From City Hall:
On its face, Rose McGushin’s case seems unremarkable. A 49-year-old woman who lives on a $13,000-a-year disability check in California, McGushin is wrangling with a Queens attorney over a disputed legal fee she says will cripple her financially. The attorney who is suing her, John “Sean” Crowley, recently filed litigation seeking $10,000 for work he performed on McGushin’s mother’s will nearly a decade ago.
Crowley is the brother of Queens Congressman Joe Crowley. And what makes the case unusual is that the judge who will hear the dispute on Thursday at 10 a.m., Queens Surrogate Court Judge Peter Kelly, essentially owes his position to the political support of Joe Crowley — who doubles as the Queens Democratic Party chairman.
Last year, Kelly ran unopposed for a 14-year term on the bench after getting the Democratic nomination from Crowley’s Queens Democratic Party.
McGushin recently penned a handwritten letter to Kelly asking for the case to be moved out of the Queens court system, due to what she says is a clear-cut conflict-of-interest.
“I feel I many not receive a fair trial with you, Judge Kelley [sic], presiding over my case,” she wrote, “where the petitioner is John E. Crowley, brother of Joe Crowley who is the Queens Democratic chairman – head of the party that nominated you prior to your recent election.”
She received a terse response back from Kelly’s law clerk, Francis Kahn, telling her that under court rules, letters about a potential conflict of interest were not admissible. Kahn instructed McGushin, who has serious arthritis, that she would have to fly out from California to represent herself, or find an attorney to represent her.
A spokesman for the court system, David Bookstaver, said Judge Kelly ultimately has the sole power to decide whether conflict of interest exists and whether he must recuse himself.
McGushin has also taken her concern about a conflict of interest to the New York Unified Court System’s Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Fern Fischer. In a letter, McGushen told Fischer she was having trouble finding an attorney to represent her because “lawyers that I spoke to were very reluctant when they heard that a Crowley was suing me.” She says she never received a response.
And here's a followup from City Hall:
The judge in the case, Peter Kelly, is the brother of Queens Democratic leader Joe Crowley’s longtime chief of staff, Anne Marie Anzalone.