Pro-Bono Barrister: Attorneys Who Can’t Succeed Suing Brooklyn Law School?

By Charles F. Otey

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! Proud graduates of Brooklyn Law School, including this writer, are really wondering whatever — in addition to infantile pique — inspired some disgruntled recent alums to bring legal actions against  the treasured institution!  

Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening,  according to a Daily Eagle story by Legal Editor Ryan Thompson headlined “Alums Sue B’klyn Law School.”

 We’ve heard of kids suing their parents for failing to raise them properly. But the entire idea of bringing an action against your former law school — presumably because you’re having difficulty finding work or have a grudge against a former professor — represents a new low in professional behavior.

 The local attorney for some of the plaintiffs in this litigation — which we would call a lack-of-class action — is a former failed politician, Jesse Kraus, who ran unsuccessfully for a party post in the 52nd Assembly District, which includes Brooklyn Heights.

How could anyone initiate a pathetic ploy as this? Maybe we can blame it on the times:  “As the economic crisis in America continues to take its toll on attorneys looking for jobs, these types of lawsuits seem to be becoming more popular through the country,” wrote Editor Thompson.

“Other schools sued in the class actions filed last week include those in California, Illinois, Delaware and Florida.  In New York, Albany Law School, New York Law School and Hofstra Law School are also being sued,” the Eagle article noted.

Brooklyn Law boasts many prominent graduates, many of whom are serving on our bench in high positions, such as Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau and Appellate Division Justice John Leventhal.

Respected and admired Justice Gerard Rosenberg (BLS-59) recently retired, leaving a number of other BLS alums still active as jurists, such as Justice Donald Scott Kurtz, Justice Marsha Steinhardt,  Justice Karen Rothenberg, Justice Albert Tomei, Court of Claims Justice Matt D’Emic, Justice Bruce Balter,  Justice Thomas Alliotta  Civil Court Judge Barbara Panepinto, Court of Claims Judge Guy J. Mangano and  Supreme Court Justice Carol MacKenzie, to name just a few.

* * *

BLS Is The School
Where Dean Prince Taught!

This misbegotten action against the law school (where I and thousands had the pleasure and honor to study Evidence under the nationally recognized authority, Dean Jerome Prince) is sure to stir the usual late-night television lawyer-bashing jokes. Count on hearing phrases such as “sharks feeding on their own.”

But some good may come out of it. Here I quote, sort of, the grandiloquent professor Robert Reuben Sugarman: “It’s an ill wind that blows no one no good.” Let’s hope the ensuing debate begins to high-light the lack of legal or moral merit to many of the so-called “class actions” that benefit no one except a tiny band of attorneys and do little good for anyone else.

It’s just too common for huge lists of people to be listed as class plaintiffs simply because they bought the same waist-trimmer or organ enhancement device.
In the end, such litigation results in each plaintiff getting precious few dollars while those pushing the litigation rein in huge sums. Meantime, we welcome any Brooklyn Law School graduates to offer their opinions, for print or otherwise (COTEYESQ@AOL.COM).

* * *

Lew Fidles While
Golden Defends His Seat

Sen. Marty Golden vs. Councilman Lew Fidler!!?? What business has a Flatlands-Canarsie councilman like Lew Fidler got running for the state Senate against a well-entrenched Republican-Conservative incumbent like Sen. Marty Golden of Bay Ridge? Will this race be real or imaginary? Good question. Blame a few people who like to spread rumors about the new redistricting proposals floating around in Albany, where both state bodies must create new boundaries to accommodate the 2010 U.S. Census.

“It’s like this every 10 years,” a veteran observer told us. “First they — Republicans and Democrats — put out wildly revamped district lines to scare everyone into going along with what they ultimately want. They battle publicly and privately threatening to eliminate the opponent’s strongest districts. But the battles are for show — eventually the Democrats will control the Assembly lines and Republicans will have their way in the Senate.”

