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Will’s Watch looks at the race for the Sixth Municipal Court District, Rafael Espinal’s vacant Assembly seat, and Domenic Recchia’s fund-raising

Judgment day! Slope bench hopeful once slapped for professional misconduct

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A Democratic candidate for the civil court district covering Park Slope and Flatbush was censured for professional misconduct in two different states in 2006 and 2007.

The Apellate Division of the New York Supreme Court — which sits above the trial-level Supreme Court and below the Court of Appeals — reprimanded Jill Epstein for failing to keep proper financial records and for not disbursing funds in a timely manner to clients and other parties while in private practice. The same behavior earned Epstein similar disciplinary action in New Jersey the year before.

Now Epstein aspires to sit on the bench of the Sixth Municipal Court district and hear lawsuits herself. She faces a primary race against Appellate Court attorney Diana Szochet and Isela Isaac, formerly of the gay advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign.

Epstein’s campaign pointed out the actions which led to the reprimand occurred back in 2003 and 2004, and blamed them on unspecified issues at her business.

“In a legal career spanning more than 30 years, Ms. Epstein had one year a decade ago in which disruptions in her practice caused difficulties in keeping up with paperwork and client communicat­ion,” said spokesman Bob Liff.

Liff works for George Arzt Communications, a press agency typically employed by candidates backed by the Kings County Democratic establishment. But Liff claimed the county machine has yet to endorse a candidate for the judge seat.

Epstein currently serves as a law clerk to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, who vaulted to prominence last year when he issued a temporary restraining order that prevented the closure of Long Island College Hospital, and presided over the settlement of a lawsuit against the state to keep the Cobble Hill medical facility open.

• • •

A former aide to ex-Assemblyman Darryl Towns has joined the increasingly crowded contest for his old seat — which most recently belonged to now-Councilman Rafael Espinal (D–Bushwick) and is currently vacant.

Cypress Hills activist and two-time candidate Darma Diaz has filed to run to represent the Bushwick–to–East New York spanning district.

Diaz challenged former Councilman Erik Dilan — Espinal’s predecessor and mentor — in 2009, but a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge kicked her off the ballot for having an insufficient number of signatures from residents of the district. She lost a race for district leader — an unpaid low-level job representing the Assembly district within the Democratic Party — to Paula Melendez in 2012 by a scant 58 votes, despite receiving the endorsement of Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Sunset Park) and outgoing Rep. Ed Towns.

Diaz faces competition in the Assembly race from Espinal’s unsuccessful 2012 opponent Kim Council, and from fellow perennial candidate Cyril Joseph. Most observers expect Dilan will enter the race as well, though the former Councilman has yet to file. Dilan is an old ally of disgraced Dem boss Vito Lopez, and remains close to the Kings County Democratic Party establishment, while Joseph, Council, and Diaz are longtime political outsiders to the machine.

But Diaz may draw support from an unexpected corner — the burgeoning Bangladeshi community along the border of East New York and Cypress Hills. Diaz is Hispanic, but she is co-founder and chief operating officer of the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation, a group that offers job training, legal advice, and adolescent programming to the immigrant population. A source familiar with the district said that a large number of Bangladeshis have registered to vote in the area, though relatively few have ever turned up at the polls.

• • •

Former Coney Island Councilman and current Congressional candidate Domenic Recchia is turning to friends of his old ally, ex-Speaker Christine Quinn, for campaign cash in his effort to unseat incumbent Rep. Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge).

Tom Schuler, a district leader and member of Quinn’s Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, hosted a star-studded fund-raiser for Recchia at his Manhattan home on April 22.

Recchia was one of Quinn’s most loyal lieutenants, an early and aggressive supporter of the former Speaker’s unpopular but successful initiative to overturn city term limits. Many insiders attribute Recchia’s coveted chairmanship of the Council’s finance committee to his support for Quinn’s agenda and mayoral bid — and his close relationship to Vito Lopez, another Quinn ally.

The invitation to the April 22 fund-raiser promised the attendance of Metropolitan Museum of Art public affairs vice president and Abraham Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer — a script consultant to the Oscar-winning 2012 film “Lincoln” — and Joanna Saccone, a friend and former aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D–Manhattan).

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
Updated 5:31 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reader feedback

Sarah from Park Slope says:
Her excuse about one bad year might be more plausible if the decision didn't say the following:

" The DRB generally imposes reprimands upon attorneys who are guilty of gross neglect, lack of diligence, failure to communicate with clients, failure to promptly deliver funds, and record keeping violations. However, in view of the respondent's default, the discipline was enhanced to reflect a failure to cooperate with disciplinary authorities as an aggravating factor. Accordingly, the DRB's recommendation of a censure was adopted and imposed by the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey.

Although the Grievance Committee for the Second and Eleventh Judicial Districts (hereinafter the Grievance Committee) served the respondent with a notice pursuant to 22 NYCRR 691.3 on July 17, 2007, the respondent has neither asserted any of the enumerated defenses nor demanded a hearing in this matter (see 22 NYCRR 691.3 [c]). Accordingly, there is no impediment to the imposition of discipline at this juncture. "
April 24, 2014, 1:39 pm
Linda from Gowanus says:
Clearly Szhochet was behind this. Just nasty.
Aug. 19, 2014, 10:07 am

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