Archive for June, 2007

June 23, 2007

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Judge Denies Cancer Patient Monies From Mother’s 17-year-old Estate

June 21, 2007

Judge Denies Cancer Patient Monies From Mother’s 17-Year-Old Estate

Westchester Surrogate Judge Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. Denied Cancer Patient, and Retired Attorney, Monies From Her Mother’s 17-Year-Old Estate.

Adrienne Marsh Lefkowitz found out she had cancer last May. And most people know that stress is not good for cancer patients. But perhaps someone needs to tell that to Westchester County Surrogate Judge Anthony A. Scarpino and The Bank of New York who together tried to crush the Bank’s cancer-victim opponent.

Lefkowitz, a retired New York State attorney is only too familiar with stress as a way of life, a horror involving her mother’s Westchester County estate that has been going on since Irene Marsh’s death 17 years ago. Westchester County Surrogate Court records indicate that Irene Marsh’s other distributees timely received their monies years ago. However, Ms. Lefkowitz and her daughter did not. (Incidentally, Ms. Lefkowitz’s father’s 19-year-old New York County estate is also still pending.)

For many years Ms. Lefkowitz’s estate distributions were often seized in secret by the estate executor, the Bank of New York. The Bank even refused to release her monies (almost $200,000.) after she made a special request related to her cancer diagnosis. And that medical request also didn’t matter much to Westchester County Surrogate Anthony A. Scarpino who not only denied the emergency medical request but failed to even mention the medical need in his decision. (Matter of Irene B. Marsh, New York Law Journal, October 20, 2006, page 28)

Though Lefkowitz provided evidence from her doctor concerning the cancer diagnosis, and her own affidavit seeking an “expedited resolution” to her request for the release of the undistributed funds withheld from her for years, the judge denied her request in a September 28, 2006 ruling. One attorney who reviewed the public file said, “It’s quite clear that Ms. Lefkowitz presented evidence to the court concerning her cancer diagnosis, and her urgent need for special care and treatment. I can’t understand or explain why the request was denied, and without the court even commenting on her need for monies for immediate cancer treatment.”

A review of the filed documents reveal that while rejecting the original grounds asserted by the bank-executor for withholding Lefkowitz’s distributions, the judge refused to release the funds to Lefkowitz because of the bank’s new argument of anticipated future litigation expenses, and a potential estate insolvency. The Bank of New York concealed from the court that it has refused to pay any more legal bills since January 2004.

“But only Lefkowitz, of the 5 beneficiaries was, in effect, being required to “post a bond” for future estate legal expenses,” says another legal expert after a review of the file. “The denial of monies to a cancer patient is reprehensible on its own, but given the bank’s admission to criminal activity, the Bank of New York is hardly a suitable fiduciary in any estate.” He added, “Under New York State Probate Laws, Article 7 of the SCPA, “dishonesty” is grounds for removal of The Bank of New York as it cuts directly to their ineligibility as a fiduciary. This estate should have been finalized years ago, and the denial of money for a cancer patient by the judge and the fiduciary are shocking- beyond words.” (See The Bank of New York non prosecution agreement with the FBI on this forum, to the right)

Instead, the court has left The Bank of New York in place as the fiduciary of Lefkowitz’s mother’s estate, with the clear message that Lefkowitz would get no money for cancer treatment or care, or anything else, because of her plans to finally hold the bank accountable for its failings over the past 17 years, which include their dereliction in securing the Marsh family furnishings, art and jewelry. Lefkowitz is also opposing the huge attorney bills to the estate from McCarthy Fingar LLP. (The reader may recognize the McCarthy Fingar law firm from other stories on this forum, including the Thomas and Agnes Carvel estates) (click “JUDGE TO CANCER PATIENT…” icon on right to view the Court Decision and Lefkowitz’s Affidavit),

The FBI has been investigating why over $300,000 of Lefkowitz’s daughter’s trust funds had been wrongfully retained in trust by the Bank of New York over 2 years after the termination date as set forth in the Marsh wills. The FBI probe follows the 2005 non-prosecution agreement where the Bank of New York agreed not to commit any more crimes, as reported in The New York Times on November 9, 2005. The bank’s non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorneys’ Eastern and Southern Districts of New York involved criminal activities which implicated the bank’s corporate counsel’s office and high-level Bank of New York executives.

