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New Surrogate Court Judges Give Rosenthal Pink Slip

Brooklyn’s two new Surrogate Court justices sewed up the remaining loose ends from Michael Feinberg’s corruption-laden tenure by “firing” his law school chum – and the alleged cause of his downfall — Louis Rosenthal. In a curtly worded letter sent to Rosenthal earlier this month, Surrogate Court Justices Frank Seddio and Margarita Lopez-Torres explained that the attorney’s services were no longer required at the public administrator’s office. “You are hereby advised that, effective immediately, your services as counsel to the public administrator are terminated,” the two surrogates wrote, as reported in the Daily News. “All issues related to legal fees you may be entitled to will be referred to a Judicial Hearing Officer, who will make recommendations to the court.” Rosenthal has been working as Counsel to the Public Administrator since 1997. During that time, critics charge that Rosenthal allegedly used his friendship with former Surrogate Court Justice Feinberg to rake in millions in exorbitant fees for handling estates of residents who died without a will. Last year, the State Commission of Judicial Conduct accused Feinberg of awarding millions of dollars in fees to Rosenthal without filing the appropriate paperwork, known as an affidavit of legal services, which rationalized his decisions. Officials said that, between 1997 and 2002, Rosenthal earned $9 million in legal fees — $2 million of which the Commission deemed “excessive.” Feinberg chalked all of the Commission’s charges up to a “legal error,” adding that he never dabbled in favoritism. In a letter to the Court of Appeals, Feinberg’s attorney, Harvey Greenberg, wrote that there “is not and never has been the slightest intimation that anything he has been charged with involved corruption or venality,” according to a report. After being suspended with pay in February, the state’s highest court responded to his appeal to be reinstated by officially kicking him off the bench, claiming that his “failure to abide by the legal requirements of his office, in a matter that conveyed the appearance of impropriety and favoritism, debased his office and eroded public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.” As part of the court decision, Feinberg has been stripped of all of his judicial powers, which prevents him from holding a judicial position anytime in the future. As of this writing, there is no word yet who would replace Rosenthal as counsel to the public administrator’s office. Sources said that a process is currently being hammered out to choose a new counsel. The candidate will have to be agreed upon by both Seddio and Lopez-Torres.

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