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Judge Dismisses Manslaughter Charges in Stair Mishap Case

A Brooklyn judge yesterday dismissed a manslaughter indictment against a woman who watched her mother fall down the stairs and then left her there for five hours. The court said the woman was guilty of poor judgment but not her mother’s death. Paula Sanford, a geriatric nurse, said that she and her mother were in an argument last September when her mother began shaking her finger at her. Ms. Sanford said she grabbed her mother’s finger and her mother pulled it away, causing the 87-year-old to fall down the stairs. Ms. Sanford said that when she tried to help, her mother ordered her to leave. Ms. Sanford returned five hours later and found her mother at the bottom of the stairs. She called 911 but her mother was dead when a rescue crew arrived. Ms. Sanford initially told investigators she arrived home to find her mother unconscious, but later admitted to having an argument and witnessing the fall. “In hindsight, it is clear that [Ms. Sanford] should have persisted in her effort to assist her mother,” Acting Supreme Court Justice Matthew J. D’Emic wrote in People v. Sanford, 6893/03. “Ms. Sanford’s leaving for five hours was a mistake, causing the direst consequence. Yet, it was not criminal.” A spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said the office will appeal the ruling. Ms. Sanford’s attorney, Christopher Renfroe, said, “I don’t think there’s any way that this is a crime.” Ms. Sanford could have faced 15 years in prison. The decision will be published Wednesday. — Tom Perrotta

Spitzer Settles with Distributors of Medical Discount Cards

In an effort to curb abuse in the distribution of medical discount cards, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has issued guidelines to govern the industry while settling with two of its distributors yesterday. Mr. Spitzer said in a statement that one of the companies, Medadvantage, “falsely claimed savings of up to 50 percent on prescriptions.” The distributor enrolled 5,700 subscribers in New York. NAPP/Family Care, with 2,100 in-state subscribers, also settled. Investigators said NAPP/Family Care had lied in its advertisements by claiming savings reaching 80 percent for users of its discount cards. Each company settled for a nominal amount — $10,000 for NAPP/Family Care and $15,000 for Medadvantage — and agreed to correct their deceptive practices. Mr. Spitzer issued guidelines to curb further abuse. About 2 million New Yorkers use the cards, Mr. Spitzer said. — Michael Bobelian

Courts to Celebrate Law Day

The theme of the Unified Court System’s Law Day 2004 commemoration will focus on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. As part of the celebration tomorrow in Albany, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and the other judges of the Court of Appeals will join Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman as he presents five employees with Merit Performance Awards: Senior Court Officer Albert Alfano, Bronx Supreme Court; Brooklyn Court Officer Leroy Davis, Red Hook Community Justice Center; Chief Clerk Martha Farbo-Lincoln, Niagara Falls City Court; Principal Law Clerk Ignatius Muscarella, Nassau County Supreme Court; and Senior Court Office Assistant Amy Serson, Rensselaer County Family Court. The event begins at noon at the Court of Appeals, 20 Eagle Street. Meanwhile, in Manhattan on Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will commemorate Law Day with a reenactment of the oral arguments in Brown. The event begins at 10 a.m. in the 9th floor Ceremonial Courtroom of the Daniel P. Moynihan U.S. Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street.

Personal Notes on Lawyers

•Bickel & Brewer partner P. Kent Correll was recently appointed an Appellate Division Special Master to conduct pre-argument conferences and mediation in appellate matters pending.

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