Ms. Lefkowitz repeatedly declined to comment on this story.

(This forum will carry other examples of abuse of the cancer patient by The Bank of New York)

Memo #1 to Chief Administrative Judge Ann T. Pfau

June 21, 2007

Memo #1 to Chief Administrative Judge Pfau

**UPDATED June 19, 2007** On June 14th we began the collaborative process of memoralizing our constructive thoughts to Chief Administrative Judge Pfau. And continuing on a regular basis, we will send Judge Pfau a collection of suggestions intent on improving our courts. Also, included in our memos will be various subjects, including our request for updates as to issues addressed in this forum. Your constructive comments will be sent along with the memo. In commenting on this post, please keep it clean and constructive; vent, etc. on other posts, please. Our Memos are meant to HELP the court system for everyone. (this is a work in progress, and information is taken from positive comments and suggestions emailed to us)

**UPDATED June 19, 2007 – FINAL MEMO #1 sent to Judge Pfau June 18, 2007**

MEMO #1

To: Hon. Chief Administrative Judge Ann T. Pfau
Date: Monday, June 18, 2007
RE: SUGGESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION

Dear Honorable Chief Administrative Judge Pfau:

Every law-abiding and honest attorney, court employee and judge, has
cheered your recent appointment as the New York State Chief
Administrative Judge for the Courts. And your presence at the top
brings a sense of hope to every honest citizen, who looks forward to
overall court reform, and the restoration of integrity to the New York
Court system. We urge, and support, your immediate action, and we
respectfully present suggestions for consideration:

1. Amnesty for Judges, Lawyers & Court Employees

SUGGESTION: Establish a 60-day Amnesty period during which judges,
attorneys (court employed and private) and court personnel may come
forward with information regarding improper activity, either known to
them or with which they have been involved. (It’s the only way to see
any true reform.)

2. Direct Access to the Offices of the Chief Administrative Judge

SUGGESTION: Establish Public access computers in every court in the
state, allowing for direct communication to the Chief Judge’s
Administrative Offices, so as to provide top administrators (above
district levels) with timely information from the public concerning
suggestions and/or concerns.

3. Complete Court Employee Accountability

SUGGESTION: The name of all court employees should be easy to
ascertain: name tags, id numbers, or the public posting of all
employee photos with identifying name and position/title.

We appreciate your consideration of the herein respectfully submitted
suggestions.

…more to follow… ###

Former NY State Chief Court Clerk Sues Judges in Federal Court

June 21, 2007

Former NY State Chief Court Clerk Sues Judges in Federal Court

The former chief clerk for Onondaga County Family Court has filed a federal lawsuit alleging she was forced from her job because she would not conspire to spread negative information about a State Supreme Court candidate. (Click on Story to the right)

Seems the former chief court clerk, Ms. Morin, didn’t like that Administrative Judge James Tormey and former Executive Assistant John Voninski wanted her to spy on and provide dirt about State Supreme Court candidate David G. Klim who was a Family Court Judge at the time.

She alleges that her life was made unpleasant when she refused to conspire with the judges, including being made to fill-in for vacationing clerks in far away places. She was apparently asked whether or not she was a “team player.”

This latest peak at procedures on the inside of a New York State Judicial District’s administrative office follows The Westchester Guardian report just a few weeks ago that a criminal investigation was called for involving the alleged improper actions of Westchester County Surrogate Judge Anthony A. Scarpino and New York City Administrative Judge Jacqueline W. Silbermann.

Seems like honest people are feeling a little bit more empowered by the presence of Chief Administrative Judge Ann T. Pfau.

