Pro Bono Barrister: Kings Inn `LRR Hood, Esq.’ faces off against `Rambo, Esq.’

What chance does barrister “Little Red Riding Hood” have against the fast and devious "Rambo, Esq?” A prominent group of local barristers is about to find out.

Using these characters and their “stories” as an instructional framework, the Kings County Inn of Court, led by President Marc Dittenhoefer, will find how "Red" fares against her potent foe when they gather the evening of Oct. 23.

Of course it will be a drama with a panel led by the witty Dave Chidekel, whose players will be acting out their various roles to demonstrate the good and the bad of zealous representation in and out of court.

The title says a lot: "Rambo vs. Red Riding Hood: Blinded by Your Own Persona? Contrasts in Style between Zealous Advocacy and Extreme Civility."

(Some observers suggest that President Obama was guilty of “extreme civility” in his first debate with Mitt Romney, which was sort of moderated by Jim Lehrer. Now others are accusing him of “zealous advocacy” in the second slugfest controlled a little better by Candy Crowley–but then, we digress...)

One suspects that director Chidekel’s charges will offer a plain but pretty young attorney to represent clients who have been unfairly treated by a Rambo-like attorney and – having seen the script – they could be right.
The element of surprise won’t be harmed if we reveal a few of Rambo’s singular traits – his name says a lot, as do his camouflage undies and black headband.

But we can’t reveal anything else at this point except to note that members are urged to get there in time for dinner.

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Pre-show buffet repast starting at 5:30 p.m.

In accordance with traditional Inn collegiality, there will be a delicious buffet repast provided, starting at 5:30 — at BBA headquarters, 123 Remsen St., a half hour before the show begins. Arrangements for the meaningful evening are in the hands of Inn Administrator Marie Lattanzi and Executive Director Jeff Feldman.

Other Inn officers are President-Elect Justice Ellen Spodek, Counselor David Chidekel., Treasurer Justice Arthur M. Schack and Judge Miriam Cyrulnik, secretary. Immediate past president is Rosario Marquis D’Apice.

Traditionally, Inns are governed by Inn Masters, who are Hon. Gloria Cohen Aronin, Appellate Division Justice Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix, former Chief Administrative Judge For Civil Matters, Kings County; Justice Barry Kamins, Chief A.J. For Criminal Matters, Kings County; Justice Carl Landicino, U.S. District Judge William Kuntz, II, Judge Joanne Quinones, and barristers Paul Weitz, Mark Longo, Victoria Wickman, Steve Goolnick, Steven Finkelstein, Lawrence DiGiovanna and Jon Besunder.

The Kings Inn chapter was founded almost 13 years ago by four justices: Justice Marsha Steinhardt, Hon. Gerard Rosenberg, Ret., Hon. Abraham Gerges, Ret. and former Justice Edward Rappaport.

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Will Steve Harkavy reveal his negotiating technique?

The Brooklyn Bar Association panel will present a novel "nuts and bolts" program so useful that it should be attended by every new attorney on Oct. 29. Led by Acting Supreme Court Justice Robin Garson, Hon. Elizabeth Bonina, Dean Delianites and Steve Harkavy, this distinguished group will discuss "Negotiation Tips and Techniques.”

This is a topic that’s hard to teach in law school. Justice Garson has a lot of courtroom experience on the bench, and Hon. Bonina has been a successful trial lawyer and a jurist. I’ve never had the pleasure of picking a jury with Dean Delianites, but have been engaged in several trial matters with Steve Harkavy. All were quite interesting.

And, if veteran defense counsel Steve can convey his tried and true methods he employed to deflate the value (ethically of course) of a case while picking a jury, his delivery alone will be worth the (nominal) price of admission.

Most memorable, for this writer at least, was the first description of the “alleged value” of the case Steve would “plant” with his plaintiff opponent on the way to the jury room. His colorful terms are not repeatable here. But, the good news is that no matter what Steve said it was usually possible to achieve a “meeting of the minds” on a fair settlement figure. If not, you could count on trying a case against a guy who was a master of the rules of evidence and a true gentleman.

The BBA is headed this year by President Domenick Napoletano. Executive Director Avery Okin reports that those who would attend can e-mail their request to [email protected]. The session, which gets underway at 6 p.m. at 123 Remsen St. offers two CLE credits in the "Skills" category.

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Does Molinari still ‘rule’ Republicans on Staten Island?

When former Republican S.I. Congressman (and borough president and assemblyman) Guy Molinari back in 2010 presented former FBI agent Michael Grimm as his choice to oppose one-term Cong. Dem. Michael McMahon in the right-leaning 13th C.D.-- which links all of Staten Island with a goodly swath of  Brooklyn --  the photogenic  Grimm, an ex Marine who had served in Iraq, had a lot going for him.

For starters, he had gained the very valued backing of a cohesive Brooklyn-based state Conservative Party. In addition, residing in –and very active in -- the Kings portion of the 13th C.D. were the following: State Conservative Chair Mike Long, Kings Conservative Chair Gerry Kassar and other Conservative leaders such as District Leader Fran Vella-Marrone.

In the bargain, Grimm would be running in a Brooklyn area represented in the state senate by a very popular R-C. State Sen. Marty Golden, the leading R-C. vote-getter here for almost 14 years.

