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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Daily News Editorial on Commission on Judicial Conduct

Commission on Judicial Conduct must send Lee Holzman packing
EDITORIAL - The New York Daily News - July 19, 2008

Any judge who lets cronies mishandle $20 million belonging to the heirs of the dead deserves to be kicked off the bench. Any judge who puts taxpayers on the hook for $20 million by letting pals wrongly invest people's money deserves to be kicked off the bench. Any judge who awards large fees to a buddy without requiring the buddy to first explain what he did to earn the money deserves to be kicked off the bench. Bronx Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman must go. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct must open a probe leading to Holzman's removal from office. The facts are not in dispute. The whole outrageous story is detailed in Sunday's Daily News by reporter Nancie L. Katz. The cast of characters is a sorry lot.

Top billing goes to Holzman, a creature of the Bronx Democratic organization who presides over the estates of the dead. The post is coveted among machine lawyers because the surrogate dispenses lucrative assignments to attorneys and accountants. The surrogate also appoints the public administrator, who handles estates that have no wills. And the surrogate names a counsel, a private lawyer who gets fees for services. It has long been a swamp, but some laws and rules are aimed at keeping the muck to a minimum. No matter. Holzman, his former and present public administrators, Esther Rodriguez and John Raniolo, and counsel Michael Lippman went out of bounds.

For starters, Rodriguez and Raniolo were supposed to put inheritance money in conservative investments like treasury bonds. Instead, they put $20 million from 37 estates into what are known as auction-rate securities. These are like bonds, only riskier. And the market for them froze with the subprime crisis. So Holzman & Co. can't redeem them. Controller William Thompson has determined the city must cover the $20 million and take the securities in return.

Let's hope trading rebounds someday. Holzman was ultimately responsible for approving the investments. His claim that he "had no knowledge [of the investments] until there was a problem" condemns him. The result: Holzman's crew has denied the heirs access to the money - while doing well for themselves. Lippman pocketed $1.9 million in fees. And, for quite some time, Holzman signed off on payments before Lippman documented his charges. Boot him. Case closed.


Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for the Daily News to blow the court corruption out of the water. You have to wonder why they've been mostly silent. A few phone calls, I think.

Anonymous said...

a reporter at the News who's husband has a big job with the courts makes sure that things are controlled, if you know what I mean. The paper did some really good stories maybe 5/6 years ago on the Surrogate's Court. With the amount of corruption in all the Surrogate Courts it could be a continuing series. Willie Sutton said it best - he would rob banks because that's where the money was! - Today the money is in the Surrogate's Court so the thievish lawyers all go to the honey pot. The rats become the beneficiaries of someones life time of hard work and savings and the family get's screwed - and it's all perfectly legal of course, all the lawyers and judges make sure of that! Jail would be too good for these rats!

Anonymous said...

Barbara Ross/Tembeckjian?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the Times Herald Record in Orange County. They won't cover the criminal activities of CPS, the Court in Goshen and other rats in the county. I wonder how much the reporters get paid to pass the information they recieve about the court to the court and not report same.....

Anonymous said...

thrilled to see the Editorial, keep up the good work. Lets get these bums.

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