Free legal workshop offered to small biz owners

If you own a small business in the Lower Hudson Valley, mark your calendar for March 26. That’s when the Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) is sponsoring a free legal workshop and clinic to help local entrepreneurs better understand business structures, intellectual property, employment law and real estate.

Goldman Sachs, Jackson Lewis LLP and the Westchester Women’s Bar Association are co-sponsoring the three-hour program, which starts at 5 p.m. in the lobby board room of 1133 Westchester Ave.  A panel of attorneys will be available, so participants should come with questions in hand.

While the workshop is free, registration is required.

Judges, lawyers honored at Black History Month reception

The Westchester Black Bar Association will honor the lead attorney in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case tonight at Yvonne’s House of Soul Restaurant in Mount Vernon.

Robert L. Carter, (pictured, right) who died January 3 at 94 years old, was lead counsel in the historic desegregation case and a leader in the campaign against Jim Crow Laws across the country. He later became senior  judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Others being honored at the reception will be Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau; Seymour W. James, Jr., a top attorney at the Legal Aid Society in New York City and the incoming president of the New York State Bar Association; attorney Theodore M. Shaw, the former president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; attorney Barry A. Cozier, a former associate appellate judge; Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Fern A. Fisher, a former deputy director of Harlem Legal Services; and attorney Theodore V. Wells,  who the National Law Journal named as one of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers” in 2010.

Tickets for tonight’s reception are available at

Lau competency hearing in murder case continues

The prosecution of Eric Lau on charges of murdering his gym teacher-neighbor in November 2009 is going into reruns.

Close to 27 months after gym teacher Jamie Erlich was slashed to death inside her Lake Road condominium in Valley Cottage, the issue of whether her neighbor is competent to stand trial and help in his own defense is continuing before state Supreme Court Justice William A. Kelly at the Rockland County Courthouse in New City.

The possibility exists for a second competency hearing. His next court appearance is Wednesday.

After a hearing last April , Kelly sent Lau to an upstate mental health institution for review. After several months,  two psychiatrists found Lau competent. He was later sent back to another state institution by Rockland County mental health officials at the jail.

Two more state psychiatrists recently found Lau competent and felt he was faking the symptons – a view taken by a pyschiatrist for the prosecution last April even  though a  county psychiatrist and psychologist found him incompetent.

The reports were filed with the court on Wednesday.

Lau’s lawyer, Bruce Klein, must decided whether to challenge the latest findings. A  defense psychiatrist will first review the reports and possibly talk with Lau. in the Rockland County jail in New City.

.A prosecution psychiatrists found Lau competent and faking his symptons. Lau doesn’t talk in court unless asked a direct question, standing or sitting hunched over stiffly and staring down or straight ahead.

Lau, who had a history of violence and mental health issues as a youth. Lau also is charged with twice assaulting jail corrections officers.

At right, photos of Eric Lau and Jami Erlich

Westchester DA honored by women’s group

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore (pictured, right) will be inducted into the Women’s Research and Education Fund’s hall of fame next month.

The group said it chose DiFiore, a Bronxville resident, in part for her “special concern for domestic violence victims and her significant measurable contributions to the quality of life for Westchester women.” She will join a list that includes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, famed caterer Abigail Kirsch, actress and activist Ruby Dee and former Republican Assemblywoman Cecile Singer.

A posthumous hall of fame award will be given to Karen Z. Bell, who worked for more than 20 years as a court-appointed law guardian for children. Bell helped to create the Moderate Means Panel at Pace Women’s Justice Center where lawyers work agree to work for reduced pay to help struggling women.

WREF also will recognize 66 young women in Westchester who were chosen for college scholarships totaling $205,500.

The scholarship luncheon will take place on Friday, March 30, at the Hilton Rye Town. For tickets or more information, go to or call 914-305-5111.

Longtime Scarsdale resident, attorney, dies at 101

About a year ago, I wrote a story about George C. Seward, a longtime Scarsdale resident and lawyer who was still regularly commuting to his New York City office as he was approaching 100 years old.

