."
Though the Senate refused to seat him, he was re-elected and served one term, from 1901 to 1907, as a Democrat from Montana. During that term the widower Clark announced that he had secretly been married in Paris and had a child with his former ward, Anna, 39 years his junior. ("THEY'RE MARRIED AND HAVE A BABY," thundered one headline.) A second daughter, Huguette, was born in 1906. Her sister died at age 16, leaving her the only surviving child of this second marriage.
When Sen. Clark died in 1925, he left a gaudy 121-room house then at Fifth Avenue and 77th Street, and a fortune divided among Anna, Huguette and four adult children from his first marriage. Anna died in 1963, leaving her share to Huguette.
Huguette Clark is said by relatives to be quite alert, or was the last time anyone besides her attorney and accountant was able to speak with her by phone, some years back.
The district attorney's office has put greater emphasis on investigating and preventing crimes against the elderly since Vance, son of the former U.S. secretary of state, took office in January. The Elder Abuse Unit has been expanded under the direction of experienced prosecutor Elizabeth Loewy, who headed the Astor case.
Separate civil actionAside from a criminal investigation, which could take months, an attorney who worked on the Brooke Astor case said anyone could go to court to file a guardianship petition, asking a court to appoint someone to handle her affairs. It would normally be a relative or friend or financial institution, but anyone could go to court.
"Actually, anyone has standing," said the attorney, Susan Robbins, meaning anyone can go before the court, without needing to have a personal stake in the matter. Robbins was the court-appointed attorney for Astor.
 In addition, anyone who is concerned about the financial or physical well-being of an elderly person, even if that person doesn't have direct evidence of wrongdoing, can contact Adult Protective Services in New York City. More than a dozen readers told msnbc.com that they made referrals to Adult Protective Services after reading last week's articles.
A previous client
Clark's attorney, Bock, drew up the wills for one of his law partners, Donald Wallace, who died in 2002 at age 76. Wallace's will — the sixth one drawn up by Bock — left his apartment to Bock and Kamsler, gave each man $100,000 and left Kamsler his Mercedes sedan. Though the co-op board refused to hand over the apartment to the two men, a change to Wallace's will left it to the attorney and accountant. In his final days, when according to his goddaughter and a neighbor he had severe dementia, Wallace was subletting his own apartment from his attorney and accountant, according to probate records in the Surrogate's Court in New York City. (You can read the documents in this PDF file.)
Bock wrote in court documents, "At no time did I ever request or suggest, directly or by implication, to DLW that he provide for me in his will," referring to Donald L. Wallace. "On the contrary, I said to him that he was being overly generous, that he had done enough for me with various gifts given over the years. He insisted however, stating that the people he named as beneficiaries in his Will were 'his family' and that is what he wanted to do."
The arrestHer accountant, Kamsler, was arrested on Sept. 6, 2007, in Nassau County on Long Island, in an Internet sex sting. The indictment alleged that in 2005 and 2007 he had tried to entice 13- and 15-year-old girls in an AOL chatroom to meet with him, sending them pornography and describing touching their private areas. These girls turned out to be police officers. Police said Kamsler was using the AOL handle IRV1040 (as in his first name, Irving, and the IRS 1040 tax return).
Kamsler told police that he thought he was in an adult chatroom and was just "pretending" with women that they were girls. He pleaded guilty in October 2008 to all the charges: six counts of attempting to disseminate indecent material to minors in the first degree and nine counts of attempting to endanger the welfare of a child. He got no jail time, just five years of probation, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and sex-offender restrictions.
IRS difficulties
Property records in New York show Kamsler also had trouble with the IRS, with a tax lien in 2003 for $18,853, paid off three months later. Huguette Clark has had her own tax liens — four times the IRS has filed to collect taxes from her.
The StradivariusIn 2001, Clark's Stradivarius violin was sold. It is one of the most famous, known as La Pucelle, or The Virgin, because its works were unopened for more than a century after it was made by Antonio Stradivari in 1709. Huguette Clark's mother, Anna Eugenia La Chappelle Clark, gave it to her for a 50th birthday present in 1956.
 The premier violin dealer Charles Beare described it as "almost certainly the finest Stradivari that's not in a museum and certainly the best-preserved."
The first draft of the confidentiality agreement proposed by Bock was so onerous, Beare said, that it would forbid the purchaser from revealing that he owned the violin, much less who he bought it from, or even the seller's gender. He could not play it in the presence of anyone, ever.
Beare said the buyer who paid $6 million, retired software developer David Fulton, balked at those terms but agreed to a 10-year-ban on revealing the previous owner. Fulton would not comment to msnbc.com, citing the confidentiality agreement, which runs until early 2011.
 The RenoirIn 2003, the year she turned 97, one of Huguette Clark's paintings was sold by Sotheby's for $23.5 million. Report at the time said the painting came from "the estate of Huguette Clark," though she was alive.
No comment
Neither Bock nor Kamsler would respond to questions about these incidents.
 Wallace Bock, in an interview early this year at the Lexington Avenue office of the law firm of Collier, Halpern, Newberg, Nolletti & Bock, would say only that Huguette was quite a beauty in her day, that he talks to her regularly on the phone and that her mind is clear though her eyesight and hearing have dimmed with age. He also said he would not pass on to her a request for an interview and that she doesn't care about publicity or reputation. He threatened to get a judge to stop msnbc.com from printing a word about his client.
Additional reading
More links for "The Clarks: An American story of wealth, scandal and mystery":
All of msnbc.com's reports on Huguette Clark are gathered here.
Part one of the investigative report, At 104, mysterious heiress is alone now

