Judge borrows 8OG from real estate family, then hires lender's brother
The New York Daily News By NANCIE L. KATZ - February 12, 2008
A Brooklyn judge who took an $80,000 loan from a prominent real estate family hired one of the sons for her coveted court attorney job - even before he passed the bar exam. Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Lila Gold appointed Mitchell Shpelfogel, then 22, in January 2006 for the competitive $63,000-a-year state post - only weeks after he graduated from law school. He passed the bar a month later. Shpelfogel - whose family's Brighton Beach buildings have had hundreds of violations - said hiring him had nothing to do with his brother, Rafael, 27, lending Gold the money for her uncontested 2003 bid. The loan was quickly repaid. "There was no quid pro quo. I'm a capable, talented person. We've been family friends for many years," he said. "Why shouldn't she take a family friend, if he's qualified?" Few state judges hire assistants right out of law school, because the job requires drafting legal opinions. Experienced lawyers often seek the positions as a path to the bench. Shpelfogel said he doesn't want a judgeship or any other court post when Gold retires. "I took this job because I'm able to be home and be with my family," said Shpelfogel, a father of two. Gold did not return calls.
The Shpelfogels own at least nine Brooklyn buildings, including a multimillion-dollar Manhattan Beach house and two apartment houses cited for multiple violations. "They are using the money of their long-suffering tenants to get ahead politically," charged Zev Yourman, a community activist who sued Shpelfogel for defamation. Tenants at 2822 Brighton Eighth St., owned by patriarch Sam Shpelfogel, showed the Daily News leaks in walls, malfunctioning stoves, uneven floors, mold, broken cabinets and complained of mice. The city sued Shpelfogel twice since 2004 for more than 1,000 violations settled after he fixed them. Shpelfogel still owes $9,000 for emergency repairs. Former tenant Yustus Kotz said she moved from 15 Brighton Eighth - where Sam Shpelfogel owes the city $1,468 for emergency repairs and 275 housing violations are listed - after Mitchell Shpelfogel threatened her when she complained about terrible conditions. "He kicked my door, demanded rent in cash and called me an illegal immigrant and a prostitute," she said. "You are not impartial," Sam Shpelfogel told a reporter. Rafael Shpelfogel could not be reached. firstname.lastname@example.org