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Pro Bono Barrister: Look for Kings leader Seddio at Steve Cohn’s big pumpkin party!

Attorney Frank Seddio likes to cook and throw parties. He loves holidays.

Attorney Steve Cohn likes to throw parties – particularly at Junior’s – and to present all guests with superior pumpkin cheesecake. He loves holidays.

Seddio is one of the most congenial and well-liked Democrats in the borough. He’s from Canarsie.

Cohn is one of the most congenial and well-liked Democrats in the borough. He lives in Greenpoint-Williamsburg.

Frank Seddio was a leader of the vaunted Jefferson Democratic Club, which goes back to the days of the late “Boss” Meade Esposito.

Steve Cohn is the driving force in the 111-year-old Seneca Democratic Club.

On Wednesday night, Frank Seddio was elected chair of the Kings County Democratic Party.

Steve Cohn? Well I haven’t asked him, but based on past performance, he’s always lending his considerable talents to the Kings Democrats and will be a force under the new leader. He’s one of the few top Democratic figures who hasn’t, in one way or another, sought the county leadership. And, he will continue to serve as one our most productive executives on the Brooklyn Bar’s Volunteer Lawyer Project.

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And they are not ‘proteges’ of Vito Lopez

Neither of these men, we should tell you, is a “protege” of former party leader Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Both spent years making their own way up through the labyrinthine passages of Brooklyn party politics. Both have always been regarded as “regulars,” which means they are reflexively disrespected by most news people who have never taken the time and trouble to learn much about the often-arcane elective process in this or any other city.

“Regulars” aren’t afraid to do the political nitty-gritty. For instance, while “reformers” seem to always pout and stomp their feet when their qualifying election petitions get thrown out of court because they didn’t obey the law, true regular leaders do the groundwork. They search registration rolls. They deploy responsible “subscribing witnesses.” They file two to three times the minimum number of voters signatures required to get a spot on the ballot.

‘Reformers’ are actually nice people and some, like Jo Anne Simon, have worked hard on civic issues -- such as the still dreamed-of Gowanus Tunnel.

But politics, like corporate stuff, is a power game that can get very complex. Sometimes leaders emerge who let their self-interest come before that of their party and the voters. They can become arrogant to the point where they believe the law doesn’t apply to them.

After having endured two Kings Democratic leaders who have run afoul of the law, maybe it’s time Brooklyn Democrats chose a county chair like Frank Seddio with a history of law enforcement.
Having spent 23 years with the NYPD before going to (St. John’s) law school, getting elected to the state Assembly (1998 to 2005), and becoming as a Kings County Surrogate, Frank Seddio sure looks like a tough cop. Maybe he could play the chief of detectives on Law & Order, but now he has to handle an even tougher role!

In reviewing his impressive climb from relative obscurity in the NYPD rank and file, we must note he started out as a community organizer. He distinguished himself by serving as district manager and then as board chair of Community Board 18, based in Canarsie.

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Gatemouth Blog proclaims ‘The end of autocracy’

The Democratic convention was a little hectic, we’re told. But there no battles over their ultimate choice -- Frank Seddio’s leadership race was never in doubt even though he had been opposed by the aforementioned Jo Anne Simon, a district leader for Downtown-Boerum Hill, and by Assemblyman Karim Camara, who has worked hard to establish his own reputation after succeeding Clarence Norman in the lower Albany chamber.

Norman was the very troubled Kings Democratic leader who was convicted of misappropriation of campaign funds. Successor Lopez’s alleged misdeeds – including charges of sexual harassment brought by female staff members -- have opened the way for a strong leader like Seddio.

In reality, some well-meaning reformers will continue to pound away at the regulars who far outnumber them. Frank Seddio will do whatever he has to do to bring peace throughout the party in this overwhelmingly Democratic borough of Brooklyn.

Among the party’s first actions Wednesday night, for instance, was to nominate three outstanding jurists for the November ballot. They are Justices Barry Kamins (the Kings A.J. of criminal matters), Hon. William Miller and Appellate Division Justice Cheryl Chambers.

Our favorite quote on Seddio’s achievement is from the Gatemouth at Room Eight blogger, who wrote that Seddio’s “ascent to county leader is not the dawn of reform but the end of autocracy.” Well put, anonymous cyber scribe!

We don’t know that much else about the leadership agenda of Frank Seddio, but we are sure of one thing: He’ll be there at Junior’s the Friday morning before Election Day enjoying the company of hosts Steve and son Warren Cohn at their traditional welcoming and warm pre-election Pumpkin Party.

