Pro Bono Barrister: Kings Inn of Court panel probes puzzling Medical Indemnity Fund

May 31, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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At their most recent Continuing Legal Education-accredited session, Kings County Inn of Court members learned about the New York State Medical Indemnity Fund.

What is this indemnity fund created by the legislature last year to help pay settlements in neuro-natal brain-injury cases and thus reduce med-mal insurance premiums for doctors and hospitals? How will it be financed? Which infant injury cases will be covered? Which ones won’t?

To their credit, panel leaders Hon. Barry Kamins (administrative judge for criminal matters in Brooklyn) and Paul Weitz did not pretend to have definitive answers to many of these questions. They readily admitted during a Q & A period to colleagues Andy Fallek, Steve Finkelstein and others that the Indemnity Fund is new and subject to varying interpretations in various jurisdictions, even within the city’s five counties.

By delivering a number of informative skits, the panel also comprised of Mike Fishbein, Sara Gozo, Jonathan Klein, Susan Master, Susan Ianelli, Marc Held, Ariel Berschadsky and Maria Moran endeavored to shed some light on this murky legislative creation which, some skeptics say, is intended to prevent plaintiffs from bringing med-mal actions in the first place.

One persistently raised question is whether monies initially earmarked for the fund by the legislature will be exhausted before it is up and running. It was kicked off with $30 million in 2011, receives $75 million in 2012 and $100 million in 2013.

Among those who took part were Immediate Past President Hon. Gerard Rosenberg, Hon. Jules Spodek (retired) Hon. Martin Schneier (retired), Hon. Gloria Cohen Aronin (retired), and a number of Inn Masters including Judge Joanne Quinones, Federal District Judge William Kuntz and Victoria Lombardi.

Other Inn Masters are Kings County Administrative Judge for Civil Matters Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Judge Miriam Cyrulnik, Justice Carl Landicino, Steve Goolnick, Jon Besunder and Larry DiGiovanna.

Following lengthy, often spirited exchanges from the floor even the usually reticent Marc Dittenhoefer offered his erudite views the Inn members, led by President Ross D’Apice, departed for a collegial dinner at Queen on Court Street, arranged by Inn Administrator Marie Lattanzi and Inn Executive Director Jeff Feldman.

President D’Apice, one of the state’s most respected trial lawyers, will end his term at the Inn’s June 11 Gala, which will be held at Neely’s Barbecue Parlor on First Avenue in Manhattan with the anticipated installation of the aforementioned Marc Dittenhoefer. Also moving up “in the chairs” will be Counselor Justice Ellen Spodek, Treasurer Dave Chidikel and Secretary Justice Arthur Schack.

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JALBCA leads effort advancing breast cancer screenings


The Lawyers Division of Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Plan recently presented its annual Leadership Achievement Award to Hon. Gail Prudenti, presiding Appellate Division justice.

The JALBCA event was held in May and installed the same night were Co-Presidents Hon. Jennifer Schecter and Edward S. Kornreich.

JALBCA was founded in 1992 with the backing of many noted Manhattan firms such as Aaronson Rappaport Feinstein & Deutsch, and Godosky & Gentile. Here in Brooklyn, Hon. William C. Thompson former Appellate Division presiding justice took a major role aided by the firm he is involved with the inestimable Ross & Hill (Jim Ross and Arthur Hill).

Among those serving on the Installation Dinner Committee were Justice Ellen Spodek (a past president), Judith Livingston and Rose Ann C. Branda, a former president of the Brooklyn Bar Association and the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association.

JALBCA is all about tackling certain health issues of particular-though not exclusive interest to women. It has successfully provided vital screenings to hundreds of women so they could get life-saving tests that they otherwise could not afford.

The group’s literature warns that recent news stories to the contrary the need for exams particularly for those in high-risk categories are absolutely essential. “Early detection saves lives,” its program notes.” Despite all of the strides made in recent years, the statistics with respect to breast cancer are still horrendous.”

“Some 200,000 Americans (mostly women, but some men as well) will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Some 40,000 Americans will die from breast cancer this year,” according to the JALBCA agenda.

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‘Citizens United’ opens door to widespread corruption

New York state has adopted strict and enforceable rules concerning and limiting political donations by lawyers to current or aspiring jurists. Contributors have to register their financing activities and know that their license is on the line should they not stick to the letter and spirit of this law.

Will this admirable, long-needed legal structure be doomed if the infamous Citizens United decision continues to corrupt our political system? Might not one of the men in robes on the highest court for instance, Justice Antonin Scalia be able to convince his four key colleagues that lawyers shouldn’t have their rights of free speech abridged simply because one of them might give a $100,000 or more to an electioneering jurist? And then once again in the exercise of freedom shouldn’t all attorneys have the right to appear before that very same justice on a substantial legal matter?

Reflexively almost all lawyers would say it’s impossible for the United States Supreme Court to do something so outrageous! Most would agree that such a situation would be unthinkable and could never happen.

But it was also unthinkable that our very own Supreme Court which is the legal lynchpin of our democratic system would ever declare that a corporation is a person and that, one day, an intellectually cloistered but well-meaning Republican presidential nominee would proudly declare “Corporations are people people!”

Having been born and reared in a highly insulated environment protected by an impermeable shield of inherited corporate money and power it’s probably difficult for George Romney to see how corporations differ from people.

Once regarded as convenient, practical devices for limiting liability and encouraging investments, it wasn’t that long ago when corporations were regarded as nothing more than legal contrivances or “fictions” to quote the late Prof. William Miller of Brooklyn Law School.

Veneration of corporations such as Romney’s dad’s company, American Motors should come as no surprise. Legacy millionaires such as Romney never have to grapple with the day-to-day challenges of earning money to support themselves or their families.

Why shouldn’t he gleefully proclaim his devotion to corporate theism when it just happens to coincide with this latest, ill-considered opinion of the highest court in the land?

If the hardcore right wing of the Supreme Court the extreme “Roberts four” is able to persuade “swing” Justice Anthony Kennedy that unlimited contributions by corporations and secretive politically driven organizations pose no threat to the republic, then the anticipated ruling holding Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act unconstitutional should be sweet music to the ears of Romney and other corporatists.

The Montana statute, in brief, prevents corporations from making political contributions from their own funds. Montana’s top court never known as a bastion of electoral liberalism actually ruled against the so-called American Tradition Partnership (a co-plaintiff), which has its eyes set on buying controlling power in that state.

The Citizens United holding, that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” would offer up the Montana political system to the highest and undisclosed bidder.

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Voter suppression policy is hallmark of Karl Rove

Do super-PAC power brokers like Karl Rove really care that a poll disclosed in Sunday’s The New York Times by the independent Opinion Research Corporation showed that 69 per cent of those surveyed agree that “new rules that let corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to super PACS will lead to corruption?”

Of course he cares Rove and Romney are overjoyed!!!

Likely they’re even more ecstatic that this same poll showed that “26 per cent of the respondents said they were less likely to vote.” Karl Rove just hates it when the wrong people vote! Now he can focus on preventing minorities and young people from voting in strict, unfair “voter ID” elections, in a number of states.

The fewer who vote in November, the better, according to R & R voter repression, represented by the disgraceful disenfranchisement of a 91-year-old Brooklyn war veteran now living in Florida whom they challenged on his citizenship is a large and repugnant part of their electoral strategy.

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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.

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