Brooklyn Surrogate's Court 2005

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bench this judge pronto

BENCH THIS JUDGE PRONTO

NY Daily News -- Editorial
June 8, 2005

The state Court of Appeals tomorrow considers the removal from office of
Brooklyn Surrogate Judge Michael Feinberg, a Democratic Party loyalist
who allowed a lawyer pal to bilk $2 million from the estates of people
who died without wills. Feinberg must go, but the court must pay close
attention to when it lowers the ax.

Feinberg's betrayal of trust has been well documented by the Commission
on Judicial Conduct, which is seeking to have him fired. The Court of
Appeals has two choices: summarily fire Feinberg - this week - or grind
the wheels of justice for a couple of months.

The court must put the case on a super fast or a super slow track
because of the election calendar. If it were to decide the matter
routinely, say, in a few weeks, Democratic boss and alleged felon
Clarence Norman would choose the next surrogate. That must not happen.

The timetable is rigged in Norman's favor. Lawyers who want to run for
surrogate have until July 7 to collect the 12,000 signatures needed to
get on the primary ballot. Every day Feinberg remains on the bench
shortens the time to get signatures; candidates without Norman's backing
have virtually no chance of pulling off the feat.

Even worse, if the court dumps Feinberg between July 7 and Aug. 8,
Norman and his cronies get to pick the candidate who will appear on the
Democratic line, guaranteeing election. In the event of a decision after
Aug. 8, Gov. Pataki would get to appoint an interim surrogate who would
sit until an election in 2006.

The best course for the court would be to toss Feinberg now, giving
insurgents a fighting chance. Second best would be to wait until August,
so Pataki got the pick. Worst of all would be to keep Norman's hold on a
key judicial post that's abused as a patronage plum

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