Key to Grimm’s selection and ultimate victory however would be the above-mentioned Guy Molinari, a man who had survived a serious illness a comparative few years before. Ironically, in 2010, held no public elected position!

A brief history of the Molinari myth-making story is in order.

Guy Molinari was born Nov. 11, 1928, the son of a one-time Staten Island assemblyman. He started in his father’s footsteps by getting elected to the Assembly in 1975. Within six years he was already a prominent member of Congress.

It was generally assumed that he most certainly retire after helping his talented daughter, Susan, to take over his seat in Congress. He had no intention of retiring and was elected Staten Island Borough President.

Nor did Guy Molinari step out of the political picture six years later when Susan decided to quit politics, leave Congress and raise a family with another outgoing Congress member, Bill Paxon. Still in total command, he tapped a former Councilman Vito Fossella to carry on where his highly respected politically ‘moderate’ daughter left off.

When Vito Fossella was presented to the Brooklyn portion of the 13th CD (at the Bay Ridge Manor), he was viewed as an articulate, engaging candidate.

Fossella won that election and was re-elected.  About that time, the word spread through political circles that the two had a very bad personal split. Reportedly Fossella was trying to become independent of his mentor.

To the distress of the GOP, a few years later, Fossella decided not to run again in the following election, due to a well-publicized marital crisis. Did Guy Molinari retire? Of course not. Once again, he was free to begin the search for a suitable candidate –especially someone suitable to the powerful Kings County Conservatives.

Plucked from relative political obscurity was a tough and quick-thinking Michael Grimm.

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Guy Molinari at age of 82 fashioned Grimm candidacy

Most significant for political neophyte Grimm was his virtual adoption and endorsement by a beaming Guy Molinari, whose imprimatur – by 2010 -- had become the political equivalent of the holy grail in this Staten Island based  district.

Grimm would take on a  tough and true Democrat–one-term incumbent Cong. Mike McMahon.

With Republicans and Staten Island Conservatives in disarray, City Councilman Mike McMahon had rolled over William Straniere in 2008. McMahon waged a solid campaign and received no coattail help from the top of the Democratic ticket, led then, as now, by President Barack Obama.

Credit Grimm with keeping his cool: Some say that Grimm won the razor-thin race by going toe to toe in a televised Channel One debate with the unyielding and well-informed incumbent McMahon. Neither backed down, but Grimm was able to show voters that he had a grasp of his positions and knew how to defend them.

When Grimm beat Cong. Mike McMahon in 2010 by a one-per cent margin, it was proven, once again, why the professorial Molinari has endured as the prime mover in Staten Island politics, since he beat the Democratic incumbent, Jack Murphy, almost 32 years ago!
   
This – 2012 -- was to be a surrender year for Democrats as far as the 13th C.D. was concerned. The Democratic leaders in Washington – especially Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – had decided the surprisingly agile and TV-camera friendly Grimm was unbeatable. He moved from the GOP center to the extreme Tea Party right, but backed House Speaker John Boehner every time Boehner needed his vote.

As a result of top Democrats ceding the 13th C.D. to Grimm, their search resulted in the recruitment of the very presentable Michael Murphy, son of one-time Cong. Jack Murphy – the fellow Guy Molinari defeated back in 1980.

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With little funding, Murphy needed a political break

An actor, young Murphy can match Grimm as a camera-ready TV performer, but he had lived outside of the district, apparently in Hollywood, for the better part of the last 20 years. Making matters worse, since the Democrats had already ceded the district to Grimm, there was virtually no funding from Democratic honchos in Washington. Murphy had to hope some kind of Grimm misstep would occur.

So, when Grimm got in hot water recently over a complex probe into his campaign financing, it looked as though Nancy Pelosi and Co. would take a second look at Murphy’s chances of pulling an upset. Clearly the lack of earlier funding has hamstrung the Murphy campaign. (One Bay Ridge voter reports receiving four expensive Grimm mailings – usually linking Murphy with the unpopular Ms. Pelosi, and only one political piece so far from the Democratic challenger, implying that Grimm had criminal connections.)

Clearly concerned about the harsh attacks on his character, Grimm did a really smart thing some days ago – he held a press conference seated alongside Guy Molinari. Now almost 84, Molinari proved he could still throw a vicious punch. While Grimm talked loftily about earning the respect of the voters for his many moral stances, Molinari took the road he has traveled quite well over the past 40 years – he attacked Murphy and his father Jack.

Patiently, and never with venom, the articulate, grandfatherly octogenarian assailed the younger Murphy as an outlander and his father as a guy who “spent time in jail,” referring to Jack Murphy’s role in the ABSCAM scandal which rocked Washington in the late ’70's and early ’80s.

Many would say that resurrecting a 30-year-old conviction is hitting below the belt, and that the son should not have to pay for the sins of his father, who has indeed paid his debt to society. This kind of attack is just too personal.

But to Guy Molinari, looking forward to his 84th birthday in late November, it’s just politics. And, as he’s demonstrated over the years, Guy Molinari takes politics personally.

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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
[email protected]. Notice: Readers seeking legal representation on a Pro Bono Publico basis should not contact this columnist. Rather, they should seek out the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project at 718 -624-3894.