Courthouse Confidential: Brooklyn Dems’ Chief Boosted Lawyer for Court Job

According to knowledgeable sources, Kings County Democratic Leader Frank R. Seddio is referring job seekers for positions at the Supreme Court at 360 Adams Street in downtown Brooklyn. Information to that effect has leached out and become widely known within the courthouse in the case of a lawyer, who was recently appointed as a law assistant to a judge handling civil cases, including foreclosures.

The lawyer, whom Seddio is said to have helped, was Alexis Riley, who had spent the last two years as a “court appearance attorney” handling foreclosure cases for one of the most active lender firms, Rosicki, Rosicki & Associates, according to her LinkedIn profile, and for a second real-estate firm, now known as Friedman & Bartolo. I am aware of at least two persons, who have spoken to Riley about the help that Seddio gave her.

As recounted to me, Riley, who was accompanied by a court officer, had a chance encounter with Seddio at the courthouse earlier this year. Upon bumping into Seddio, the court officer introduced Riley and told Seddio that she would like to work for the courts. Seddio responded by asking whether she would like to work for Justice Kenneth Sherman and asked her to meet him at party offices soon afterwards.

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Panel Sources: One Member Balked at Applying Correct Standard for Review of Ling-Cohan

Update: Ling-Cohan was elected without opposition at the Manhattan Democrats judicial nominating convention Thursday night’s (Sept.22).

 

The screening of Manhattan Justice Doris Ling-Cohan for a second term on the bench was marred by a panel member who openly stated that, rather than following the 22-member panel’s rules, she would vote “my conscience.”

One panelist, who requested anonymity, had a firm recollection of what happened. In response to the reading of the standard that applied to the panel’s deliberations, a second panelist, whom the source identified as Brenda Gill, quoted her as saying, “I don’t care what the standard is, I am voting my conscience.”

Gill declined to comment upon the other panelists’ remarks, stating this matter “has been blown way out of proportion with political factions pushing their agenda, misstating facts and coloring things to support their versions of the facts.”

Under the Manhattan Democratic Party’s rules, the panel must measure judges against their own record and determine that it “merits continuation in office.” Candidates, vying for an open seat, face a more exacting test in that they must show that they are the most highly qualified within the pool of aspirants for the post.” NY Co. Dems Rules, p.6. Highlighted para. (4).

A second panelist confirmed the essential outlines of what the first reported Gill as saying. The second panelist reported checking with yet a third panelist, who recalled the incident with more specific detail.

The second panelist, however, described Gill’s remarks as “off-hand” and “inconsequential.” Gill consistently voted against candidates, who had temperament problems, that source said, warning that some factions were spinning what happened during the deliberations to their advantage.

The two panelists, who spoke to me directly, also reported that Cyril K. Bedford, the panel’s administrator, let Gill’s remark stand uncorrected and made no effort to ascertain whether she would, in fact, follow the applicable standard. Bedford did not respond to requests for comment.

Normally, panel deliberations are confidential, but after the controversy over the disapproval of Ling-Cohan on Aug. 30 became public, and the source of heated controversy, Manhattan’s Democratic Party County Leader Keith Wright and Curtis Arluck, the chair of the Manhattan Judiciary party, issued statements releasing the panelists from their confidentiality obligation.

These latest developments have surfaced with the party’s nominating convention poised to vote this evening on which of 21 eligible candidates will receive the party’s nomination for six open seats on the Manhattan Supreme Court. In  a rare move tacitly accepted to by the party’ executive committee, Ling-Cohan’s name is being permitted to be put before the convention’s 84 delegates even though she has not received the screening panel’s approval.

Clear-Cut Violation of Rule

Whether Gill’s remark was casual or reflected an intent to defy the correct standard for evaluating an incumbent candidate is inconsequential. Here’s why.

