Brooklyn Boro

Chuck Otey’s Pro Bono Barrister for June 24

June 24, 2013 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Enjoying Steve Cohn Gala

In our photo coverage of Steve Cohn’s Seneca Club Anniversary Dinner, last week’s Pro Bono Barrister inadvertently failed to properly send to Eagle production the above photo of Hon. Justice Joseph S. Levine and fiancée Mary B. Zuckerbraun taken that night.  As a result our coverage was far from complete or accurate.  PBB regrets the error and notes that our Eagle editor is blameless in this matter. Long known as the Kings Court Photo Laureate, the Hon. Levine and the lovely Mary will be in attendance Monday, June 24, when the Kings County American Inns of Court hold its June Gala at the Battery Gardens in lower Manhattan.
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Hon. Knipel Uses Mediation To Curb Court Calendars

Lawyers we’ve talked with are very pleased about the innovative mediation program put forth by Chief Administrative Justice Lawrence Knipel.

This worthwhile and timely effort, according to Eagle writer Charisma Miller, will be the ‘first of its kind … and the mandatory mediation project hopes to alleviate some of the costs and other strains that civil litigation places on Brooklyn’s court system.

“It’s about time,” an approving Court Street colleague told us this week. “It took someone with Justice Knipel’s drive to do something about stymied system.”

At one time, the city’s Corporation Counsel delayed so many cases for so long that a plaintiff in a slip and fall case could wait 10 years for a firm trial date.  But in the last several few years “City” has been much more aggressive in settling cases and sharply reduced its court calendars.

Clogging the calendars needlessly these days is the New York City Transit Authority.

While some  insurance carriers have been notoriously cheap when it comes to protecting the interests of their policy holders, the other major offender stalling for time with tactical delays is believed to be the Transit Authority.

In fact, Ms. Miller spoke with plaintiff attorney Gary Zucker, who singled out “Transit” as the leading delay offender. “The success of [Justice Knipel’s Mandatory Mediation Program] will depend  on the Transit Authority,” said Zucker.
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Hon. Spodek Knows How To Deal With `Transit’

Appropriately, Justice Knipel said, “We wanted to narrow the scope for the initial cases selected for the pilot program. There are about 10 to 12 Transit Authority cases a week, and we decided that that was a manageable number.”

Wisely, he has won the volunteer cooperation of one of Kings County most effective judicial “settlers,” Hon. Jules Spodek, now retired. In his decades on the bench,  Justice Spodek did not hesitate to urge recalcitrant defendants, e.g. the New York City Transit Authority, to speed up their snail’s-pace approach to tort litigation.

Veteran Transit lawyers (you know who you are) will certainly take any appearance before the Hon. Spodek very seriously! In his mediation room — as was always true in his courtroom — discovery will be prompt and thorough and timely

Other mediators will be selected by from a group of volunteers who all work free of charge.
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Last Call for June Gala Ending Inns of Court Year

Kings County American Inns of Court leaders, such as former President Helene Blank, sent out a last-call message to members this week to sign up for the Inn’s Gala celebration on June 24. It brings to an end another year of achievement, capably led by outgoing President Marc Dittenhoefer.

The party is at the Battery Gardens on State Street, not far from the Manhattan ferry terminal. Inspiring a sizeable attendance is the fact that paid-up members will attend at no charge and enjoy valet parking.

The new Inn slate will consist of President Justice Ellen Spodek, President-elect Dave Chidekel, Counselor Justice Arthur Schack, Treasurer Acting Supreme Court Justice Miriam Cyrulnik and Secretary Jon Besunder.
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Why Democrats, Media Are ‘Puzzled’ by GOP

Proving that they often don’t really haven’t a clue when it comes to elective politics, many in our media — and in the Democratic Party — are truly puzzled that Republicans, like Staten Island/Brooklyn Rep. Michael Grimm, aren’t coming out strongly in favor of easing immigration restrictions.  They shouldn’t be.

In addition, spokespeople from the left simply cannot understand why the Republican House came out in favor of increased restrictions regarding abortions. Will they ever?

Hence, today’s most sophomoric kickoff question on TV talk shows is as follows: Didn’t the Republicans learn their lessons in 2012?

All of the talking heads on television see these two moves as a losing agenda for the GOP, which lost the women’s vote in 2012 while Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Obama.

But they are ignoring two elementary political realities: 1. All politics is local, and 2. Republican Congressmen like Grimm are looking exclusively toward the 2014 elections, particularly the primaries.  For Republicans, the elections of 2016 are far off . Their first task is to cater to and inspire their enthusiastic base, a bloc staunchly against abortion and violently opposed to the most moderate relaxation of immigration regulations.

