Chuck Otey’s Pro Bono Barrister: Adelphi honors

May 3, 2013 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Dinner Caps Busy Year For Catholic Lawyers

One of the city’s most prestigious bar groups — the Catholic Lawyers Guild Diocese of Brooklyn Chapter — will hold their Annual Award Dinner on Thursday, May 23, at Gargiulo’s Restaurant on Coney Island, according to President Sara Gozo.  The gala event will climax a busy and productive year for the Guild.

The Guild was started back in the Depression Era of the 1930s as a forum for discussing the legal and social issues of the day.  President Gozo said the early meetings were held in St. Joseph’s College on Clinton Hill, later at St. Francis College and since then at various locations.

One popular tradition is the Guild’s Red Mass celebrated at The Cathedral Basilica of St. James, which pays special recognition of the Kings Judiciary which invokes “Divine Providence for the coming Judicial term.   Co-sponsoring the Red Mass is the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn, currently led by President Bruno Codispoti.
President Gozo announced a slate of stellar honorees, who will be singled out May 23 including the following: Rev. Msgr. Kieran Harrington, the Thomas More Award; County Clerk Nancy Sunshine, the President’s Award; Justice Patricia Di Mango, Distinguished Judiciary Award; Hon. Lawrence Knipel , Ecumenical Award; Justice David Vaughn, Hon. William T. Bellard Award.
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App. Div. Justice Miller To Address Columbians

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

The above-mentioned Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn will hear from one of the state’s pre-eminent jurists at its next May 7 gathering, when Appellate Division Justice Robert J. Miller addresses that venerable group at the Rex Manor, 60th Street at 11th Avenue in Brooklyn.
Justice Miller will bring the members up to date on “Appellate Practice in the Second Department.” A delicious dinner starts at 6 p.m., according to President Bruno Codispoto
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Brooklyn Bar’s CLE Sets Up Busy Month

There will almost be enough Continuing Legal Education activity at the Brooklyn Bar Association to fill a major share of credits required for many attorneys to achieve more than a third of their needed biannual participation.
Attorneys who are sports buffs — or participate in the all-consuming fantasy sports leagues — should enjoy the first offering on May 9, “Drafting for the Pros: Structuring and Negotiating Sports Industry Contracts.”
We’ve noted often that fantasy team owners — even a close lawyer relative — often approach their buying, selling and trading of players with little regard for the applicable law. Where most people never learned the meaning of “player to be named later” or  “Rule 5 player,” the fantasists have mastered the lingo of sports trivia. Annually, they hold complex, sometimes international, competitions bordering on the obsessive.
They would do well to be on hand May 9 when noted experts Jeff Gewirtz (an executive VP for the Nets and Barclays Center) and Prof. Bob Boland  (NYU Law’s Sports & Law Chair, and a former colleague of this writer as a Taxi and Limousine Commission administrative judge).  
The May 20 offering, according to CLE Director Meredith Symonds, will tackle the tricky issue of “Family Law Forensic Accounting,” featuring CPA Robert Schindler, partner-in-charge at Cavalcante & Company.

The next night, on May 21, will be a program that can be priceless for any attorney dedicated to the law: “Getting The Gavel: How To Become a Judge.”
Two days later, on May 22, a distinguished panel made up of Domenick Napoletano, Avery Okin and Richard Klass will probe “The Mechanics and Merits of Fee Dispute Arbitration,” an area with which many lawyers are not necessarily comfortable.
Chairing the event will be the indefatigable Frank Seddio—former Assemblyman, one-time Kings County surrogate and — perhaps most relevant — the current county leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party!
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Wild West Victims Get Justice in Texas?

Every time some malcontent in Texas starts a petition demanding that Texas secede from the Union, there are millions of people in the rest of the country, especially in this city, who might ask, “Show me the petition — where do I sign?”

New Yorkers seem to resent Texas every bit as much as Texas traditionally hates New York.

The latest ingredient heating the pot of mutual resentment is the tragic explosion that killed 14 people in, and literally erased, the town of West, Texas, from the map.

Overly aggressive lawyers hurt the profession’s reputation when they were portrayed on some magazine covers as “parachuting” into Bhopal, India, when a monumental blast there killed thousands..

Today Texas is led by a man who makes George W. Bush look like a thoughtful progressive. I refer, of course, to Gov. Rick Perry, who wants to eliminate most federal agencies even though he has difficulty naming more than two of them at a time.

Clearly, the Texas plant that contained many tons of explosives was sited near the hapless residents who depend on employment at the plant for their livelihood. They were virtually chained to a bomb about to go off.
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Gov. Perry Still Struggles When Confronting Reality

After the tragedy, while flames were still soaring skyward, Gov. Perry said he didn’t think any new regulations were required. But he offered no explanation whatsoever as to why so many potential victims lived within the proverbial stone’s throw from the explosion’s center.

Texas sort of hates lawyers, too, because a lawyer working on a contingent fee can bring an action against any malfeasing manufacturer such as in this case. (Then-Gov. George W. Bush united with Big Insurance to wipe out pesky laws that had enabled injury victims to get their day in court.)  Contingent lawyers are the scourge of huge profit-driven corporations, especially in Texas. But there are still laws or regulations against the incredible negligence of those who truly ran the town of West.
The problem in what remains of West, of course, is that the surviving families and other victims will be pressured to take meager settlements, sealed settlements. Any of the injured who dare to bring in a skilled trial lawyer — especially one from New York City—will certainly be ostracized, and even their families and friends will turn their backs on them.

Some of the victims, represented by Dallas lawyer Paul Grienke, have filed claims against plant operator Adair Grain Inc., owned by the powerful Texas Adair family. Proprietor Donald Adair wisely declined to comment.

The plight of plaintiff Andrea Jones Gutierrez typifies the desperate straits of the victims who will be ripe for early, “bargain” settlements. Her court papers indicate she is a single working mother who lived in an apartment complex next to the plant.

Ms. Gutierrez and her child lost their apartment and all their belongings. Officially they are seeking $500,000 to $1,000,000 in damages.   Assuming Grienke represents Ms. Gutierrez (that is not clear based on early reports), he will be placed in a situation most attorneys know only too well: The immediate needs of the client weighed against their client’s long-term best interest.

Most of the dead, it seems, were first responders, volunteer firemen who courageously rushed to this scene despite the eminent threat posed by the plant’s volatile product. Their cases will be more complex, and negligence lawyers will be most interested to learn whether claims for punitive damages will be made in such a politically sensitive case.
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