Civil Rights Must Be Fought for

Here are some non-confidential wins. (To settle against a private employer, one must usually agree to confidentiality.) I’ve thrown in a few interesting losses; the practice of law cannot be predicted. But as past performance never guarantees a similar result. What matters most is what happened to you: Hire the right attorney to tell your story within the rules to get the best outcome. I get up and go to work because I believe I am a perceptive observer of life, have a decent moral compass, and often am honored to pick the stories most compelling. I don’t operate on volume. If you feel you have a case where you can explain how your civil and employment rights were violated, call 212-334-7397

Major Victories

Zarda v. Altitude Express

Zarda before the United States Supreme Court. 

The LGBT community won a landmark victory in Zarda, which ruled for the employees 6-3, the opinion published under the name Bostock v. Clayton County. The majority opinion is available here: Majority opinion.

Zarda before the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 15-3775:

This was a rare en banc decision in the Second Circuit, which usually does not convene all of its judges, but goes in panels of three. En banc hearings are held only once every three years in this Circuit, which covers New York, Connecticut and Vermont. The decision was the second U.S. Court of appeals to hold, by a vote of 10-3 judges that sexual orientation is discrimination based on sex under the U.S. Civil Rights Act. There are several reasons for this court’s holding, which reaches 163 pages, the Circuit was the second to hold that sexual orientation decision is sex discrimination under Title VII under the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The case took several years to complete (and might go on further) and is surely my greatest victory, which I continued after my client died because justice had been denied. Read more about Zarda v Altitude Express.

People v. Coppez

A unanimous (7-0) decision by the New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, for my client resulting in the affirmance of the dismissal of the indictment. 93 N.Y.2d 249 (1999). I was much less experienced at the time, but you can see me arguing the case up top.

Click here to view

Norville v. Staten Island University Hospital

Jury verdict $6,030,744 in a disability discrimination case. A nurse needed just a little help in lifting, and the employer stubbornly refused. A jury gave her damages and punished the Hospital. Federal Court, Eastern District of New York, 96 CV 5222 (RJD)

The judge held the $5 million punishment was too severe and the final appellate decision agreed but upheld the judgment of 1.5 million dollars. Punitive damage awards are hard to come by and are almost always fought to the very end. Nevertheless, It is my biggest win (and I like to mention that Glenn Greenwald, a law school classmate, now a famous journalist, started this case. He was not co-counsel, but Ms. Norville’s first attorney, and laid the groundwork for me to win in the second trial). 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 21034 (2d Cir., October 8, 2004).

Muñoz v. Manhattan Club Time Share, Inc.

Total judgment exceeding $750,000 for retaliation against hotel worker for complaining that his supervisor discriminated against him, leading to his termination. Federal Court, Southern District of New York, 11 CV 7037 (JPO).

More about the Muñoz case reported in:

Jury Verdict upheld by trial judge Paul Oetken, who held that the jury weighed the evidence, as the rules permit, and that my client’s win was “a complete success,” 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132166, fn.5 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2014).

The entire judgment in excess of $750,000 – including every penny of the jury’s punitive damage award – is upheld by Second Circuit Court of Appeals within two days of argument. Summary Order, June 17, 2015. The oral argument, in which I, in defending the verdict, speak starting at approximately marker 11:35, can be heard here.

Simmons v. New York City Transit Authority

Total jury and judge verdict $455,069 for disability discrimination in a case involving a train operator on the Times Square Shuttle who was removed from her job because she might need extra bathroom breaks during the day. Federal Court, Eastern District of New York, 02 CV 5222 (CPS).

Jury Verdict Affirmed, Summary order, Second Circuit Court of Appeals, August 3, 2009.

