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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

N.Y. High Court Bars Surrogate-Elect Over Campaign Contributions

The Court of Appeals on Monday barred Nora S. Anderson from becoming Manhattan surrogate on Jan. 1 pending the outcome of Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau's prosecution of her for allegedly failing to accurately report contributions to her campaign this summer.

A 6-0 court suspended Anderson with pay effective Thursday, when the 10-year term she won earlier this year is to begin. The court gave no reasoning for its decision.

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye took no part in the deliberations.

Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau will designate an interim judge to fill the opening by early January, said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration.

Anderson is facing a 10-count indictment that she falsely reported $250,000 that flowed into her campaign in the days preceding her hard-fought primary victory in September over two Democratic rivals. Morgenthau contends the money came in donations and loans from attorney Seth Rubenstein, for whom Anderson has worked for nearly a decade, but was not reported accurately by Anderson in filings with the Board of Elections.

Both Anderson and Rubenstein have been free on their own recognizance since their arraignments. Each faces a prison term of 1 1/3 to four years on each of the top six counts of the indictment, all Class E. felonies.

In a letter to the Court of Appeals, Anderson's attorney, Richard Godosky, had argued that the court was not obligated to suspend Anderson as she contested the charges against her. He also urged that if suspension was the court's decision, that it be with pay.

Manhattan's other surrogate, Kristin Booth Glen, confirmed to the New York Law Journal earlier this month that she swore Anderson in as surrogate about a month after the election. Godosky argued before the Court of Appeals that because she has already been sworn in, Anderson cannot legally practice law after Jan. 1, even if she is prohibited from taking the bench as her prosecution unfolds.

Godosky also told the court that Anderson contributes $800 a month toward the care of her elderly mother, who has Alzheimer's disease, and her terminally ill brother, who lost his job when the firm he worked for was destroyed when the World Trade Center towers were felled on Sept. 11, 2001. Surrogates are paid $136,700 a year.

Godosky, of Godosky & Gentile, said Monday the court's determination to suspend Anderson with pay is a "decision that they've made consistently" in cases where judges face felony charges unrelated to the performance of their official duties. He declined further comment. [Mark Godsey]

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