Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Flacks Report [The Ides of March]

Schneiderman's Seat---New Supreme?---Civil Court Interims---Manh. Civil Court Vacancies---Up-date on Surrogate---Contract Contretemps at the City Board of Elections---Celeste W. Sturcken
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Schneiderman's Seat

Upper West Side New York State Senator Eric Schneiderman is running in a field of five for the State Attorney General post being vacated by Andrew Cuomo, who is running for Governor. "Everyone" is running for something it seems in today's version of political musical chairs. Considered the major players for Eric's seat are Washington Heights District Leader Mark Levine and Assemblymember Adriano Espallait. For further information, see Sal Gentile's excellent story, which you may link to here:

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New Supreme?

In a previous Flacks Report, we reported that N.Y.C. Civil Court Judge Manuel Jacobo "Manny" Mendez-Olivero was appointed as an Acting Supreme Court Justice; however, it appears that we were mistaken. Although ostensibly appointed, he hasn't appeared on the Supreme Court "term sheets" this year. It is rumored, but not confirmed, that when needed for a Supreme Court case, he is made an acting Supreme just for that case (called a "pop-up" part) and then goes back to Civil Court. [This is analogous to pro hac vice for attorneys.]

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Civil Court Interims

Interim Civil Court judges have been appointed by the Mayor until year's end, when new, elected judges will take over. In Lucy Billings former place (Dist. 1), Ilana Gruebek, a Kings County Family Court referee; and Robert Kalish, previously a Civil & Criminal court judge, for Ira Globerman's County-wide seat.

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Manhattan Civil Court Vacancies

There are number of vacancies for seats on the N.Y.C. Civil Court in Manhattan. Two, which are elected County-wide, exist because of the early retirement of Judges Harold Beeler and Ira Globerman.

There is a vacancy in the 1st District (lower west side--roughly south of W. 14th Str. to the Battery) because Judge Lucy Billings was elected to the State Supreme Court. A vacancy exists in the 5th District (upper west side--W. 65th Str. to W. 110th Str.; Park to River) because incumbent Laura Safer-Espinoza is not seeking re-election. Also there is one in the 9th District (E. 14th Str. to E. 94th Str.; east of Lex. Ave.) as incumbent Republican Judge Marylin Diamond, who could be re-elected for one year, chooses not to do so. [This Civil Court district seat will probably be "filled" by a local screening panel set up by the Lexington Dems; all others, by the "County's" panel.]

Judge Karen Smith, also elected from the 5th District, keeps saying that she intends to leave the bench, but has not set a date. It is rumored that she is waiting until her clerks can find other jobs. And Judge Diane Lebedeff, 3rd District (west side--W. 14th Str. to W. 65th Str., east of 7th Ave.) was going to leave before her term was up, but decided against it after being designated an Acting Supreme Court Justice.

Two incumbent judges whose term expires are standing for re-election: Matthew Cooper from a County-wide seat and Joan Kenney, elected from the 1st Civil Court District.

The N.Y. County Democratic organization's judiciary committee is in the process of establishing a panel to screen lawyers who want to be a judge and are seeking our Party's designation. The panel's administrator is Fernando Augusto Bohorquez, hijo, of Brooklyn, who is a commercial litigation partner with Baker & Hostetler and who has done much pro bono publico work as well.

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The Latest on the Surrogate Court

The case against Surrogate Nora Anderson, before State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus, is to begin with jury selection on Tuesday, 16th March, 2010. Judge Obus dismissed all but two counts of the ten-count indictment. The District Attorney recently moved to restore two of the dismissed counts, but Obus denied the People’s request essentially saying that the D.A. was now raising new material which was outside the record and the evidence before the Grand Jury. The D.A. presented no new evidence in his attempt to re-argue. The trial, then, will deal with the two remaining counts of filing false instruments with the N.Y.C. Board of Elections.

[On Tuesday, 16th inst., jury selection began. At day's end, only four people were impaneled. Judge Obus was excellent in his part of the voir dire. The prospective jurors were a true cross-section of Manhattanites. Some expressed their concern about sending the defendant to jail if found guilty--if jail was involved with this "white collar" crime. And some, usually Manhattan natives or very long-term residents, disagreed with the issue of financial limits in campaigns, one saying "They all do it." Judge Obus politely and carefully explained that a juror has to accept his charge to the jury on the law and that sentencing, which involves a number of factors, was not the jury's province.

Once again the D.A. was grasping at straws (done outside the presence of the jurors). The People wanted to raise the issue of the defendant's motivation and the canons of judicial ethics based on a lecture given by the court system to judicial candidates and their campaign managers. And again the trial judge properly denied the request, pointing out the issue was the indictment's counts of purportedly filing false campaign financials.

Although reporters usually do not attend jury selection, The News, The Post (whose reporter also was paying attention to the latest issue of Vanity Fair), and the New York Times had reporters there some of the time.]

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Contract Contretemps at the City Board of Elections

New York City has to change from the mechanical voting machines to electronic ones. But a tempest now has a risen, which is quite convoluted. The Board of Elections awarded a contract to one vendor for electronic voting machines, but gave the contract to another for the "privacy booths." However, the Board just undid the privacy booth deal because the price jumped substantially from the original quoted price. So, right now, we are going to continue to use those cardboard triptychs used when an Affidavit ballot has to be filled out.

In addition, each election district is to have a supply cabinet (on wheels). Board staff members selected one from among 16, but the Commissioners now want to see all sixteen.

There is also a law suit over the awarding of the voting machines contract in Albany State Supreme Court by the losing vendor. Will we be ready for the September, 2010, Primary Election?

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Celeste W. Sturcken

Celeste W. Sturcken, wife of Charles Sturcken, Esq., died on March 3rd this year. A memorial service to be announced.


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