Brooklyn Surrogate's Court 2005

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Friday, July 08, 2005

A BIPARTISAN DEAL TO CREATE 21 NEW JUDGESHIPS

New York Civic (www.nycivic.org)
Q (Quotidien) No. 62
Tuesday, July 5, 2005
by Henry Stern

A BIPARTISAN DEAL TO CREATE 21 NEW JUDGESHIPS

The Daily News editorial, LET THE VOTERS CHOOSE THE JUDGES, denounces the sweetheart deal between the major parties this year that lets the Democratic party bosses choose the next surrogate, without the primary election that the law normally requires. The News suggests that Clarence Norman, the Brooklyn county leader, names a 69-year-old to the position, who would have to retire at the end of 2006. That way the people would have an opportunity to select his successor.

An excellent idea, BUT if the legislators had wanted to give the people a chance to elect a judge, they would not have selected August 1 as the effective date for the new law.. August 1 is within the window of opportunity for the Brooklyn gang, too late for petitions to be circulated by candidates for election, but early enough for Norman & Co. to select a catspaw for the Democratic nomination for the new position of second Surrogate for Kings County. The gig is for fourteen years, at $136,700 per annum, plus staff, benefits and other emoluments.


PLACE NOT YOUR TRUST IN PRINCES
--

PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO SUP WITH THE BROOKLYN MACHINE

Since we have cited editorials from the Post and the News, it is fair that we quote from an editorial from the New York Times that is relevant nine years after it was published, on Thursday, September 6, 1996, just four days before the botched Democratic primary election on Monday, September 10. BTW, the election was so poorly managed, the courts ordered the polls reopened on October 10 for those who were unable to vote because voting machines failed to arrive at polling places. Now, we proceed to the Times' advice to Brooklynites.

"The Brooklyn Surrogate's Court has long put the needs of politicians before those of the public. All four candidates vow to clean up the place. But only State Supreme Court Justice MICHAEL FEINBERG has strong credentials.

"Justice Feinberg has promised reforms ranging from a panel to screen appointments and recommend changes in how the place is run, down to keeping the office open at lunchtime as a convenience to the public. But his ardent backing by the Democratic county organization, which wants to retain its patronage jobs and fees, is DISQUIETING. With some WARINESS we endorse Judge Feinberg on the basis of his good record, and TRUST that he will STAY TRUE to his reform pledges." (We added the emphasis.)


ALL THAT GLITTERS -- FEINBERG'S PRINCIPAL OPPONENT

To be fair to the Times, we must report that Judge Feinberg's principal opponent in the 1996 primary was Judge Lila Gold, then on the Civil Court. When she ran for Supreme Court in 2003, having made her peace with the county organization, The Village Voice mocked her in an article headlined: THE JUDGE IN THE PURPLE PLASTIC GLOVES: Clarence Norman's Latest Pick for Supreme Court.

We quote from Tom Robbins' Voice article:

"'She is my nightmare of a judge,' said a fellow jurist who has observed her in action and listened to complaints from both defense lawyers and prosecutors. 'To say she is harsh doesn't even begin to describe it. She will put defendants in jail for failing to pay as little as $15 of the mandatory surcharges imposed on those convicted.'

"Gold also has disconcerted both defendants and attorneys with her predilection for wearing colored plastic, dishwashing-style gloves while administering justice on the bench. She has explained to colleagues that she has a skin condition. But the condition only affects her in the courtroom; when she attends political dinners and functions, she doesn't wear them.

"In 1998, Jack Newfield and Maggie Haberman, writing in the New York Post, included Gold on a list of the city's worst judges, citing her 'irritability, nastiness and irrational outbursts' in court."

NY Civic recommends that you link to Robbins' absorbing column. He explores additional areas of Gold's alleged deficiencies, including her fund raising activities, and describes civil litigation in which she was a defendant. Robbins' article is a guided tour of a portion of the sewer that is Brooklyn judicial politics.

End of Quotes. Fast Forward to 2005.

Justice Michael Feinberg was ordered removed from office by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct on February 15, 2005. Their decision was unanimously upheld by the Court of Appeals on June 29. You can link to the decisions, so we need not repeat the sad story of his numerous derelictions.

A key phrase in the Court of Appeals opinion: Judge Feinberg "debased his office and eroded public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary."

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