What makes Gill’s reported statement so significant is that it runs directly afoul of a clear-cut party rule, forbidding the appointment of a panelist, who “shall not have agreed to follow the guidelines established by the Committee.” NY Co. Dems Rules, p. 5 Highlighted para. (2). The rule is stronger than a “guideline” issued by the County Party’s Committee because it is a part of the New York County Democrats official rules on file with the New York City Board of Elections.

Further, under the official rules, the panel’s report must be submitted to the Judiciary Committee “immediately” for a determination that the report complies with “these Rules and the Guidelines established by the Committee.”NY Co. Dems Rules, p.6, Highlighted para. (5) .

The Judiciary Committee promptly accepted the panel’s report, and a public rally was held on Sept. 6 denouncing Ling-Cohan’s rejection. Curtis Arluck, a co-chairman of the party’s Judiciary Committee, was quoted in news articles published the next day, Sept. 7 that the decision was final but that the Judiciary Committee would explore whether it could be overturned.

Over the next two weeks, the Judiciary Committee took no action to overturn the ruling, and, to the contrary, relied upon a party rule that expressly states that the panel “shall have no power to make any change in its report after the final meeting.” NY Co.Dems Rules p.6, Highlighted para. (5).

The problem here is that the Judiciary Committee DID ACCEPT the report and has steadfastly refused to examine the merits of many of the improprieties alleged by Ling-Cohan and a substantial majority of the panel members in letters written to the Judiciary Committee in letters dated Sept. 7Sept. 11 and Sept. 14.

Further, the party’s rules are quite clear that the report may not be accepted unless they “comply” with all applicable rules. NY Co. Dems Rules, p.6. Highlighted para. (5). Many alleged departures from the rules have been cited in the three letters sent by panel members to the Judiciary Committee. The Sept. 7 letter, which contains the substance of the panelists’ concerns, mentions that at “least one panel” member, who was not identified, stated he or she would not follow the guidelines.

Not following the required standard for review stands in direct and unambiguous conflict with members’ required commitment to follow the rules. The convention will vote as planned tonight and party insiders are confident that Ling-Cohan will be elected without opposition.

That is good for her, but not good for the panel system, which is pretty much in tatters after more than two-weeks of heated controversy. There is no time to conduct an inquiry before the vote takes place, which makes it all the more imperative that the party conduct a full investigation and make public its findings and recommended remedial measures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Majority Protests Panel’s Disapproval of Ling-Cohan; Dems Response Remains Murky

Fifteen of the members of the screening panel, which found Manhattan Justice Doris Ling-Cohan unqualified for a second term, have written to the Democratic Party’s judiciary committee to demand that panel’s initial finding be reversed. Curtis Arluck, the chairman of the Manhattan Democrats’ judiciary committee confirmed the receipt of the letter in an interview yesterday.

Arluck called the letter “very significant,” and stated that in his personal view the Judiciary Committee should be reconvened to consider how to respond to it. Because today is Election Day, he said, he would attempt to reconvene the committee, possibly as early as tomorrow. Arluck declined to comment upon the contents of the letter or whether they should be made public.

My sources, however, report that the letter is very wide ranging in detailing instances of impropriety, including conflicts of interest, during the committee’s deliberations. Under party rules, the Judiciary Committee is required to adopt the findings of the 22-members of the panel unless it finds improprieties in the screening process or that the committee failed to follow its own rules.

Without the release of the full contents of the letter, the outlook for a full examination of the information it has brought to the party’s attention remains in doubt. Without full disclosure, Ling-Cohan quest to clear her name may fall short even though a majority of the panel has objected to the way it went about its work. Likewise, the public will lack meaningful assurance that whatever flaws marred its work will be remedied.

Should the Judiciary Committee follow Arluck’s suggestion, this will be the second time the committee will have reviewed the panel’s work to determine whether it should accept the panel’s findings. The panel voted on Aug. 30 in a report signed by 20 of the committee’s 22 members. Two apparently did not attend the meeting.

