Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Kings County consiglieres


NY Daily News

Brooklyn lawyers who decide who can get the crucial Democratic ballot line to run for prized judicial seats are getting jobs as legal guardians and referees from the very judges they’re charged with reviewing — and their law firms are appearing before those same judges in active cases.

Of the 25 attorneys listed as serving on the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s judicial screening panel in 2019, at least five have been given jobs as court-appointed lawyers by the judges they’re tasked with reviewing, the Daily News has learned.

Judicial screening panel members Helene Blank, Mark Longo, Betty Lugo, Melissa Bonaldes and Steven Finkelstein all took work in the last year from judges they’ve reviewed or could review in the future, an analysis of state court records shows.

Alex Camarda, a senior policy analyst at the good-government group Reinvent Albany, described that dynamic as problematic.

 “That certainly creates the perception of a conflict of interest,” he said. “The public should have confidence that judges are being selected on the merits rather than their position on cases involving party officials.”

Since 2018, Finkelstein has received 20 court-appointed referee assignments from Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Mark Partnow and six from Judge Lawrence Knipel, court records show.

From 2008 to the present, Finkelstein has raked in at least $271,000 from those and similar appointments, records show. He joined the panel in 2016.

Veteran lawyer Martin Edelman has served as the judicial panel’s chairman since 2004. He noted that several bar associations appoint its members and about one-third of the panel’s members are selected by Democratic Party district leaders.

Edelman, the former president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, said since state Supreme Court judges serve 14-year terms, members of the panel usually only review them once.

“The idea that we get to see the same judge year after year is simply not the case,” he said, arguing that if judges were trying to sway attorneys through doling out appointments, they would have to influence more than five lawyers to secure a majority of votes on the panel.

The panel’s judicial screenings take place the same year judges run for election or re-election. Partnow was re-elected to serve in Brooklyn Supreme Court in 2016, the same year Finkelstein joined the panel. Judge Noach Dear was elected in 2015, and Knipel was re-elected in 2012.

In the last two years, the three judges have directed 28 referee appointments to Lugo, 44 to Longo and 30 to Blank, records show. Blank and Longo have both served on the panel since around 2005, about 14 years, according to Edelman.

Lugo, who’s running for Queens district attorney, served on it in 2015 and 2017. She said she’s not serving on the panel this year, despite the fact that she’s listed on its roster. She said she’s “almost positive” she didn’t review Dear or Partnow as a member of the panel.

 Longo, an ethics lawyer and former president of the Brooklyn Bar Association, acknowledged he could see how observers might perceive the potential for a conflict, but said, “In this situation, it’s not the case.”


Anonymous said...

the whole system is corrupt, from the governor who seems shocked that there is such a thing as pension padding to the lawyers who help pick and elect judges they will try their cases before.

just look what happened a few days ago. the nys legislative body enacted a pay raise that went along with no outside income requirement. now a judge just overturned the outside pay ban. result? 80k salary to 130k salary + they can get outside income.

everything seems like an inside job nowadays. the NYS, NYC gov't has lost all credibility. It is all pay to play and insider scheming.

Anonymous said...

Forget about Brooklyn- someone please tell me who puts the judges in Queens County Housing Court- let’s start with Clinton Guthrie who just happens to have an apartment in the building where he railroaded out a tenant- Apt 2F
He’s in the pockets of the landlord’s unless he is the landlord of the building where he’s busy evicting tenants from

Anonymous said...

Housing Court Judges are appointed by the Office of Court Administration, they are not elected.

Anonymous said...

Well, why I anyone surprised, those people get away with murder....greed is a powerful thing