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A judge described as well-suited to handling the challenges of a tabloid-fodder case that is likely to last two months is scheduled to preside over opening statements today in the trial of the son and a lawyer of socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor, who are accused of looting her estate. Attorneys who have appeared before Acting Supreme Court Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr. ( See Profile) say that the former prosecutor is “extremely patient,” even-handed and never loses his cool. Justice Bartley is “the ideal judge for the Astor case,” said defense lawyer Robert C. Gottlieb, because “he will not be affected by the outside pressures that come with a high-profile case.” Justice Bartley, 60, has handled the case since the arraignment of Ms. Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, and lawyer Francis X. Morrissey in late 2007. From March 30 to April 15, he shepherded hundreds of potential jurors through his courtroom in a meticulous, multi-tiered process. He apologized for the lengthy nature of the process but said, “We have to get it right. There isn’t any margin for error, and we can’t truncate or shorten it.” Among the potential witnesses that could be heard by the seven-woman, five-man jury are Henry Kissinger, Barbara Walters, David Rockefeller and Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations. Mr. Marshall is accused of stealing more than $60 million from his mother while he was managing her affairs under a power of attorney. Ms. Astor died in August 2007 at the age of 105. The prosecution claims Mr. Marshall took advantage her frail condition and Alzheimer’s disease to manipulate her into changing her will. Mr. Morrissey is charged as an accomplice in the alleged scheme to reorder her will and with forging her name to a codicil, amending the 2004 will. Both defendants have denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Marshall, 84, faces a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years if convicted of first-degree grand larceny, the most serious of 16 counts he has been charged with. Mr. Morrissey, 66, could be sentenced to a maximum of 2 1/3 to seven years on the top of six counts against him, second-degree forgery. Veteran Prosecutor Before his appointment to the bench in 1997, Justice Bartley spent 17 years in the Queens District Attorney’s Office, where he handled many of the office’s most prominent cases, including the prosecution of four men who were convicted of the execution-style slaying of rookie police officer Edward Byrne as he guarded a witness. Robert Masters, a member of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown’s executive staff, said that Justice Bartley was on a short list of prosecutors maintained by Mr. Brown and his predecessor, John J. Santucci, for assignment to the office’s most critical and difficult cases. Lawyers who have tried cases before Justice Bartley and those who had dealings with him when he was a prosecutor described him as thorough, even-handed and unflappable. The one complaint voiced by defense lawyers was that sometimes the bespectacled Justice Bartley speaks so softly he is difficult to hear. Earl S. Ward, who tried a murder case before Justice Bartley, said he had expected the judge “to be pro-prosecution, but he wasn’t.” On the bench he maintains “a “deadpan style” and “never loses his cool,” Mr. Ward said. “He is extremely patient,” Mr. Ward said, letting both sides air their arguments at length. Barry Apfelbaum, a lawyer with New York County Defender Services, said Justice Bartley exhibited “incredible patience” in handling “a very difficult client” during a 2006 trial. The client on three occasions balked at entering the courtroom from the holding area, Mr. Apfelbaum recounted. Despite the pressure to keep things moving mid-trial, Mr. Apfelbaum said, Justice Bartley let him confer with his client, a move that twice resolved the impasse. The third time, Justice Bartley had to issue a “force order,” Mr. Apfelbaum said. Despite the problems the client caused—he refused to stipulate to anything—Mr. Apfelbaum said Justice Bartley did not let the client’s recalcitrant behavior “affect his judgment and did the right thing” by sentencing him to the minimum possible term. Michael Coleman, the director of defender services, said Justice Bartley is one of the judges that lawyers from his office “like being sent to most.” The defenders office has handled at least three trials before Justice Bartley since he was promoted by the Office of Court Administration to handle felony trials in 2006. ‘Calm in the Storm’ Overall, Justice Bartley, whose main assignment is to try cases, has handled more than 50 felony trials in Supreme Court. During his years in Criminal Court in Manhattan, he presided over about 300 trials. Mr. Gottlieb said that in politically charged cases Justice Bartley had “always been the calm in the storm no matter how loud and contentious the proceedings became.” Mr. Gottlieb has tried two criminal cases before the judge involving political protests. One arose from a local incident involving Cindy Sheehan, who attracted national publicity from her stints camping out near former President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch to protest the war in Iraq. The other case stemmed from the arrest of June Brashares, who was removed from the floor of the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden after she hoisted an antiwar placard during Mr. Bush’s acceptance speech. Mr. Gottlieb, who heads a four- lawyer criminal defense firm, said Justice Bartley will sometimes use “a wry sense of humor” to defuse tense situations. Often the witty remarks are delivered “so quietly that you have to say, excuse me,” Mr. Gottlieb said. Stephen J. Singer, a leader of the criminal defense bar in Queens, recalled that Justice Bartley had the same type of deliberative, even-keeled style as a prosecutor that he has exhibited as a judge. As the head of a trial bureau in the Queens office, Justice Bartley was routinely involved in plea discussions, said Mr. Singer, of Sparrow, Singer & Schreiber in Kew Gardens. “He was very reasonable, fair and flexible—very concerned about doing the right thing,” Mr. Singer said. As a bureau chief, he was “a gem of a guy” in a group that tended to be “very hard-nosed, tough.” Tried Gotti Case In addition to prosecuting the cases involving Officer Byrne, the rookie officer who was murdered, Justice Bartley tried the first criminal case against now-deceased Gambino family boss John Gotti. The case, which involved an alleged assault arising from a traffic dispute, was dismissed after the complaining witness said he could not recall anything about the incident. Justice Bartley also prosecuted a case that resulted in a bouncer who killed an off-duty police officer being sentenced to at least 30 years in prison. In a fourth high-profile assignment, he handled the initial stages of the so-called Zodiac case, where a gunman who had killed three and wounded six was on the loose in New York City for more than six years before being apprehended. Justice Bartley was appointed to the bench by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani shortly after suppression hearings in the Zodiac case were completed. Justice Bartley grew up in Douglaston, Queens, and is a product of the New York City public school system. His father had a senior management position at NCR, a company that now produces computerized products including cash registers. His mother was a homemaker. He earned his undergraduate degree from John Jay College and his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law. Admitted in 1978, he worked for a private firm for two years before joining the Queens prosecutor’s office in 1980. He is married, has two school-age children and enjoys sailing in his spare time. @

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