 

Ling-Cohan’s Objections

Shortly after the panel completed its work, and before the Judiciary panel met to decide that it was acceptable, Ling-Cohan wrote to the committee to demand a new review, claiming that “people with clear conflict of interest at the meeting surely influenced the process,” according to an article published in the Gay City News on Sept. 6. To a similar effect, the Post’s article published yesterday paraphrased Arluck as saying that Ling-Cohan had suggested in her letter “there were a few people on the panel, who had a personal axe to grind because of her unfavorable rulings toward them.”

Ling-Cohan has enormous appeal in Manhattan’s political environment, which is heavily Democratic and distinctly liberal. She not only was the first Asian- American woman elected to the Supreme Court. She was also the first judge in New York State to have ruled that same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected and has been a staunch supporter of tenant’s rights as both a trial judge and a member of the Appellate Term in Manhattan.

Last week the Manhattan party leaders back-pedaled and made significant concessions to Ling-Cohan at the expense of party rules setting up the panel system in 1977 as a bulwark against allowing political considerations to compromise the selection of the party’s candidates for judgeships.

Despite its ironclad rule that the party could not endorse candidates not approved by the panel, the party’s executive committee last week agreed to condone the submission of Ling-Cohan’s name for nomination at the party’s judicial convention, which will be held on Sept. 22, even though she had failed to gain the panel’s approval.

 

Lingering Questions Remain

Yesterday’s article in the New York Post quoted Arluck as conceding that the panel had failed to adhere to its standards, which require that incumbent judges get the benefit of the doubt. But that leaves the lingering question of whether improprieties need to be examined. Late yesterday evening, the New York Law Journal posted an article on line, with today’s date (Sept. 13) on it, quoting extensively from the letter that Arluck had referred to earlier in my interview with him yesterday evening. The Law Journal also reported the committee members had emailed their objections to Arluck on Sunday.

The Law Journal further reported that it had obtained copies of two letters written by different groups of panelists and one from Ling-Cohan. In the version of the Law Journal article I read on line last night, there was no indication that the article linked to the full documents, as is its usual practice.

The Law Journal article did not use the words “impropriety” or “conflict,” but quoted from a letter sent by panel members to Arluck, which referred to a panel member who “apparently had an unfavorable outcome” from Ling-Cohan, as having “vigorously and insistently pushed an issue” that was germane to the panel’s decision to disapprove Ling-Cohan. The writers of the letter specifically noted that some members of the panel were unfamiliar with the issue the panelist had so forcefully raised but were given no time to research it before the panel voted.

Moreover, Ling-Cohan may not be satisfied with a resolution that does not clear her name. The New York Post’s article, breaking the news that the panel had found Ling-Cohen unqualified, reported that the panel had rejected her because she was “lazy” and “slow” in handling her cases. The Ling-Cohan camp did not immediately respond to an email asking whether she would insist upon a full-scale inquiry into the panel’s handling of her review.

The Manhattan Democratic party adopted its screening procedures nearly 40 years ago to assure the public that the old ways of Tammany Hall were dead and long gone. The screening process was specifically designed by Upper West Side reformers, led by former Corporation Counsel Victor Kovner, to assure the public that the party’s judicial nomination process is free from outside influences.

The Manhattan Democrats must conduct a full investigation of Ling-Cohan’s and 15 panel members’ claims and issue a public report detailing any irregularities uncovered and the remedies devised to prevent their re-occurrence. Without those steps, the public will not have confidence that the type of tampering Ling-Cohan and some members have complained about will never again taint future reviews of judicial candidates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New York Gives Owners a Second Chance to Save Their Homes From Foreclosure

The New York State Legislature voted to give thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure a second chance to fight for a deal to save their homes as it rushed towards its summer recess in June.

 

The second-chance provision (p.33, lines 26-49) was the product of deals hammered out in the final days and hours of the session by the three men in a room: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker  Carl Heastie. The second-chance legislation was tucked into a 44-page bill, which was a part of a larger piece of legislation, dubbed as the “Big Ugly,” which addressed numerous topics, including ethics legislation and control of public schools in New York City. The omnibus 44-page bill, which also dealt with dozens of topics, took second place, with many legislators and staffers referring to it as the “Little Ugly.” Both the Assembly and the Senate passed the “Little Ugly” on June 17.