More about the Simmons case reported in:

  • NY Daily News, December 4, 2007 “Train Operator Suffering From Irritable Bowel Syndrome Sues For Lost Wages”
  • NY Daily News, December 12, 2007, “Irritable bowel conductor wins 150G”
  • Simmons was a tough case with a footnote that infuriates many judges and practitioners (and makes me wonder what I could or should have done differently). I brought the case in Brooklyn for strategic reasons – a better jury pool for my client. But the Circuit surprised me in that this strategy would lead to a decision holding that an attorney from Manhattan who practices east of the River – even though it’s one City – are entitled to fewer fees. I struggled whether to further appeal this aspect of the case further, but I was near certain I would not get a hearing. Also, my client and I just wanted the case over. I had made the initial strategic venue decision. I won the war after many hard-fought battles. Was it not fair that I should swallow this partial loss when I could have brought the case in either borough? Or should I be greedy? What if the whole shebang had been reconsidered and my client been held in limbo for over a year? That’s what really worried me, perhaps without any grounds. Mrs. Simmons (she preferred “Mrs.” – having “earned the title,” as she told me) had retired and moved to Maryland. Many civil rights law firms and organizations later took the issue further in a similar case. Their attempt sadly failed. Would my request for rehearing en banc – in which all 10 or 11 judges in the Circuit reconsider the case – in Simmons have changed the result? I don’t think so, but I considered the question counterfactually: Who am I to say? I did my best in that case. I’ll always feel a modicum of guilt for that result and in not petitioning for further review of the adverse portion of the decision, but I was basically totally over it, as was my client, and felt cornered. My client’s wishes were paramount. The late, great Judge Sifton had given me a generous award in the first place. Who was I in this mess?

Eze v. New York Health & Hospitals Corp.

Settlement of $105,000 in medical malpractice/civil-rights case involving the confinement of an honors student to Kings County Psychiatric Hospital. Kings County Supreme Court, 09/500122.

More about the Eze case reported in:

  • New York Times, January 13, 2011 “Former Student Sues College Over Stay in a Mental Ward” (the article mentions my case and another case she brought against College officials who duped her into getting into the ambulance, for which she won another $25,000 with the assistance of a different attorney).

Fielding v. Kupferman

Appellate victory: Appellate Division, First Department unanimously reverses lower court and reinstates a doctor’s malpractice claim against a lawyer. 65 A.D.3d 437 (First Dept.2009).

More about the Fielding case reported in:

  • New York Law Journal, August 12, 2009 “Malpractice Claim Goes Forward Against Divorce Attorney”
  • Postscript: after much litigation, the Appellate Court, in 2013, found that my client, the doctor, could not prove that the attorney’s negligence caused him monetary harm. Ultimately, it was a loss on narrow grounds, but a former matrimonial judge served as our expert witness, who attested that it was for a jury to determine if the attorney’s mistake caused damage. The Appellate Court, the second time around, didn’t buy this argument, which demonstrates that litigation can be unpredictable. In my opinion, legal malpractice cases can be particularly challenging – and lawyers are not even required to have malpractice insurance in New York! The experience prompted me, years later, to publish a letter to the editor of the New York Law Journal saying as much, available here. As a result of the experience, I rarely take these cases now.

D’Ascoli v. Maura & Relamed

Jury verdict $241,000 in race discrimination case before retired Judge Lawrence McKenna. Federal Court, Southern District of New York, 02 Civ. 2684 (LMM). Most of my clients are people of color but this was a “reverse discrimination” case against a law firm. Illegal discrimination is insidious, no matter its victim. The judge was the now retired Lawrence McKenna, before whom I observed give a fair trial to a Pakistani immigrant caught in the scheme of an evil man, U.S. v, Shafi. Mr. Shafi was a certainly innocent man and was found not guilty because of the dedication and creativity of a very talented lawyer I was lucky to have been assigned to “second chair.” (I really did nothing – just watched the lawyer in action and a modest judge go to great lengths to ensure a fair trial. The experience had a profound effect on me.)

