The Disturbing Case of the Estate of Judge John L. Phillips
“The Brooklyn Supreme Court Guardianship Program has been hijacked by Mafia-style crime”, charges Reverend Samuel Boykin, court-appointed guardian for Judge John Phillips, the “Kung Fu Judge.” Phillips was a Brooklyn Civil Court Judge for 13 years serving two terms between 1976 and 1994. Boykin is the first family member in a long line of court-appointed guardians to take charge of Judge Phillips’ estate after he was declared mentally incompetent by District Attorney Charles Hynes’ office in 2001.
His story should serve as a cautionary tale for all.
“Judge John L. Phillips said to me regularly that if all of these illegal activities can be successfully committed against a judge, they can be committed against anyone,” says Reverend Boykin.
That the tale is long and sordid is a matter of record. Writing in Our Time Press in 2007, reporter Mary Alice Miller has chronicled many of the misdeeds and charges. The New York Law Journal has had extensive coverage. In the hands of judge-appointed guardians, the estate has gone from a value of over $10 million to $18,000 and three properties, including the famous Slave Theater on Harriet Ross Tubman Avenue, aka Fulton Street.
So far only Maria Leyna Albertina and attorney Emani P. Taylor have paid a price for their roles in the saga. Ms. Albertina was sentenced in January to 5-15 years for mortgage fraud activity, some of which involved Judge Phillips’ property. Attorney Taylor, a former interim guardian for Judge Phillips, has been suspended from the practice of law. As reported in the New York Law Journal, January 2008, a unanimous panel of Justices in the Appellate Division wrote that, “At a minimum, [Taylor] withdrew funds from the guardianship account as legal fees without court permission, at worst, she intentionally converted guardianship funds.” She was later ordered to repay $403,149 for mishandling the Judge’s affairs. An application has been made to The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection to recoup those monies. The fund responded on April 23rd of this year that in addition to needing proof of payment and various other conditions met, “The Fund must await the conclusion of the underlying disciplinary matters pending against Ms. Taylor before proceeding further.”
Of larger concern is what has happened to judicial oversight of the court-appointed guardians and of the whole Guardianship program. As Boykin says in his complaint to Comptroller William Thompson, “There were 12 judges involved in the Judge John L. Phillips Guardianship case, either involved in overseeing the case as presiding judges, issuing decision orders, judicial hearing judges, administrator judges, judges sealing records. We believe none of these judges are legally able to state they were not aware of the illegal activities going on in the Judge John L. Phillips Guardianship case, we believe the case is a good example” of the need for oversight of the Guardianship program.
Reverend Boykin has also filed a complaint with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Public Integrity Bureau. They, in turn, have referred the matter to Ms. Sherrill Spatz, Inspector General of the New York State Unified Court System, writing, “After careful review of the documents, we have determined that the issues mentioned pertain to your office….for whatever action you deem appropriate.”
In his letter to Assistant District Attorney Robert Renzulli in the Asset Forfeiture Bureau of D.A. Charles Hynes’ office, Boykin outlines how the Phillips estate has been systematically looted by mortgage fraud including “illegal conveyances, illegal sales and forgery of deeds.” And he asks if anyone is going to pay for these crimes?
We should start to hear other shoes dropping in this case. If not, then the silence will mark the all clear for business as usual, and the only thing sure other than death and taxes will be mortgage and financial fraud as legal vultures pick over the estates of primarily the weak and sick, but really, anyone at all.