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Many hoping Justice Barry Kamins will return to law practice on Court Street

Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister

October 14, 2014 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Justice Barry Kamins, one of the most respected jurists in the state, will be retiring on Dec. 1. Many in the Kings legal community — including this writer — are hoping that he will return to private practice, right here on Court Street.

Justice Kamins’ career has been remarkable and exemplary. He started out as a prosecutor and later opened his own office on Court Street. He’s headed various bar groups, such as the New York City Criminal Bar Association and Kings County Criminal Bar Association.

He has been eager and willing to share his expertise with younger barristers and served as a law professor at Brooklyn Law School and Fordham University Law School.

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Most recently, he has generously taken part in valuable discussions with new attorneys and veterans at the Kings County American Inn of Court, now led by President Dave Chidekel. Patterned after the Ancient English Inns of Court, this organization is dedicated to promoting collegiality between bench and bar, and welcoming and tutoring inexperienced members of the bar. The president-elect is Justice Carl Landicino.

As any member of this Inn — and, doubtless, several other organizations for which he speaks — knows, Justice Kamins can approach just about any legal quandary and come up with a solution that is legal and ethical. In short, when Justice Kamins reviews a point of criminal law, attorneys — and other jurists — take notes.

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“Political” Discussions Are Fact of Life for Bench, Bar

An expert in criminal procedural law, Justice Kamins is known for his book, titled “New York Search and Seizure.” It’s a bit ironic that the events that brought upon his imminent departure from the bench were items that are often “seized” in legal matters — e-mails. In his situation, it was an e-mail exchange with former Kings D.A. Joe Hynes.

In reality, judges who emerge through the political system often discuss “politics.” And they should. We don’t want our jurists to live in political vacuums. They must be familiar with Election Law because many political matters — i.e. candidates battling to throw their opponents off the ballot due to alleged legal technicalities — must be resolved in court.

Despite his brilliance, Justice Kamins, entering his 70s, is part of a generation that, not that long ago, communicated solely via personal conversations, phone calls and typewritten materials. In those days, “e-filing” was something akin to science fiction.

The “IT Revolution” has been so far-reaching and abrupt that some attorneys have drastically changed the nature of their practices, rather than enter a world in which the entire concept of privacy has been turned upside-down. Very few can say with certainty what can, can’t, or shouldn’t be revealed for public scrutiny.

Because “The Press” regularly excoriates and second-guesses any controversial decision issued from a sitting judge, it’s getting more difficult to interest top lawyers to don the robes of justice and open themselves up to outrageously unfair criticism. In addition, there is the matter of just compensation. More than 1,200 members of the NY judiciary had to campaign — even launch lawsuits — to be granted a raise that had been denied them for more than 12 years by the state legislature.

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Kamins Surprised Bar Members When He Accepted Judgeship

As a result, colleagues of attorney Kamins were stunned — yet impressed — when he accepted a criminal bench appointment from then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008. Given his superb background, it was no surprise that he moved up in the legal system and was appointed chief administrator of the New York City criminal courts in 2012.

It also came as no surprise that attorney Marvin Hirsch chose this opportunity to comment on his long-time friend. Hirsch was a partner of then-attorney Kamins in the Brooklyn firm of Flamhaft, Levy, Kamins, Hirsch and Rendeiro.

Hirsch told the Eagle, “The New York judicial system has lost one of its finest judges and it is a loss to everybody.”

Justice Kamins has seldom issued any public statements over the past year. But, he did tell the Eagle, “I leave gratified, knowing that our criminal justice system and our courts are stronger now than ever before. Working for the people of the city and state has been a distinct honor and privilege.”

Many attorneys suggest that there is a possible silver lining waiting once the clouds that have been seeded by candid e-mail conversation have completely gone away — his return to the practice of the law.

(Everyone this writer has spoken with is hoping and looking forward to the day when Barry Kamins — sporting one of his trademark bow ties — returns to his Court Street office to offer the kind of extraordinary counsel that only he can.

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Brooklyn Bar Foundation Invites Public to Oct. 22 Forum on Aging

One of the city’s most effective public outreach programs on relevant legal issues will resume on the evening of Oct. 22 when the Brooklyn Bar Association holds another free informational lecture on the very timely topic “Aging in the Community: How to Plan Ahead.”

As usual, the event will be chaired by Fern Finkel, who heads the BBA Law Foundation Committee, assisted by Vice Chair Robin Goeman.

Chair Finkel notes that the program, starting at 6 p.m. at BBA headquarters, 123 Remsen St., will provide “an overview of financial and healthcare advance directives, financing long-term care, benefits and asset protection.”

For the past several years, barrister Finkel has been moving ahead with this agenda, featuring important topics like bankruptcy, foreclosures, and criminal and basic domestic law advice for members of the public who need some well-presented, easy-to-understand explanations from the experts. The experts generously donate their valuable time and talents for this very good cause.

The public forum program was launched six years ago by then-President Diana Szochet and, under the leadership of Barrister Finkel, has provided valuable assistance for those in need of legal help and an ongoing demonstration of the BBA’s collective determination to let the public know that enabling citizens to have their “day in court,” at no charge, is a priority of our local bar association.

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