This Weeks News

The Appellate Division, Second Department, at  41 Monroe Place, Brooklyn

Immigrant's Drug Conviction Tossed Due to Inaccurate Advice

By Andrew Denney |

An appeals court has thrown out a 12-year-old conviction for an aspiring citizen who is awaiting deportation because he had been advised before entering a guilty plea that the drug conviction carried the "possibility" of deportation, when in fact deportation was mandatory.

Manhattan Attorney Resigns After Stealing Client's Funds

By Andrew Denney |

Ross Abelow admitted spending a "considerable" amount of the sale proceeds from an apartment jointly owned by his client for personal purposes and retained only $207,831 of the $493,685 he should have been holding for his client after legal fees.

Defendants Offered a 'Clean Slate'

By Rick Kopstein, Photographer |

The Office of Court Administration, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, New York City Police Department and the Legal Aid Society sponsored an "Clean Slate" event Saturday, where New York City residents with open warrants on summons offenses could have them cleared from their record without fear of arrest.

Gun Conviction Tossed Over Handling of Jury Note

By Ben Bedell |

A unanimous First Department panel said the trial judge "failed to meet [the court's] core responsibilities ... to provide defense counsel with 'meaningful notice' of a jury note and to provide the jury with a 'meaningful response.'"

Sheldon Silver

Jury in Silver Case Breaks for Holiday Without Verdict

By Mark Hamblett |

The jury in the Sheldon Silver kickback and extortion trial broke for the Thanksgiving holiday Wednesday without reaching a verdict.

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrives at the Southern District courthouse on Tuesday.

Silver Juror Complains of Stress on First Day of Deliberations

By Mark Hamblett |

Less than two hours after deliberations began Tuesday, a female juror asked Southern District Judge Valerie Caproni if she could be excused, indicating in a note she was isolated from other members of the panel.

Court Approval Needed to Tape Exams, Panel Determines

By Andrew Denney |

Ruling in a case where it found "an avalanche of errors," an appellate court concluded that trial judges must give their approval before an independent medical examination of a plaintiff can be videotaped.

The Court of Appeals in Albany

'Circumstances' Decide Validity of Plea, Ruling Says

By Joel Stashenko |

Revisiting an issue it examined less than two years ago, the state Court of Appeals emphasized Tuesday that the totality of the circumstances determines whether a defendant understood the rights that are forfeited by pleading guilty to a criminal charge.

Reaction Is Positive to Cameras-in-the-Courtroom Rule

By Andrew Keshner |

Comments on a state court effort to update the rules on the use of cameras in the courtroom were generally favorable. The proposed rule changes emphasize the allowance of audio-visual coverage "to the fullest extent permissible by law" and called the existing rules "antiquated and potentially confusing to modern readers."

G. Robert Blakey.  November 23, 2013.

Renowned Law Professor Sanctioned for DC Ethics Violation

Law professor G. Robert Blakey—famous for writing federal anti-racketeering laws and investigating the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr.—was recently sanctioned in Washington for advising a former student to disclose confidential client documents.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks during an event at the University of Richmond School of Law in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015.

Sotomayor: Congress Should Not Tell Judges How to Review Cases

The framers of the Constitution should have barred Congress from telling judges how to review certain types of cases, such as challenges brought under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said this week.

Court Will Hear State Appeal in Judicial 'Double Dipping'

By Joel Stashenko |

The Court of Appeals said Tuesday it would hear the state's appeal of a lower court's finding that the court system sought illegally to block Supreme Court justices who stay on the bench past age 70 from receiving both judicial salaries and public pensions.

Dean Skelos, center, and his son Adam Skelos, right, arrive to court Tuesday, accompanied by G. Robert Gage, left, of Gage Spencer & Fleming, who leads the legal team for Dean Skelos.

Company Gave Big Raise to Senate Leader's Son

By Christine Simmons |

In the political corruption trial of former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, the president of a company that hired Adam as a consultant testified Tuesday that he felt he had no choice but to give Adam a big raise.

Judicial Salaries to Be Topic of Public Hearing in NYC

By Andrew Keshner |

A state commission responsible for recommending salary increases for judges and lawmakers will hold a public hearing at the New York City Bar Association on Monday. The commission will discuss only judicial salaries.

Abid Naseer, left, acting as his own attorney, questions Najibulla Zazi on Feb. 18 during Naseer's trial on terrorism charges in Brooklyn.

