Brooklyn Bar Association News


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Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Apr 19, 2021

After abruptly closing the courts for many in-person operations in March 2020, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced on Monday that all judges and court employees will return to their respective buildings by May 24 for in-person operations.

"Effective Monday, May 24th, all judges and court staff will be required to physically return to work in their assigned courthouses," Chief Judge DiFiore said in her weekly address to the legal community. "It is time to return to our normal and full courthouse staffing levels in order to support the fuller resumption of in-person operations, including jury trials and other proceedings in our courts."

Chief Judge DiFiore cited the availability of vaccinations, the easing of indoor public health restrictions, and the decline in COVID positivity rates and hospitalizations for the reason for sending employees back to in-person work.

"Our plan to restore full staffing is in line with the state’s reopening efforts, and with the latest public health guidance," Chief Judge DiFiore said. "The extensive safety measures that we have implemented to protect the health of everyone working in and entering our buildings, including: COVID screening and temperature checks; disciplined use of face masks and PPE; social distancing protocols; installation of acrylic barriers; and strict cleaning and sanitizing, will continue."

When court employees return to their buildings on May 24, operations will not immediately return to normal. Instead, Chief Judge DiFiore explained that they are coming up with a plan to keep courthouses less crowded and they will physically limit the number of people in the buildings. The goal is to do this by continuing the use of remote technology when appropriate.

Click here to read Chief Judge DiFiore's entire message.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 31, 2021

The Brooklyn Bar Association

deeply mourns the passing of 

Honorable Paul G. Feinman

The following is a statement from Hon. Janet DiFiore, the Chief Judge of the State of New York:

It is with deep sadness that I announce the death today of our beloved colleague, Paul G. Feinman, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. Judge Feinman was a bright, experienced and knowledgeable jurist who made an extraordinary impact on the Court of Appeals and the law of our state. He was also a kind and gentle man who was loved by many.

 

Judge Feinman graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1985 and began his legal career as a Staff Attorney with the Appeals Bureau of the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County. In 1989, he entered the court system as Law Clerk to Hon. Angela M. Mazzarelli in Supreme Court, New York County, and later served in the Appellate Division, First Department. Judge Feinman was elected to the New York City Civil Court in 1996, and to the Supreme Court for the First Judicial District in 2007. He was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the Appellate Division, First Department, in 2012, and to the Court of Appeals in June 2017. 

 

Judge Feinman served with excellence at every level of our Judiciary, and his broad experience, knowledge and wisdom earned him the respect and warm personal regard of his judicial colleagues. Judge Feinman was a meticulous, disciplined and humble jurist who weighed the legal interests at stake in each case with great integrity in order to arrive at the correct and just result. His scholarly, well-written opinions reflect a deep knowledge of the law balanced with a generous humanity and commitment to justice. Judge Feinman had enormous respect for the Court of Appeals as an institution. Even as his illness progressed, his productivity and the quality of his writings and contributions never suffered. And no one could want for a warmer or more caring colleague than Paul Feinman.

 

Throughout his career, Judge Feinman was a tireless and resolute champion of LGBTQ rights, a trailblazing pioneer for LGBTQ lawyers and judges and an incredibly dedicated mentor who inspired countless judges, attorneys and law students. Judge Feinman devoted his entire professional life to public service and he gave back generously to our courts and the legal profession in innumerable capacities, including as Chair of the New York State Justice Task Force, Past President of the International Association of LGBT Judges and Past President of the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York.

 

Judge Feinman was the essence of personal and professional integrity, decency and civility. No one who knew Judge Feinman could be unmoved by his personal warmth and empathy, good humor and sparkling intelligence. He was a singular human being who has left a proud and enduring legacy for all of us.

 

We mourn Paul's passing, but we will always be inspired by his life and legacy. On behalf of the Judges and professional staff of the Court of Appeals and the entire New York State Unified Court System, we send our deepest condolences to Judge Feinman's husband, Robert Ostergaard, and his family and friends.

 

A private funeral service will be held for Judge Feinman's family and friends.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 25, 2021

If you are looking for help navigating the Surrogate's Court there are resources available.
 

FREE E-FILING CLE THROUGH NYSCEF

Attend a free e-filing training session with members of the NYSCEF Resource Center staff. These two-hour sessions are FREE worth two CLE credits. It will guide you through your first Surrogate's Court filing, review court rules, and provide helpful tips to avoid problems in the court. 

