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Three divorce litigants whose cases were before indicted Brooklyn Justice Gerald P. Garson have produced enough information to justify fact-finding hearings to determine if their divorce decrees should be altered, Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline W. Silbermann ruled in a series of decisions made public yesterday. In two of the cases, Justice Silbermann, the statewide administrative judge for matrimonial matters, wrote that the hearings would examine whether there was an improper relationship between one of the attorneys and Justice Garson. In the third case, she said she would examine whether Justice Garson adequately protected the due process interests of an allegedly mentally impaired litigant. Justice Garson’s attorney in the criminal case, Ronald P. Fischetti, said yesterday that the hearings “will disclose that Justice Garson did absolutely nothing improper.” “All of the cases were settled, all but one of the parties was represented by counsel,” Mr. Fischetti added, “and everything was done in open court and on the record.” In five other decisions, Justice Silbermann dismissed claims that divorce cases handled by Justice Garson should be re-examined. The first of the eight decisions was issued on March 9. In the wake of criminal charges against Justice Garson, Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman issued an order last July authorizing Justice Silbermann to entertain applications from parties whose cases had been before the Brooklyn judge to re-open their divorce decrees. Justice Silbermann recruited volunteer attorneys to represent parties requesting a rehearing, and eventually more than two dozen lawyers stepped forward. The eight decisions issued so far resolved all the cases that have been argued to date. Two others are scheduled for argument in May. Justice Silbermann has not set a deadline for the filing of requests to have cases re-opened. Justice Garson was indicted last April on felony misconduct charges that he gave ex parte advice to a lawyer who frequently appeared before him in exchange for gratuities such as meals, drinks and in one instance, a box of cigars. The judge was also accused of accepting a $1,000 referral fee from the lawyer, Paul Siminovsky, who was often appointed by Justice Garson to serve as law guardian for children caught in the middle of heated divorces. Mr. Siminovsky also frequently represented parties in divorce cases before Justice Garson. In August the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office upgraded the charges to bribery, obtaining an indictment accusing Justice Garson of giving Mr. Siminovsky tens of thousands of dollars worth of appointments as a law guardian in exchange for thousands of dollars of free meals and drinks. Of the three cases set for a rehearing, only one involved Mr. Siminovsky. In that case, Noto v. Noto, No. 6137/01, which will be published Wednesday, one side claimed the outcome had been tainted by an improper relationship between Mr. Siminovsky and Justice Garson. The husband, Salvatore C. Noto, claimed that because of that relationship the case had been allowed to be improperly filed in Brooklyn and assigned to Justice Garson though neither he nor his estranged wife resided in that borough. Mr. Noto also charged that he felt pressured to agree to a stipulation after a session with Justice Garson from which he had been excluded. After the court session, Mr. Noto claimed, Mr. Siminovsky advised him that Justice Garson would not apply the Child Support Standards Act in determining child support. Justice Silbermann found that combination of the alleged improper relationship and circumstances surrounding the settlement warranted a fact-finding hearing. Those claims “create an appearance defendant [Mr. Noto] may not have been afforded due process,” the standard a litigant must meet to justify altering a preexisting decree. But the judge also made it clear that she would not order a hearing where the only claim was that Mr. Siminovsky represented one of the parties. In Harriott v. Harriott, 40624/10, the judge denied a motion to open up a case where, even though Mr. Siminovsky represented the wife, Urselyn Harriott, her husband, Granville, had acknowledged that he could not point to any specific acts of misconduct by either Mr. Siminovsky or Justice Garson. In Steinberg v. Steinberg, 35420/87, Justice Silbermann ordered a hearing to explore whether there was a relationship between one of the party’s attorneys and Justice Garson that should have been disclosed. The husband, Alan Steinberg, contended that his wife’s attorney, Israel Goldberg, should have disclosed that he was active in the Brooklyn Democratic Party and he knew Justice Garson in that context. Justice Silbermann noted that she had made no finding that such a relationship existed, but said that if one did exist, “this Court believes the plaintiff may well have been entitled to disclosure of that fact.” Robert Liff, a spokesman for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said that Mr. Goldberg had been the party’s law chairman, but that he served in that position after Justice Garson joined the bench in 1997. Before being elected to the Supreme Court, Justice Garson had been the party’s treasurer, Mr. Liff added. In the third case, Tamir v. Tamir, 2304/02, Justice Silbermann ordered a hearing to determine whether Justice Garson had adequately protected the husband’s due process rights. Mike Moshe Tamir claimed he signed a stipulation of settlement at a court appearance where he was unrepresented by counsel despite his having been disabled by a stroke, which caused associated mental health problems. Justice Silbermann ordered a hearing, noting that she was “not sanguine” that Mr. Tamir had the mental ability to represent himself at the court appearance when the settlement was signed. The husband in Noto was represented by Franklin S. Bonem and the wife by Matthew Guiney. In the Steinberg case, the husband was represented by Robert Z. Dobrish of Dobrish & Wrubel and Martin E. Friedlander represented the wife. In the Tamir case, the husband was represented by Dylan S. Mitchell of Blank Rome Tenzer Greenblatt and the wife by Adam J. Edelstein of The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown.

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