Pro Bono Barrister: BBA’s foundation offers elder law forum free and open to the public

October 9, 2012 By Charles F. Otey For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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In keeping with its public outreach program, the Brooklyn Bar Association, through its Foundation Law Committee, will hold an informative and vital session on Elder Law Issues on Oct. 15 at BBA headquarters, 123 Remsen St., according to Fern Finkel.

Barrister Finkel, who heads the Foundation Law Committee, will serve that night as program organizer and moderator when members of the public are invited to hear from experts on how they can “plan ahead” on Elder Law challenges.

Those who attend this free, open-to-the-public forum – which runs from 6 to 8 p.m. — will receive “an overview of financial and health care advance directives, financing long term care, and benefits available for the senior population.”

In keeping with her “Plan Ahead” agenda, chair Finkel advises that those attending will be provided with helpful handouts containing valuable tips dealing with legal and practical issues that impact on the senior community. Making it even more attractive for the “sandwich generation,” she also promises to provide light refreshments.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Heading the BBA this year are President Domenick Napoletano, President Elect Andrew Fallek, First Vice President Rebecca Woodland, Second Vice President Arthur Aidala, Secretary Hon. Frank Seddio and Treasurer Aimee L. Richter. Providing continuity while helping to preserve the BBA’s high standards is Executive Director Avery Eli Okin.

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Kings Inn delves into the ‘death of privacy’

Question: As an attorney, you are defending a man accused of a crime. Shortly after the arrest, an ambitious assistant district attorney holds a press conference in which he describes your client in the vilest terms and makes remarks such as “I regret having to use the word ‘alleged’ in front of this felon because he will have no defense which a jury could ever believe!”

After watching this: Are you permitted to hold your own press conference rebutting point by point the A.D.A. used in slandering your client?

According to a Kings American Inn of Court Panel probing the “Death of Privacy,” you should have the right of fair reply if you stay within the parameters described in the Code of Ethics.

The panel, introduced by President Marc Dittenhoefer, was comprised of Steve Goolnick, Marc Longo, Brian Kiernan (a “fair and balanced” Fox news announcer), Gus Mallas (who stepped out of character to play an escort service entrepreneur, Steve Sleaze) Mike Good (the righteous ADA) Steve Solomon (who is not only a lawyer, but a podiatrist as well!), and Frances Malfa (who converted from dull to delightful with a quick change in the judge’s robing room to appear on the “Larry King Show” to gain quick fame and fortune).

Victoria Lombardi guided the characters and showed Ms. Malfa how to take full advantage of her allure and her client’s misfortune.

Probably the most vexing common question raised that night was how to erase an unflattering, even libelous posting from Facebook? Today’s teenagers post ‘just about everything they do, good and bad,” said one barrister. “What’s going to happen 10 or 15 years from now when they’re trying to raise their own children?”

One conclusion offered after all the “evidence” demonstrating that the social media avalanche was a big snow job pounding against our legal bulwark was ominous (especially for this print-age writer).

Technology, opined one barrister, is moving two fast for its own good — more awareness and organization is needed to maintain law and order in the profession.

Others officers serving this year include President-Elect Justice Ellen Spodek, Counselor Dave Chidekel, Treasurer Justice Arthur M. Schack and Secretary Judge Miriam Cyrulnik. Immediate past president is the noted trial lawyer Rosario Marquis D’Apice.

Enjoying the performance in the audience at 123 Remsen St., was the Hon. Gerard Rosenberg, a past Inns of Court president, who did his own star turn as Larry King in an Inn of Court skit staged dramatically just a few years ago voice. As the evening ended Hon. Rosenberg was asked if Marc Longo’s performance as Larry King lived up to the standard set then by Justice Rosenberg and his cast.

“Marc was great, showed really good stage presence,” replied the affable former justice. “But I had a better Brooklyn accent!”

In keeping with the Ancient Inns of Court tradition, the Kings Sobel Inn is governed by a board of Masters who include, Hon Gloria Cohen Aronin, Jon Besunder, Appellate Division Justice Cheryl Chambers, Larry DiGiovanna, Steve Finkelstein, Steve Goolnick, Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix – elevated just last week to the Appellate Division, Second Dept. – Federal Judge William Kuntz, II, Justice Carl Landicino, Victoria Lombardi, Mark Longo, Judge Joanne Quinones and Paul Weitz.

President emeritus is the irrepressible former Justice Edward Rappaport, who had prominent mention in Tuesday’s night’s presentation. Jeff Feldman is the executive director, and Marie Lattanzi is Inn administrator.

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Obama’s poor showing has some lawyers worried

President Barack Obama’s lack of feistiness in the Tuesday night debate came as a surprise to many. Gov. Mitt Romney pounded away relentlessly with carefully prepared zingers from start to finish. Until that historical debate, the president was leading in practically all the polls – nationwide and in the so-called swing states (of which New York is not one.)

