Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

It has been a while since we've talked about corruption in Brooklyn, but this story jogged my memory: Edward S. Reich, a former Brooklyn Bar Association president was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison for accepting $10,500 in bribes while acting as a court-appointed referee in Brooklyn Supreme Court. "In addition to being a bar association president, Reich headed the group's Judiciary Committee for 27 years. He was also a former vice-president of the New York State Bar Association and a member of the grievance committee responsible for disciplining lawyers in Brooklyn and Queens."

My favorite part of the story is at the end: "Reich was not publicly charged until a month after his arrest in December 2003. During that time, according to information filed by both sides in pretrial motions, FBI agents pressed him to cooperate in an investigation of corruption of the state judiciary in Brooklyn.

"Reich, however, steadfastly claimed he had no knowledge of corruption to share with the agents."

Here is how it goes with corruption: the time you get caught is never the first time, and the first time never happens unless the culture of corruption is so pervasive that guys like Mr. Reich-- a man with $1.6 million in the bank-- a guy with everything to lose-- figures that since everyone is doing it, why not get in for a slice? Hilariously, being a referee is the sort of court appointed plum that is usually enough to satisfy smaller fry; you get to be a referee by being connected. It's nice light work that doesn't take any time out of your day, and you get a fee off the top. Judges get in trouble for doling the job out to their political pals.

A bad judge or a bad lawyer is like a rat in a house-- there's always more than the ones you see. The story doesn't say how many bribes he took, or how much they were for. My guess is Quite A Few and Just Enough To Sting respectively, but you never know-- he may have tried to gouge-- that's usually what gets you caught.

I promise you that a guy who was on the Judiciary Committee of the county bar association-- a gatekeeper function-- knows more than he is telling. You know what? Everybody in Brooklyn knows more than they are telling. They are just going to have to keep tearing up the floorboards at 360 Adams Street-- and be ready for when the rats come streaming out.

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