Brooklyn Boro

Chuck Otey’s Pro Bono Barrister for Nov. 10

November 10, 2015 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BBA President Arthur Aidala. Eagle file photo
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Brooklyn Bar Association’s Nov. 13 CLE Session Offers Attorneys Update, Insights into Different Areas of Practice

Barristers looking for a broad view of various areas of the law outside of the type of cases they handle — as well as a chance to gain eight CLE credits in one day — are signing up already for the Brooklyn Bar Association’s (BBA) Update Seminar to take place on Friday, Nov. 13 at BBA headquarters, 123 Remsen St.

BBA CLE Director Amber Evans has arranged for a number of respected barristers to present the latest and most significant developments in their respective fields.

Among the lawyers and topics on the agenda are David Paul Horowitz, Evidence; Mike Ross, Ethics; Dan Santola, Labor Law; John Bonina Jr., Medical Malpractice; Dan Solinsky, Municipal Law; Mitch Proner, No Fault Auto Insurance Litigation; Sim Shapiro, Premises Liability; and Andrea Bonina, Products.

Horowitz will also present the latest developments in Disclosure, which is becoming the most controversial topic these days — dealing with the hazards and benefits of the use and misuse of the Internet.

The all-day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m) session is being co-sponsored by the New York State Trial Lawyers Academy, headed by Executive Director Michelle J. Stern. Lunch, according to Evans, will be provided, courtesy of the Trial Lawyers Academy.

Now in its 143rd year, the BBA is capably led this year by President Arthur Aidala, with the invaluable aid of veteran Executive Director Avery Okin.

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Was Career of Legendary Jurist Hellenbrand Kick-Started by His Eagle Contest Victory?

We learned this week from a New York Times obituary of the death of one-time State Supreme Court Justice Julius Hellenbrand. He was 102.

Appointed a Criminal Court judge by Mayor John Lindsay in 1969, he was later elected to the state Supreme Court, where he served until 1992.

While Justice Hellenbrand may be best remembered — as he was in his obituary — as the husband of the first Jewish assemblywoman, Gail Hellenbrand, he was a brilliant lawyer and one of the most powerful men in the state for many years.

Hellenbrand was an extremely influential figure in the era of political legends like Gov. Hugh Carey, Mayor Abe Beame, Stanley Steingut, Kings County Surrogate Court Justice Bernie Bloom, Meade Esposito, Assemblyman Tony Travia and “Sheriff” James V. Mangano, who headed the United Mazzini Democratic club and played a key role in launching the careers of Gov. Carey, Mayor Beame and many others.

It was a time during which each Assembly district had its own “clubhouse,” to which constituents would go seeking help for various problems — trash collection delays, rowdy kids, homelessness and, most importantly, for jobs. Yes, jobs. Thousands of jobs filtered through Brooklyn political clubhouses, with a lion’s share going to the unbeatable Democratic Party.

It took a lot of heft at that time to elect a woman to the state Assembly.  But the Kings County “Regular Democratic Party” wasn’t bound by the usual, very rigid gender restraints.

So, it came as no surprise when Gail Hellenbrand ran for that Albany post and was elected to the state Assembly, where she served from 1966 to 1970. At about the same time, another woman from another neighborhood — Shirley Chisholm — was elected to the Assembly and then went on to become one of the most inspiring figures of her time, stirring hopes and imaginations by becoming the first black woman to actively seek the presidency.

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Eagle Contest Offered Hellenbrand Chance to Demonstrate Exceptional Skills

Justice Hellenbrand’s fame as a scholar and power broker just might have been kick-started by his participation in a contest that was held under the aegis of our own Brooklyn Eagle back in 1930 when he was a high school student. He entered and won first place!

According to his Times obituary, “A graduate of Alexander Hamilton High School, he won the New York City Current Events in 1930 sponsored by the Brooklyn Eagle. He was runner-up (in the Eagle Bee) in 1931.”

Columnist’s Note: We’re asking the Eagle archivist to help us provide our readers with some of the stories reporting on the early success of one of Brooklyn’s most memorable figures.

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Are Drones the Great New Threat, Or a Sign of True Progress?

Columnist’s Note: Last week we outlined some of the dangers presented to national safety due to a proliferation of high-flying drones, which are very loosely regulated. We cited the relative ease with which a wrongdoer could attach an explosive device to a drone and then pilot it into a vulnerable site, such as a tall building, or even a military installation. This week, we’re pleased to present another view on the timely topic by trial lawyer Marc Dittenhoefer, a past president of the Kings County American Inn of Court, for which he regularly takes part in programs that are sometimes dry and academic, other times wise and witty, but never dull.

By Marc Dittenhoefer, Esq., Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle

More than a million new drone aircraft are expected to be given as holiday gifts this season, though the new FAA regulations for their use and operation are behind schedule. This is apparently due to widespread burgeoning interest in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), as drones are officially known. Photographers, amateur aeronauts, “Peeping Toms” and techno-gadgetniks have been robustly joined by landscapers, realtors, agribusinesses and enterprises of every description. Who has not yet heard of’s desire to have merchandise delivered via drone within minutes of purchase? Add to this mix the young dronist who rigged his UAS with a pistol and filmed a marksmanship demonstration for YouTube and one can begin to appreciate a whole new skyscape of potential difficulty and peril.

The notion of today’s new purchase, or tonight’s pizza, being wafted home without delay (and, presumably, without need for a tip) is easily replaced by other, more troubling images.

Every “Terminator” fan remembers Reese returning from a future where murderous drones trolled the skies: smaller, sleeker, stealthier ones already see armed service overseas, piloted from control rooms situated safely stateside. We have become attuned to watching matters conducted thusly, though it’s always somewhere else, involving someone else, over something other.

How prepared are we, then, for the greatest operant fact of the human era: the inevitability of misuse, error, misadventure and disaster? One UAS has crashed down into empty seats at the U.S. Open tennis tourney. There have also been drones flying by and crashing on the lawn of the White House, and coming perilously close to airborne passenger flights. What will happen when drones collide and tumble from the sky with their cargoes, causing heaven-knows-what? Nevertheless, the how, the where and the when have obscured the more important issues: the who and the what of it all.

Safety demands that these drones all be registered, that all of their individual parts bear their number and that the registry be accessible to the general public the way the Department of Motor Vehicles records can be searched for offending vehicles or operators. Likewise, there is no “Constitutional Right To Bear Drones” — not even the pistol-packin’ one on YouTube. Operators need be licensed and should have to demonstrate proficiency, judgment and knowledge of the rules and the operational technology: age limits would be a good idea as well.

Greater requirements should apply to those who pilot drones commercially, as they will be controlling many more and more dangerous craft than recreational users. As with earthbound motor vehicles, all UAS craft need to be insured against the statistical inevitability of accident, injury, property damage and death. Affordable policies can be underwritten for private users by the larger, more encompassing ones for commercial enterprises. Further, as there is so very little that one can do to protect oneself from sky-borne mayhem, our laws must recognize strict liability for loss of any kind caused by drones, their parts and their cargo falling from above.

The mood of our age seems to be against regulation and deeply mistrustful of governmental action. In this instance, that’s too bad. It would be worse than a pity if, in time and due to inadequate protective rulemaking, our friendly drones at home end up doing even more damage than our angry drones abroad.

Marc M.. Dittenhoefer is a past president and master emeritus of the Nathan R. Sobel Kings County American Inn of Court.

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