 

Six days later, on June 23, Governor Cuomo signed the measure, and it officially became known as Chapter 73 of the Laws of 2016.

 

The second-chance law was vitally important to homeowners, who, unable to meet their mortgage payments, were left to their own devices to fight lenders’ lawsuits to take back their homes. Failure to attend to legal niceties came with disastrous consequences: an inability to raise any defenses to lenders’ demands for the surrender of their homes. The problem was seriously aggravated by an iron rule handed down by an appeals court in Brooklyn. The second-chance amendment overrode the Appellate Division, Second Department’s rule.

The legal nicety, which stymied homeowners, was a requirement that homeowners file a legal document, called an “answer,” within 30 days of receiving the lenders’ foreclosure papers. Failure to do so meant that the homeowner was in “default,” a status that precluded the homeowner from mounting any defense.

 

The enormity of the problem is apparent from statistics cited by the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) in its 2010 report.  According to that report (p.8), prior to the state’s passage in 2008 of a law requiring good-faith negotiations to determine whether homeowners monthly mortgage payments could be lowered, nearly 90 percent of homeowners failed to file answers. By way of contrast, the report noted that, after enactment of the mandatory conferencing law, 80 percent of homeowners showed up for the court-supervised settlement conferences required by the 2008 law.

 

But, showing up for a settlement conference had no bearing upon whether there would be relief from the default. That meant that, if the homeowner and lender could not work out a modification, the homeowner was without redress in opposing foreclosure. That was often the case as illustrated by the $26 billion settlement wrested from five of the nation’s largest banks in 2012 for failing to comply with federal protocols for determining when a modification is in order and, if so, how much.

According to the latest statistics available from OCA, there were more than 100,00 settlement conferences held in the 12-month period that ended in October 2014. All but 11,800 homeowners responded to notices that they could avail themselves of the opportunity to seek a loan modification, which reflected a response rate of 88 percent.

But applying the 10 percent rate at which “answers” were filed prior to the adoption of the good-faith law, as noted in the 2010 report (p.8), more than 89,000 homeowners statewide were in default during the 12 months ending in October 2015 (2015 Report, p.9) and without any ability to oppose foreclosure upon their homes should the “good faith” negotiation fail to pan out.

A veteran foreclosure lawyer, Lynn Armentrout, provided a graphic description of the minefield posed by the requirement that homeowners file an answer in an article published in the New York Law Journal[1] in March of this year.

She cited the example of an architect, who was facing foreclosure because of the steep decline in his business as a result of the Great Recession of 2007-8. When asked whether he had filed an answer, the architect asked, “What do you mean, by serve an answer?…I have no idea how to do that. But I did call the attorney [for the lender] whose name is on the summons.” By the time, the architect had found his way to Armentrout, who worked with a New York City Bar Association project offering free legal services to persons facing foreclosure, the architect was already in default and at the mercy of the lender if a modification could not be agreed to.

 

Armentrout noted that she had “scores” of similar conversations with other clients over the years, adding that she was using the illustration of the architect to demonstrate that “it is not just the uneducated or unsophisticated, who are stymied by the notion of preparing a legal pleading.”

 

Armentrout, who is a now deputy director of housing at South Brooklyn Legal Services, also laid out her legal research demonstrating how the Appellate Division, Second Department’s approach to defaults imposes a strait jacket upon owners’ ability to fight foreclosures. Her research found that, with one exception (law office failure), the Second Department has refused to relieve homeowners of the consequences of their defaults. Even more telling, she reported that the Brooklyn based-court “routinely” reverses lower court orders granting homeowners relief from their default. Her research found 13 examples of such rulings as of the date her article was published  on March 16, 2016.