Pakistani Man Sentenced for NYC Subway Bomb Plot

An Eastern District jury convicted Abid Naseer in March following a trial that featured spies in disguise, evidence from the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound and the defendant's questioning of an admitted co-conspirator.

Thomas Libous

Former NY Lawmaker Gets House Arrest for Lying to FBI

A terminally ill former New York state senator will serve six months of house arrest after being convicted of lying to the FBI about arranging a high-paying job for his son.

Irish Bar Supports Innocence Project

By Rick Kopstein, Photographer |

The Irish American Bar Association of New York and the Brehon Law Society of New York hosted a wine reception and benefit for the Irish Innocence Project Tuesday at the Irish Arts Center.

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrives at the Southern District courthouse on Monday.

Silver Defense Says US Failed to Prove Bribery, Kickbacks

By Mark Hamblett |

The lawyer for Sheldon Silver tore into the government's case Monday, saying prosecutors were criminalizing politics while trying to win the former Assembly speaker's conviction for using his office to win millions in legal fees on cases he referred to two law firms.

The Legal Hand center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Program Brings Free Legal Information to Neighborhoods

By Andrew Denney |

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced on Monday a new program to provide free legal information and referrals to low-income New Yorkers at storefronts in their neighborhoods.

Miriko Hirose of the New York Civil Liberties Union, representing the gay couple who sought to be married at Liberty Ridge Farm, and Caleb Dalton, counsel to the owners of the farm, argue at the Third Department Monday.

Facility Fights Sanction for Barring Gay Wedding

By Joel Stashenko |

A couple who were fined by the state for refusing to rent out their banquet facilities for gay weddings is being asked to compromise their constitutional right to oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons, a lawyer argued before the Third Department.

No 'Adverse Inference' Seen in Failure to Tape Confession

By Ben Bedell |

Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam wrote for the majority that the Rochester police department's "failure to record an interrogation does not necessarily suggest that they declined to make the recording because they wished to avoid supplying unfavorable proof at an eventual trial of the suspect."

John Giuca, seated at the defense table, center, was convicted in 2003 of the murder of Mark Fisher. Seated with Giuca are his attorneys, Mark Bederow, left, and Andrew Stengel.

Prosecutor Denies Misconduct in Case of College Student Murder

By Andrew Keshner |

A top-ranking Brooklyn prosecutor on Monday rejected allegations of misconduct from John Giuca, who is trying to undo his 2005 murder conviction in the high-profile slaying of college student Mark Fisher.

Roberts Discusses Judicial History

By Rick Kopstein, Photographer |

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts spoke with Second Circuit Chief Judge Robert Katzmann Friday after Roberts' discussion of the life and career of Charles Evans Hughes.

James Cole, left, and Sally Yates, right.

DOJ's 'Yates Memo' Goes Too Far, Former Deputy AG Says

James Cole, the U.S. deputy attorney general from 2010 until January, blasted his Justice Department successor's signature reforms on white-collar criminal prosecutions Friday, calling them a departure from reality and "impractical."

Demonstrators outside the Staten Island Supreme Court in January

Court Declines Appeals on Garner Grand Jury Data

By Joel Stashenko |

Without comment, the state Court of Appeals Monday said it would not hear arguments to force release of the proceedings in which a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict police officers in the death of Eric Garner.

Dean Skelos, center, and his son Adam Skelos, right, arrive to court Tuesday, accompanied by G. Robert Gage, left, of Gage Spencer & Fleming, who leads the legal team for Dean Skelos.

Witness Describes How Skelos' Son Secured Job

By Christine Simmons |

Prosecutors called multiple witnesses on Monday in the criminal trial against former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, to show that a developer that lobbied the senator on real estate tax legislation provided Adam business opportunities.

Buffalo Bills Stadium, Orchard Park

Court Revives Claim Over Injury at Football Stadium

By Joel Stashenko |

An appeals court has reinstated a claim against the Buffalo Bills, Erie County and a company hired to handle security in parking lots around the team's stadium in Orchard Park for their possible liability in an accident in which a pedestrian was injured while walking to a Bills' game.

A young man chants in favor of immigration law reform during a massive rally held at the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 10, 2006.

