The investigators have accused Bronx Surrogate Judge Lee Holtzman of letting his attorney friends overcharge Bronx residents who died without wills for the handling of their estates. Judge Holtzman has been accused of letting lawyers, including his chief campaign fundraiser, responsible for client’s estates to remain with him for more than ten years without the appropriate legal action being taken.
The commission investigating Judge Holtzman has made recommendations that disciplinary action be taken against him. The disciplinary actions can result in the Judge’s removal and/or other penalties.
Cronyism in the Bronx
Judge Holtzman’s top fundraiser lawyer friend is Michael Lippman. Mr. Lippman raised $125,000 for Judge Holtzman’s 2001 judicial campaign. He was appointed as the attorney for the Public Administrator of Bronx County. His job was to oversee the estates of individuals who died without wills and closely related next of kin. The complaint by the Judicial Commission states that between the years 1995 and 2009, Judge Holtzman approved legal fees for Michael Lippman without appropriate documentation that Attorney Lippman had completed the necessary legal work to earn these legal fees. Mr. Lippman was allowed to collect advances on his legal fees at a time when he was in financial difficulty. His financial difficulties included over a $1,000,000 in gambling debts and owing more than $400,000 on a mortgage.
Michael Lippman, Esq. Arrested
Michael Lippman was arrested in 2010. He was charged with billing $300,000 for legal work he didn’t perform. He pled not guilty and the case is still pending in the courts.
The complaint against Surrogate Judge Holtzman stated that he had “allowed a social political… relationship to influence his judicial conduct.” The commission, in its investigation, found Judge Holtzman ignored the fact Michael Lippman was inappropriately billing estates for legal services. Judge Holtzman, through his attorney, David Godosky, claimed the commission’s allegations were untrue, and Judge Holtzman was deceived by Michael Lippman.
Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq. has used his expertise, experience and knowledge of the courts to handle probate and will contest matters before the Surrogate’s Court for more than three decades. In addition, he handles estate planning, elder care matters, Medicaid planning issues, special needs trusts and all other issues involving executors and the beneficiaries of estates. Feel free to call our office for a free consultation at 516-561-6645, 1-800-344- 6431 or 718-350-2802.