Dent v. Medical Group

Settlement of $222,500 for false HIV diagnosis Supreme Court, New York County (defendants remain confidential in this case defended by New York City’s two premier medical malpractice firms.) The parties reached the settlement after the judge denied all motions for summary judgment. New York County Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis held that the jury must determine whether the lab or the medical group negligently swapped plaintiff’s blood sample for another’s, or whether the doctor was not quick enough to realize that something was amiss and have the client retested. The judge’s publicly available, non-precedential decision is available here. (Dent v. [Anonymous]., 926 N.Y.S.2d 343 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. 2011)).

Obabueki v. ChoicePoint

  • Jury verdict $450,000 for incorrect reporting of an expunged conviction by national consumer credit agency causing the loss of a prestigious job. Federal Court, Southern District of New York, 99 Civ. 11262 (AGS).
  • This verdict remains a victory to me: the conscience of the community spoke and validated my client’s story as truth. Unfortunately, the verdict was later disregarded, and the judge threw it out. In my opinion, he should not have: had the jury’s finding been given every inference to which it was entitled, the verdict would have told a big corporation to watch its ways. ChoicePoint admitted it caused the loss of my client’s job, yet somehow the trial judge and three appellate judges found the result to be a “miscarriage of justice.” My client moved on, but I have not forgotten the experience, to this day troubled by questions about what I could have done differently, wondering why the judges didn’t hold my client’s privacy rights in higher regard. As it happened, the verdict, a dollar sign followed by six digits (and a comma, to be precise), could have made life better not only for Mr. Obabueki but for others.
  • Remember the Equifax hacking of 2017? These things just started to be part of the stuff of life a few years after I lost ChoicePoint. A huge data breach, the modern-day equivalent to a nuclear implosion (or at least a drone strike) occurred, and ChoicePoint was found to be asleep on the control panel. The media picked up on ChoicePoint’s less-than-exacting methods of compiling and storing information – which could have included yours. The company was then quickly absorbed into LEXIS. More about the case was then reported in:
  • NPR Morning Edition, where you can hear me talking about the case, “Personal Info Database Raises Privacy Concerns,” December 1, 2003. More reported in
  • Wired Magazine , March 23, 2005, “ChoicePoint’s Checks Under Fire”
  • ChoicePoint’s failures caused much debate and legislation was proposed in Congress, including the introduction of the “Elimination of Data Warehousing Act,” and the “Financial Data Protection Act of 2006.” Nothing was adopted, unfortunately, probably because so many people came up with too many different ideas. See, for example, Congressional Record, March 5, 2006, pp.E168-69 (remarks of then representative Edward Markey (D. MA). He noted, “Unchecked, these companies take advantage of the most valuable possessions that Americans have: their personal identities. Companies like ChoicePoint are playing Russian roulette with the personal information and identities of millions of Americans. If we don’t take steps to protect America’s consumers soon, it is not a question of whether or not more Americans will lose their privacy-it is a question of when will the next ID theft scandal hit.”
  • The legal system isn’t perfect. Justice is sought and often not obtained. Obabueki, in my opinion, renders the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a set of laws set up precisely to protect people with imperfect arrest records, less than what its enactors hoped the law would achieve. Years later, Congress couldn’t find a way to make it more precise after ChoicePoint harmed many people. I hope someday the case will be recognized for what it is in my opinion: wrongly decided. The Re-Entry Legal Clinic in Los Angeles, an organization that assists previously incarcerated people meld back into society, devoted a whole web page to Obabueki on its website, and how to avoid its perils (click here) as if the decision were an obstacle that could be gotten around with precise planning. But people leaving the justice system shouldn’t need a lawyer to get a job.
  • An intelligent writing was also published in the Brooklyn Law Review appraising the arguably wooden thinking that went into the decision: “Combating Inaccuracies in Criminal Background Checks by Giving Meaning to the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” Fall, 2012, 78 Brooklyn L. Rev. 271, 291 (Fall 2012). There were some things that I could have done differently, but the jury saw an injustice, and it was so certain that it took them less than an hour to decide in my client’s favor. This was over a decade ago, and would I invite another case in the attempt to allow justice to prevail given a second go-round? At the time what concerned me most was the monetary loss; what matters to me now is how justice was denied without the foresight that this would happen again, as it did on a greater scale.
  • The appellate oral argument, if you’re interested, can be heard here. One interesting moment comes at the end when I invoke my client’s privacy rights. One of the judges on the panel, all of whom were astute, asked, “Privacy?” Perhaps it was my fault that I didn’t make the case about privacy at trial, but I remember asking my client, at trial, on the stand, why he decided to take a no-contest plea that would later be expunged, to make to the point that he had been promised privacy in return for some community service. The judge, now deceased, shut me down after ChoicePoint objected in every way it could to disallow me to elicit this; even though my client believed in his innocence, even though he was promised a fresh start after a period of probation, he pled no contest, which is legally the same as guilty, but different in that you don’t admit wrongdoing: You just say you can’t overcome the prosecutor’s evidence. But Obabueki didn’t get what he bargained for. The jury saw that; the judges weren’t so ready.