The easiest way for Grimm to stir a primary challenge would be for him to even appear to be liberal on immigration or women’s rights.  Case in point: Tea Party favorite Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is being pummeled for favoring even a long and torturous path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
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Against Grimm, Recchia Faces Uphill Battle

President Obama carried the 11th C.D. in 2012, but his coattails couldn’t stop Grimm, who defeated Democrat Mark Murphy 103,118 to 92,428. There’ll be a smaller vote in 2014. The Obama supporters won’t come out in similar numbers.  But you can be sure that the hard core of Grimm’s  base will be out there waving their Tea Party banners and nay-saying any Democrat who dares to appear liberal on abortion or immigration.

Democrats have pretty much settled on a solid choice, outgoing City Councilman Domenic Recchia. He is tough enough to take on Grimm, and is a fierce and effective debater.

Recchia is already being attacked by Conservative leaders such as state Chair Mike Long and Brooklyn Chair Jerry Kassar, which is a sign they see him as a viable opponent. Running from Brooklyn, which holds only about a third of the 11th C.D.’s voters, Recchia will also have to overcome Grimm’s hometown advantage in right-leaning Staten Island.
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Snowden a Traitor Or a Super-Patriot?

The terror attacks of 9/11 continue to take a terrible toll on this nation.  Thousands of American and NATO soldiers have died. Tragically, most scholars now agree that we were misled into invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.

Throughout modern times, various empires have attempted to conquer Afghanistan and failed. It can be argued that if the U.S. had avoided invading Iraq and focused on finding Osama bin Laden and defeating the Taliban, and had pulled out of Afghanistan seven or eight years ago, we’d all be better off.

Israel would not be seriously threatened, and the Mideast would be relatively stable.  We wouldn’t have squandered $2 trillion destroying and “nation-building” in a part of the world that has resented us ever since the British and the French “created” several Arab states more than a century ago.

Additionally,  the Intelligence-Industrial Complex, e.g. Booz Allen, which employed the infamous leaker Edward Snowden, might not be reaping billions annually as it does today. The revolving door relationship between the  secretive National Security Agency and Booz Allen might never have caught the public eye without the brash actions of the law-breaking Booz Allen programmer.

Snowden’s actions have caused a formerly unaware American public to ask a number of questions as to how the so-called Intelligence-Industrial Complex is dominating much of our government.

How does  President’s Obama’s intelligence chief, James Clapper, justify the stunning reality that Booz Allen, where he used to work, earns most of its billions from U.S. government security/intelligence agencies? Adding to this conflicting arrangement is the fact that Booz Allen  is currently pursuing a lucrative $5.6 billion contract “to provide intelligence analysis services to the Defense Department.
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Intelligence Out-Sourcing Out of Control?

Bypassed and unnoticed by most legislators who vented their rage against rogue analyst Snowden was the sudden market drop of Booz Allen’s stock.  As many  of us learned in a New York Times article last week, most of our intelligence work has been privatized  or outsourced to behemoths like Booz Allen.

It’s estimated that over 4 million people have been given significant security clearances! In fact, according to the article written by Binyamin Applebaum and Eric Lipton, “Thousands of people formerly employed by the government and still approved to deal with classified information, now do essentially the same work for private companies.”  Until he went public Edward Snowden was one of them.

No matter how noble he thought it was, what Snowden did was a crime. In the public interest, Snowden should be offered a plea deal.  Then he should be required to testify publicly and also in camera.  

But before hearing Snowden’s  testimony, every Congress member who wants to question him should be required to reveal the amount of  campaign money they have received from Intgelligence-Industrial Complex firms such as Booz Allen and others.  If our government is to be privatized by behemoths like Booz, we should at least know whom we’re being sold to. (MSNBC reported later that Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a top member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has received  campaign funds from Booz Allen.)

Paying tens of millions to elected office-holders to secure their support for lucrative contracts may be protected speech, even by the U.S. Supreme Court’s tortured interpretation. But just about all of us would like to know how — and how much cash — the profiteers are providing our politicians in the exercise of  their First Amendment rights.

Meanwhile public sentiment seems to be turning in favor of the leaker.  Early on, some called Snowden a traitor.  Yet, as more and more information came out, polls began swinging Snowden’s way.  Some elected officials actually questioned whether Snowden should be treated like a criminal.  They see his deed as a public service. Is it?  The jury’s still out on this one!

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