PRO-BONO BARRISTER: Brooklyn Bar to honor jurists and leading attorneys at Brooklyn Marriott

November 16, 2012 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Bar Association hosts annual award ceremony, Brooklyn
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When the Brooklyn Bar Association holds its annual dinner on Dec. 3 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott with an elongated cocktail hour starting at 5:30 p.m. many prominent jurists will share the spotlight with outstanding lawyers in this association, which has been serving the bar here since 1872.

Receiving the BBA’s prestigious Annual Award will be Hon. Michael Pesce, Presiding Justice Appellate Term; Kings Justice Sylvia Ash, and past BBA presidents Allen Lashley and Andy Fisher.

Retiring are Court of Appeals Associate Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Appellate Division Justice Ariel Belen, Appellate Division Justice Anita Florio and Civil Court Judge Sara L. Krauss.

Of note is that former Surrogate and Assemblyman Frank Seddio may be the first serving officer of the Brooklyn Bar to be elected as County Democratic Party Leader. And thus far, the new leader is getting good reviews, according to one observer who told us “He [Seddio] has really calmed things down in the [Democratic] Party. He’s affable and exudes confidence – the right guy at the right time.”

We must single out another honoree – retiring A.D. Justice Belen. This superb justice is retiring from the bench early simply because he and over a thousand other state jurists had to wait 13 years to get a pay raise! The inordinate delay cost many of them tens of thousands of dollars.

And then there is Appellate Term Presiding Judge Pesce, probably the only honoree born in Italy and perhaps the most prominent “reformer” currently on the bench. In the 1970s, this debonair Bari-born barrister gained wide attention when he and a tight-knit group of independent Democrats took on the United Mazzini Club, run by the late, respected James V. Mangano. (He was known as “The Sheriff’” but was actually the chief clerk at 360 Adams St. where, one old-timer recently recalled, “He ran the place.”)

Partnering with the late Assemblywoman Eileen Dugan, former justice Joseph Bruno, (now the city’s emergency chief), Art Paone, the late Tom Chardovoyne and others, the Pesce-lead group waged primary after primary against the formidable Mangano forces, who included Majority Council Leader Tom Cuite and other prominent figures.

For the record, we must note that “Sheriff” Mangano was the father of retired Appellate Division Justice Guy Mangano and grandfather of Acting Supreme Court Justice Guy J. Mangano, Jr.

When the political dust had settled around the Cobble-Hill-Brooklyn Heights-South Brooklyn Assembly district, many of the reformers rose to positions of note. Leader Pesce became Judge Pesce in 1981, a Supreme Court Justice later on, and now holds one of the pre-eminent positions in our court system.

Leading the BBA this year is Pres. Domenick Napoletano, with a slate including President-elect Andrew Fallek, First Vice President Rebecca Woodland, Second Vice Pres. Arthur Aidala and Secretary Hon. Frank Seddio, with Aimee Richter as treasurer.

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Trial attorney Hill welcomes re-election of President Obama

By Arthur Hill, Esq.

An Obama victory means many things among them an affirmation of hope and a defeat of intolerance. On a practical level it means the preservation of the affordable care act, economic equality via tax cuts for the wealthy and maintaining the legality of abortion rights.

This election took  place at a critical time in our  history. Our nation has never been more polarized between divergent philosophies about the role of government. President Obama’s re-election means that a majority of Americans believe that government can play a meaningful role in helping people.  There is no greater example of the foregoing than the federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. The president marshaled the appropriate government agencies to provide hurricane aid and economic recovery funds for those in need.  Many Republicans said such a role was strictly within the province of the states, not the federal government to provide emergency relief for the victims of natural disasters.

It’s also very significant that during the next four years there may be an opportunity for the president to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices. 

Those on the far right will consistently work to repeal Roe V. Wade. On this and other vital matters, the composition of the Supreme Court was and is as important an issue as any in this campaign.

Yet another great issue of the day is voter suppression. We all have read about Republican governors curtailing early voting days and hours, e.g. Florida. In President Obama’s victory speech, he expressly stated that this was an area to be seriously re-examined; to no one’s surprise the Republicans held the totally opposite view.