Huguette Clark's beneficiaries may have to give back gifts
Saturday, June 16, 2012

Heiress Huguette Clark

Reclusive Manhattan heiress Huguette Clark lavished her caretakers with million-dollar mansions, rare violins and coveted works of art.
But if the court-appointed official overseeing Clark’s estate gets her way, her newly rich former nurses and doctors will have to return the gifts.
Public administrator Ethel Griffin has asked a court to force Clark’s ex-staffers to give up the goods, saying they manipulated the copper heiress into leaving them the stunning largess.
The effort is part of Griffin’s bid to reclaim $37 million for the $400 million estate, The Associated Press reported.
“It does not appear that anyone in a position of power or authority ever intervened to ensure that Mrs. Clark possessed the requisite capacity to make gifts and was acting of her own free ill,” Deputy Public Administrator Joy Thompson wrote in last month’s filing.
Clark died last year at age 104. The heir to a copper fortune, Clark had no kids and left nothing in her will to family members.
Among those targeted by Griffin is Clark’s private nurse, Hadassah Peri.
She was showered with almost $28 million, including three Manhattan apartments, two homes elsewhere and a $1.2 million Stradivarius violin.
Peri’s family received an additional $3 million.
Peri’s lawyer disputed the claim that she took advantage of Clark.
“(Clark) was a very generous woman” who made gifts to people she rarely or never saw, said the lawyer, Harvey Corn.
“It’s absurd to think that she would not give gifts to the individuals who worked with her.”
A handful of other nurses and doctors were gifted more than $4 million.
Members of Clark’s medical staff weren’t the only ones to make out like bandits.
Accountant Irving Kamsler got $435,000 in gifts, while lawyer Wallace Bock was given $60,000.
In an especially bizarre bounty, Bock was also rewarded with a $1.8 million contribution from Clark for a security system for the Israeli settlement where his daughter lives.
“The record will show that Wally Bock acted in Huguette Clark’s interest at all times,” said his lawyer John Dadakis.
With News Wire Services

Investigative reporter Bill Dedman of msnbc.com
By Bill Dedman Investigative reporter
NBC News
updated 9/1/2010 7:02:47 AM ET