Update: Stories We’re Working On

June 21, 2007

*** 1 *** Sources reveal Westchester Feds have appealed to Washington for HELP. Manhattan FBI has added additional agents to focus on corruption in New York courts. Westchester complaintants have been summoned to 26 Federal Plaza to meet with FBI agents. “Westchester is a mess,” says a source, revealing that the federal government was OVERWHELMED when they set up a federal corruption hotline in White Plains last year. “People -important people– who have been on the inside for years, are now talking. The coming shake-up will change all of Yonkers, White Plains, Mount Vernon and most of Westchester….for the better.” ****LOOK FOR DETAILS, NAMES…..Connecting the dots with Albany, Spano, Bruno, Pirro, party bosses, judges, the Yonkers machine & Westchester and NYC “politics” …. Full Story Coming Soon……….DEVELOPING……..*****

*** 2 *** We’re finalizing collection of documents to support findings on story that may go down as one of the most DISGUSTING judicial beatings in memory: JUDGE DENIES CANCER VICTIM PARENT’S $LEGACY$ FOR TREATMENT AND CARE !!!
******* THIS STORY WILL BE POSTED SOON *******

****IMPORTANT ****** If you have informaton regarding any complaints largely ignored by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Inspector General and/or any attorney disciplinary committee, WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU ….we have 42 to date…. send info via email or pdf. ******

Hope Against Court Corruption Has Arrived. Her Name is Ann T. Pfau.

June 21, 2007

Hope Against Court Corruption Has Arrived. Her Name is Ann T. Pfau.

Hope in the Fight Against Corruption in Our Courts Has Arrived. Her Name is Ann T. Pfau.

It was announced on Friday, May 25, 2007, that Ann T. Pfau would take over as New York State’s Chief Administrative Judge, effective immediately.

Albany insiders report that the appointment, though largely welcomed, is somewhat surprising since Judge Pfau is not the traditional “inside player.” One state employee said, “Judge Pfau is probably one of only a few people who can correct the widespread problems and abuses in our courts. Someone like Ann Pfau is long-overdue.”

Chief Administrative Judge Pfau’s appointment comes at the end of a week when The Westchester Guardian reported on a request for a criminal investigation involving the alleged improper actions of Westchester County Surrogate Anthony A. Scarpino and New York City Administrative Judge Jacqueline W. Silbermann.

Another Albany insider says, “Even Chief Judge Kaye is ready for a shake-up, and Judge Pfau is the person who can get the job done. Judith Kaye doesn’t want to be remembered as being the top person over the type of wide-spread abuse and corruption that would make Boss Tweed blush. It’s about the Kaye legacy at this point.”

One top state official said, “the appointment of Judge Pfau has [Governor] Spitzer’s and [Attorney General] Cuomo’s fingerprints all over it. [Judge] Pfau is how the Governor and the A.G. clean up the mess in the courts.”

As nice as the name Ann T. Pfau sounds, it’s been around for a few years.

As Sam Roberts reported on March 2, 2006 (New York Times: “State Bars a Bronx Lawyer From Receiving Court Appointments”), it was First Deputy Administrative Judge Ann T. Pfau who permanently barred Bronx political heavy-weight Stanley K. Schlein from ever accepting Guardianship and other high-paying judicial appointments.

And the name Ann T. Pfau comes up in a February 23, 2002 New York Times article (“Another Brooklyn Judge Said to Be Reassigned”) as taking action in a Brooklyn State Supreme Court bribe scandal, and where the ethical actions of 5 other judges were being investigated. While censuring one judge, the Commission on Judicial Conduct commented that one judge showed “remarkable insensitivity to his ethical responsibilities.”

And, most heart-warmingly, is the sound of the name Ann T. Pfau as presented in a November 11, 2003 New York Times Metro Briefing (“New York: Brooklyn: Administrative Judge Promoted”) announcing her appointment as First Deputy Chief Administrative Judge, noting that Judge Pfau was then brought in to oversee the corruption probes in the Brooklyn courts, which included her overseeing investigators’ placement of hidden cameras to catch corrupt judges.

Note to Judge Pfau: Honest judges cheer your appointment; honest lawyers cheer your appointment; and honest state employees cheer your appointment. Your employees, the public and the rule of law have been waiting for you.