Baker v. Dorfman

The jury awarded Mr. Baker $403,490.55 in a legal malpractice and attorney fraud case involving an attorney’s failure to file suit against a testing lab for the false report of an HIV diagnosis. Unfortunately, Ricky Baker went to the Lesbian and Gay Lawyer’s Association Referral Service, which did not (at the time) require proof of malpractice insurance. Had they so required, none of Ricky Baker’s suffering would have occurred.

The case was tried in Federal Court, Southern District of New York, 96 CV 5222 (DLC), November 1998. It was my first big case, but looking back I consider the win surfing on a bunch of the failures of others: Obviously, the lawyer who committed fraud; but also the State of New York that does not require malpractice insurance, nor even the disclosure of the lack thereof. I’ve mentioned the referral service. In the end, I bet the judge regrets the case entering her courtroom. My client got relief, but it was so hard; the lawyer showed that he was willing to flout her orders and the dispute morphed into my client’s dispute with the lawyer to the judge’s – I am assuming – frustration with her role in the process, which depends on the promise that lawyers will follow court orders. I learned a lot in this case, and don’t regret pursuing it. But I see it with much different perspective now than a mere win so many years ago.

More about the Baker case reported in:

  • New York Law Journal, “Award Winning Lawyer Rebuked for Fraud,” April 6, 1999, discussing Gregory’s successful case against the defendant in the Baker case who unsuccessfully sought to overturn the jury verdict. The article noted that it appeared to be the first fraud case based on an attorney’s false resume.
  • Baker v. Dorfman, 239 F.3d 415 (2d Cir.2000) (Jacobs, J.) wherein the judgment was affirmed entirely by the Second Circuit).
  • Baker v. David A. Dorfman, PLLC, 232 F.3d 121 (2d Cir.2000) the same court (different judges) affirmed Baker’s attempt to avoid judgment-collection, with a minor tinkering pertaining to attorney-client privilege issues.
  • New York Law Journal, “Judge Requests Contempt Prosecution,” April 18, 2006. (Article discusses Judge Denise Cote’s Request of United States Attorney to prosecute a criminal action against Dorfman based on Baker’s complaint.) The attorney later spent 30 days in jail because he violated the judge’s probation order by traveling out of the country without permission. She could not have been happy about that
  • It was a classic fight to the finish, and though the lawyer got his license back, it was his loss, perhaps to the public. Legal ethics Professor Steven Gillers wrote about the case in “Lowering the Bar: How Lawyer Discipline in New York Fails to Protect The Public,” NYU J. Law & Public Policy, 2014 (“The mild sanctions that the court imposed on . . . Dorfman are deeply disturbing. That [he] was not disbarred is hard to understand. [His] behavior blatantly violated the standards of conduct we purport to demand of members of the bar. [He] acted [and lied] for personal advantage, harmed others, and continued [his] misconduct for lengthy periods.”).

