Pro Bono Barrister: Brooklyn Law Briefs

January 14, 2013 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Next Inn panel confronts daily ethical challenges

Each and every day, the active practitioner is confronted with ethical challenges of surprising variety in dealing with clients, witnesses, opponents, jurors and, often, the media.

Prior to the day when mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirements were enacted in this state most lawyers had to search out updates on these issues. The best organization for litigators, for instance, was the New York Trial Lawyers Association, which offered courses including insights from the state’s top barrister legends of their day such as Hank Glaser, Stu Baily, Harvey Weitz, Aaron Broder Frank Maher, George Siracuse and Dick Godosky.
Fortunately today, there are a number of important CLE programs that not only update but intimately involve lawyers in their presentation. Among those here in Brooklyn is the Kings County American Inn of Court, led this year by President Marc Dittenhoefer.

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Typical of the Inn’s agenda is a session set for January 22 titled “You Can Solve This–Everyday and Practical Solutions to Regular Unanticipated Problems in Practice.” It gets underway 6 p.m. on the 22nd at BBA headquarters, 123 Remsen St.

The Inn panel featured that night–one of eight operating within this chapter will be led by President Dittenhoefer and Justice Miriam Cyrulnik–whose cogent and witty past Inn performances have earned them positions of honor on the Pro Bono Humor Panel.

Other Inn officers include President-Elect Justice Ellen Spodek, Counselor David Chidekel, Treasurer Justice Arthur Schack and Secretary Judge Miriam Cyrulnik.

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Kings ‘photo laureate’ catches PBB error

Still snugly (smugly?) ensconced in his sunny Florida retreat with the fetching Mary Zuckerbraun, away from the rain, sleet or whatever of New York, retired Justice Joseph Levine–whose official photos of scores of justices bedeck much of the eleventh floor hallway at 360 Adams St.–was the first to let us know that Pro Bono contained an obvious and unforgiveable error last week.

“Her name is not Justice Marsha Rappaport! It’s Justice Marsha Steinhardt!” he e-mailed. So true. Considering that I’ve been following her impressive career since the days when she was a top lawyer for the Transit Authority at 141 Livingston St., there’s no excuse for misnaming her last week when Justice Steinhardt was mentioned in connection with her role as a founder of the Kings County American Inn of Court.

I am seeking her forgiveness as well as that of the charming Sandy Rappaport, wife of retired Justice Ed Rappaport, the Inn’s President Emeritus.

In a writing career spanning decades we still appreciate the precision with which the Hon. Levine follows–and where necessary, corrects–our local press, Pro Bono in particular. His photos, which have appeared here regularly during that time documenting a half-century, have indeed earned him the position of “Photo Laureate of the Kings County Court System.”

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NRA’s ‘arm the teachers’ proposal falls flat

Following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.–which took the lives of 20 first-grade kids and six others–the National Rifle Association, once a respected and useful organization dedicated to safety for hunters and others who wanted to learn about guns, was a far different organization than it has become today.

Safety is no longer their goal, and they are dominated by the munitions manufacturing industry, which is counting on a frightened public to ensure increasing profits on their bottom line. That’s why their reaction to the Newtown tragedy was a vicious, cold-hearted assault on just about anyone who wanted to improve gun safety laws.

When I began hunting in the hills of West Virginia–back in the 1950s– the National Rifle Association was rightfully concerned with gun safety. The NRA sponsored ads in various men’s magazines such as “Argosy,” “Saga” and “The Hunter’s Bible,” warning about the dangers inherent in handling guns of any caliber, especially a high-powered rifle. (For instance, a steel-jacketed 30.06, known as a thirty-aught-six, used for hunting deer could actually travel for miles and still land with enough force to kill a human being!)

Some of the more NRA inspired articles discussed the best ways to track a rabbit employing the services of a good hunting dog. One which stood out–my dad made me read it–suggested that at the very moment your dog caught the rabbit’s scent, the best option would be to stand still, very still, exactly where you were at that very moment.

As my dad pointed out, the job of the rabbit dog was to chase down the furry beast by angling at its right or flank so that it would ultimately travel in a circle practically returning to its starting point. Good for the hunter, waiting with gun at the ready–bad news for the bunny.

My first and only kill took place on a beautiful sunlit morning in October in the woods near New Cumberland, W.Va. About a hour into the day, our dog suddenly started yelping and yelling and took off into and through some prickly briar patches. Quickly, he was closing in on a speeding ball of white fur. My dad said “Don’t move, Charlie! Don’t move!”

Five minutes later, the dog’s barking changed his yelp little more urgent. This was his signal that the rabbit was turning and would swing back from the far left. Sure enough the rabbit was racing right toward us.
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Moment of truth ends with blast and puffs of fur

Then came the moment of truth: The white rabbit bolted out of the greenery just 10 to 15 yards away and seemed headed right at me.

His 12 gauge shotgun aimed down at the ground, he ordered “Shoot! Shoot!” in a voice I hear decades later. More in self-defense than anything else, I pointed my .410 shotgun at the charging rabbit and fired, creating a deafening explosion and a puff of what seemed like smoke.

“You got im!” my dad said. “But where is he?” Unfortunately ‘Brer Rabbit’ was no longer visible in his mortal form–when he charged into the blast the .410’s buckshot literally exploded him into unrecognizable pieces. What I saw drifting down through the cool fall air wasn’t gun smoke but  tiny puffs of white fur.

After a brief search, I found a few bloody paws, but didn’t touch them. I didn’t tell my dad about the discovery–he would have wanted me to take one of them for a ‘good luck’ charm marking my first successful hunt. I didn’t want any reminders because–even though I knew my dad, a true sportsman, would have cleaned and cooked the rabbit–it all seemed a bit unfair. And I was stunned at the awesome killing power of the .410 bolt action shotgun regarded by hunters as the ‘baby’ of shotguns but could literally shred a living animal.

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Before we wise up– guns will take more victims

Many gun owners today, especially those enamored of the he-manly aura they assume when they talk about shooting bad guys, have never fired a gun in anger or–even as I did– in panicky self-defense.

Firing any gun with the intent to maim or kill another living animal takes ‘cool’ and determination, training by experts and practice. So when the NRA’s president suggests that we arm school teachers with deadly weapons, it seems to me he has a screw loose.

To claim, as did Texas Gov. Rick Perry, that the Newtown school principal could, if armed, have strode into the smoke-filled hallway and gunned down a mad murderer betrays great ignorance.

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