Most people agree that the easiest legislative job here is the City Council. Traveling to Albany once or twice a week — worse, spending days there in the freezing winter — makes work in the Assembly and Senate much more grueling.

On the other hand, while it’s legally a part-time job, serving as one of the city’s 60 or so City Council members pays pretty well. And if you’re the type to go to meetings and get involved in local causes, you can do a lot as a member of the council.

When Fidler decided he wanted to leave the easy four-year subway commute to City Council Chambers for a two-year term in cold, dank Albany, replacing disgraced Democrat Carl Kruger, he probably knew that this year of reapportionment would contain its own special nightmares  But, veteran politico that he is, even he couldn’t imagine running in a  new senatorial district that would pit him against Brooklyn’s only Republican incumbent, who is so popular that even established Democrats don’t run against him.

Yes, there was a race in 2010, when Golden won his fourth term trouncing youthful unknown Democrat Michael DeSantis. This year he’s pitted — at least at this time — against youthful Andrew Gounardes, a more serious candidate, but one who’s still some years from being a dangerous contender.

Also significant politically is that this year much of Golden’s district is sure to favor any Republican opponent over President Barack Obama, with the clear exception of Newt Gingrich. Regardless, any Democrat who runs in the “Golden” district will have many such extra burdens to bear.

New rumors say that the earlier rumors about a Fidler vs. Golden race were premature. Lew Fidler certainly hopes so!

* * *

Court Lawyer Brian Kiernan
Is a Leader in His Community

While some lawyers who work in the court system go home at night to stay and don’t get involved with their communities, we’d like to mention a colleague — Brian Kiernan, a Kings court attorney — who’s taken an active role in his Bay Ridge neighborhood.

Not only does Brian serve on Community Board 10 as a committee chair, he has written a very interesting column, “We the People,” for the local newspapers the Home Reporter and the Brooklyn Spectator for the last few years.

An avowed Democrat, Brian takes tasteful swipes at the GOP from time to time and backs Democratic candidates in local races. But he doesn’t take any partisanship to Community Board 10, where he demonstrated a very even hand on Tuesday night. He presided over a delicate and forward-looking proposal to conduct a summer pedestrian-mall program along part of the Third Avenue commercial strip.

In fact, his committee, following the public hearing, voted in favor of the innovative proposal — which Merchants of Third Avenue Chair Bina Valenzano has dubbed “Summer Stroll” — and which will bring in scores of neighborhood art and culture groups for four Friday nights this summer.

Heading the Merchants of Third Avenue, by the way, is attorney Bob Howe, who was there along with a number of local leaders supporting Summer Stroll. Howe, we also note, is a top executive of the Kings County GOP, headed by another Bay Ridge leader, attorney Craig Eaton.

« « «

‘Deep Gavel’ Reports on
A ‘Clever Jury’

PBB readers, of course, are familiar with a regular, contributed feature which is sent us anonymously from a barrister we call “Deep Gavel” who is regarded as very knowledgeable and respected.

This week’s “Deep Gavel” message — often told in legal circles in one form or another — deals with a clever jury and will ring true for those who have tried any case, criminal or civil:

“In a criminal justice system based on 12 individuals not smart enough to get out of jury duty, here is a jury to be proud of:

“A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse.

“In the defense’s closing statement, the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick.

“‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all,’” the lawyer said as he looked at his watch.

“Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.” He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly.  A minute passed. Nothing happened. “Finally the lawyer said, ‘Actually, I made up the previous statement. But you all looked on with anticipation. I, therefore, put it to you that you have a reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed, and I insist that you return a verdict of not guilty.’”

The jury retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty.

“But how?”inquired the lawyer. “You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door.”

    The jury foreman replied:

    “Yes, we did look...

    But your client didn’t.”

We’re all indebted to Deep Gavel, whoever he is!   

PRO BONO BARRISTER is a weekly column dedicated to telling about the good that lawyers do. Send your comments or suggestions to this writer care of this newspaper or to

February 10, 2012 - 11:29am



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