- A likely Tingling Appointee Circulated a Set of Politically Incorrect Jokes
- Court IG Opened Inquiry on Goodman; Reardon Put It to Rest
- Heitler Bid to Extend Term as Administrative Judge doesn’t succeed; Top Contenders
Updated and Expanded Jan. 15, 2015
FORMER MANHATTAN Justice Milton A. Tingling, who succeeded Norman Goodman as New York County Clerk on Jan. 1, has appointed as his counsel, Manuel Tavarez, who has been his law secretary since 2001. The appointment is confirmed by a change in the County Clerk’s Office public phone directory.
Tavarez, according to court records, was suspended by the Appellate Division in Manhattan in November 2013 for failing to keep his registration up to date for more than four years. About four months later, the suspension was ended when Tavarez paid $1,100 to cover the three payments he had missed, according to the Office of Court Administration. Currently, attorneys are required to pay registration fees of $375 every two years.
In response to a phone call to Tingling’s former chambers, his secretary, Mary E. Jenkins, said that Tavarez declined to be interviewed. Also according to the County Clerk phone list, Jenkins has been appointed as Tingling’s executive assistant.
Additionally, sources are reporting that Tingling has settled upon Nelson Capote, who is currently in charge of the pro se Help Center at the Manhattan Supreme Court, to fill one of the office’s top posts. It is unclear exactly what position Capote will assume, but sources say that Tingling brought Capote along with him to a luncheon last Thursday sponsored by the Managing Attorneys and Court Clerks Association.
Tingling’s plans for the office are still in flux, sources say. Under Goodman, the office had a number two position, which in its latest iteration was designated as the chief deputy county clerk. That position was filled for 28 years by James A. Rossetti. Rossetti, a lawyer* who was widely regarded as Goodman’s heir apparent, departed as a result of an OCA Inspector General’s investigation, which was opened after Tingling brought to the attention of top officials at 60 Centre Street racist and misogynistic postings in the County Clerk’s records room. (See WiseLawNY story dated Mar. 6, 2014 for details). Rossetti enjoyed wide support among the bar and many thought his forced departure, and the manner in which it was imposed, was unduly harsh.
For the time being it appears that Tingling is hewing to the format that Goodman used after Rossetti’s departure. Goodman’s counsel, Phyllis Mingione, had worked half-time until Rossetti’s departure, but took over some of his duties and became a full-time staff member. There were two deputies operating under Rossetti—one to handle the office’s jury functions and the other to oversee everything else. It is anticipated that Capote will be appointed to one of those posts.
While the ultimate parameters of Capote’s duties have not been publicly revealed, Tingling brought both Capote and Tavarez along with him to a luncheon sponsored by the Managing Attorneys and Court Clerks Association held earlier this week, according to a source. Each year in January, the association hold a luncheon dedicated to the New York County Clerk’s Office.
Politically Incorrect Jokes
Like Tavarez, Capote will come to his new position with some baggage. In 2011, Capote shared with some staffers a set of clever, but politically incorrect, jokes, a copy of which has been furnished to me.
Here are a couple of the jokes, all of which consist of a question and answer:
- “Q. Why aren’t there any Puerto Ricans on Star Trek? A. Because they aren’t going to work in the future either.”
- “Q. What did the Chinese couple name their tan, curly-haired baby? A. Sum Ting Wong” [i.e. “something wrong” for those slow on the uptake].
Capote, who is of Cuban descent, even made light of his own heritage in one of the ten jokes—“Q. What’s the Cuban National Anthem? A. Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
Capote did not return a message left with Jenkins, Tingling’s former secretary and now executive assistant. Efforts to reach him over several days at the Help Center were unavailing.
Tingling did not respond to a request seeking comment.
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Court IG Opened Inquiry on Goodman; Reardon Put It to Rest
I have learned that during the Inspector General’s investigation of Rossetti in the fall of 2013, investigators closely questioned Goodman in his office. A few months after Rossetti left in mid-December, 2013, the IG’s office opened a preliminary inquiry of Goodman.
Roy Reardon, a renowned lawyers’ lawyer aided Goodman in connection with the inquiry. Reardon is the chairman of the Disciplinary Committee, which oversees the conduct of lawyers practicing in Manhattan and the Bronx. He also served for many years on the executive committee and as head of the litigation department at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett where he is a partner.
According to my information, Reardon quickly succeeded in sidelining the investigation as lacking substance. Once the investigation was no longer a factor, many of Goodman’s strongest supporters in the bar, citing his age and frailty (he is 91 and sometimes uses a walker), persuaded him that the time had come for him to retire. Goodman, who for many years had maintained that he would have to be carried out of the office feet first, with misgivings, agreed to take their advice.
Also, court officials have designated an office at the courthouse, which Goodman may use as long as he wishes.
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THE RACE TO SUCCEED HEITLER AS ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE
Justice Sherry Klein Heitler, who has been the administrative judge (AJ) in charge of civil cases at the Manhattan Supreme Court since 2009, has lost a bid to stay in her post past age 70, according to courthouse sources.
Heitler, who turned 70 in 2014, had sought to remain in the AJ post for another year but was not granted a waiver of the court-system’s rule, which requires AJ’s to step down once they reach 70. The rule, however, has not been ironclad since 1992 when court administrators amended it to allow Burton Roberts, who was the model for Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” to extend his larger-than-life reign at the Bronx Supreme Court until he was 76.
Heitler did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The current handicapping at 60 Centre Street is that the two front-runners to replace Heitler are Justices George Silver and Jeffrey Oing. Justice Deborah Kaplan has also been interviewed the position, insiders said.
Oing, who has been in the Supreme Court since 2009, was appointed to the Commercial Division in 2011 and has backing from the commercial bar. Oing also has support from within the judiciary, having clerked for two former Supreme Court justices in Manhattan, Walter B. Tolub and Marilyn B. Diamond, and been on the court attorney staff at the Appellate Division in Manhattan for three years. He also served as supervising judge of the Civil Court in Manhattan for two years.
Silver enjoys the backing of the plaintiff torts bar. Both Oing and Silver had the backing of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in their quests to win election to the bench, according to court sources.
Kaplan, who has been handling matrimonial cases exclusively since 2008, enjoys strong support from the matrimonial bar. She also has roots in OCA’s central administration, having worked for two different deputy chief administrative judges (now retired Justice Joseph J. Trafficante and Justice Juanita Bing Newton) from 1997 to 2001.
*CLARIFICATION: Rossetti is a lawyer but has never practiced in New York.