Obama Seeks Quick Review of Immigration Ruling

Against a contentious national debate over immigration and refugee policies, the Department of Justice on Friday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court's "unprecedented nationwide injunction" against the Obama administration's plans to temporarily defer deportation of nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Hearing Aid Dealer Accused of $1.6M Fraud

A business owner defrauded the state insurance plan of $1.6 million by selling prison officers and other workers expensive earbuds and then billing for hearing aids, authorities said Monday.

Shorelines in the Courthouse

By Rick Kopstein, Photographer |

The Eastern District Courthouse hosted a reception Thursday for the opening of "Rip Current," an exhibit in the Charles P. Sifton Gallery of Brooklyn artist Lisa Lebofsky's works portraying the shorelines of Long Island.

Bar Exam Pass Rates Drop Across the Country

Bar exam passage rates sank in several big states, indicating a drop in the qualifications of students amid fewer law school applications.

New York State Capitol in Albany

OCA Seeks Comment on Disclosure Exemption Rules

By Joel Stashenko |

Court administrators are seeking comment on a proposal to grant exemptions to lawyer-legislators and others who must disclose their clients' identities under recently enhanced state ethics procedures.

Judge Caproni

No-Nonsense Judge Caproni Keeps Silver Trial on Track

By Mark Hamblett |

Judge Valerie Caproni has been propelling the parties forward at a brisk pace in the public corruption trial of former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, insisting on using just about every minute of every day to keep proceedings moving.

Cardiologist and part-time pilot Dr. Fred Pasternack

Circuit Certifies Question of Pilot's Drug Test to NY

By Ben Bedell |

A Manhattan-based pilot who sued a drug testing laboratory for negligence in the handling of his urine test will have to wait until the New York Court of Appeals determines whether he has a cause of action under state law, the Second Circuit has ruled.

Dean Skelos, center, and his son Adam Skelos, right, arrive to court Tuesday, accompanied by G. Robert Gage, left, of Gage Spencer & Fleming, who leads the legal team for Dean Skelos.

Witness Describes Pressure From Adam Skelos About Jobs

By Christine Simmons |

The general counsel of a major real estate developer testified at the political corruption trial of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a powerful legislator from Nassau County, that he felt he had to channel more money to the senator's son, Adam, or a contract with Nassau County would not be approved.

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, center, his wife, Esther, left, and lawyer Eliot Lauer leave the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Friday.

Lawyers Battle Limits of Pollard's Freedom

By Scott Flaherty |

Attorneys for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard labored for a decade and a half to win his freedom. But even as Pollard finally left prison on Friday, his lawyers announced that they weren't satisfied with the terms of his release.

John Zuccotti

Attorney Who Helped Revitalize Lower Manhattan After 9/11 Dies

By Nell Gluckman |

John Zuccotti, a prominent figure in the New York City real estate community for decades who was senior counsel at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, died on Friday.

Report Finds Fewer Women, Black Associates at US Law Firms

Newly released data appears to show that after many years of modest gains, widespread associate layoffs amid the financial crisis halted the growth of female and black representation at major law firms.

Attorney Is Disbarred for Felony Tax Fraud

By Ben Bedell |

A former Hughes Hubbard & Reed partner who was indicted in June for failing to file any state income tax returns for the years 1996 through 2013 was disbarred Thursday by the First Department.

Appellate Division, Third Department, courthouse in Albany

Panel Rejects Attempt to Withdraw Murder Plea

By Joel Stashenko |

The Third Department declined Thursday to let a defendant withdraw the guilty plea to second-degree murder he entered shortly after speaking with the daughters of the woman he is accused of killing.

Suffolk DA Drops Charges for Videotaping Police

Counts of resisting arrest, obstruction and drug possession were dropped Friday against a suburban New York college student who was arrested in May 2014 after he recorded video depicting officers slamming the mother of his two friends to the ground because they said she tried to interfere in one of her sons' arrest.

David Miranda

State Bar Presses Assembly to Boost Voting Registration

By Joel Stashenko |

Among the steps advocated by the state bar's Special Committee on Voter Participation are to allow New Yorkers to register online, to register as part of their conduct of unrelated transactions with state agencies, and to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register.


The Court of Appeals in Albany

Tough Sentence After Spurned Plea Deal Ruled Not Vindictive

By Joel Stashenko |

A judge did not violate the rights of a man who raped a child and then spurned a plea offer of 10 years probation by sentencing him to 10 to 20 years in prison after he was convicted, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Former New York state Senate leader Dean Skelos, right, and his son Adam arrive for their arraignment in Manhattan federal court on July 30.

