On his governmental website, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, who has represented a Queens district since 2011, calls himself a "full-time legislator." In fact, Mr. Simanowitz has in recent months been picking up quite a bit of outside work in the legal field, with some of his assignments coming via a connection cozy even by the standard of clubby Queens politics.
Since March, Mr. Simanowitz, who is not an attorney, has been appointed as "court evaluator" in nine Queens state Supreme Court cases. For the six that have yielded payments so far, he has received $11,225 in compensation, records show.
The assemblyman is among 936 individuals on a list of people eligible for such appointments in Queens. Though Mr. Simanowitz is new to the field, he has some helpful connections: Four of his nine cases have come from Judge Lee Mayersohn, who is the son of Mr. Simanowitz's mentor and Assembly predecessor, Nettie Mayersohn.
A staffer for Mr. Simanowitz told Crain's that Mr. Simanowitz was doing the work as a public service, and that it was not especially lucrative compared to other types of work doled out by judges, such as guardianship appointments. But the assemblyman is not eligible to do much of that lucrative work because he is not an attorney.
Mr. Simanowitz is also the treasurer of the Queens Democratic organization. Judges in Queens are almost always elected because they are nominated with the political support of the Queens Democratic machine.
Queens Councilman-elect Paul Vallone has landed 14 court evaluator appointments over the past year. But during his hard-fought Democratic primary for the northeast Queens council seat, Mr. Vallone said that he would be a full-time legislator. A spokesman said that Mr. Vallone would indeed be taking his name off the list of those seeking appointments in 2014. Paul Vallone is the brother of term-limited Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. and son of former Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr.