Court Stops Anderson From Taking Surrogate Slot
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - December 30, 2008
The Court of Appeals yesterday 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 Ms. 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. Ms. 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. Mr. Morganthau contends the money came in donations and loans from attorney Seth Rubenstein, for whom Ms. Anderson has worked for nearly a decade, but was not reported accurately by Ms. Anderson in filings with the Board of Elections. Both Ms. Anderson and Mr. Rubenstein have been free on their own recognizance since their arraignments (NYLJ, Dec. 11). 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, Ms. Anderson's attorney, Richard Godosky, had argued that the Court was not obligated to suspend Ms. 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 Law Journal earlier this month that she swore Ms. Anderson in as surrogate about a month after the election. Mr. Godosky argued before the Court of Appeals that because she has already been sworn in, Ms. Anderson cannot legally practice law after Jan. 1, even if she is prohibited from taking the bench as her prosecution unfolds. Mr. Godosky also told the Court that Ms. 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. Mr. Godosky, of Godosky & Gentile, said yesterday the Court's determination to suspend Ms. 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. Mr. Godosky is handling the disciplinary issues related to Ms. Anderson's case. Gustave H. Newman of Newman & Greenberg is her trial counsel. The Court of Appeals has traditionally suspended judges with pay when they are facing felony charges unrelated to their judicial duties and suspended judges without pay when charges allege official malfeasance. The Commission on Judicial Conduct had urged that Ms. Anderson be suspended at the beginning of her term pending the outcome of the criminal case against her (NYLJ, Dec. 23). It took no position on whether she should be paid or not. Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian declined comment yesterday. In similar cases, the commission has refrained from initiating its own misconduct investigations until prosecutors complete criminal proceedings. Ms. Anderson captured 48 percent of the 55,000 votes cast in September's Democratic primary to defeat John J. Reddy, counsel to the public administrator, and Manhattan Justice Milton A. Tingling. She ran unopposed in November's general election. They were vying to replace Surrogate Renee Roth, who is retiring. - Joel Stashenko