For Judges, It's One-Stop Shopping

Brooklyn Dems Celebrate as Scandal Mounts

At the front of the room, framed by a giant, glittering red banner proclaiming "Welcome Brooklyn Democrats 2003," stood the night's master of ceremonies, district leader and party insider Stevie Cohn. He led the celebrants in the Pledge of Allegiance and "The Star-Spangled Banner," and then introduced Norman. A Court Street lawyer, Cohn has been involved in making judges in Brooklyn for more than 25 years, often handling their campaigns as well. He has also been one of the greatest recipients of lucrative fiduciary appointments from the judges he helps to pick. He took in more than $500,000 in fees from such appointments in the late 1990s, said the New York Post in a 1997 exposé. An embarrassed Cohn said then that he would stop accepting them. But when the Voice checked again in 2001, when Cohn was a candidate for City Council, it found he had never stopped. A spokesman said there had been some confusion; Cohn had only meant to cease taking appointments from Surrogate's Court.

Gerald Garson gracefully absented himself from the party at the Marriott, as did his wife, Robin, a civil-court judge who was elected last year after being given an opponent-free slot by Norman. In one of the charges against Gerald Garson, he is alleged to have taken $1,000 from a lawyer in payment for client referrals Garson allegedly made. According to the criminal complaint, the judge allegedly asked that the money be delivered not in cash, but in the form of a check to his wife "to defray a debt she owed."

Robin Garson's campaign filings show that she raised more than $50,000, including $10,000 in loans from friends and family members. Most of the funds went for campaign consultants and printers favored by Brooklyn's Democratic leaders. She also spent $1,140 at Craft Clerical Clothes on West 37th Street, where judicial robes are sold. Another $930 went for two months' worth of parking in a garage at her and her husband's home, on East 74th Street. As in Manhattan, not Brooklyn.

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