Developing

June 21, 2007

*** 1 *** Sources reveal Westchester Feds have appealed to Washington for HELP. “Westchester is a mess,” says the source, revealing that the federal government was OVERWHELMED when they set up a federal corruption hotline last year. “People -important people– who have been on the inside for years, are now talking. The coming shake-up will change all of Yonkers, White Plains, and most of Westchester….for the better.” ****LOOK FOR DETAILS, NAMES…..Connecting the dots with Albany, Spano, Pirro, party bosses, judges, the Yonkers machine & Westchester and NYC “politics” …. Full Story Coming Soon……….DEVELOPING……..*****

*** 2 *** We’re working on collecting full documents to support initial findings on story that may go down as one of the most DISGUSTING judicial beatings in memory: JUDGE DENIES CANCER VICTIM PARENT’S $LEGACY$ FOR TREATMENT AND CARE !!!

Wannabe Judge Attorney Writes About Ethical Dilemmas SHE Failed to Report

June 21, 2007

Wannabe Judge Attorney Writes About Ethical Dilemmas SHE Failed to Report

Wannabe Judge Attorney Writes About Ethical Dilemmas SHE Failed to Report

It was reported in The Westchester Guardian (“Carvel Niece Fights Westchester Judicial Machine”, May 17, 2007) that Manhattan attorney Eve Markewich had “itemized in a New York Law Journal article how many different violations of professional ethics and disciplinary rules the attorneys in the Westchester Carvel proceedings inflicted on Agnes Carvel.”

Many blog readers wrote to us saying they were confused, so we looked into the story.

We wondered whether Ms. Markewich did, in fact, author an article that explained how she saw violations of attorney disciplinary rules. “Impossible,” said one lawyer we asked. “She knows that she is obligated to report the improper acts of other attorneys to the disciplinary committee. She can’t use that knowledge as material for a story without reporting it.”

Well, we looked for, and found, that New York Law Journal article, dated Monday, February 14, 2005, “Getting Grounded On Ethical Dilemmas”. The article is a part of the Carvel estate file and available to the public. The New York Law Journal article provides the following credit: “Eve Rachel Markewich is a member of the Blank Rome litigation department. Barbara MacGrady, an associate with the firm, assisted in the preparation of this article.” (Note: Eve Rachel Markewich is no longer with Blank Rome)

We took further note that The Westchester Guardian reported that attorney Markewich had recently run for Manhattan Surrogate. Sure enough, we found attorney Eve Rachel Markewich’s name on the primary ballot for Manhattan Surrogate in 2006. (Note: Ms. Markewich lost the primary election to the current Surrogate, Kristen Booth Glen)

We then poised the following to 36 New York State licensed attorneys:

You become involved in an estate litigation and are astounded that: (1) the will was drafted by an attorney who never met the decedent, or even spoke to him on the telephone; (2) the wife was never advised to seek separate counsel, and never asked to consent to joint representation; (3) the attorney supervising the execution of the documents was not an estates practitioner but was charged with explaining the documents (which were not simple) to the wife; and (4) the wills named several executors, two of whom were corporate attorneys involved in the estate planning process, although they were not the ultimate drafters of the documents- and one of those lawyers also was named as a beneficiary.

We then asked the 36 lawyers: What would you do given the provided facts?

(a) Confront the lawyers about the astounding facts, and maybe advise the court attorney or judge, but surely report the revelations to the disciplinary committee?

(b) Say nothing about the astounding facts because those responsible for the improper acts must approve the $3 million in legal fees you seek. But write an article about the lacking ethics for The New York Law Journal, and then run for Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge in the next election; or

(c) Go to Disney World.

Our findings were inconclusive and our survey abandoned because not one of the queried attorneys would stop laughing.

Attorney Markewich’s conduct is reprehensible, and obviously not funny. And her failings are, unfortunately, not a joke. The Westchester Guardian may be right, “The Estates of Thomas and Agnes Carvel are a microcosm of the political corruption that festers in Westchester Surrogate’s Court.” The facts in the 17-year-old Carvel estate case, and the actions and inaction of Ms. Markewich, point to the critical condition of certain courts in New York.