Huguette Clark, the reclusive 104-year-old heiress, is known as generous toward those who care for her, including her social secretary, who received a $10 million gift. It's now clear that her longtime nurse has also been a recipient: To her, Clark has given the money to buy four homes for her family.
Clark also has made gifts benefiting her attorney's family, including a dollhouse worth more than $10,000 and a $1.5 million security system for the settlement where the attorney's daughters and grandchildren live in Israel.
Cynthia Garcia, a paralegal who worked for two years for Clark's attorney, Wallace "Wally" Bock, described those gifts in an interview with msnbc.com. Garcia also said that Bock and Clark's accountant drafted a will that would have left money to Bock, trying repeatedly to persuade her to sign it — then joked about their client and cursed her behind her back when she would not sign the will.
The paralegal also said that attorney Bock called her last week after investigators started looking into Clark's affairs, encouraged her to leave town, and offered to pay for an attorney to represent her, who then told her not to talk to investigators or the press.
A spokesman for Bock acknowledged the gifts, but said that he acted "appropriately, professionally and consistent with her wishes."
Msnbc.com reported last week that the Manhattan district attorney is investigating the finances of the 104-year-old Clark, daughter of a Montana copper miner and heiress to one of America's great fortunes. The DA's Elder Abuse Unit has detectives looking at transactions in her bank accounts, as well as the sale of her Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting for $23.5 million.
Her wealth, estimated at half a billion dollars, is managed by her attorney, Bock, 78, of Queens, N.Y., and her certified public accountant, a convicted felon named Irving H. Kamsler, 63, of the Bronx, N.Y. The men have not been accused of a crime.
Full coverage: 'The Clarks, an American story of wealth, mystery and scandal'
Msnbc.com also reported that the attorney and accountant became the owners of the New York City apartment of another elderly client after his last will and testament was revised six times.
Private nurse on call Clark is said to be alert and in good health for her age, but she left her Fifth Avenue apartment for hospital rooms some 22 years ago. A few years later, she hired a nurse through an agency, and that nurse has been with her ever since.
Huguette Clark in 1930
Associated Press
This is the last known photo of Huguette Clark, taken Aug. 11, 1930, the day of her divorce, in Reno, Nev.
Hadassah Peri, 60, is an immigrant from the Philippines and a registered nurse. She has spent long hours at the hospital as Clark's private nurse and is on call 24 hours a day, according to her attorney, John P. Reiner. Property records show that Peri owns at least six properties in the New York area, including four that Peri's attorney confirmed were gifts from her employer.
Clark gave Peri the cash in 2000 and 2001 to buy two apartments in Manhattan, on E. 96th Street near Park Avenue, for Peri's children to use as dorms while they were in college, the attorney said. They're valued between $200,000 and $350,000 each, according to property records.
There also is a two-unit house near Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, near the Peri family home. Clark offered to buy this house so there would be room for Peri's visiting family to stay. It's valued at about $700,000.
Finally, there's a vacation house next to a golf course on the Jersey Shore near Long Branch, N.J., valued at about $500,000.
Peri referred all questions to her attorney, Reiner, who said Clark bought the four homes for Peri and her family as gifts to thank her for nearly 20 years of attentive service.
The paralegal Cynthia Garcia, the former paralegal for Clark's attorney who has been interviewed by the DA, described expensive gifts that benefitted the family of attorney Bock — including the dollhouse and the security system. She first described these gifts in Saturday's New York Post.
Bock's spokesman, Michael McKeon, confirmed that those two gifts were made, but he said the paralegal has many of the details wrong and is just seeking "her 15 minutes of fame."
Image: Cynthia Garcia, former paralegal for Wallace "Wally" Bock, the attorney for heiress Huguette Clark
Courtesy of Cynthia Garcia
Cynthia Garcia, former paralegal for Wallace "Wally" Bock, attorney for heiress Huguette Clark.
Cynthia Garcia, 42, worked for Bock from 2000 to 2002, and now lives in Florida.
She told msnbc.com that Clark gave Bock's granddaughter an antique Barbie dollhouse worth more than $1 million. Bock's spokesman, McKeon, said the dollhouse was neither an antique, nor a Barbie dollhouse, and was worth somewhere in the five figures, between $10,000 and $100,000.
Garcia also said Bock solicited from Clark a check for $1.5 million after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to build the security system, which Garcia called a "bomb shelter," for the community in Israel where his daughters and their families live.
McKeon, Bock's spokesman, said Clark did make a donation of about $1.5 million to the community in Israel, but it was not to Bock's family. He said it was for a sophisticated security system for the community — not a bomb shelter — and that the money was handled scrupulously through an attorney inIsrael, with money placed in an escrow account and paid out as needed for the installation. If Bock's family were to leave the community, McKeon said, the security system would stay.
New York state ethics rules prohibit lawyers from soliciting gifts from clients "for the benefit of the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer," but allow some gifts that are volunteered.
'Consistent with her wishes' Huguette ("hue-GET") Marcelle Clark is the last surviving child of William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), a copper miner and U.S. senator who in his time was described by The New York Times as neck and neck with John D. Rockefeller for the title of richest American. Huguette, born in Paris and married only briefly, had no children. She has lived as a recluse for several decades, leaving unoccupied her three empty homes in California, Connecticut and New York City. Her attorney, Bock, has said he is the first of her seven attorneys to meet her, and that even he has met her only twice.
Image: Huguette Clark
Copper King Mansion Bed And Breakfast, Butte, Mont.
Huguette Clark, heiress to a copper fortune, has been secluded for decades. In June she turned 104 in a New York hospital.
In an interview with msnbc.com, the former paralegal Garcia made several other claims about the conduct of Clark's lawyer and accountant.
Kamsler and Bock have not responded to repeated requests for explanation, but McKeon offered point-by-point rebuttals to some of Garcia's claims, and also issued a blanket statement on Bock's behalf:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Assemblyman Keith Wright's Secret Judicial Screening Panels

