Don’t Blame Judges for Closing Courts At 4:30
By Charles F. Otey, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Conditions in Bronx Criminal Courts have always been more challenging, according to veteran attorneys. Some point out that with more poverty comes more crime allegedly committed by people who can’t afford attorneys. A vicious cycle. Guilty or innocent, they can’t handle the cost of putting up a proper defense.
Even day-to-day expenses inflict a disproportionate financial toll on the families of complaining witnesses and defendant. Taking a day off to attend her son’s criminal hearing can often be more than a working mother can afford.
Even getting into “Supreme Bronx” prevents a challenge. Long lines, heavily guarded, prompted one attorney to dub it “Court Apache in the Bronx.”
It’s not nearly as bad as the notorious “Fort Apache in The Bronx” — the mythical out-of-control NYPD precinct that served as a plot point in the ’80s movie of the same name. But when thousands of words are finally devoted by the NYT to a problem — e.g. five-year delays in serious felony trials — it’s safe to say there is trouble in the Bronx.
There is trouble through the entire system simply because there is not enough money allotted to the courts in state and city budgets. Times reporter William Glaberson mentions money problems in his series but apparently doesn’t realize how budget crises have crippled many of our courts.
The Times blames much of the problem on the “system” and zeroes in on an attorney named Rankin who seems highly skilled at getting his cases adjourned and adjourned ad nauseum. A notable anecdote, but Rankin’s alleged stalling behavior seems more a symptom than a cause.
Those familiar with the delays clogging the wheels of justice know that there are some answers that haven’t yet received adequate attention by the Fourth Estate.
Quickly forgotten, for instance, is the 13-year delay in even granting cost-of-living raises to more than 1,250 judges. That horrific impasse discouraged bright younger attorneys from even considering a career on the bench and even brought on the resignations of several top jurists.
Some raises have grudgingly been granted, but the lingering negative effects continue to take their toll as more and more first-year attorneys make appearances before judges who are earning half the new barrister’s salary.
Compounding this disgraceful situation is the wholesale slashing of court budgets — including the Bronx, the poorest borough and the venue with the most disproportionate rate of crime.
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Glaberson Story Unfairly Cites Judges `Closing Early’
What the public doesn’t know and the Fourth Estate, including the esteemed NYT, can’t appreciate is how the lack of funds contributes to increasing delays, especially in the criminal courts, where a lot of costly personnel are required to house and transport incarcerated defendants.
Defendants appearing in custody and shackles at 11 a.m. in response to a court docket scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. constitute one of the clearly visible problems brought on by lower and lower administrative budgets.
Unfairly — and perhaps demonstrating a reflexive press bias against the judiciary -- the Times article castigates judges whose courtrooms close at 4:30 p.m. Reporter Glaberson’s reporting is largely laudable ,but he gives short shrift to the bench on this particular issue. What should have been emphasized is that these jurists have been ordered to shorten their hours because funds are not available to pay the court officers and clerks.
Coupling the demoralizing almost 13-year delay in a judicial salary increase compounded by the 15 percent cutback in court budgets, it’s no surprise that the system, in part, is failing—Bronx County is ‘going’ first because it is the system’s weakest link.
Chief Judge Lippman has done his best by bringing in a new Criminal Court administrator, Justice Douglas McKeon. Procedures have been radically altered. Wisely, he has enlisted the “SWAT” squad made up of the city’s most effective jurists such as Kings County Justice Patricia DiMango to “clean up” the calendars by speeding up dispositions.
While long-serving Bronx DA Robert Johnson has come in for his share of the blame, it’s interesting to note that veteran Kings DA Joseph Hynes had done very well in controlling court calendars. DA Hynes works hard to ensure there are well-prepared ADAs in court on time, informed and ready for trial.
Justice DiMango’s temporary assignment is a mark of her superior performance and a compliment as well to excellent performances of top Criminal jurists such as A.J. Barry Kamins and Justice William Miller.
Kings Chief Administrative Justice for Civil Matters Lawrence Knipel, known for handling the most complex matters in medical malpractice and other areas, gets top marks for keeping the civil side working smoothly despite stunning decreases in court personnel.
But how long can courts such as those in Brooklyn afford to supply judges to deal with the historically strained Bronx criminal system?
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Does Anyone Know What An IRS 1031 Exchange Is?
Brooklyn Bar Association CLE director Meredith Symonds reports that an IRS 1031 Exchange is such a vital topic that it will be the topic of the featured presentation on April 25.
“With new and higher tax rates,” she advises, “investors are looking for alternatives, and real estate professionals need to under the 1031 Exchange.” Those who attend will learn “how and when to set up a 1031 Exchange, types of property that qualify, the strict deadlines that apply (and) how to defer capital gains taxes, and potential pitfalls to avoid.”
Handling the evening’s agenda will be the BBA’s Real Property Committee chaired by Mark Caruso.
Working with BBA Executive Director Avery Okin, Director Symonds has a half dozen solid CLE offerings in April with some of the best remaining (including one tonight, April 22, titled “Everything You Wanted To Know About Family Court Appeals,” sponsored by the BBA’s Family Court Committee headed by Judge Esther Morgenstern and Robert Ugelow).
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Kings Inn Session Will Deal With Stress Management
One thing all practicing lawyers know only too well is the stress that comes with representing a client who is difficult, or the awareness that what you do and how you handle the case will make a huge difference in someone’s life.
So it’s timely that the Kings American Inn of Court’s next session will offer a well-styled presentation entitled “Chaos, Panic and Disorder: Deal With It, Baby! An Evening of Stress Management.”
The program, chaired by Appellate Division Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix and Larry DiGiovanna, gets underway 6 p.m. April 23 at the Brooklyn Bar Headquarters, 123 Remsen Street, according to Inn President Marc Dittenhoefer.
Keeping with the tradition of the Ancient English Inns of Court, the organization’s members will enjoy a delicious buffet dinner if they show up a half-hour earlier at 5:30.
This Inn Chapter was founded almost 13 years ago by Appellate Term Justice Marsha Steinhardt and then-Justices Gerard Rosenberg, Edward Rappaport and Abraham Gerges. At first, the Inn met in a courtroom at 360 Adams St.
The actual courtroom atmosphere provided an air of authencity for participants—especially younger attorneys who had never spoken in a courtroom under pressure.
Though the panels are led by veteran barristers, they enable younger or inexperienced attorneys to get the feel of actual trial combat. “There’s just no better for a lawyer to prepare than to confront an opponent in open court,” notes Rosenberg. “That’s been a key factor in the Inn’s success since our members re-enact true-to-life trials, which gives them a chance to make their case before their peers.”
Regardless, former Kings A.J. Hinds-Radix and panel co-leader Larry DiGiovanna (a past president of the BBA and the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association) will direct their colleagues in a show that will be effective, instructive and rewarding (with CLE credits).
Other Inn officers include President-elect Justice Ellen Spodek, Counselor David Chidekel, Treasurer Justice Arthur Schack and Secretary Acting Justice Miriam Cyrulnik. Inn executive director is Jeff Feldman.