Once in default, homeowners lost the right to assert their defenses to foreclosure under the Second Department’s rule. The amended  law allows homeowners a chance to answer the complaint during the settlement conference process, and to assert any defenses that would otherwise have been barred because of their initial default.

Likewise, homeowners, on their second chance, can require lenders to prove that they own the homeowner’s mortgage loan. Previously, once a homeowner was in default, lenders were not even obligated to prove facts essential to their cases, such as their ownership of the  loan.

The Second Department’s rulings are particularly important in the field of foreclosure law because four of the counties it covers —Suffolk, Nassau, Queens and Brooklyn—consistently have, by far, the highest foreclosure caseloads in the state. According to OCA, as of the end of May, those four counties accounted for nearly two-thirds of all foreclosure cases pending in the state.

Other positive changes for homeowners enacted as a part of the “Little Ugly:”

Housing lawyers, present in Albany at the end of the session, credited “tireless work” by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, chair of the Assembly’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary, and her counsel, Nadia Gareeb, with spearheading the effort to enact the changes discussed in this article.

 

Specifically, the advocates said that Weinstein had sponsored a bill, which was passed by the Assembly in May that contained many of the protections included in the Little Ugly package.

The advocates also praised the New York State Department of Financial Services for formulating a bill, which incorporated many of the protections that survived the legislative deal-making process. They also credited Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office as being instrumental in pushing for the changes.

Representative Annette Robinson, the head the Assembly Banking Committee, credited the New York State Foreclosure Defense Bar, whose members made three trips to Albany during the legislative session, with moving the second-chance measure forward by providing “very specific and vivid examples of how owners were losing their homes because of the sloppy and nitpicking way in which lenders dealt with requests for loan modifications.”

In response to my question as to whether OCA was involved in the adoption of the new protections, OCA spokesman Lucien Chalfin responded, “While we were not directly involved with the passage of the legislation, we are familiar with its provisions and will make it work.”

 

 

 

 

[1] The content of the Law Journal is published exclusively in NEXIS and cannot be linked to.

 

 

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Fed Auctions of Troubled Mortgage Loans Hurts Homeowners, Yet Again

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency historically charged with increasing homeownership among working families, ramped up its sale at auctions of distressed mortgage loans for the purchase of single-family homes. A year later, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two giant government-sponsored entities responsible for maintaining the liquidity of the nation’s housing markets, followed with their own auctions.

Since HUD first started auctioning distressed loans in 2010, the three federal organizations charged with safeguarding the health of the housing market have sold approximately 148,000 soured loans worth nearly $27.4 billion. [1] Those loans have sold at a 41 percent discount from value. [2]

That steep a discount raises a serious question as to why the three agencies would resort to a method designed to generate profits for investment banks and hedge funds, and players in the real estate market in subsequent sales. This is especially the case because one outgrowth of the government’s bailout of the nation’s economy in 2008 was the federal government’s Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP), which requires most mortgage holders to work with strapped homeowners to restructure their loans to lower payment levels within their reach.

U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke, whose Ninth Congressional District in central Brooklyn has been particularly hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, said she is pushing the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees both Fannie and Freddie, “to consider principal reductions in amounts comparable to the discounts being offered to private investors to achieve neighborhood stability in districts like my own.” To that end, she is seeking a meeting between FHFA Director Melvin L. Watt and representatives from other districts, which have been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

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HUD Sells Troubled Mortgages to Wall Street at 41% Discount

This presents a brief explanation of why I spent a good part of the last month figuring out how to derive the “discount” realized by the winning bidders of auctions sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). I have pegged the discount at 41 percent through my examination of eight auctions held since October 2013, at which HUD sold for $7.6 billion nearly 74,000 troubled mortgages, worth $12.9 billion.

I will post a more comprehensive story later in the week.

 

While attending a community meeting convened in February by Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, I first heard housing advocates criticize the three major federal entities, responsible for maintaining the stability of the nation’s housing market, for selling distressed mortgage loans at substantial discounts to hedge funds and other private equity groups.