Senate Leader Sought Help for Son, Witness Testifies

By Christine Simmons |

The general counsel of a major real estate developer testified Thursday in the political corruption trial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos that while meeting with Skelos about rent legislation, the senator repeatedly asked the attorney to help his son, Adam, find work because he was "struggling."

Justice Mark Dwyer, co-chair of the Task Force on Criminal Discovery

In Rejecting Cash Bail Offer, Judge Blasts Statute

By Ben Bedell |

A $50,000 cash bail proffer made on behalf of a Chinese national charged with sex trafficking was rejected by Justice Mark Dwyer, who said the defendant was a "poster boy for why the statute governing cash bail is flawed."

Scratch-off lottery winner Walter Carver

Workfare Recipients Protected by US Wage Law, Ruling Says

By Joel Stashenko |

People who perform government-assigned jobs in return for public assistance must be paid according to minimum wage standards, the Court of Appeals held in blocking state efforts to intercept half of a $10,000 lottery prize that a man won after leaving his "workfare" job. A separate case gave the court a chance to elaborate on rulings on citizens' standing to bring environmental cases.

Judge Weinstein

Judge: US Citizen Falsely Detained May Seek Limited Damages

By Andrew Keshner |

Although an American citizen was detained by immigration authorities for more than three years, Eastern District Judge Jack Weinstein found the man was only entitled to damages for 27 days of false imprisonment.

Steven Eisman

Nassau County Bar President Dies at 61

By Andrew Keshner |

Steven J. Eisman, a name partner at a well-known Long Island firm and the sitting president of the Nassau County Bar Association, died Thursday from complications associated with a recent surgery.

Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica

AG Claims Immigrants Face Bias From Utica School District

By Carolyn Thompson |

The school district in the heavily immigrant city of Utica discriminates against older students with limited English skills by refusing to let them attend the only high school, instead steering them into "dead-end" programs that offer no chance for a diploma, the state attorney general's office said Wednesday in announcing a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Former Chief Judge Richard F. Cebull makes a speech during a naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Billings, Montana, on June 23, 2011.

DOJ Fights Disclosure of Ex-Judge's Racist Emails

The U.S. Department of Justice does not contest that now-retired Montana federal district judge Richard Cebull sent racist and otherwise inappropriate emails from his courthouse account. But lawyers for the government warn that making those emails public would undermine the entire judicial discipline system.

Jason Brown and Janet Sabel

Schneiderman Appoints Two New Top Deputies

By Joel Stashenko |

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he will rely on "two first-rate legal minds," Jason Brown and Janet Sabel, to replace a single aide who left the agency in September.

Darcel Clark

Incoming Bronx DA Names 37-Member Transition Team

By Andrew Keshner |

Darcel Clark has announced a transition team that includes prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges she said will help her understand relationships between the Bronx DA's office and other actors in the criminal justice system, create internal controls for speedy prosecutions, assess the current staff and identify talent to join the office.

High School Students Settle Civil Rights Suit Against City

By Andrew Keshner |

One current and five former public high school students who claimed officers in the New York City Police Department's School Safety Division violated their civil rights through excessive force and wrongful arrests have settled their suit against the city.

LI Attorney Charged in Theft of Client Funds, Bogus Loan

By Andrew Keshner |

The Nassau County District Attorney's office said Daniel Spitalnic of Great Neck fraudulently held himself out as part owner and officer of his former mother-in-law's corporation to obtain a $300,000 loan from a private lender. He allegedly used the money for rent, entertainment, food and other expenses.

Fishman Awards

The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest presented its 2015 annual Felix A. Fishman awards to Jennifer Parish of the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project "for her tireless dedication to the health and independence of all New Yorkers" and to Dr. George Coritsidis and Dr. Ellena Linden of Elmhurst Hospital for their "innovative leadership improving the health of New York's immigrant communities."

Veterans Treatment Court Opens

The new Brooklyn Misdemeanor Veterans Treatment Court was officially opened Wednesday at 120 Schermerhorn Street.


Former New York State Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos, left, his son, Adam Skelos, center and Christopher Conniff, a partner at Ropes & Gray who is representing Adam Skelos, enter court on Nov. 16.

