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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

NY High Court to Review Attorney Suspension, But Still Ignores Statewide 'Ethics' Corruption

Court of Appeals to Review Galasso Suspension
The New York Law Journal by Andrew Keshner  -  May 2, 2012

New York's highest court agreed yesterday to review a two-year suspension levied on a prominent Long Island divorce attorney for failing to prevent the embezzlement by his brother, who was his firm's bookkeeper, of more than $4 million in client funds.  The Court of Appeals granted leave to Peter Galasso of Galasso, Langione, Catterson & LoFrumento in Garden City, who is challenging his suspension by the Appellate Division, Second Department. The court also stayed Galasso's suspension pending resolution of the case.  In February, the Second Department held Galasso failed to maintain "appropriate vigilance over his firm's bank accounts" looted by Galasso's brother, Anthony. Anthony Galasso is now incarcerated after pleading guilty in 2008 to charges including grand larceny (NYLJ, Feb. 27).  Peter Galasso argued that the the Second Department had wrongly held him to a strict liability standard. Galasso's appeal prompted support from several bar associations (NYLJ, March 29). The Court of Appeals accepted the amicus briefs filed on his behalf by the Nassau County Bar Association, Matrimonial and Family Law Bar Association of Suffolk County, Bronx County Bar Association and New York State Trial Lawyers Association.  Robert Wolff, Bronx County Bar Association president, said in an interview that he was pleased to hear the Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case.  "I think the lower court just went a little out of bounds and basically concluded vicarious liability or responsibility for what his brother had done," Wolff said, adding that if the Second Department's suspension were to be upheld "the precedent would be overreaching, to say the least."


Bars Rally Around Suspended Attorney
The New York Law Journal by Andrew Keshner  -  March 29, 2012

Several bar organizations are supporting the effort of a suspended Long Island attorney to challenge in the state's highest court what he describes as the overly strict approach of the Appellate Division, Second Department, to enforcing disciplinary rules governing attorney escrow accounts.  A Second Department panel suspended Peter J. Galasso of Galasso, Langione, Catterson & LoFrumento in Garden City for what it called his failure to exercise "appropriate vigilance over his firm's bank accounts" from which the firm's bookkeeper—Mr. Galasso's brother Anthony—embezzled $4 million in client funds (NYLJ, Feb. 27). Peter Galasso cooperated with the prosecution of his brother, who is now in prison.  Mr. Galasso's suspension was to begin on March 21, but on March 19, Court of Appeals Judge Victoria A. Graffeo stayed the suspension pending determination of Mr. Galasso's motion for leave to appeal. The Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District is due to file a response by April 2.  Mr. Galasso argues in court papers that the Second Department wrongly used a strict liability standard that required attorneys "to be insurers of all escrow deposits" and "unfairly results in a lawyer's law license being posted as additional collateral for his costly designation on an attorney escrow account."  "[A]side from imposing an unattainable level of managerial and investigative skills upon lawyers, the Appellate Division has declared that attorneys in operating escrow accounts, beyond any financial exposure they may face, must now post their licenses as some sort of additional collateral to their exposure in damages," Mr. Galasso argued. He later added, "With this holding, the prospects of finding attorneys willing to hold client escrow will be bleak. In the end, the public will suffer as well."

The New York State Trial Lawyers Association, the Nassau County Bar Association, Matrimonial and Family Law Bar Association of Suffolk County and the Bronx County Bar Association all plan to file amicus briefs urging the Court of Appeals to grant Mr. Galasso's motion for leave to appeal.  While it was "not common" for the Court of Appeals to agree to hear an appealed disciplinary ruling, it was "not unheard of" either, according to Court of Appeals spokesman Gary Spencer.  Grace Moran of Moran &  Karamouzis in Rockville Centre, one of Mr. Galasso's attorneys in the disciplinary matter, said in an e-mailed statement that as news of the suspension circulated, fellow attorneys reached out to her, Mr. Galasso and other members of his firm "to express their shock and dismay over the decision."  "When members of the Bar asked what they could do to help, it was suggested they contact their Bar Associations to support Peter's application for leave to appeal and to demonstrate the Bar as a whole is concerned with the precedent set by Matter of Galasso," she said.  The Bronx County Bar and the Matrimonial and Family Law Bar of Suffolk County said they will press in their amicus briefs for leave to be granted in order to annul the suspension, arguing that a purported strict liability standard should not have been applied.  Bronx County Bar Association President Robert H. Wolff said in an interview it was "unfair to suspend somebody under these facts and circumstances...I think the court went far afield. "Howard Leff, president of the Matrimonial and Family Law Bar Association of Suffolk County, said the Second Department's ruling "creates such an unreasonable standard. It really makes it almost illogical for anyone to maintain an escrow account, let alone accept any money. It's not only illogical, it makes it dangerous to accept money."  Mr. Leff's organization also held a recent event entitled "Your Escrow Account. Can what happened to Peter Galasso happen to you?"  "I think everybody had a real visceral reaction by what the appellate division has done by creating this standard," he said.

