ADVOCATES SAY COURT MISJUDGED

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With 12 new Housing Court judges soon to join the bench, tenant advocates are steamed, saying that many of the new judges-to-be lack relevant experience and that the appointments are predominantly pro-landlord. The appointments, made July 8, will make up a significant part of the 50-judge court.

Two of the new appointees, Dawn Marie Jimenez and Cyril Bedford, are at private firms known for representing landlords. Jimenez works for Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler & Schwartz; Bedford works for Finkelstein & Newman.

Five others, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Shlomo Hagler, Larry Schachner, Bruce Scheckowitz, and Deighton Waithe, are court employees. Scheckowitz, Waithe, and Fitzpatrick are court attorneys, meaning that they research cases and arrange out-of court settlements, helping judges by keeping cases from coming to trial.

Two other new judges, Gary Marton and Michael Pinckney, work for city government, Marton at Corporation Counsel and Pinckney at the city housing agency.

The pool’s lack of litigation experience worried some. As Susan Cohen of MFY Legal Services explained, new judges with little experience in the deal-making halls of Housing Court may not understand the difficulties faced by self-represented tenants on the verge of eviction. “There’s a lot of pressure to do things quickly [in Housing Court],” she said. “Pro se tenants are at the mercy of the system.”

Tenant advocates uniformly praised the appointments of Lizabeth Gonzalez, Julia Rodriguez, and Michelle Schreiber, all of whom have previously worked in Legal Services representing tenants.

Housing court judges aren’t elected or appointed by the governor or mayor, as other judges are. They are selected by a committee of landlord, tenant, and public representatives. Final appointments are made by the chief administrative judge of New York State, Jonathan Lippman.