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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is Judge Really Concerned Lawyers Will Get Astor Millions...(CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY)

The Boston Globe reported Monday, October 1, 2007, that the judge currently handling the Brooke Astor estate made numerous comments purportedly expressing concerns that at the expense of Ms. Astor's philanthropic intentions, it may only be the involved lawyers who will see the millions up for grabs....MORE....

Notably, though, the Boston Globe does not report on the silence of Westchester County Surrogate Court Judge Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr., over the current involvement of the small White Plains law firm McCarthy Fingar in the Astor proceedings.

As reported on this forum, it was recently revealed that McCarthy Fingar attorney Frank W. Streng advertised, on the internet and his law firm website for more than four years, that he was on Judge Scarpino's election transition team.

The improper advertising and the judge's failure to take any action for years resulted in various ethical complaints concerning partiality and implied favortism. In fact, it was discovered that on numerous occasions Judge Scarpino granted financial sanctions in favor of McCarthy Fingar at the same time the law firm's closeness with his court was being actively advertised.

In one estate proceeding, Surrogate Scarpino ultimately suggested to attorney Frank Streng, who also manages the law firm website, that the internet services of a fifteen-year-old be sought to assist in the removal of the law firm/court connection advertisements.

Here's the Boston Globe article:

Astor's charities worry that court battle could reduce money from aristocrat's will

By Associated Press

Monday, October 1, 2007
The Boston Herald -U.S./ Northeast Region

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Brooke Astor, the aristocrat who spent her long life giving away millions of dollars, carefully arranged to continue her philanthropy after she died. But her favorite charities fear that the nasty family fight over her estate could bleed millions of dollars from the bequest she left them.

The judge overseeing the estate battle has warned — perhaps in jest, perhaps not — that if the case is left to the lawyers, it will be litigated until the entire $198 million is gone — much like the fictional Jarndyce and Jarndyce case that cast its gloom over Charles Dickens' "Bleak House."

That is not what Astor, who died in August at 105, would have wanted, the judge added. She took pleasure in donating hundreds of millions of dollars to the arts and the unfortunate after the death of her husband, Vincent Astor, in 1959.

The family feud, being aired in Surrogate's Court in White Plains, is generally over which of two wills conveys Astor's real intentions.

Lawyers for the museum, the New York Public Library and other organizations specified in the wills have been pushing for a quick settlement to conserve Astor's assets. Her estate is worth an estimated $198 million, but the charities she designated might have to share as little as $34 million of that — minus expenses — depending on which of the wills is accepted.

"We are eager in seeking a quick, comprehensive resolution in all the issues rather than seeing what promises to be a long, piecemeal and arduous litigation," said Robert Shwartz, representing the library.

But settlement talks have stalled and the lawyers — there were 15 at the last public session — are due back in court Oct. 17. The case reflects the family division that was evident last year when Astor's grandson, Philip Marshall, claimed that his father, Anthony Marshall, was enriching himself at the expense of Astor's estate and her health.

When that dispute went to court in Manhattan, Astor's friend, Annette de la Renta, was appointed her guardian. In the fight over the wills, she is asking Surrogate Judge Anthony Scarpino to appoint her temporary administrator of the estate and to rule that Astor's 1997 will is the last one signed while she was competent. De la Renta, wife of designer Oscar de la Renta, is backed by Philip Marshall.

Anthony Marshall says de la Renta is biased against him; he has proposed his own temporary administrator. Marshall wants the judge to approve a 2002 will and its codicils, or additions, which benefit Marshall at the expense of the charities.

Astor's bequests to more than a dozen specific charities would come out of the Vincent Astor Trust, which is worth an estimated $66 million. Her own property accounts for the remaining $132 million, and some of that may also go to charities not yet chosen, depending on the judge's rulings.

But because of what the museum's lawyer called "a very unusual clause," her wills can be read to mean that litigation expenses — plus her funeral expenses, last medical expenses, and whatever it takes to keep up the value of her real estate — are to be paid out of the Vincent Astor fund.

The legal expenses, especially, could be considerable, given the likelihood of lawsuits in the contentious case.

"While it seems like a lot of money, $66 million split among the charities, and after subtracting debts and administration expenses, may not make things worth the fight in terms of fees," said John Barnosky, the Met's lawyer.

The museum and the library would get the biggest shares of the Vincent Astor funds — 25 percent each, or $16.5 million, under the 1997 will, or 8 percent each, or $5.28 million, under the 2001 will and codicils.

