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Judge Robin Garson Directed to Answer Questions

After a judge rejected her claim of privilege, Civil Court Judge Robin Garson yesterday answered questions that she had refused to address a week earlier before a Brooklyn grand jury. The grand jury is probing whether Supreme Court Justice Michael B. Garson mishandled his elderly aunt’s finances. Sources said that last week Judge Robin Garson had invoked attorney-client privilege in refusing to answer questions concerning what Justice Michael Garson may have said concerning the funds at a family meeting with a lawyer. Judge Robin Garson is married to Justice Michael Garson’s cousin, Brooklyn Justice Gerald Garson, who has been indicted on bribery charges. According to a court-appointed attorney, while Justice Michael Garson was in charge of his aunt’s finances, he gave $335,000 to himself and Justice Gerald Garson. The family has said the gifts were part of a plan to qualify the aunt for Medicaid. Yesterday, Brooklyn Administrative Judge Neil Jon Firetog, who is supervising the grand jury, rejected the privilege claim, and Judge Robin Garson answered the prosecutor’s questions, her lawyer, Michael Washor, confirmed. — Daniel Wise

Senate Passes ‘Deadbeat Parent’ Bill

The state Senate yesterday passed legislation that would bar “deadbeat parents” from collecting Workers’ Compensation death benefits on behalf of children they abandoned. Senator Guy Velella’s bill, S6813, was prompted by two recent Appellate Division, Third Department, rulings involving single men who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. Both men had essentially been abandoned as children by their fathers and raised by their mothers. However, the court said that since the Workers’ Compensation Law provides a death benefit to the surviving parent — with no caveat for parents who abandon their children — the fathers are entitled to half the benefit. The legislation by the Bronx Republican would disqualify parents who abandoned or failed to financially support their children before the age of 21. The bill was sent to the Assembly. — John Caher

Halligan Directed to Respond to Spargo’s Writ

The U.S. Supreme Court has directed Solicitor General Caitlin J. Halligan to file a response to state Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo’s writ of certiorari. The Albany judge is battling with the Commission on Judicial Conduct over various allegations, including several involving political conduct. Last year, after Northern District Judge David N. Hurd held several provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct facially unconstitutional, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit invoked the abstention doctrine and said the matter did not belong in federal court. Justice Spargo and two citizen co-plaintiffs have applied for leave to the U.S. Supreme Court. Frequently, the state declines to reply to such motions, which the high court usually rejects. Here, however, the high court has directed Ms. Halligan to respond to Justice Spargo’s application and to provide 40 copies plus proof of service by Tuesday. — John Caher

High Court Refuses to Hear State Tax Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a New York law professor who challenged the state’s tax policy. Edward A. Zelinsky, a resident of Connecticut who teaches tax law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, has been fighting a tax scheme that results in him paying personal income tax to two states on the same proceeds. Mr. Zelinsky, joined by the Connecticut attorney general, sought leave to the Supreme Court after his arguments were rejected by the state courts. — John Caher

Film Festival Dinner Cancels CLE Program

The Appellate Division, First Department, CLE program “Family Court Appeals” scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled due to the Tribeca Film Festival Gala Dinner, which will be held in the Rotunda of 60 Centre Street that evening. The CLE program will be rescheduled for September.

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