I just received a call that he died this morning, and that a memorial service will be held some time later this year.

This is the notice that his office sent for those who knew him — and for those who didn’t:

NEW YORK (February 15, 2012) — George Chester Seward, the Honorary Life President of the International Bar Association based in London and founding partner of Seward & Kissel LLP, a New York City based law firm, died on February 15, 2012, at his home in Scarsdale, New York. He was 101.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our mentor and friend, George Seward,” said John Tavss, Managing Partner.

In 1953, Mr. Seward joined Meyer, Kidder, Matz & Kissel, the law firm that would later become Seward & Kissel.

Mr. Seward was born August 4, 1910 in Omaha, Nebraska.  His parents, both deceased, were Frank G. Seward and Ada L. Rugh Seward.  He had one brother, Leslie Rugh Seward, who died at age eight in a swimming accident.

He devoted himself principally to his law practice and was well known as a business lawyer and director of a number of companies.  He became a partner of Seward & Kissel in 1953 and under his leadership the Firm became a well-known business law firm, recognized world-wide for its work with clients in the private investment/hedge fund, banking and transportation (shipping) industries.

Mr. Seward was a partner at Seward & Kissel until December 1983 and had been Senior Counsel to the Firm since that date, maintaining his strong work ethic by working at the Firm three or four days a week through the end of 2011.

Mr. Seward was an active member of the American Bar Association as chairman of a committee that developed a model corporation act to govern the creation and operation of business corporations, which is used in whole or part by more than half of the American States.  Mr. Seward was Chairman of the ABA’s Section on Business Law and a member for fourteen years of its governing body, the House of Delegates.  In addition, he became involved on behalf of the ABA in the International Bar Association in the early 1960s when the IBA was a federation of Bar Associations.  Mr. Seward played a key role in developing the IBA into a world organization of business lawyers as well as a world organization of bar associations.  Mr. Seward, as the organizing chairman of the individual member side of the IBA, became its Honorary President-Founder and the IBA made him its Honorary Life President.  Three heads of state – Rajiv Gandhi of India, Dr. Mario Soares of Portugal, and Hon. Arpad Goncz of Hungary – have, on invitation from the IBA, given “George Seward” lectures.

Among the other organizations in which Mr. Seward had been involved as an officer or trustee are University of Virginia Arts & Sciences Council (president), Phi Beta Kappa Associates, a fundraising arm of the United Chapters (president), Edwin Gould Foundation for Children (trustee), New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (trustee), and the American Bar Foundation Special Committee on Model Corporation Acts (chairman).

Mr. Seward was the author of Basic Corporate Practice and co-author of Model Business Corporation Act Annotated.  In addition, he authored a book, Seward and Related Families, about his branch of the Seward family that mentions his unusual elementary education.  He transferred frequently among schools in Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois and Indiana as required by his father’s business activity.  He said he failed a term in an early grade, possibly due in part to the transferring, but ultimately graduated from Louisville (Kentucky) Male High School, cum laude, and the University of Virginia, where he received a B.A. degree and an LL.B. degree, Phi Beta Kappa, Order of the Coif and was a member of the University’s Raven Society.

Mr. Seward was distantly related to William H. Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State.  They share the Secretary’s great-grandfather as a common direct ancestor.

Mr. Seward’s wife of 54 years, Carroll Frances McKay Seward of Suffolk, Virginia, died in 1991.  He is survived by four children:  Gordon Day Seward, Patricia McKay Seward (Mrs. Dryden Grant Liddle), Dr. James Pickett Seward and Deborah Carroll Seward (Mrs. Roy Thomas Coleman), five grandchildren:  Andrew Gordon Seward, Dryden Jonathan Liddle, Ashley Shiona Liddle (Mrs. Andrew James Cole), Eric Thomas Coleman and Paige Carroll Coleman, and seven great grandchildren, Nichole (“Nikki”) Elizabeth Seward, Thomas (“TJ”) Joseph Seward, Connor Stephen Seward, Thea Patricia Emily Cole, Sofie Shiona Isobel Cole, Beatrice Jennifer McKay Cole and Alastair William Dryden Liddle.