There are four upcoming sessions — all sessions are online using Microsoft Teams.

  • May 20, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • June 17, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • July 15, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • August 19, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Pre-registration is required and sessions fill up quickly. Go to www.NYCourts.gov/efile and click on the "register for training" link.
 

NYSBA Offer's Mediation of Surrogate's Court Cases CLE

The NYSBA is offering a CLE webinar on Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 6:00 PM worth 1.5 credits that will explore mediation in the Surrogate's Court. It will discuss why mediation is good for litigators, how it can be a great tool for trusts and estates planning, it will cover two possible mediation tracks, explain the NYS Presumptive ADR Initiative, and the difference between mediation and arbitration.

You can register for that event on the NYSBA's website by clicking here.
 

JOIN THE BBA AT OUR SURROGATE'S COURT/TRUST & ESTATES MEETING FRIDAY

This Friday, March 26 at 1:00 PM, the Brooklyn Bar Association will host a free Surrogate's Court Committee and Trusts & Estates Section meeting that is open to all members. 

In an effort to help attorneys navigate a system that has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brooklyn Bar Association has decided to open its committee meetings to the membership at large. These meetings do not qualify for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit, but instead give members an opportunity to see the concerns of these two committees, hear from Bar Leaders on relevant updates to the law and courts, network, and there will also be an opportunity for questions.

The meeting is open to all members who would like to attend. You do not need to be a member of either committee. Click here to register.

Click here for a copy of the meeting's agenda.
 

REMINDER: Credit Card Fee Added for All E-Filing Done Through NYSCEF

Beginning April 1, 2021, the Unified Court System will begin adding a service fee of 2.99 percent to all credit card payments submitted through NYSCEF.

Click here to read the announcement.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 22, 2021

The Administrative Board of Courts is seeking public comment on a proposal to adopt ABA Model Rule 8.4(g), which would replace the current rule — Rule 8.4(g) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 8.4 (g)).

On Friday, March 19, Eileen D. Millett, Counsel, Office of Court Administration circulated a memo to local bar associations that stated:

"Under New York’s current Rule 8.4(g), it is only considered misconduct if an attorney engages in unlawful employment discrimination and the victim of discrimination exhausts all remedies (e.g., by bringing a timely complaint before a tribunal with jurisdiction to hear the complaint, receiving a certified determination by the tribunal that the lawyer engaged in unlawful discriminatory practice, and where the right to judicial or appellate review has been exhausted).

"In contrast, the ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) states that it is “professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination” on the basis of “race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status,” though it does not preclude legitimate advice or advocacy consistent with the Rules of Professional Conduct (Ex. A – ABA Formal Opinion 493, p. 5). Under the Model Rule, harassment and discrimination in practice-related settings beyond the courtroom (such as law firm social events or bar association functions) and beyond the employment context (such as interactions between lawyers at different firms) are also prohibited. Some other jurisdictions, such as Vermont, New Mexico, and Maine, have adopted rules similar to ABA Model Rule 8.4(g).

"Attached as Exhibit A is the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility’s formal opinion 493 (“Opinion”) on Model Rule 8.4(g). Attached as Exhibit B is the New York City Bar’s Professional Responsibility Committee’s proposed amendment to New York Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g). The City Bar’s proposal differs from ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) in that, rather than saying that it is “professional 2 misconduct” for a lawyer to engage in harassment or discrimination knowingly on specified bases in conduct related to the practice of law, the City Bar’s rule says that a lawyer or law firm “shall not” engage in conduct related to the practice of law that the lawyer knows or should know is harassment or discrimination on specified bases."


Anyone wishing to comment is asked to email rulecomments@nycourts.gov or to write to Eileen D. Millett, Esq., Counsel, Office of Court Administration, 25 Beaver Street, 11th Fl., New York, New York, 10004. All submissions are expected by June 18, 2021.

Click here to read the memorandum in its entirety and to examine the attached exhibits included.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 19, 2021

The legal community has adapted to the use of technology over the past year like in no other time in the professions history, but the NYS Unified Court System wants to make sure that people aren't getting too comfortable during virtual hearings and has issued guidance on suggested decorum.