Gifts of that size are not uncommon at either institution and the entire bequest, though substantial and well publicized, is dwarfed by some others. Leona Helmsley, the real estate queen who died Aug. 20, left more than $4 billion to charity.

Astor's wills leave smaller stakes, down to 1 percent, or straight cash amounts to other organizations, some of whom are saving on court costs by sharing a lawyer. Andrew Schau, who represents Rockefeller University, the Bronx Zoo, Historic Hudson Valley, the Animal Medical Center and the Pierpont Morgan Library, said in court that he shared the concerns voiced by the Metropolitan and the library and urged a settlement.

Scarpino ordered the settlement talks after saying there were "a million ways to settle this case in 15 minutes." But he noted that the lawyers "will be happy to litigate this matter to the very end of this stream of money that's there."

In "Bleak House," a large inheritance led to the case known as Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which persisted for generations. By the time it was settled, almost nothing was left for the descendants.

Most of the lawyers — and spokesmen at the Metropolitan and the library — would not discuss the case outside the courtroom. But Kenneth Warner, Anthony Marshall's attorney, said Marshall also favors a quick settlement because the money he plans to give to charities — which are not named in the will — would also be lessened by a long court case.

The state attorney general's office has sent a representative to the Surrogate's Court sessions, and the entire case may soon be complicated by a criminal investigation in Manhattan, where the district attorney reportedly is preparing to have a grand jury look into the handling of the Astor estate.

Jeffrey Lerner of the attorney general's office would say only that his agency is "in favor of a fair, equitable and legal disbursement of assets."

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/national/northeast/view.bg?articleid=1035340

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Judge Tony Soprano talks a good game like other thugs, but he wants "his" people in the right places so they can get the cash, which will ultimately make its way back to his dirty hands.

surrogate ct victim said...

So what's new? This is the way it works! Don't listen to what they say, watch what they do! The con men know the drill and they will get the money (they know it's their's) and Judge Scarpino will get his piece and life goes on.
SO WHAT'S NEW?

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't McCarthy Fingar be banned from the Surrogate's Court because they advertised the fact they had judge scarpino in their back pocket.

Jody Keltz fan said...

Keltz the attorney/referee got a house out of an estate in this court what will she and husband get from the Astor mess. The Judicial system refuses to take action in the Keltz matter. And they maintain that they can police their own pig pen!

white plains associate said...

i have heard judge scarpino in open court, and at various dinners, openly complain that judges don't make a lot of money. i wish he'd stop saying that because I choke while holding back my laughter, because I KNOW THE TRUTH...how he gets paid..... keep digging, people.....seek and ye shall find.....tony, can you spare a dime --LOL, LOL....

Anonymous said...

Tony Scarpino is an actor, a bad one

Anonymous said...

Scarpino is a fraud

Anonymous said...

What do we know about Judge Rosata in White Plains courts?

ny t&e atty said...

Look what Scarpino has done is the Carvel, Winston et al. cases, then you know what he will do in the Astor case. One way or the other this is what it comes down to, he and his friends will get theirs.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of questions about honesty of Judge Peter Rosato and his cozy relationship with a certain lawyer in a current case. People are watching, including the media

white plains observer said...

Frank Streng the go to guy in White Plains is in the middle of the Astor case and his friend Anthony Scarpino is in charge, how sweet it is. Don't listen to what Scarpino says, watch what he does and doesn't do.

Anonymous said...

they know they will never have to account for their actions. Mccarthy Fingar, Scarpino and Miller have it all covered. I know, my girlfriend worked there.

a proud jew said...

What about Lefkowitz the cancer patient that needed money for cancer treatments? What did the jew haters Scarpino & Streng do? They didn't give her any money, they want her to DIE!

Anonymous said...

Scarpino is only concerned about himself. He should be in jail.

white plains resident said...

Don't understand why Richard Blassberg and the Westchester Guardian doesn't write about this story. Think he would give his insight in to this and people are interested in reading about Mrs. Astor's Estate and all those Attorneys.

court employee said...

With the combination of Tony Scarpino, Jody Keltz and Frank Streng the Astor Estate doesn't stand a chance with these lice. You heard it here first.

Anonymous said...

Tony's always got his hand out....and believe me, cash get's put in it, if you know what's good for you.

Anonymous said...

Jody Keltz should be fired for the house deal that she pulled in dealing with an Estate in her Court. Now she is dealing with the Astor Estate.

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