Meanwhile, the Nassau County Bar Association's brief does not take a position on the merits of the suspension according to Susan Katz Richman, president of the group. In an interview, Ms. Richman said the group's brief will take up the "limited issue of whether or not an attorney should be held vicariously and in effect strictly liable for the illegal acts of a third party with respect to the attorney's escrow account."  Ms. Richman said the bar association's board, in deciding to file an amicus, felt that "the notion that an attorney could be held responsible and lose their license, their privilege to practice law, due to the surreptitious criminal conduct of a third party, threatens the livelihood of all our members and their practice of law."  A spokesman for the New York State Trial Lawyers Association said that the group planned to join one of the other briefs on the motion seeking leave.  Ms. Moran said her client's firm was "grateful that the Court of Appeals has stayed Peter's suspension while it decides his application for leave to appeal. Equally encouraging has been the support of the Bar which determined that Matter of Galasso has consequences to the entire Bar," she said.  Jeffrey Catterson of Galasso, Langione, Catterson &  LoFrumento also represents Mr. Galasso.  In court papers, Mr. Galasso argues that the liability standard for fiduciaries was "far more forgiving" than what the Second Department had applied in his case, with liability being limited to "instances of willful misconduct or gross negligence."  He acknowledges that the Second Department was "troubled" by the "immense amount" of money stolen. But he says that did not justify the harsh penalty.  "Nowhere is it written or directed that an inescapable responsibility will be imposed upon an attorney if the escrowed amounts are so great that the attorney cannot make good on them out of his or her own pocket if they are stolen," Mr. Galasso argues, contending that the "only articulated rules" on escrow accounts require the maintenance of certain records, no co-mingling of funds and no conversion of funds.  Aprilanne Agostino, clerk of the court for the Appellate Division, Second Department, noted in an interview that the disciplinary rules on escrow accounts that guide Second Department rulings were the same rules that applied for all of the Appellate Division departments. "With respect to the standards applied, our decisions speak for themselves," she said.  A representative of the grievance committee for the Ninth Judicial District declined to comment. The committee has not responded to Mr. Galasso's motion.  The case was transferred from the 10th Judicial District because one of the members of its grievance committee, Steven J. Eisman, had represented in a civil suit a former client of Mr. Galasso who lost more than $4 million through the embezzlement.  Ironically, Mr. Eisman suggested that the Nassau bar support Mr. Galasso in seeking review of his suspension.  "Peter Galasso is a lawyer who I have a great deal of respect for as a colleague and as an adversary, and I felt it necessary to bring to the attention of the bar a request to file an amicus because I feel the Appellate Division was setting an unjust standard," Mr. Eisman said in an interview. Chris McDonough of McDonough and McDonough practices in professional ethics and at one time served as an assistant counsel to the Grievance Committee for the 10th Judicial District.  Mr. McDonough, who is not involved the Galasso case, viewed the two-year suspension as "too harsh." Given the mitigating factors in this case such as Mr. Galasso's "great" reputation and "unblemished history," Mr. McDonough suggested a one-year suspension might have been more appropriate.  Mr. McDonough said in his 25 years of experience, when it comes to alleged mishandling of escrow accounts, the Second Department "[does] take it more seriously and seem to sanction more strongly," than the other departments.  Andrew Keshner can be reached at


Anonymous said...

When are we going to get a real chief judge in NY? Only then will we see real reform. I blame the governor.

Politics and payoffs are the norm. The court system in New York is run by a bunch of spineless, greedy hacks.

Anonymous said...

The lawyer who was supposed to protect the money deposited with him in bank accounts only controlled by him and kept separate from all other accounts gave control to his brother who stole the money. He failed in his responsibility to his clients and should be disbarred. His brother didn't rat him out, otherwise he'd be in jail also. The Bar wants to establish a new excuse for their crony lawyers and/or their relatives to steal the money.

Searching For Rule Of Law In America said...

i submit this for your consideration...

NY Court of Appeals receives an Appeal from Order of the Court (Westchester, Latia Martin) directing the immediate sale of marital residence, prior to dissolution of marriage, without hearing on surrounding issues, made under duress, perpetrated by fraud, enforced by extortionate and coercive means ( )...

Court of Appeals responds with letter stating that they have received preliminary appeal statement and will examine whether a substantial constitutional question is directly involved in the review of the order...

two months later Court of Appeals (Lippman) retruns decision dismissing the appeal on the grounds that "no substantialconstitutional question is directly involved"...

the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, Article 1 NY State Constitution, NY Real Property Law, decisions and opinions of a multitude of precedent setting cases in NY... all opining that "deprivation of property without due process" is unconstitutional...

this is the sort of justice you can expect from the NY Court of Appeals...

be prepared...

