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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Attorneys Scratch Backs of Judge Wannabes

Att'ys $cratch backs of judge wannabes
The New York Post by Chuck Bennett - August 30, 2010

This season's crop of aspiring jurists is raking in thousands of bucks in campaign contributions from the very same attorneys who argue cases before them -- despite facing uncontested elections, a Post analysis found. The 14 candidates this year -- all seeking 10-year terms in municipal Civil Court -- even held fund-raisers in the boardrooms of law firms and in the homes of the firms' founding partners. Two weeks ago, for example, attorney Harriet Thompson, who is running unopposed in Brooklyn, held a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser in the home of Meryl Wenig, the founding partner of real-estate law firm Wenig Saltiel. That dinner, which raised $8,000, was co-sponsored by state Sen. John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democratic powerhouse under investigation for mingling his public office with his private law practice. Thompson raised $20,635 as of Aug. 18 -- including $11,965 from law firms or real-estate firms -- and at least $1,850 from practicing attorneys. She didn't return a call for comment. "I think it's reasonable you would have questions when the umpire calling the strikes is being paid by one of the teams," said Adam Skaggs, a scholar with NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. Civil Court judges earn $125,600 a year and preside over lawsuits seeking less than $25,000 in compensation -- including many slip-and-fall cases and property disputes. The campaign cash is typically spent on goodwill donations to local Democratic clubs, fees to freelance petitioners, fliers and meals.

Technically, judges aren't supposed to peek at their own contributor list, but they are allowed to attend their fund-raisers, according to the Office of Court Administration's ethical guidelines. "When they have events, what they do is always invite a few people as guests, so in theory, the [candidate] wouldn't know if someone paid or is maybe just a guest," said veteran political consultant Jerry Skurnik. "But in truth, they know it's a rule they can't enforce." His own client, Housing Court Judge Gerald Lebovits, who is running for Manhattan Civil Court, accepted 60 donations totaling $13,825 from individuals over the past two months, all but two of them attorneys. He also collected donations ranging from $50 to $1,250 from 25 law firms for a total of $8,650. Lebovits told The Post he wanted a big war chest to scare away potential opponents -- he even lent himself an extra $100,000. The strategy worked. Lebovits is running unopposed. Skurnik added that Lebovits is kept at arms-length from the fundraising numbers, although he attended his own $150-a-head fund-raiser at The Palm-Tribeca restaurant last month. Another Manhattan Civil Court candidate, Leticia Ramirez, held her July 22 fund-raiser in the law offices of Raphaelson & Levine, a firm specializing in personal-injury lawsuits. Ramirez also accepted a $5,000 loan from real-estate attorney Martin Meltzer, a partner at Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman. That firm also gave her an outright donation of $1,000. Her campaign didn't return a call for comment. Additional reporting by Douglas Montero -


Right said...

It's all about money.
Right, Judge Lippman?
Right, Shelly Shilver?
Right, Judge Nicolai?

Frustrated said...

Someone needs to send this article to Will Galson's TV and FBI contacts.
SSA Rachel Rojas
FBI NYO Squad C3
Work # 212-384-2808
Cell # 917-295-9629

James Hoffer at ABC TV in New York

Anonymous said...

Nice system of justice we have... It serves the highest bidder!

Anonymous said...

The picture of the scales of justice weighted down with cash against the rule of law SAYS IT ALL!

a victim said...

Don't talk to me about the Brennan Center For INJUSTICE and it's head shmuck Prof. Burt Newburn. He has the blood of honorable Jews on his hands for what he did with the Swiss Bank case. He should drop dead on his way to the bank. This bum buys Judges all the time.

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               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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