Elections have consequences. By virtue of the re-election of Barack Obama, America has made a decision to honor the rule of law as opposed to the disunity caused by rigid ideology.  Imagine a president who would have allowed the auto companies to go bankrupt, overturn Roe V. Wade, ease up on Wall Street regulations and repeal the health care reform – all in the name of a “severely conservative” dogma!

That was the risky reality confronting our nation if President Obama had been defeated. Once again, it took the great courage and conviction of the American people to ensure that a sense of fairness and justice prevailed.

Pro-Bono Note: Arthur Hill is partnered with Jim Ross in a respected litigation firm on Court.Should any reader wish to comment his views please contact Chuck Otey at [email protected].

Obama’s reticence keyed by a deeper drama?

Most observers agreed — and many polls showed — that President Barack Obama’s chances to win re-election took a severe nosedive following his almost inexplicable performance in the first presidential debate.

His momentum stalled, the Mitt Romney campaign was given a totally unexpected lift – psychologically and financially. Mr. Obama appeared to have re-gained his good luck later on by winning the second and third debates. But most polls showed he hadn’t offered a satisfactory explanation for what happened in Denver other than to call it an off night.

The federal response to Hurricane Sandy certainly helped drive home Mr. Obama’s belief that government must play a key role in limiting the damage wrought by such disasters. Many Republicans will never forgive New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for candidly praising Mr. Obama’s quick and effective deployment of FEMA and other agencies in aiding the stricken Garden State.

But all of the polls were frozen in place on election eve, and the prognosticators foretold a closer election than in 2000. This was ultimately determined only when a majority on the Supreme Court surprised the legal community by abandoning a long-standing hands-off approach regarding state courts and internal political matters.

Mr. Obama ultimately won in an electoral landslide, indicating he and his people knew how to get out their vote. But some pundits suggested his margin in the popular vote had been decreased by the lingering concern over the Denver debacle. His victory calmed many critics, but the question lingers. As one colleague ironically phrased it, “How did the president manage to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in Denver?”

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Did Obama mirror theme of 1960s movie?

Years ago – in fact way back in 1962 – -Tom Courtney played the role of a classically conflicted young man in “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.”  In that widely acclaimed British film, the main character’s running ability catapults him from working-class obscurity to the top of British marathon ranks.

Yet in his really big race, a much-heralded event which would put him at a new pinnacle — and in which he leads the field on the final lap — the agonizing Courtney character abruptly stops running! He quits! To the shock and dismay of thousands of onlookers! Why? Based on other events portrayed earlier, some kind of inner class conflict is suspected.

He seems to feel that winning this race amounts to little more than posturing for the upper classes and some of his new ‘friends’ who may be more interested in his fame than anything else. We’re led to believe that his dramatic stop is his way of thumbing his nose at his alleged “betters.”

As so many of us still search to explain President Barack Obama’s puzzling refusal to actually engage Mitt Romney in their first debate, his reluctance brought to mind the “Loneliness” movie of a half century ago. More specifically, is there some way to find an informative comparison between the marathoner who quits on the brink of victory and President Barack Obama, who virtually failed to show up for his first debate against GOP former Gov George Romney?

Obamais notoriously private, yet greatly gifted as a thinker and public speaker and — until the Denver disaster – the confident leader of the free world.

Did he momentarily tire of the incessant, baseless attacks on his character? Could he no longer tolerate the gratuitous insults of those like Sen. Mitch McConnell who, two years ago, called on his Republican cohorts to forget about the people’s agenda and instead dedicate themselves wholly to defeating President Obama in November?

No president in our memory – going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt – has had to endure the endless flow of hatred and vitriol which has been mercilessly slung at this president. President Richard Nixon was accorded a modicum of respect though he resigned in disgrace.

But as the much-maligned Pres. Harry Truman, speaking from the Oval Office, told us: “The buck stops here!”

It took a lot of courage for Mr. Obama to get his act together and hit the campaign trail the next day. But he demonstrated the toughness he needed to show to convince all that he could indeed carry on in the Truman tradition.

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‘Fairness Doctrine’ is out, vicious political barbs are in

Only a shrinking portion of Americans today know why various mass media use publicly owned airwaves to air insidious comments which are false and defamatory and damaging to the American character.

“Isn’t there such a thing as fairness in media?” They ask. “Is there no limit to the lengths and depths to which an outlet can go while hiding behind such a bitterly laughable construct as fair and balanced?”

