Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister for June 17

Steve Cohn’s Seneca Club Holds Spring Gala

One of the rites of spring is the annual dinner of the Seneca Club Spring Gala at the Polonaise Terrace, now in its 114th year. Steve Cohn, a leader in the Kings County Democratic Party and the president of the club, is one of the state’s outstanding volunteer lawyers who still maintains a busy practice on Court Street with partner Richard Goldberg. Steve’s two major events — the other being his annual Pre-election Pumpkin Party at Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue — draw heavily from the legal, business and educational communities. Several photos from the gala are seen on this page.  

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Early Retirement Age for Judges Squanders Experience and Wisdom

With prolonged financial cuts damaging the operation of our court system, it amazes many that experienced, talented and remarkably sentient judges are being forced to retire while they are, in many ways, at the peak of their judicial careers.

A brief mention in PBB last week noting the forced retirement ages for most NYS judges would be elevated by legislation pending in the state assembly and senate is passed. The bill’s future is clouded with Republicans adding amendments which would hamstring the measure requiring another year or two to amend the state constitution.

Almost 20 other states have lifted or totally eliminated a retirement age. Many of them did so in keeping with the federal court systems where judges serve for life.

Reportedly, the issue of early retirement for judges has come before the voters before and was defeated each time. But times have dramatically changed. We cite John Cavanaugh, Pennsylvania higher education chancellor, who said:

“We’ve come a long way since the 1930s when Social Security began and the age expectancy was in the early 60s. Back then they didn’t know as much about how to take care of themselves and how to prevent diseases and [even] cure acute diseases.  A lot of what we know came about in the last 40 to 45 years,” added Chancellor Cavanaugh.

Many, including Cavanaugh, often cite the life-time appointments for U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Four of them — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy — are well past the age of 70.
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Good Presidents Come, Good Presidents Go

June is indeed the season ending the “year” for most lawyers’ groups, such as the Kings County Inn of Court, which will hold its annual gala on June 24 at the Battery in Manhattan. The new Inn slate will consist of President Justice Ellen Spodek, President-elect Dave Chidekel, Counselor Justice Arthur Schack, Treasurer Acting Supreme Court Justice Miriam Cyrulnik and Secretary Jon Besunder.

The outgoing president, deserving many plaudits, is Marc Dittenhoefer, a trial lawyer who takes his “volunteer” work at the Inns of Court and other organizations seriously. Like a good trial lawyer, he never showed up for a (mock) trial unprepared.

While we’re welcoming new Inn President Justice Ellen Spodek, we must mention Inn member Andrew Fallek, who was recently sworn in as president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Justice Spodek and President Fallek have been outstanding ‘performers’ in the Inn’s CLE-accredited skits  

Reflecting  English  Inns of Court tradition, the Kings chapter has been governed by a Board of Masters which includes Hon. Gloria Aronin, Jon Besunder, Appellate Division Justice Cheryl  Chambers, Larry DiGiovanna, Steve Finkelstein, Steven Goolnick, Appellate Division Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Justice Barry Kamins, Federal Judge William Kuntz, Justice Carl Landicino, Victoria Lombardi, Mark Longo, Judge Joanne Quinones and Paul Weitz.

Hon. Randolph Jackson (ret.), left, with Zev Wexsler. 

Stephanie Scholnick, left, with Hon. Leonard Scholnick, retired justice, and Theodora Martinez. 

Attorney Steve Cohn, right, with Mary Zuckerbraun. Photos by Joseph E. Levine