Oral arguments before the Commission on Judicial Conduct are scheduled for Sept. 20 in a disciplinary proceeding against Bronx County Surrogate Judge Lee L. Holzman.
The results of a July 18 hearing before retired state Supreme Court Justice Felice K. Shea, who presided as referee, are contained in a 96-page report released by the commission Monday. The report is available on the commission’s website at www.cjc.ny.gov.
The referee found that “in hundreds of cases” between 1995 and April 2009, Judge Holzman “approved legal fees for Michael Lippman [counsel to the public administrator of Bronx County] based on affirmations that did not set forth in detail the services rendered as required by statute …”
She also found that it was “gross misconduct” for Lippman to take “advance fees” in a large number of cases “before he had done the legal work,” that such payments “were, in effect, an interest-free loan taken without permission” from “victimized estates,” and that Judge Holzman “knew” Lippman had violated protocol in doing so.
With respect to a third charge, Judge Shea found that, although the surrogate “has a duty to supervise the office of the [public administrator],” it was not established that Judge Holzman’s “failure to properly supervise” led to such results as misconduct by Lippman, misconduct by Public Administrator Esther Rodriguez, delays in estate administration and imprudent/unauthorized investment of estate finds.
Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said he would urge the commission to adopt the referee’s fact findings, conclude that Judge Holzman’s misconduct was established and determine that he should be removed from office.
Ordinarily, commission proceedings are confidential under Sections 44(4) and 45 of the New York State Judiciary Law, but Judge Holzman waived confidentiality regarding this proceeding.