Based on his lack of engagement, the president – hampered somewhat by the way Moderator Jim Lehrer let the GOP standard-bearer constantly dominate the agenda – and his team were awaiting polls taken afterwards knowing there would be a negative impact on the incumbent’s popularity.

Sharing special concern for the debate disaster were lawyers known as “Supreme Court Watchers.” i.e. those who worry that should Romney win he would ultimately fashion a long-lasting far right court with a majority of its members adhering to the Antonin Scalia school of originalist thought.

Former Vice President Al Gore had an interesting theory explaining Obama’s mental “absence” from the scene. He said that the President flew into mile-high Denver only two hours before the debate and was suffering from a slight though perceptible lack of oxygen.

Any other time this would seem a plausible explanation considering Obama’s uncharacteristic performance was his worst on record. But absent a lot of blood tests – before, during and after the visit – and affidavits by experts, this theory is at most a straw to be grasped by those who refuse to believe that the real Barack Obama showed up that night!

But just everyone agreed the president’s re-election hopes – and an opportunity to send the Supreme Court back to the ideological center — diminished severely.

Writing on Time Ideas, Adam Cohen said that there is a “reasonable chance that there could be one or more (justices leaving the court)” during the next four years. “Four of the current justices are over 74, including Stephen Breyer, who turned 76 (recently) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 79.”

Many, many critical issues will arise, said Cohen, such as Citizens United v. the FEC, which opened the campaign contribution floodgates enabling billionaires to pour millions or more anonymously into the causes of their selected candidates and/or parties.

Citizens United, in particular, could remain a problem for years if Romney becomes president, said Cohen. “The most important issues in the case were decided by a 5-4 margin vote. This (Citizens) ruling was wildly unpopular – one poll found that 62 percent of all Americans oppose it. But the court shows no signs of backing away from it,” Cohen concluded.

While some irate citizens are talking about a constitutional amendment to correct Citizens, that would seem to be a far and distant option. Cohen stated that “the best chance of reining in corporate influence on elections would be if President Obama is re-elected and one of the conservative Justices left the court. If that happened, there might well be five votes to overturn the Citizens United ruling,” Cohen pointed out.

Trial lawyers in particular – Democrat and Republican – would dread a Romney presidency and what he could do to alter the U.S. Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. Romney, like President George W. Bush, is big on “tort reform,” the process by which big corporations stop contingent-fee litigants at the cour house door – unless they have loads of money and can afford to pay an attorney tens of thousands of dollars in fees up front.

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Can’t blame politicians for fearing bicycle lobby

There’s nothing so powerful as the right idea at the right time! So it’s been said.

Then what happened to our pretty-good suggestion here a few weeks ago that bicycles should be licensed and insured before they can be allowed to be operated on city streets? We suggested that if bike owners paid even nominal fees, they would acquire respect from motorists who too often drive offensively when a biker zips in front of them on the roadway.

In addition, we mentioned, there it’s difficult to regarding maintain law and order on our streets if there is no reasonable way to identify a bike operator who is connected with an accident or possibly illegal acts. Currently, only too often a bicyclist will injure a pedestrian and then speed off before the authorities show up.

Police, in such a case, must work with a vague description, and often can seldom locate the miscreant. Even when a tortious biker remains at the scene, it’s likely she or he will have no applicable insurance!

Scores of people are injured on our streets in bike-related accidents each week. Lawyers are understandably reluctant to take on a negligence case where the tort feasor is uninsured. It would seem that those who champion” personal responsibility” would by now have issued a hue and cry calling for bicyclists to be licensed and insured.

Fat chance! No politician we talked with – in or out of office – was willing to go public on this issue. Why? A number of reasons. But the explanation offered most was the sharp-edged Transportation Alternatives lobby. The TA has become just as fearsome in this city as is the National Rifle Association in the halls of Congress.

For good or bad, T.A. has thousands of members whose wrath and revenge are only a computer click away!

Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik Khan, who has already ringed this city with hundreds of miles of bike lanes, is savvy enough to employ the potent force of the T.A. and its members whenever she feels the need.

Bills to bring at least a minimum of bicycle licensing compliance in the City Council and Albany have gone nowhere. Legislators pushing them instantly receive a flood of angry e-mail from voters in their districts – T.A. is organized through political subdivisions when they need to get out a compelling, pointed message. Naturally the politicians backed down.

Who wants to take on a well-organized lobby which can be so quickly and angrily mobilized for cyber-battle!? And, after all, biking is good for one’s health and may represent a viable way to reduce auto and truck pollution, they’re quick to tell us.

Politicians naturally respond to the proverbial squeaky wheel. In this case their understandable panic was stirred by a mass of screaming two-wheelers! And this is unlikely to change soon.

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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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