Leung v. Goldberg

Settlement of $219,000 in a legal malpractice case involving attorney’s failure to advise his client to obtain independent tax advice before commencing risky legal strategy, New York County Supreme Court, 06/108425.

Attard v. City of New York

In this age discrimination case, the Judge found, pretrial, that the City of New York was responsible for two years of discovery delays and ordered the City to pay attorneys fees and expert witness fees to correct its waste of time. The City paid over $66,000 in attorneys and expert witness fees. 05 Civ 2129 (JG)(RML), 2008 WL 1991107 E.D.N.Y. May 05, 2008, also reported in New York Law Journal, May 30, 2008; reargument and appeal by City denied, 2008 WL 3334028 E.D.N.Y. Aug 08, 2008

More about the Attard case reported in:

  • New York Law Journal, May 27, 2008, “City Is Sanctioned for Failure To Follow Discovery Orders”
  • In the end, the Attard case was not a victory in the traditional sense, because, after the City was sanctioned and finally turned over the evidence required, the well-respected, former Judge John Gleeson held that the statistical evidence of age bias was insufficient to let the case go to trial. I disagreed and appealed; the Second Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with me and affirmed.
  • These decisions, however, were controlled by what I believed to be a defective precedent, and I petitioned to the United States Supreme Court for review. My argument for reversal had something going for it: another Circuit Court of Appeals, the Tenth, had a completely different rule on the question of law that got Ms. Attard’s case dismissed, and courts in the Ninth Circuit had rejected the Second Circuit’s analysis. In other words, a person in Colorado would have gotten to a jury with Ms. Attard’s case. It was such a gift to have this dispute among multiple courts in the country that I could not give up the chance to ask the nation’s highest court to weigh in. The petition for certiorari to that court, the first I’d filed on my own, was noticed by SCOTUS Blog, a division of Bloomberg News, which thought Ms. Attard had a decent chance for further review. It named my brief in the case Petition of the Day on March 21, 2012. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court doesn’t have to take any case, even when two parts of the country disagree with a rule of law. When her case came up for the Justices’ conference, they denied all 127 petitions that were up for review, including my clients’. I’ll never regret taking the case further, however, and consider it a victory in that I fought for what I believed was legally right and didn’t give up until the final court of last resort denied further review.

Siagha v. Katz

The judge awarded, as a matter of law, my client judgment against his former attorney for gross overbilling amounting to $330,598. 16 Misc.3d 1130 (2007), appeal dismissed, slip op., (First Dept. December 18, 2008)

More about the Siagha case was reported in:

  • New York Law Journal, August 7, 2007, “Lack of Retainer Leads Court to Order Firm to Return Fees Beyond Contingency”

Gay Men’s Health Crisis

Recognition for Litigating for People with HIV, June 1996. In one case I was recognized by GMHC for a strategy I used in exploiting confidentiality laws against an insurance company, which publicly exposed the HIV status of a GMHC client in the attempt to cancel his coverage. The case settled very quickly.

My volunteer work for GMHC was also reported when I worked for BigLaw in:

  • New York Law Journal, “Pro Bono Digest,” January 7, 1994, discussing my successful case against an insurance company, which wrongfully cut off the disability benefits of a man with (what was then referred to as) full-blown AIDS.

Robinson v. Way

Verdict, 2006, $129,700, for legal malpractice in attorney’s failing to appear at a real estate closing, Kings County Supreme Court, 04/31413. The punitive damages were thrown out, but the finding of legal malpractice was upheld. 57 A.D.3d 872 (2d Dept. 2008)

Barnes v. Anderson

Reinstating civil rights claim based on the error of a judge whose flawed reasoning led to the rejection of a black juror. Barnes was the first reversal in a civil case for this particular violation of law in the Second Circuit, the federal jurisdiction just below the U.S. Supreme Court that includes New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. 202 F.3d 150 (2d Cir.1999) (Sack, J.).