And, I ask, what about the New York State Supreme Court Judge Geoffrey Wright  who seems to have the right of way when it comes to cases brought to him - he does whatever the "Fixers" want. His brother Keith is the titled head of the Democtratic Party here in New York City. If anyone has any comments about Judge Greg Wright, please email them to: betsy.combier@gmail.com, as I'm researching the Wright Brothers.
Betsy Combier

Judge Geoffrey Wright

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner And Assembly's Keith Wright To Take Over NYS Democratic Party

Out with Jay Jacobs, in with Keith Wright and Stephanie Miner.
keith wright facebook.jpgGov. Cuomo, the de facto head of the state Democratic Party has spoken: Syracuse Mayor Miner and Wright (pictured), a Harlem Assemblyman and head of the New York County branch of the party, will take the helm after what should be a perfunctory vote on June 5.
“Mayor Miner and Assemblyman Wright are outstanding leaders both for our party and our state," Cuomo said in a statement announcing the picks, which also included laudatory canned quotes about the new racially/geographically/gender balanced partnership from Sen. Chuck Schumer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
"They have been dedicated community leaders and champions of the key missions of the Democratic Party. I thank them for agreeing to serve in these critical positions and look forward to working with them in their new roles.”
Jacobs announced a week ago today that he planned to step down as chairman of the party. He will remain head of the Nassau County party.
“I expect to turn the Chairman’s gavel over to both of them with full confidence that they will continue the good work we have done over the last few years supporting our elected leaders and candidates at all levels of government in the State," Jacobs said in a release.
I wonder what this means for Wright's much-rumored, if currently un-acted-upon, interest in Rep. Charlie Rangel's job...