First Witness in Skelos Trial Says Son Made Threats

By Mark Hamblett |

The first witness in the political corruption trial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos testified Wednesday that the politician's son, Adam Skelos, had made threats when confronted about his chronic absences from a job that he allegedly received through the intercession of his father.

Farewell Applause for Lippman

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman was applauded Wednesday after hearing his final argument at the Court of Appeals. While calling the mandatory retirement rule "a little ridiculous," Lippman confessed he is looking forward to "not having the weight of the world on my shoulders, at least six weeks from now."

Sheldon Silver on his way to federal court Wednesday.

Government Rests in Silver Trial

By Christine Simmons |

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan rested their criminal case Wednesday against former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver after jurors listened to testimony about how Silver invested his alleged crime proceeds.

stacks of file boxes

Company Sanctioned for Not Preserving Asbestos Documents

By Ben Bedell |

A company that made asbestos products in the 1980s should have anticipated it would be sued, and therefore the destruction of dozens of boxes of related documents in the 1990s was spoliation requiring sanction, a Manhattan state judge has ruled.

The Court of Appeals in Albany

Limited Use of Uncharged Crimes in Murder Trial Is Affirmed

By Joel Stashenko |

A defendant who invoked extreme emotional disturbance as a defense against murder and assault charges accepted the risk of having past uncharged crimes used against him with limitations set by the trial court, the state Court of Appeals decided Wednesday.

Kelly Cosby, standing top right, poses with Shana Knizhnik, left, and Elizabeth Gavin on Oct. 27 at the book release party of “Notorious RBG,” a biography of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Rookie Associate Inspired by Ginsburg Dies at 25

By Andrew Denney |

Kelly Cosby, who collaborated on a hip-hop song honoring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before beginning her career at Duane Morris in September, died on Sunday after a battle with an aggressive melanoma.

Circuit Clarifies Statute of Limitations on Debt Claims

By Mark Hamblett |

The clock for claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act starts running when the bank freezes a debtor's account, not when the notice of debt is served, a federal appeals court has held.

Sally Yates, left, and Alex Kozinski, right.

DOJ Rebuts Judge's Criticism of Prosecutors' Ethics

In a rare public war of words, top officials at the U.S. Department of Justice are pushing back against recent criticism about prosecutors' ethics from Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit, who wrote in a law journal article this summer that there were "disturbing indications that a non-trivial number of prosecutors" had committed misconduct, such as misleading juries, lying and helping police present false evidence.

Lawyer Disbarred for Using Bribes to Gain Clients

By Ben Bedell |

A Manhattan criminal defense attorney who admitted in March that he had paid an employee of the Criminal Justice Agency $10,000 in bribes to steer criminal defendants to him was disbarred Tuesday.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

Warrant Amnesty Program Scheduled in Manhattan

By Andrew Keshner |

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office will participate in its first "Clean Slate" event this Saturday, where open warrants on summons offenses can be extinguished and summonses can be resolved through adjournments in contemplation of dismissal issued at the event without fines or other penalties.

A-Rod Settles Lawsuit Seeking Attorney Fees

Alex Rodriguez has settled a suit accusing him of failing to pay Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani $380,000 in fees for helping the New York Yankees star fight a suspension over his ties to a controversial South Florida anti-aging clinic.

Landlord to Pay for Evidence in Tenant Residency Case

By Andrew Denney |

A landlord must bear the cost of producing surveillance footage allegedly showing that an elderly and indigent tenant is not using her rent-stabilized apartment as her primary residence, a Housing Court judge has ruled.

Barclays Fined $150M for Trading Misconduct

New York regulators say the British bank Barclays will pay a $150 million penalty and fire an executive for misconduct related to its automated electronic foreign exchange trading.

Queens Man Collected Dead Father's Benefits

A Queens man has paid restitution for collecting pension and Social Security benefits in the name of his dead father, whose body was left unclaimed in the Nassau County morgue for more than a year.

Mollen Awards

Former Appellate Division, Second Department Presiding Justice Milton Mollen joined this year's winners of the Milton Mollen Commitment to Excellence Awards at the Second Department in Brooklyn on Wednesday.

Holder Awarded Fordham-Stein Prize

By Rick Kopstein, Photographer |

Fordham University School of Law presented the Fordham-Stein Prize, awarded annually to a member of the legal profession whose work embodies the highest standards in areas such as professional conduct, the advancement of justice, and contributions to society and democracy, to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. Tuesday.