It is a fact that on Monday, February 14, 2005, the New York Law Journal published an article written by New York attorney Eve Rachel Markewich, titled “Getting Grounded On Ethical Dilemmas.” In that article, Ms. Markewich had that temerity to write about events subsequently brought to her attention in an estate proceeding that resulted in her penning, “It was astounding to me that none of the following issues had been raised in the probate proceeding.” Ms. Markewich then went on to list the grossly improper happenings and failures, which included numbers 1-4 from the above poised facts. Incredibly, wannabe judge Markewich then cites numerous attorney disciplinary rules in her “review of basic ethical precepts.”

The apparent and brazen disregard of Ms. Markewich’s own attorney ethical obligations to report the improper actions of other attorneys is only outdone by her nerve in then writing about it. And both of those acts are eclipsed by her gall in attempting to be elected Manhattan Surrogate Judge.

We are informed that Ms. Markewich is currently seeking legal fees in excess of $3 million dollars in the pending Westchester County Surrogate Court Carvel estate. (Meanwhile, Pamela Carvel, as executrix of Agnes Carvel’s estate, is still seeking reimbursement of $6,000.00 for Agnes’ 1998 funeral expenses.)

Carvel Story in The Westchester Guardian

June 21, 2007

Carvel story in The Westchester Guardian

Consistent with its Mission Statement, The Westchester Guardian is again upholding the public’s right to know the truth, most recently in the May 17, 2007 publication concerning events in the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court involving the Carvel Estate. This weekly paper is an important source of information for citizens of Westchester and, indeed, beyond. Important, indepth and timely reporting by The Westchester Guardian covers issues from Manhattan to Albany, and from village to statewide and federal concerns. Click on the photo to the right “The Westchester Guardian May 17th 2007” It is an honor to post a publication dedicated to the public’s right to know…..

New York Daily News Speaks Out Against Corruption

June 21, 2007

NY Daily News Speaks Out Against Court Corruption

Once again, The New York Daily News takes the lead in exposing the rampant corruption in our New York courts. We cheer the NY Daily News for their Saturday, May 12, 2007 editorial:

Gone but not forgotten

Editorial

Those rare instances when a hack loses a judgeship that was procured only by virtue of party loyalty are cause for celebration. Today we cheer the departure from the bench of one such slug, Frank Seddio, who stepped down yesterday just a year and 131 days into what he hoped would be a 14-year term.

Seddio packed it in rather than risk formal removal by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which is in the thick of probing his affairs. The agency took an interest in Seddio after this page accused him of violating the canons of ethics regarding the use and misuse of campaign funds.

Based on what we discovered in filings of this former Brooklyn Democratic assemblyman, we predicted that “Seddio could go down as having had one of the shortest judgeships in New York history.” How true, how true. Pardon our gloating.
Now that he’s gone, it’s worth retelling the story of Seddio’s rise and fall because it is so revealing of the disgraceful way judges are made in New York. From time immemorial, Brooklyn has been served by one surrogate judge, who handles wills and estates and is a patronage font for the party machine. And, in fact, Brooklyn needs only one such judge.

But, from out of nowhere in the final moments of the 2005 legislative session, then-Gov. George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno rushed through a big judge-making deal giving posts to the Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx Democrats, as well as to GOP leaders upstate.

The Brooklyn machine – and not the voters – was given the power to select the new surrogate. Assemblyman Joe Lentol was their pick, but he had the good sense in the end to decline. Next up was Seddio, a longtime party man whose Assembly bio depicted him as “best known for his elaborate Christmas display that surrounds his home each year, which is visited by thousands.”

Seddio’s only judicial experience had been as a judge of the Queen of Coney Island beauty pageant, but he was a lawyer – and he had $50,000 in campaign funds to spread around. Which he did. Which was against the rules. As we pointed out.
Incorrigible to the end, Seddio wrote in his resignation letter: “It is my hope that during my tenure I have been able to improve the image of the court.” Good grief.