On Thursday, Hon. George J. Silver and Hon. Vito C. Caruso, the Deputy Chief Administrative Judges for inside and outside New York City, respectively, issued the following statement:

"The COVID-19 pandemic has required all courts across New York State to innovate and adapt in order to continue to provide the effective and efficient administration of justice and Access to Justice for all court users consistent with the highest standards of Chief Judge DiFiore's Excellence Initiative. Our courts have uniformly transitioned to Microsoft Teams as a platform to conduct virtual proceedings. Appropriate decorum/etiquette is a necessity during all virtual court proceedings."

The judges referred to virtual proceedings as a formal appearance and said attorneys should ensure the following:

  1. "Dress in appropriate attire, as if you were appearing in-person in court"
  2. "Display an appropriate and professional background"
  3. "No consumption of food or drink during the proceeding"
  4. "Remain professional and dignified"
  5. "As in ln-Person proceedings, only one person should be speaking at a time"

The memorandum can be read in its entirely here.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 18, 2021

The New York State Courts recently announced that it will begin charging a 2.99 percent service fee along with all credit card payments submitted through the NYS Courts Electronic Filing (NYSCEF) system beginning April 1, 2021.

Here is the announcement in its entirety:

"Commencing April 1, 2021, and due to continuing budgetary concerns, the Unified Court System will no longer pay the service fee for credit card transactions initiated by court users. Consequently, a service fee of 2.99% of the payment amount will be assessed on all credit card payments submitted through NYSCEF.

"Note that neither the Office of Court Administration nor the Unified Court System receives any portion of the service fee.

"When you file electronically and use a credit card, there will be two transaction numbers generated, one for the court fee and one for the service fee.

"The Court System is continuing to explore other technologies for electronic payments that minimize processing fees."


You can also click here to read the announcement.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 11, 2021

The Brooklyn Bar Association

deeply mourns the passing of 

Eugene Hurkin

If there was one thing Eugene Hurkin lived for, it was to laugh and make others smile too. And if a joke was good enough to tell once—it was good enough to tell a thousand times. Every time Eugene and his family drove past a cemetery he would ask “Why do cemeteries have fences?” In unison, his family would yell back “Because everyone is dying to get in.”

bAnd even when battling dementia for the last 11 years of his life, his sense of humor and good nature continued until the end when he died at home from Covid-19 on January 8, 2021. 

Eugene was born on November 21, 1925 in Reading, Pennsylvania—but eventually moved to Brooklyn. He attended New Utrecht High School and joined the cross-country track team, which was one of his great passions. He was also practicing long jumps out of his bedroom window in order to sneak out to go to track practices which his mother had prohibited. He graduated from Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School (class of 1950). He practiced Landlord-Tenant law at 282 Atlantic Avenue and worked in real estate for 46 years and even after his retirement worked pro bono in the community.

Eugene wore bright, flamboyant suits all week while working in the Housing Court, but at the end of each week, he traded in the suits for a Boy Scout Campmaster uniform to go camping in the great outdoors. Eugene became active in the Cub Scouts in the early 1970s with his son and then with the Boy Scouts for almost 45 years. As a Scout Campmaster, he wore his uniform proudly as a badge of brotherhood. The Scouts provided him with a life of comradery, friendly competition, the mentoring of young people, the regular acquisition of new skills, and just plain fun.

He was also a longtime member of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and helped them purchase their original building at 117 Remsen Street.

Towards the end of his life, Eugene still enjoyed joking around even though it was to an audience he didn’t know due to his memory loss. His family would take him shopping on Atlantic Avenue where many people there knew him and would greet him, patting him on the back and letting him know how much they liked him and appreciated all the great legal work he did for them. He didn’t let on that he didn’t remember them, but when they left he would always say “Wow, I must have been a great guy.”  I know his family and friends would agree.

Eugene is survived by his children Jean, Allen, and Ruth and his grandchildren Dean, Jack, and Dailen. There was no funeral service due to the pandemic. He was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn in his Scout uniform alongside his wife, Rosalie, who died in 1996.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 11, 2021

Justice Lawrence Knipel, the Administrative Judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, announced this week that jury trials will resume in the Civil Term on March 22, 2021.

"Safety is our primary concern," Justice Knipel said in the announcement. "Extraordinary precautions have been taken to insure the safety of all participants. Strict social distancing will be maintained during jury assembly, selection, and trials. Physical space will be deeply cleaned, adequately ventilated and plexiglassed. PPE, temperature checking and health information will be required of all participants.