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Breaking news: Justice Kurtz sets civil forum date: Oct. 24

Pro Bono had just learned that the next Kings County Supreme Court Goldberg/Aronin Civil Forum – presided over by Justice Donald Scott Kurtz -- will take place 9 a.m., the morning of Oct. 24 in the hallowed 11th floor boardroom of the Supreme Court at 360 Adams St.

Why is it called the “Goldberg/Aronin” forum? What role has this regular gathering of jurists and barristers and court personnel played in smoothing the operation at 360 Adams St. since the days of then presiding Administrative Judge Mike Pesce?

More on this in our next PBB! Those who have matters they would like placed on the agenda that morning should contact chambers of Justice Kurtz–dkurtz@courts.state.ny.us.

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Press goes after judicial license plates!

Just a few years back a number of newspapers were assailing the justices at 360 Adams St. because they had a parking lot adjacent to the building.

One malcontent, it seemed, complained because he was tired of eating his lunch on the back steps of Borough Hall. He wanted the judicial parking area to be converted into a scenic park where he and his buds could enjoy a sandwich in an idyllic pastoral setting.

Then-acting Interim Administrative Judge Abe Gerges dealt tactfully but effectively with the matter, holding a series of meetings with community groups. Even the Brooklyn Heights Association wanted to be heard!
It was explained very patiently to all, by Justice Gerges, that the alternative proposal – which would have sent two score jurists back and forth across hazardous Boerum Place every day – posed too much of a risk to the women and men in robes.

One scribe wrote: “We’re all aware of the threats the occasional lunatic hurls at a ruling judge. This [Metrotech parking] proposal would require each of them, despite their age or possible infirmity, to be accompanied to and from a distant parking garage by an armed, uniformed court officer!”

Using communications skilled honed in his days as a city councilman, Justice Gerges finally calmed the public outcry. Presumably the sandwich guy started eating in Columbus Park.

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Adding public insult to financial injury

At the same time, these jurists were among 1,250 throughout New York State who would ultimately spend 12 years without a raise – a sad situation lauded by certain editorial writers, but one that has wreaked havoc on the morale of sitting and possible would-be jurists. (A concomitant effect has been to whittle away at the ranks of those who were aspiring to the bench and would have served honorably and well.)

The latest assault comes in a campaign of innuendoes accusing them of abusing their Supreme Court license plate “privileges.” According to a joyous story in the Daily News, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct is “probing whether it is out of order for judges to have special license plates that could get them off the hook if they speed or run lights.”

The most troubling portion of this putative probe is the baseless allegation that judges would use the plates to drive recklessly with no thought of retribution! This is ridiculous.

An unnamed Manhattan justice put it best when he told the Daily News he found their sniping offensive and petty: “I assure you that no one is using the plates to park in front of Bloomingdale’s,” he said. “We take this job very seriously!”

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Kings Inn to explore the ‘death of privacy’

Kings Inn of Court Masters Steve Goolnick and Marc Longo will headlining the Inn’s CLE-accredited panel when the organization, led by president Marc Dittenhoefer, gathers at Brooklyn Bar Headquasrters Oct. 2 to delve into what they term  “The Death of Privacy.”

Are they talking about the “assault on the citadel of privacy” enunciated by the great Judge Cardozo? Or will they inform Inn members about the rights of The Duchess to bathe topless in privacy on the high seas?

We’ll find out that night. Afterwards, Inn Administrator Marie Lattanzi and Executive Director Jeff Feldman have arranged for a collegial dinner as the Queen Restaurant on Court Street.

Reservations are advised – members should e-mail mlattanz@courts.state.ny.us.

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Would George Romney dismiss the “forty-seven percent”?

Polls from the late 1960s would show that many Democrats preferred Michigan Republican Gov. George Romney over ultimate Democratic nominee Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

Why? Many Democrats were infuriated at the Gestapo-like tactics at the Chicago convention employed by Mayor Richard Daley, brutal tactics against peace demonstrators and the press -- tactics that were implicitly endorsed by a silent Humphrey.

Romney lost his bid for the GOP nomination largely because his earlier pro-war position, he explained, was the result of "brainwashing" carried out on him in the form of misinformation given by the (U.S.) generals when he had visited Vietnam.

To his credit, the founder of American Motors later came out strongly against the war and had the courage to march with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (who was at that time the target of a nasty red-baiting onslaught by J. Edgar Hoover, who had deployed the might of the FBI in an effort to destroy King and the civil rights cause.)

Today, we wonder whether that political trauma stirred in his son, Mitt, a total fear -- perhaps even phobia -- of speaking out candidly and honestly. At least in public.

Based on what we knew about George Romney – who protected his family and helped build his future by receiving “government help” when they came here from Mexico – he would never haughtily write off 47 per cent of the American electorate for receiving federal aid.

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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 COTEYESQ@aol.com.

September 24, 2012 - 3:45am


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