Ruling Keeps Tankleff Lawyers in Place for Upcoming Trial

, New York Law Journal


A judge has refused to disqualify Martin Tankleff's attorney from representing Tankleff at his upcoming Court of Claims trial for wrongful conviction and false imprisonment for killing his parents.

Judge Gina Lopez-Summa (See Profile) said she could find no valid grounds to permit the state to call Tankleff's long-time attorney Bruce Barket as a witness at Tankleff's trial, a move that would disqualify Barket as the plaintiff's lawyer under the Rules of Professional Conduct §3.7.

In two other pretrial rulings in Tankleff v. State of New York, 118655, Lopez-Summa refused to grant Barket's motions to compel two witness to answer questions that they refused to address during depositions with Barket in October.

One of the witnesses is Jerry Steuerman, whom Tankleff's lawyers have implicated in the September 1988 murders of Seymour and Arlene Tankleff in their home in Belle Terre, Suffolk County. The other witness is Steuerman's son, Todd Steuerman.

The Tankleff case is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 6 in Hauppauge.

Tankleff, 42, is seeking a judgment against the state and compensation for the more than 17 years he served in state prison before his murder convictions were set aside in 2007 by an Appellate Division, Second Department panel on the basis of newly discovered evidence.

In January 2008 Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said he would not retry Tankleff. After then-attorney general Andrew Cuomo entered the case as a special prosecutor at the behest of Spota, Cuomo's office moved to dismiss the outstanding indictments in the interests of justice.

Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Robert Doyle (See Profile) dismissed all charges against Tankleff on July 22, 2008.

Barket and his co-counsels, Barry Scheck of Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin and Barry Pollack of Miller & Chevalier, will try to prove that Tankleff was falsely convicted of his parents' murders and wrongfully imprisoned, and if successful, seek compensation from the state.

In order to justify Barket's disqualification, the state must show that his testimony is necessary to the state's case and that such testimony would be prejudicial to Tankleff.

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