Letters to the Editor

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The New York Sun

‘Brooke Astor He’s Not, but Judge Has His Own Tragic Tale’

I write to clarify several points raised by Joseph Goldstein in “Brooke Astor He’s Not, but Judge Has His Own Tragic Tale,” August 14, 2006.

In the spring of 2000, Assistant District Attorney Steven Kramer was required to check the ownership of a building a defendant had claimed as his own and offered as collateral for bail when arrested for real estate related crimes. ADA Kramer learned that retired Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge John Phillips was the actual owner of the property, and he visited Justice Phillips at his home to discuss the matter.

While Judge Phillips said he never transferred ownership of the property and was clearly the victim of a crime, something caused ADA Kramer even greater alarm. Justice Philips’ home was in disarray, with unpaid bills and papers strewn about, and the retired judge appeared disoriented and uncared for. As Justice Phillips was well known and highly regarded in the community and considered a friend and mentor by many people in the District Attorney’s office, ADA Kramer became concerned and sought to help.

Over the course of that summer, ADA Kramer, acting on his concern, wrote letters to local judges recommending that a law guardian be appointed to oversee Justice Phillips’ finances and protect his numerous and valuable assets. Sadly, ADA Kramer had a difficult time finding an attorney willing to take on the case, and volunteered to accompany Justice Phillips through some initial processes – such as getting medical exams at Cornell University Hospital’s Alzheimer’s Center and Kings County Hospital.

The District Attorney does not have the power to appoint a law guardian nor have anyone committed to a hospital. Only a Judge has the power to issue those orders. In December of 2000 nowretired Justice Leonard Scholnick appointed a temporary guardian for Justice Phillips.

Several months later Justice Phillips himself signed the necessary consent forms and a more “permanent” guardian was assigned to him.

Neither I nor anyone on the staff of the District Attorney’s Office ever sought to have Justice Phillips placed into a retirement home and Justice Phillips was never an official candidate for District Attorney.

District Attorney
Kings County
Brooklyn, N.Y.

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