Brooklyn Surrogate's Court 2005

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Bench Judge: Panel

NY POST - February 15, 2005

By Zach Haberman and Dareh Gregorian

A Brooklyn judge who lined his buddy's pockets with millions in dead people's money should be booted from the bench, a state disciplinary panel has ruled.

Surrogate Court Judge Michael Feinberg "irredeemably damaged public confidence in the integrity of his court" and "engaged in misconduct that cannot be countenanced," the state Commission on Judicial Conduct found in a decision made public yesterday.

"A public sanction less than removal for such egregious misconduct would be wholly inadequate," it said.

The commission recommended the removal after finding Feinberg, 61, had awarded "excessive and overly generous" fees — more than $2 million — to longtime friend and former judge, Louis Rosenthal.

The action comes seven years after The Post first reported that Feinberg was rewarding political pals with lucrative court appointments.

Rosenthal had worked on and given money to Feinberg's campaign, The Post reported.

After getting that donation, Feinberg appointed Rosenthal as counsel to the public administrator, a post that does legal work for estates of people who died without wills or heirs.

As counsel, Rosenthal was legally entitled to collect up to 6 percent of the gross value of a person's estate, but the commission found Feinberg routinely allowed Rosenthal to collect 8 percent.

"These excessive fees came from the pockets of beneficiaries of estates that [Feinberg] had a duty to protect," said the report, which also blasted his "incredible, evasive and unreliable" testimony before the commission last year.

Feinberg maintained he wasn't familiar with the rules over Rosenthal's pay because he'd just "skimmed" the judicial guidelines. The commission called his account "unconvincing and, if true, inexcusable."

Feinberg's lawyer refused comment.

Neither Feinberg nor Rosenthal has been charged criminally and the Brooklyn DA's office refused comment.


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