In an article I wrote about the meeting in February, I reported that housing advocates and public officials attending the meeting raised piercing questions about why government-connected agencies would resort to an auction process that enabled financial institutions to profit from the spread between what winning bidders paid to buy the troubled loans and their estimated value.

Why, they asked, had not those agencies insisted that, in the first instance, the institutions holding the troubled loans work with homeowners to restructure their loans so the monthly payments would be more within reach? After all, most major lenders were under a federal mandate to engage in such a process as a part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), enacted in 2008 by Congress, to save the nation’s economy. Additionally, state and local governments in 20 jurisdictions have enacted laws requiring that lenders engage in such efforts BEFORE foreclosing upon loans.

I felt that I could not report upon those claims without first ascertaining the size of the discount. The level of the discount would allow for assessment of what the buyers’ profits would look like. Conversely, it would show how much room was available for working out a loan modification to allow borrowers to stay in their homes.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was the first governmental agency to begin auctioning troubled mortgage loans in 2010. The other two entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are officially designated as “government sponsored enterprises,” followed suit in the summer of 2014.

Fannie and Freddie publish quite a bit of data about the results of their auctions. But their data lacks a key ingredient without which the amount of the discount cannot be derived: the amount winning bidders have paid for the loans they have acquired at the auctions.

Fortunately, HUD’s reports of its auction do disclose the amounts paid by winning bidders or, at least, sufficient information from which that information can be gleaned.

In order to derive the 41 percent figure, I first had to determine what percent of value winners paid for the loans they had acquired at the auctions. That percentage (59 percent) was derived by dividing the total winning bids ($7.6 billion) by the total value of the loans ($12.9 billion) determined by the method HUD used in its most recent survey of the results of its auctions. Under that method, value is ascertained by determining the amount of unpaid principal remaining on the loans that were auctioned, or “Unpaid Principal Balance” (UPB) in real estate parlance.

The discount figure of 41 percent was then yielded by subtracting the percentage of value paid by winners (59 percent) from full value (100 percent). Further details concerning my methodology are contained in the footnotes to the chart.

Discounts at HUD Auctions from
June 11, 2013 to May 18, 2016*

Sale Name and Date Number of Loans Sold Value Based on Amount Still Due on Mortgages (UPB) Fn.1 Amount Winning Bidders Paid Percentage of Value Paid by Winning Bidders Discount Off Full Value
2014-1 National; Oct. 30 and Dec. 17, 2013 17,149 $3.0 Billion $1.6 Billion 53% 47%
2014-1 Neighborhood Stabilization Outcome (NSO); Dec. 19, 2013 Fn. 2 3,188 $657.3 Million $403.8 Million 61% 39%
2014-2 National; June 11 and Sept. 30, 2013 27,580 $4.5 Billion $2.9 Billion 64% 36%
2014-2 NSO; June 25 and Nov. 19, 2014 6,847 $1.2 Billion $703.3 Million 59% 41%
2015-1 National; July 16, 2015 3,752 $582.5 Million $339 Million 58% 42%
2015-1 NSO; July 16, 2015 1,501 $343.7 Million $187.8 Million 55% 45%
2016-1 National and NSO combined; Nov. 18, 2015 Fn.3 7,644 $1.2 Billion $616.6 Million 51% 49%
Aged Delinquent Portfolio Sale; May 18, 2016 Fn.4 7,892 $1.4 Billion $776.5 Million 55% 45%
Total Fn.5 73,811 $12.9 Billion $7.6 Billion 59% 41%
*Source: Material in this chart for auctions held between Oct. 30, 2013 and July 16, 2015 came from HUD’s Report to the Commissioner dated Jan. 22, 2016 at pp. 39, 41, 44, 46 and 49. Data for the auction held on Nov. 18, 2016 is found in HUD’s “Sales Report Summary” for that auction pp.1-3 to 1-5. The data for the sale dated May 18, 2015 is contained in the “Sales Results Summary.” Link pp.1-3 and 1-4 for the auction on that date.
Fn.1: In real estatate jargon, the method is called “Unpaid Principal Balance” (UPO).
Fn.2: Sale of pools of mortgages that are subject to more stringent rules requiring winning bidders to meet goals to improve neighborhoods.
Fn.3: The number and value of the sales at the Nov. 18, 2015 auction have been reduced because one pool (# 301), though listed, was not sold. Sales Result Summary, Nov. 18, 2015, p 1-3.
Fn.4: The number and value of the sales at the May 18, 2016 sale have been reduced because one pool (#408) was listed but not sold. Sales Results Summary, Jan. 18, 2016, p. 1-4.
Fn.5: The figure of 59% for the ratio of winning bids to value was obtained by dividing $7.6 Billion by $12.9 Billion. The amount of the discount was derived by subtracting 59% from 100%.

