September 13, 2011
The web page of the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct has a link to pleadings and orders in a case involving charges that a Bronx Surrogate approved estate payments to an attorney without required documentation and failed to report the attorney's ethical violations.
The New York Daily News reported on the charges:
Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman let cronies loot the estates of Bronx residents who died without wills, the court's watchdog agency charged Monday.
Holzman repeatedly approved dubious fees for a lawyer pal who was his chief campaign fund-raiser and allowed estate cases to languish for up to 10 years, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct charged.
Commission probers recommended the agency's board take disciplinary action against Holzman. The penalty could range from reprimand to removal.
The charges come two years after the Daily News exposed Holzman's lax oversight of estates in the Bronx, revealing fees the judge approved for his top fund-raiser, lawyer Michael Lippman.
Lippman, who raised $125,000 for Holzman's 2001 campaign, was for years counsel to the Bronx public administrator, whose office oversees estates.
In a complaint Monday, the commission said that between 1995 and mid-2009, Holzman repeatedly approved Lippman's fees without documentation that Lippman had done anything to earn them.
Over several years, Lippman collected "advances" on these fees at a time when he faced daunting debts, including foreclosure on a $400,000 mortgage and $1 million in gambling losses.
Last year, Lippman was arrested on charges of billing for $300,000 in work he hadn't performed. He's denied wrongdoing and awaits trial.
In the complaint, the judicial conduct investigators declared Holzman had "allowed a social, political . . . relationship to influence his judicial conduct."
An order was entered yesterday staying the proceedings and directing the commission to show cause by September 20 why the complaint should not be stayed or dismissed with the right to refile after the related criminal trial is concluded. (Mike Frisch)
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