In truth, as we learned again in the Obama-Romney campaign, these depressing depths are still being plumbed — constantly on Fox News and often by some on MSNBC, such as the gratuitously incendiary Keith Olberman and more recently by Chris Matthews.

Initially MSNBC was reportedly launched to counter the bloviating Rush Limbaugh and put the lie to Fox’s alleged “fair and balanced” reporting. But the temptation to intemperately assault such jerks as Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly doesn’t justify nasty, unceasing attacks on one’s opponent.

That Fox can even claim to be fair reminds this writer of a charge made a few decades back by then FCC Chairman Newton Minnow. He was the first prominent government figure to say, with any authority, that television was quickly becoming a “vast, barren wasteland.” It’s just about there.

How can any network publish clear lies, such as the Romney campaign’s claim that Chrysler, the Jeep auto manufacturer, was about to fire all its Ohio employees and relocate to China?

Shouldn’t there be such a law or regulation enforcing a fairness doctrine to curb such a patent lie? After all, the networks don’t own the airwaves. They just hold licenses to rent. But they did own enough members on the Federal Communications Commission back in the late 1980s.

* * *

Brooklyn’s Prof. Doyle taught the ‘Fairness Doctrine’

As some of us learned from Con Law Prof. James Doyle at Brooklyn Law School back in the day, the Federal Communications Commission rigorously enforced an actual “Fairness Doctrine.” In fact there was also in play an Equal Time Rule which – if in effect today — would have required Fox to give equal time to views directly in contrast to the vitriolic slander vented by Rush Limbaugh and his callous cohort.

What happened to it? Quite simply, President Ronald Reagan appointed FCC commissioners who abolished “fairness” and opened the publicly owned airwaves to the trash that swamps us today. Invited in were predators such as Rupert Murdoch, who knew he would at last be free to mangle and twist the “news” in the fashion of Murdoch’s opinionated, law-breaking newspaper in London, which he closed in a recent scandal.

Fairness was out. Now in vogue are half-truths, naked racial and class prejudice stirring the worst in political partisans on television, on radio and in the “news” pages of papers such as the New York Post – also, like Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch.

* * *
When news anchors spoke truth to power

Many older Americans reflexively accord the same credibility to Rush & Co. they once gave to journalistic legends such Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. It’s an open secret that white senior citizens largely comprise – and give a respectable face to — the Tea Party.

The Tea Party is actually a front financed by the billionaire Koch Brothers and others of their ilk who want to eviscerate a pesky U.S. government. And, since networks have been forced by the arrival of scores of cable news stations to strip their news teams to the bone, it is rare when any network – even PBS — presents a truly vital story uncovering greed and corruption.

To their discredit, the Tea Partiers – actually an arm of the Koch brothers operation — drove Maine’s Sen. Olympia Snow, a Republican, out of politics into early retirement.

* * *
CBS anchor Walter Cronkite `ended’ the war In Vietnam

Older white people, I can attest, can recall the pre-cable era when television stations couldn’t lie, misrepresent or present knowingly false claims. It’s now hard to believe but not that long ago, the networks – NBC, CBS then ABC – valued their viewers and had as anchors and reporters people who didn’t falsely attack or condemn anyone with impunity.

One case in point: The night when Walter Cronkite somberly took off his glasses, looked straight into the camera and said, “We are losing the war in Vietnam.” His ominous words resounded throughout the nation and within the halls of congress and the Oval Office. Cronkite actually altered the path of that war.

His wasn’t the “Voice of God” as some say, but he and the medium through which he reported the news were credible and respected. 

He would never have proclaimed “the death of traditional America,” as the bilious Bill O’Reilly did last week, pretending to echo the lament of white guys everywhere just because a black American was legally re-elected as president of these United States.

As for Donald Trump? Before the extraordinary excesses of cable television literally destroyed any pretense of “fair and balanced” coverage among certain networks, Trump would have had to take a paid advertisement to go on television to question the place of the birth of an American president.

Yet once cable, working on a 24-hour news cycle, bought into this nonsense, his absurdly comical charges became embedded in its daily ‘loop’. Ultimately the president had to produce his birth certificate, which didn’t satisfy Trump.

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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]. 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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