Ethics Complaint Accuses NY Judge of Approving Fees for Lawyer Pal Based on Boilerplate Affidavits

An ethics complaint unveiled yesterday accuses Bronx Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman of approving attorney fees for a lawyer who was his chief campaign fundraiser based on boilerplate affidavits.

When Holzman discovered problems with fees paid to the lawyer, Michael Lippman, he tried to work out a payment plan rather than calling law enforcement, according to the complaint (PDF) by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The document was revealed when Holzman waived confidentiality on Monday. The New York Daily News and the New York Law Journal have stories.

Lippman was counsel to the Bronx public administrator, whose office distributes the assets of people who die without a will. He was indicted in 2010 on charges of collecting $300,000 in excessive fees. He has denied wrongdoing.

Holzman’s lawyer, David Godosky, says the misconduct charges aren’t warranted and his client took immediate action when he learned of misconduct. In comments to the New York Law Journal, he derided the commission’s position that Holzman was “somehow responsible under a theory of respondeat superior.”

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