Rivera v. Heyman

This was my first federal appeal and it reinstated the plaintiff’s claims against the Smithsonian Institution brought because of employment discrimination on the basis of HIV diagnosis. 157 F.3d 101 (2d Cir.1998) (I got extremely lucky in this case because Congress changed the law after a first decision was handed down. The Court then withdrew its first decision and ruled in my client’s favor. Without congressional intervention, which denominated the Smithsonian as part of the Executive Branch – when it had never been denominated as part of any branch of government – I would have lost. But a win is a win.)

Fontaine v. Matthews

Affirming jury verdict for my client in a legal malpractice case involving an attorney who abandoned his client at an Admiralty trial – involving the laws of the sea on a ship sailing under the U.S. flag. 25 A.D.3d 477 (1st Dept 2006). I successfully tried and defended the appeal of this case, but the judge would not allow me an instruction on punitive damages.

Jennings v. Parade Publications

Federal Judge Griesa rejects Conde-Nast’s attempt to defend its termination, and cynical attempt to characterize a good employee’s need to care for her autistic child as “babysitting.” 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17088; 84 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P41,498, September 29, 2003.

  • More about the Jennings case reported in the New York Law Journal, October 4, 2004, “Family Medical Leave Act and Enforcement of Attendance Policies”

McCoy v. NYC Police Dept.

Denying the Police Department’s attempt to shortchange formerly unrepresented prisoner of an oral settlement agreement. 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11561 (S.D.N.Y., August 12, 1996) (Patterson, J.)

  • New York Law Journal, “City Denied Settlement to Oral Agreement, August 15, 1996.”
  • This was not my case, but in Ciaramella v. Reader’s Digest Association, 131 F.3d 320 (2nd Cir. 1997), the appeals court adopted the reasoning in McCoy for all federal courts in New York State. McCoy was the only case, as the lawyer’s say, “on point” and I feel a twinge of pride that a win in one of my civil rights cases influenced a decision in a commercial case in the Court of Appeals

Gilbert v. Related Management, Co, L.P.

Upholding the denial of summary judgment to the defense in (what was then commonly referred to as) AIDS discrimination case. 254 A.D.2d 53 (1st Dept.1998). The case later settled confidentially.

Hyman v. Smith

Reversing the dismissal of a legal malpractice case. 39 A.D.3d 231 (1st Dept 2007).

Sullivan v. Con Edison

$245,000 settlement in HIV and mental health discrimination case where an electrician was harassed and forced to choose between his job and Con Ed’s insistence that he take psychotropic medications. This was an unusual and, from my perspective, a wonderful case wherein an oppressive employer (backed up by junior doctors on the payroll) tried to corner a man – a little nutty to be sure – but a fine performer, out of the company. He was an inventor, a good worker, and though he had an unusual personality, was harmless. Furthermore, he was protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 98-cv-00979, Federal Court, Southern District of New York, January 1999.

Ferguson v. Interpublic

Sexual orientation/HIV discrimination case settled on confidential basis

More about Ferguson reported in

  • Adweek, March 19, 1998, “Anti-Gay Bias Lawsuit; at Least $1 Mil. In Damages Sought”
  • Gay City News (formerly LGNY), “Mad Ave, Indeed: Homophobic Conspiracy Alleged at Manhattan Ad Agency,” March 12, 1998

Coradin v. Jones and Reilly

$160,000 settlement for home seller’s fraud and attorney’s failure to reveal conflict of interest, New York County Supreme Court, 118423/2000

Brown v. City of New York

$175,000 for a disabled man who suffered a grievous hand injury when a police officer stomped on it with his boot. 7030/1998

Martire v. City of New York, et al.

$150,000 settlement in false arrest/malicious prosecution case. Kings County Supreme Court, 6921/1997.

Herbert v. City of New York

$135,000 settlement in false arrest case involving suggestive photo identification. Bronx County Supreme Court, 14680/1999.

