Chuck Otey’s Pro Bono Barrister for July 22

July 22, 2013 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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More Views of Kings Inn Gala

Outgoing Kings County Inn of Court President Marc Dittenhoefer is well known in the courts for his unique communications skills, so it should come as no surprise that when he “passed the gavel” to incoming President Justice Ellen Spodek, he offered a friendly kiss as well.  Justice Spodek graciously accepted both and congratulated him on a job well done over the year. The Inn pauses briefly in the summer, but Barrister Dave Chidekel is already assembling a cast for his first CLE presentation on Sept. 24.
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See Federal Court Bias in Civil Rights Suits

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It’s no secret that many federal judges do not like basic tort cases dealing with false arrest and imprisonment — especially where the NYPD is involved.

So, for the past two years, under a special program instituted by a group of jurists in the Southern District, the plaintiffs’ bar has endured severely restricting discovery rules severely the curbing rights of plaintiffs which are protected at the state court level.

At the same time, the new judge-initiated rules generously grant the municipality extended time limits on filings and discovery, especially regarding cases brought in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Plaintiff’s lawyers seemed powerless to stop this new “parallel” system of justice.

Personal injury and civil rights lawyers think this system should be done away with. “I find the present plan profoundly disturbing,” attorney Joel Rudin wrote The New York Times. “It makes the Southern District a hostile forum for plaintiffs.”

Unsurprisingly, city lawyers love the restrictive system. Probably with tongue in cheek Celeste Koeleveid, Law Department spokeswoman, wrote the court saying, “The city respectfully submits that the plan is an extremely worthwhile case management tool.”

Several lawyers have questioned the Federal Judiciary Committee’s authority to set up rules which favor the city so clearly that the Torts Department works hard to have the city “move” state Supreme Court cases into the Southern District on various pretexts.

In at least one case, a Manhattan attorney blamed the plan for needless discovery delays imperiling her case, which was soon to run afoul the Statute of Limitations. Unable to learn the identities of the NYPD officers who had allegedly knocked her client down and “falsely” arrested her, she was  forced to settle the case quickly rather than risk losing her client’s rights.

For whatever reasons, the federal committee is taking another look at its controversial plan, and last month held a forum to air myriad complaints from the plaintiffs civil rights bar.

Times writer Colin Moynihan wrote that the powers-that-be in the Southern District might come up with a new plan. Or not.
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BBA’s Meredith Symonds Offers ‘Summer’ CLE

“School may be out, but CLE is always in” says Brooklyn Bar CLE Director Meredith Symonds.

Normally the BBA does not offer summer CLE programs, but Ms. Symonds astutely asks in her missive to association members: “Have a birthday this summer and need some last-minute credits? Miss a CLE with one of your favorite speakers? The BBA is offering an incredible discount this summer before live CLEs start up again in the fall!”

Available at bargain prices are CD/DVD  presentations offering up to 12 credits. BBA members can get all 12 credits for $150 at a total savings of $150!

This “Special Pricing,” offering programs “appropriate for experienced attorneys who have been admitted for more than two years.”

Interested barristers should contact Ms. Symonds at [email protected]. She’ll be more than helpful aiding you in meeting the birthdate deadline!
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Racism Killed Trayvon, Racism Tainted Verdict

George Zimmerman should never have walked away a free man from his trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin. From the ragged, noisy start, the “prosecution” was hamstrung from racial profiling by the arresting officers who bought Zimmerman’s “stand your ground” story hook, line and sinker.

Many experienced attorneys believe Zimmerman was “overcharged,” i.e. the prosecution, bowing to public pressure, indicted him on the highest possible count — Murder Two.  

Sanford, Fla. Police -possibly caught in their “stand your ground” statute- waited six infuriating weeks to finally arrest Zimmerman.

Our media have such short memories that after the trial, there has been very little reporting on the initial public outcry that just a year ago ultimately swept the nation and brought about the much-delayed indictment. The Murder Two charge was filed to deal with public uproar, not with a view toward a provable criminal case.

The prosecution’s initial erroneous charge was never corrected until most of the Zimmerman trial was completed. Too late, the prosecutors woke up and the judge permitted them to add the Negligent Homicide “lesser included” charge.

It was a clumsy, ham-handed gesture. All along, it was evident the prosecutors had been trying to prove an unprovable case. Blaming the lawyers would be easy, but they are subject to all kinds  of political pressures — local and statewide.

The elements of racism, irresponsible gun ownership and phony “law and order” behavior were there. Yet most knowledgeable attorneys, who focus on criminal law, assured us – in person,  on television, on the web and in newspapers- that the prosecution would never be able to convince the jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” of Zimmerman’s guilt on the Murder Two charge.

Some TV talking heads, including a few lawyers, ignored the critical evidentiary difference between “preponderance of the credible evidence” (the civil burden) and “beyond reasonable doubt.“ So, unfortunately, did the Florida prosecutors.

Zimmerman should never have been carrying a gun on his “watch.” Too often, a gun-toting vigilante gets shot when confronting a “suspect,” despite well-publicized admonitions highlighting the risk of doing so.

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Zimmerman Knew Gun Could Kill Him

Zimmerman, whose physical battle talents were minimal, possibly recalled this warning too late, when the athletic and frightened Trayvon knocked him to the ground.

With the tougher youth on top, Zimmerman was likely aware that the concealed gun strapped behind him placed him in peril, should his stronger opponent detect its presence.

Even though he wore the gun in a back holster, it was within the grappling youth’s likely reach. Zimmerman’s paper-thin bravado would quickly collapse and he had to scream for help.

We’ll probably never know exactly what happened, even though Zimmerman will one day produce a book telling the “true story” relating his version of that horrible night.

Martin’s parents have been extremely gracious following the verdict. Their behavior stands in stark contrast to juror B37, who made cruel derogatory remarks to CNN about Tranyon and the shaken female friend he was on his cell phone with at the time of the fatal confrontation.

Mrs. B37 saw black Americans like Trayvon Martin in the narrowest sense, sounding more like a plantation owner than a citizen sworn to uphold the law and render a just verdict.

Her insensitive comments to CNN implied that because Trayvon was an African-American, the gun-toting Zimmerman was within his rights playing hero by pursuing the young man and confronting him after stepping out of his car.  She added insult to the terrible injury the Martins had suffered and showed  more sympathy to Zimmerman than she did the true victims.

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Very Likely Trayvon Was “Standing His Ground”

It’s ironic, but it could be argued that Trayvon Martin was standing his ground in those last minutes of his young life. After all, it was Zimmerman who pursued and tried to corner Martin by driving after him, closing in then exiting his car against instructions to the contrary by the 911 operator. Then he went after Trayvon on foot.

Because there was not a single witness to the first physical contact between the two, we have only Zimmerman’s word that Trayvon was the actual aggressor.

If Zimmerman didn’t have a concealed weapon, he could have walked away fron his losing fight  with bruises and cuts and hopefully a bit wiser. Trayvon Martin would be alive.

To the Sanford PD, the Florida statute seemed broader than intended. To them, “Stand your ground” might have well have said “pursue your minority target and if he resists, shoot him.”

Racism via social profiling encouraged Zimmerman to begin the chase, racism prompted the police to take Zimmerman’s side, and racism made it much easier for the jurors to “feel real bad” for “poor George.”

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