The Flacks Report
Note:  The following was written before the 18 June 2012 N.Y. County Democrats judiciary committee meeting where the committee decided to make the screening panelists names public at the time they begin their work.  It's worth reading.  As the dean of the screening panel process attorney Stanley Geller says, “The panelists' names are public; their work is confidential.”  Judiciary committee co-chair District Leader Louise Dankberg said that making the names public at the outset provides transparency of the process.  We shall see if the County Leader makes good on this when the Supreme Court screening panel convenes.

By Alan Flacks - (212) 840+12.34
In 1977, the New York County Democratic party incorporated a screening panel for judges in its rules.  These were to be--and were--open panels.  The names of the panelists were made public before they began their interviews.  In fact, at one time the New York Law Journal also published the names of the panelists.

        Under County Leaders Miriam Bockman and Herman Denny Farrell (1977 to 2009) the panelists’ names were public at the outset of their work.  Indeed, Farrell's co-law chair Arthur Grieg stated at the March, 2012, County District Leader meeting that he gave the panelists names to all applicants.  "Candidates have an absolute right to know the names of panel members reviewing their applications and which group designated them. I always gave the list to any candidate who requested the list. . . I found that candidates having the names of panel members aided the process by identifying possible issues of bias, conflict with a panel member. . . . "

        With the advent of Keith Wright as county leader, the panelists names are kept secret, and he has been chastised thrice for doing that in Daily News editorials.  Former N.Y.C. Councilmember and former chair of the New Democratic Coalition's Manhattan Judiciary Committee Jane Trichter says that Keith Wright is destroying our legacy.
        Former panelist and panel administrator attorney Steven De Castro wrote in part:  "It is absolutely right that the panelists have a duty to protect themselves from outside influence, but that is not related to the issue of whether the panelists' names are released. . . The complaint of potential conflicts of interest commonly arises every year, but I don't see how this problem can ever be addressed if the panelists' names are kept secret. . . ."

         Secrecy from the public causes the appearance of impropriety said former Lexington Dems Club State Committeeman Bud Plautz.  And former Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman said:  "I was the first panel administrator under reform rules when Miriam Bockman became County Leader.  No-one ever said they were secret or treated them that way; in fact, every panelist was introduced to every applicant by name and organization whose leader sent them."  Indeed, attorney Stanley Geller, who started the panel screening (initially called "The Geller Panels") said "The panelist names are public; their work is confidential."

        Secret Keith Wright Panels.  Yet here are the current myriad open panels where all the panelists' names are made public before they interview candidates:  The Governor's four Appellate Division screening panels; the State Constitution's Court of Appeals screening panel; the Mayor's Committee on the Judiciary [for Family, Criminal, & interim Civil courts]; the Office of Court Administration's thirteen judicial qualification panels; Sen. Schumer's screening panel for the Federal judiciary; and--lo! [after Clarence Norman went to prison for selling judgeships]--the Kings County "Regular" Dems screening panel is public.  BUT NOT KEITH WRIGHT's, who has secret screening panels after years of open panels under Bockman and Farrell (1977 to 2009)!  This is a serious attack on the whole screening panel system and an attempt to go back to the Tammany Hall DeSapio days.
    Now is the winter of our fiscal discontent
    Made glorious summer by this sun of Mario;
    And all the clouds that lour'd upon our Senate
    In the deep bosom of the Catskills buried.
From  ALAN FLACKS  at:   alphlax@yahoo.com
Tele.:  (212) 840+12.34


He's for the gov

  • Last Updated: 9:33 AM, October 1, 2009
  • Posted: 3:15 AM, October 1, 2009
  • LINK
Assemblyman and Manhattan Democratic Chairman Keith Wright (Manhattan), who supports David Paterson for governor:
"As far as I'm concerned, there is no race for governor. New York County is behind David Paterson.
"He's done a lot of things he has not received recognition for.
"The question is whether David Paterson is going to be the people's pick in New York state. How does he overcome it? If there's a way, he'll do it. I've known the man for over four decades. He's persevered."