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Judge: 2 Lawyers Vulnerable to Contempt for Referring to Material in Unsealed Documents

U.S. Eastern District Judge Brian M. Cogan yesterday released the bulk of the records being sought by the Associated Press in its quest for documents relating to Donald Trump’s business dealings with a real estate developer, who had mob connections and a hidden criminal record in his past.

But at a court hearing in Brooklyn yesterday, Cogan offered no quarter to the two lawyers before him, whom he has referred for a criminal contempt investigation. He repeatedly, and sharply, warned lawyers Fred Oberlander and Richard Lerner that they could face more contempt charges if they publicly reveal information about materials sealed by a host of gag orders issued in a criminal case involving the the real estate developer since 1998. That could be the case, he stressed, even if the previously sealed document has been unsealed.

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Cogan Ramps Up Pressure on Northern District

Eastern District Judge Brian M. Cogan has faulted the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Syracuse for offering pabulum rather than specific facts to defend the continued sealing of court documents being sought by the Associated Press.

Cogan, who sits in the Brooklyn-based Eastern District of New York, last week rejected the Northern District office’s letter submission and ordered it to submit a brief in support of its position that the documents should remain out of public view. Read Cogan’s order.

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With Trump in Picture, Judge’s Push for Contempt against 2 Lawyers May Falter

Eastern District Judge Brian M. Cogan issued a highly unusual order last week, attempting to jawbone the U.S. Justice Department to bring criminal contempt charges against two New York lawyers, whom I wrote about extensively in 2012 and 2013, Frederick M. Oberlander and Richard E. Lerner. View WiseLawNY stories dated Aug. 8, 2012 and Aug. 22, 2012.

The springboard that Cogan used to demand an end to the investigation against the two lawyers was a motion brought by the Associated Press to open a sealed file, containing information about a mob-connected criminal cooperator, Felix Sater, who has had business dealings with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Read Cogan’s order.

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Public Advocate James, Fired Up, To Seek Meeting with Brooklyn Administrative Judge

Corrected and Revised*

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James cast a harsh spotlight on Justice Lawrence S. Knipel, the administrative judge in charge of civil cases in Brooklyn Supreme Court, at a meeting convened Friday, under the leadership of Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, to examine the impact of foreclosures upon communities of color.

During the course of the meeting at Brooklyn Law School, James rose on several occasions to express dismay over the way foreclosure cases are being handled in Brooklyn and angrily  vowed to seek a meeting with him.

About 70 public officials, homeowners’ lawyers and their clients attended the session. The session was presented in conjunction with the New York State Foreclosure Defense Bar.

The message from about a dozen lawyers and their clients, who were designated as presenters, was clear: the foreclosure crisis of the Great Recession is not over. To the contrary, the crisis is greater than ever because government-related entities, such as Fannie Mae, have been selling off huge amounts of troubled mortgages at bargain prices to investors, who, in Brooklyn, are pressing hard for foreclosures so they can take advantage of rising prices as gentrification in some of its poorer neighborhoods speeds ahead.

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