--Michael A. Hense is Searching For Rule Of Law In America

Anonymous said...

The buck stops with the lawyer. If he left his brother in charge of the money, he is responsible.

Here's a better question, what else was he not paying attention to? They should investigate what's going on with all these attorneys and associations that are suddenly up-in-arms about one of their own getting caught.

On another note, this is pretty funny. A lawyer involved with a family in the case decided last week involved in the 2008 crane collapse that killed several people, is asking Lippman " look into what she is calling judicial bias issues in last week's manslaughter acquittal of construction magnate James Lomma.

The letter -- addressed to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman -- criticizes Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Daniel Convisor for presiding over the case despite having been approved for a Court of Claims judgeship in 2006 by a committee headed by a Lomma defense lawyer. The letter also asks for details on the process by which Convisor was selected to preside over the non-jury trial."

Read more:

Is it actually possible that an attorney would be so naive to not only not understand how things really work, but to think that Lippman is even remotely interested in doing anything about it?

Anonymous said...

There are and have been multiple actions against the NY Ct SYSTEM by female employees all over this state for the past 2 decades at least..from upstate to downstate and everywhere in between.

The question to ALL OF THE FEMALE BAR AND THE FEMALE JUDGES ..all of whom have had to fight discrimination to achieve their own positions...where are you ladies supporting these women and addressing the abuses that are heavily alleged within the courthouses that you yourselves sit in daily and standby meekly hoping these things are NOT happening??

I went to work in the NY Cts excited and thinking that I was in a safe workplace for my gender, as other places in the 70's were sexually hostile.

Unfortunately for me and horribly distressing, the NY Cts had become the MOST violent and abusive place I had ever been in throughout the entire WORLD, where I have traveled extensively.

The guilt of the female judges and lawyers that CAN AND SHOULD be involved in Judicial behavior against female employees..seems illusive to them.. and I say to you ladies..SHAMEFUL AND DISGUSTING!

Anonymous said...

Not sure all that happened here in that case but what about that great Second Dept only disbarring Al Pirro for 3 years after 32 federal convictions?

Where is the equality, consistency?

And sure is remarkable what cases the Court of Appeals decides to take and not take.

Another Court that does not uphold its own Rules, even Rules of Practice.

Top to bottom changes needed long time. Where is the Federal monitor?

On another note, the comments at this article on current Chief Judge Lippman Mandating "new lawyers" perform 50 HOURS PRO BONO before becoming lawyer are quite interesting.

The Chief can apparently slam down on the "new lawyers" to do work for the poor but what about all the Entrenched Lawyers entangled with Surrogate Court corruption and related court corruption?

Guess that is taboo to go after?

Anonymous said...

I know a lot more trhan most becuse it is my estranged husband who is providing fraudulent mortgages and satisfavtions through MERS. Truth is the women are just as guilty as the me. As far as taking bribes in the form of mortgage fraud and satisfactions. Some are husband and wife. Wm.Kent, Denise Molia, Melissa Wilmott. and many more. All judges or hearing officers. They allow my husband to write his own divorce and child support decisions. It being he already has filing access. This govrnment is mean, nasty and deviant.

Anonymous said...

guilty as the men.

Anonymous said...

Going to tell all in Bill Windsors movie. Lawless Ameerica.

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely correct that the women of the court system are as guilty as the men, as I have stated above, because they are absent from abuses toward female employees.

The women of the courts believe that they have the most submissive...they may not recognize that.... but honorable job of their lives and extremely more impressive than most women employed.

The women I worked with came from part time jobs..flower shops..stores..or homemakers.
When these few women were hired and got to deal with famous politicians who wore robes and were called judges..they thought they were outrageously special.

I could not believe the change in these less then ordinary women..some were very tacky, over weight and dressed poorly..but man did they think they were above all...and still do!

Maybe this is the reason female lawyers and judges do not come they too feel grateful they are court employees.

Whatever influence OCA uses to influence or intimidate women employees...does not excuse them as complicit..but I honestly think they do not actually initiate the corruption most times, but cover it up or participate in it to please MEN~..TYPICAL FEMALE BEHAVIOR IN LIFE!

One psychiatrist I was compelled to see because I had filed a stress WC claim..told me women are women's worst enemy in targeted cases..esp harassment, because women refuse to go against men and often are jealous of the attention not directed towards them...this was from several different male shrinks over a 10 yr period.

If women would assess themselves and embrace independence..the judicial system would never treat any females differently..but OCA knows the psychology of the female envy and abuses it!

Anonymous said...

The fix is in. They NEVER review cases like this. What a joke!

Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2
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