Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who's Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Judge Leonard Sandler

A very close friend of Ed Koch's. Special kudos to the Judge for presiding over the disbarment of Roy Cohn
Leonard H. Sandler Is Dead at 62; New York Appellate Court Justice, October 25, 1988: Justice Leonard H. Sandler of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, who administered the oath of office to Mayor Koch for each of his three terms, died Sunday at St. Vincent's Hospital. He was 62 years old and lived in Manhattan.
Justice Leonard H. Sandler of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, who administered the oath of office to Mayor Koch for each of his three terms, died Sunday at St. Vincent's Hospital. He was 62 years old and lived in Manhattan.
Justice Sandler, who was elevated to the State Supreme Court in 1975, considered his most important opinion to have been in a 1971 case while he was a Civil Court judge. He ruled that a tenant could not be evicted for refusing to pay rent if the landlord did not provide basic services.
Justice Sandler presided over a five-judge panel that ordered the disbarment of the lawyer Roy Cohn in 1986. The panel called Mr. Cohn's conduct in four legal matters ''unethical,'' ''unprofessional'' and, in one case, ''particularly reprehensible.''
The panel that Justice Sandler led heard evidence that Mr. Cohn had failed to repay a loan from a client until disbarment proceedings began and had misappropriated and misused escrowed property of a client. Painstaking Legal Analyst
Early in his career, when he was a young assistant district attorney prosecuting homicide cases in Manhattan in the late 1950's, his colleagues called him ''the conscience of the homicide bureau.''
''He was the best law man among us,'' one former colleague recalled in 1976, soon after Justice Sandler joined the State Supreme Court. ''Whenever there was a question of what to charge a defendant with, we would turn to him for a careful, painstaking legal analysis.''
As a judge, he displayed crisp writing in his opinions, stripped for the most part of legal jargon. Known among his fellow judges as a scholar of the law, he contributed to this image by wearing tweed jackets and, in his early years on the bench, puffing on a pipe. He later switched to cigars, which he smoked in his chambers and in his law secretary's car, but never at home.
In 1976, Justice Sandler was named to preside over the special grand juries that heard evidence gathered by Maurice H. Nadjari, a special state prosecutor who investigated political corruption.
Mr. Nadjari was subsequently removed after obtaining indictments based on what legal authorities considered to be weak evidence. In one proceeding, Justice Sandler found that Mr. Nadjari had a ''sparse'' case against Patrick J. Cunningham, who was the Bronx Democratic county chairman at the time. Mr. Nadjari had accused Mr. Cunningham of being ''at the center of the corrupt marketplace of judgeships in the Bronx.'' A Diversity of Cases
Other cases Justice Sandler decided during his years on the court involved plaintiffs and defendants as diverse as the police, bicycle messengers and preservationists opposing the dismantling of the Biltmore Hotel.
In 1985, he wrote the majority opinion in a 3-to-1 decision ordering the reinstatement of a city police officer who had been dismissed two years earlier for posing nude for magazine photos. She was a civilian employee of the Police Department at the time the photos were taken.
In his opinion, Justice Sandler held that Robert J. McGuire, who was the Police Commissioner at the time, lacked the jurisdiction to discipline the officer, Cibella R. Borges, for actions that occurred before her appointment as an officer.
The justice rejected the Police Department's position that although she had not been a sworn officer when she posed for the photos, her employment as a civilian aide placed her in a ''special circumstance'' that subjected her to disciplinary proceedings and dismissal for misconduct.
Justice Sandler said the city's administrative code ''can scarcely be clearer in conveying its intent that the disciplinary authority conferred extends to behavior occurring while a person is 'a member of the force.' ''
Last year, he halted an experimental ban on bicyclists in midtown Manhattan for a week. He said the city could not issue summonses to bicyclists until after the trial judge in the case, Acting Justice Edward H. Lehner, had ruled on a suit brought by cyclists and messenger service companies.
No decision on the right of patients suing psychotherapists for malpractice
The Biltmore case went before him in 1981. With wreckers poised outside the hotel, on 43d Street at Madison Avenue, Justice Sandler granted an order delaying demolition until opponents could appear at a hearing and explain why they thought portions of the hotel were worthy of landmark status.
Born Oct. 16, 1926, in the Bronx, he moved with his family to the Lower East Side of Manhattan when he was 8 years old, and graduated from Seward Park High School when he was 15. Columbia Law Review Editor
He attended City College, from which he graduated cum laude in 1946, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After service in the Air Force, he enrolled at Columbia Law School, where he became editor of the law review.
For the next two years, he was an associate with the law firm of Cleary, Berger, Gottlieb, Friendly & Hamilton, which he left in 1954 to begin seven years as an assistant district attorney under the Manhattan District Attorney, Frank S. Hogan.
From 1963 to 1970, he was a partner in the firm of Kasanof & Sandler, specializing in criminal litigation.
He was appointed to an interim term on the Civil Court in 1970 and was elected to a 10-year term in November of that year. He was designated an acting State Supreme Court justice for a three-month period in 1972 and held several other temporary appointments before Gov. Hugh L. Carey announced that he would name him to the State Supreme Court bench. However, the appointment never took place and he was elected instead.
Justice Sandler had been active in liberal Democratic politics until he became a judge and had been a member of civil-liberties groups.
He is survived by his wife, Alice; his mother, Hilda, of San Francisco; a brother, Herbert, of Oakland, Calif.; a nephew and a niece.

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