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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Attorney Takes the Fifth in Corrupt Judicial Hearing

Attorney Takes the Fifth in Surrogate Hearing
The New York Law Journal by Brendan Pierson  -  January 13, 2012

Michael Lippman, a former counsel to the Bronx public administrator facing criminal charges for collecting excessive legal fees in estate cases, briefly took the stand on Jan. 12 in a disciplinary proceeding brought by the Commission on Judicial Conduct against Bronx Surrogate Lee L. Holzman for his alleged role in allowing the fees. As expected, Mr. Lippman declined to answer questions about the fees from Surrogate Holzman's attorney, David Godosky of Godosky & Gentile, citing his constitutional protection against self-incrimination.  Surrogate Holzman tried repeatedly last year to stay the disciplinary proceeding against him until the criminal case against Mr. Lippman is resolved, arguing that he could not adequately defend himself without Mr. Lippman's testimony, but a First Department panel denied his request on Dec. 7. Surrogate Holzman began testifying on his own behalf on Jan. 10 under direct examination from Mr. Godosky. The surrogate said he did not know about Mr. Lippman's misconduct until 2006, when he was "shocked" to discover it.  The commission on judicial conduct does not dispute that Surrogate Holzman fired Mr. Lippman from his position after learning about the excessive fees. However, it alleges he should have turned him in to criminal authorities right away. Instead, the surrogate allowed Mr. Lippman to keep working on public administration cases, turning all of his legal fees back to the estates from which he had collected fees, which the commission alleges was improper. Mr. Lippman's brief appearance interrupted the direct examination of Surrogate Holzman, which is expected to continue on Jan. 13.

-----RELATED STORY:

Bronx Surrogate Lee Holzman chafes under cross examination
Reuters - News & Insight by Joseph Ax -  January 13, 2012

NEW YORK -  The cross examination of Bronx Surrogate Lee Holzman was barely half an hour old, and the judge and his questioner, Brenda Correa, a lawyer for the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, were already at odds.  Holzman's lengthy answers that ranged far afield -- on frequent display during three days of direct testimony -- prompted Correa's objection that he was not responding to her questions.  At one point, retired state Supreme Court Judge Felice Shea, who is overseeing the hearing, turned to Holzman and tried to resolve the problem.  "I know this is difficult, Judge Holzman, for someone who's been on the bench for as long as you have to be a witness, but you do have to answer the questions," she said.  Holzman, who did not conceal his impatience with some of the questions he was asked, faces disciplinary charges from the commission that he failed to take proper action when he learned that a lawyer for the public administrator had been billing excessive estate fees in advance, in violation of protocol. The public administrator handles estates of people who die without anyone to manage their affairs.  The lawyer, Michael Lippman, has been charged with stealing $300,000 in excess fees in the Bronx. But in testimony Friday, Holzman repeatedly said he had no idea that Lippman and the public administrator, Esther Rodriguez, had been paying out fees in advance.  "Not having received any report from any source or agency, and considering Mr. Lippman had been an attorney for more than 30 years, if somebody had told me this was happening, I would think they were from Mars," he said.  Lippman was called to the stand Thursday but asserted his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer questions about his conduct.  Normally, judicial misconduct hearings take place behind closed doors, but Holzman waived confidentiality.  The commission asserts that Holzman's lax oversight allowed Lippman to bill freely for work he had never done. In addition, the commission faults him for failing to report Lippman's conduct either to the departmental disciplinary committee or law enforcement authorities.  Instead, the commission has alleged, Holzman kept Lippman on staff and required him to use the money he earned to repay the excessive fees he had billed in previous cases, a remedy that failed to make the earlier estates whole. Holzman has argued that he was the victim of unscrupulous employees whose conduct was unforeseeable. "I had never thought there was a chance that he had done anything of a criminal nature," Holzman said of Lippman.  Follow us on Twitter: @ReutersLegal

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want to see Robert Tembeckjian take the FIFTH when he's finally faced with his crimes.

Anonymous said...

Haha

"Corrupt Judicial Hearing"


But then again, aren't they all?

Anonymous said...

Come on, Judge Holzman, finish as an honest man. Spill all the corrupt beans of all the other judges and then ask Tembeckjian to do the same. Turn the tables on the swine. One man pulls the plug and the entire NY judicial sewer could be flushed. Probably too much to expect from a NY judge.

Anonymous said...

Id like to see them have there balls cut off to be honest with you...the males a holes anyhow...

Anonymous said...

Lippman took the Fifth! What was it J&B (Jewish Booze)?

Anonymous said...

I hope all of the scumbag thieving attorneys who stole from those estates burn.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the entire Judicial system is that corruption and unethical conduct is allowed and is rarely punished or called on the carpet. Most lay people don't have enough understanding of the Judiciary or legal ethics to understand the corruption and so it goes un-punished and uninvestigated by those within the judicial system.

In other words - the corruption will just continue.

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               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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