"While working in a newly minted, virtual environment, the Civil Term of the Supreme Court in Kings County has processed an amazing 18,500 matters since April 30, 2020. It is anticipated that similar success will now attend the accumulated backlog of in-person jury trials."

Click here to read the announcement in its entirety.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Feb 16, 2021

The New York State Court System recently issued a guide called, "Virtual Bench Trial Protocols and Procedures." The guide was written by Justice Norman St. George, Administrative Judge for the Nassau County Supreme Court, and it aims to present a simple and practical roadmap to conducting a Virtual Bench Trial.

From the guide:

The Covid-19 pandemic has required all Courts across New York State to innovate and adapt in order to continue to provide the effective and efficient administration of justice and Access to Justice for all Court users consistent with the highest standards of Chief Judge DiFiore’s Excellence Initiative. Our Courts have uniformly transitioned to Microsoft Teams as a platform to conduct oral arguments on motions, preliminary/status/compliance/pre-trial conferences, hearings, A.D.R. settlement conferences, inquests, criminal arraignments, and pleas all by virtual means in order to ensure the safety and health of all Court users.


New York State Courts have also utilized Microsoft Teams to facilitate Virtual Bench Trials. Virtual Bench Trials are, in all respects, identical to In-Person Courtroom Bench Trials in terms of the format, content and formality. However, certain modifications are necessary regarding the presentation of testimonial, documentary, and physical evidence in order to safeguard accuracy and ensure reliability.


Although these modifications are generally applicable to all types of Virtual Bench Trials in the various Courts, each Court should adapt the foregoing to their specific needs, requirements, and concerns. Included herein is a separate section that specifically addresses Virtual Criminal Bench Trial considerations. A Proposed Stipulation and Order for the parties to review and sign prior to the commencement of a Virtual Bench Trial is attached hereto as “Exhibit A”.


The following guide demystifies the proceedings and presents a simple and practical roadmap to conducting a Virtual Bench Trial. It also informs all participants on what to expect. This guide has truly been a collaborative effort. These materials represent a collection of the Best Practices from all of the Judicial Districts throughout the State. We thank all of the Administrative Judges, the Presiding Judge of the Court of Claims, the Supervising Judges, the Trial Judges, the Bar Associations, the District Attorneys, the Public Defenders, and the Lawyers who contributed their suggestions, comments, and concerns to this compilation. Special Thanks to Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Vito Caruso, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge George Silver, and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina Mendelson for their outstanding leadership, assistance, and guidance throughout these difficult times.

The entire 34-page guide is available on the Brooklyn Bar Association website.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Feb 2, 2021

The Office of Court Administration announced on Tuesday a new set of recommendations for expanding the e-filing system and enhancing remote court operations during the remainder of the COVID pandemic and afterward.

The Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York's Courts, which was created last year and is headed by Henry Greenberg, the immediate past president of the New York State Bar Association, released two reports on Tuesday — one that called for the expansion of the court's e-filing system, and another that contains proposals for enhancing remote operations more generally.

“E-filing has proven a reliable, efficient way to expand access to justice, also serving to promote public health and safety throughout the pandemic by reducing courthouse traffic," said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore in a statement. "The report issued today by the Commission’s Structural Innovations Working Group highlights e-filing’s integral role in building a better, more accessible justice system, offering thoughtful proposals that serve to accelerate the expansion of the courts’ e-filing system."

Along with the reports, the Commission's Structural Innovations Working Group has called upon the State Legislature to amend the current law to allow for Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to make e-filing mandatory in all cases, with exceptions for pro se litigants. 

The Commission's Technology Working Group surveyed over 1,900 judges and their staffs and recommended banning the use of personal electronic devices to conduct official court business, scanners and printers be provided for judges, avoiding the use of fax machines and to use email as an alternative, and training for court employees on the efficient and secure use of mobile devices, as well as case and data management features and platforms that have been or will be implemented by the Court System.

“The recommendations in these two reports are necessary steps for the further development and enhancement of New York’s virtual court system. I am grateful beyond measure to the hard and inspired work of the Commission’s working groups on Structural Innovations led by Judge Leslie Stein and County Clerk Idoni, and Technology led by Mark Berman and Sharon Porcellio,” said Henry Greenberg.

Click here to read the report on e-filing.

Click here to read the report the technology survey.

Click here to read the press release regarding this announcement.


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