Judge Who Presided Over 770 Case Kicked Off Bench



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    Judge Who Presided Over 770 Case Kicked Off Bench

    Judge Harriet Thompson, one of two elected judges serving in Surrogate’s Court in Kings County, has been relieved of her duties and is no longer allowed in nonpublic parts of the Johnson St. courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, according to a memo from the Office of Court Administration Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks. Judge Thompson is known in Lubavitch circles for ruling last spring in the highly contested 770 case against the gabboim • Full Story

    NY Daily News

    A Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court judge was booted off the bench Friday amid allegations of bias and discrimination, the Daily News has learned.

    Judge Harriet Thompson, one of two elected judges serving in Surrogate’s Court in Kings County, has been relieved of her duties and is no longer allowed in nonpublic parts of the Johnson St. courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, according to a memo from the Office of Court Administration Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks.

    “Based on serious allegations of bias and discrimination, confirmed by an investigation by our Inspector General, Surrogate Court Judge Harriet Thompson has been relieved of her case docket, effective immediately, and the matter referred to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for further action as they deem appropriate,” said Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for OCA.

    The allegations that led to Thompson’s dismissal were not made public. The memo only noted an “extensive investigation” that had substantiated “serious allegations of misconduct.”

    Chalfen said that an acting surrogate will soon be named. Thompson’s cases will be reassigned.

    “I am stunned. She’s an elected official so this seems pretty serious to me,” said a Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court source. “No one knows what it’s about.”

    Judge Thompson spoke cryptically about the situation when reached by The News.

    “You know what really happened. You know better than I do,” she said.

    “I don’t want to be rude because I know Shabbat will be coming soon tonight. They’re gonna do what they’re going to do and I’ll do what I’m going to do,” she added.

    The judge has made unprompted remarks about Judaism at least three times when contacted by a News reporter who has covered dysfunction in Surrogate’s Court for nearly a year.

    The little-known courthouse handles litigation in which dead peoples’ estates are meted out to heirs and creditors.

    Thompson was tangled in a messy legal battle with Public Administrator Richard Buckheit, a city official who works in Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court. Buckheit was appointed by the two Surrogate’s judges and is responsible for handling estates of Brooklynites who died without wills. But Thompson suspended him from handling her cases in 2020, resulting in judicial gridlock at the courthouse.

    Thompson claimed in a 2019 letter to Marks that Buckheit exclusively hired “young white males” in his office, which he denied.

    “I don’t think you should handle my dockets at all. That is what I think,” Thompson told Buckheit during a heated court proceeding that year, according to a transcript. “Until … we can develop a working relationship that is not hostile … I don’t really think you should be handling my docket.”

    Buckheit has accused Thompson of homophobia.

    “Judge Thompson has made false … homophobic allegations against me to others including my staff,” Buckheit wrote in a 2020 complaint to the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct. “She has made it increasingly difficult for me to carry out my responsibilities as the Public Administrator.”

    Attorneys and a litigant criticized Thompson in August for stalling on cases and delaying payouts to heirs.

    Thompson is the latest Brooklyn surrogate to leave in disgrace, following Michael Feinberg and Frank Seddio, who left the bench in 2005 and 2007, respectively, amid allegations of misconduct.

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    Judge Who Presided Over 770 Case Kicked Off Bench



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