People v. Missrie

Reversing defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. 300 A.D.2d 35(1st Dept 2002), lv. denied, 100 N.Y.2d 541 (2003). (This case was unusual: Mr. Missrie (miss-er-ey) was 75 and in jail at the time the alleged crime occurred – that is the one in which I presented him. A predatory, habitual criminal went after Mr. Missrie at the behest of the DA to induce him to plan some bad things – things that could never have happened but for the other criminal looking to pressure an elderly man then snitch on him and get out of jail. That’s the ugly reality of some criminal prosecutions. The first trial I defended on the defense of entrapment; it ended in a hung jury with 9 of 12 jurors favoring acquittal. After the second trial resulted in a guilty verdict, I got it reversed. On remand, Mr. Missrie took a plea rather than opt for a third trial. The sentence amounted to time served, though, sadly, this memorable client died in prison awaiting parole from his sentence on the other charge. My client took the stand at both trials; the cliché that the defendant must NEVER take the stand is not true. It is a right to remain silent, sometimes properly invoked, but in a contested case, a jury wants to hear the defendant’s story, studies show. You have a right to remain silent, but perhaps no more than an understanding among the cops, the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, the defendant and the judge. A jury will be told to disregard the right not to testify, but might not embrace it. On the other hand, sometimes a defendant has priors, and those come out if he takes the stand.

Missrie is the only felony I’ve tried to a jury (twice). A hung jury is a loss to the prosecution, and I was subtly complimented that at the second trial, the assistant DA was replaced by a less experienced but more talented one; I lost to him on the retrial I got reversed. However, even if that loss was reversed, and even if he pulled one sleazy trick, I learned something. It was the sharp judge who made a couple of related mistakes that got Mr. Missrie a reversal. The ADA was at about my level of experience but did a super job speaking to the jury; I was very impressed and the experience prompted me, in part, to study under Gerry Spence.

Mr. Missrie, age 77, after reversal, went back to the trial court and pled, essentially, to time served. For a first felony trial, that’s not too shabby for me – though I’d by then done several bench trials in Family Court, including two acquittals I secured for kids whom the complainant couldn’t identify the alleged perpetrator. (It was the evidence that got the acquittal, not me.) Other than Missrie, I’ve tried two other misdemeanor charges in adult court, wherein the main charges were dismissed and the client got no sentence whatsoever: an “unconditional discharge.” I also had many misdemeanors dismissed under procedural rules: Bad pleading and speedy trial violations. Also, I’ve advised some clients to plea to non-criminal charges in some misdemeanor cases. For the short period in which I represented persons accused of felonies, there were a few clients who pleaded to jail time; I don’t consider these “wins,” but reviewed the evidence against the client, advised him or her, and he or she made the decision. I know New York criminal law, but the defense is saturated; I choose not to market myself as a criminal defense attorney. Nevertheless, I love it and if a New York criminal case comes to my office, I will consider it if the client can afford a reasonable fee, and I am certain I can handle it. Some people call saying they “don’t want the public defender,” but I chase them away and ask why? There are some bad publicly paid lawyers, but the Public Defender’s offices in the City are underfunded but nevertheless staffed with highly dedicated, talented but overworked lawyers.

People v. Lebron

The appeals court here reduced defendant’s sentence for robbery from 50 years to 15 years. 261 A.D.2d 291 (1st Dept.1999). I did not represent the defendant at trial, after which the judge, the Honorable Colleen McMahon, now Chief Judge of Federal Court in the Southern District, sentenced him to a gobsmacking 100 years to life (which is automatically reduced to 50 under the law). But 50 years was still too much. No one had died or been injured because of the criminal acts; it was an ugly robbery among drug dealers and the punishment – an effective life sentence – the appeals court recognized did not fit the crime. Chillingly, the first time around, the sentence was upheld and it was only because I asked the court to look more closely at the penological purposes of sentencing, in comparison to other crimes, that it changed the ruling on a motion for reconsideration. I speculate the DA’s office at the time had a hand in that, given how weak and how late was the opposition to my motion for reargument. Of course, I’ll never know.

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