Mr. Seward was a member of a number of social clubs, including:  New York Yacht Club, The Knickerbocker Club and The Down Town Association in New York City; Scarsdale Golf Club in Scarsdale, NY; Gardiner’s Bay Golf Club and Shelter Island Yacht Club in Shelter Island, NY; Greencroft of Charlottesville, VA; Metropolitan Club of Washington, D.C.; University Club of Chicago, IL; and the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, CA.

Family members and the partners of Seward & Kissel are planning a celebration of his life to be held this spring at the Down Town Association.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests a gift to either the donor’s own charity or to University of Virginia to be added to the George and Carroll Seward Fund for scholarships, University of Virginia Development Office, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400220, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4220.

Desk of the DA: Victims’ Services in Westchester

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore’s monthly message for February is about services offered to crime victims and their families in the county:

Crime can have serious physical, psychological, financial and other effects on victims. As District Attorney and a former judge, I know how frightening and overwhelming it can be for victims who, through no fault of their own, come into contact with the criminal justice system. This is why I consider the Victim’s Justice Center (VJC) of the District Attorney’s Office an essential part of our mission to provide support to crime victims and their families.

In 2010, over 7,300 members of the community received assistance, information and guidance at the VJC, which is located in the District Attorney’s Office in the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains. VJC services are free of charge. The multi-lingual staff provides information about victims’ rights, safety planning, and resources available to them.

The VJC offers counseling and therapy at its offices, as well as referrals for support groups for families of homicide victims and victims of rape, childhood sexual assault, incest and elder abuse. The staff of the VJC provides referrals to shelters or safe houses if appropriate, as well as referrals to other agencies for services tailored to victims’ needs and the type of crime. VJC counselors accompany victims and their families to criminal court proceedings and provide interpreters to assist with translation if necessary. VJC staff assist victims in preparing victim impact statements to be read in court at the time of sentencing of a convicted offender.

The VJC provides help with applications for financial assistance from the New York State Office of Victim Services to compensate victims for lost income, funeral expenses for victims of homicide, medical and counseling expenses and loss of essential personal property. The VJC connects victims and their families to New York’s Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) Program which provides prisoner status and release dates for convicted felony offenders in the state prison system.

At the District Attorney’s Office, we understand that victims of crimes, especially violent crimes, may lose their sense of personal safety and security. Taking the first steps by reporting the crime and seeking assistance can make a difference in moving forward. If you are a victim of a crime, contact your local police department to report it immediately. If you need help coping with the physical, psychological and financial impact of the crime, please contact the VJC for assistance.

Kung Fu grandmaster guilty of all charges in Westchester court

After a little more than two days of deliberations, a jury found Frank DeMaria guilty of nine charges that he directed four young girls to touch his genitals at his former martial arts studio in Croton on Hudson.

DeMaria,one of the highest-ranking martial arts experts in the country, has vehemently denied that he ever had any of his students to touch him inappropriately, including the hundreds of children he has taught in the past 50 years. He called the allegations “disgusting.” His family and supporters backed him up, as did two former students who said they never saw him sexually abuse anyone in his classes.

But his reputation was not enough to counter the testimony of the girls, who are now between 9 and 13 years old, nor the testimony of a male student who said he saw DeMaria abuse an 8-year-old girl in December 2010 and January 2011. Another male student backed up the January 2011 allegation.

DeMaria faces up to 7 years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 8, but he also could be sentenced to probation. In either case, he will likely have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.


Kung Fu in the courtroom

It’s not every day that you get a Buddhist fighting monk to testify at a trial. But when the defendant is Kung Fu grandmaster Frank DeMaria, it makes perfect sense.

Shi Guo Lin brought some action — and a laugh — to the courtroom of Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli today when he took the stand as a defense witness. DeMaria, his friend and Kung Fu brother, is facing felony sex abuse charges for allegedly directing four young female students to grope him during class.

Guo Lin, who does not speak fluent English, did some Kung Fu moves for the jury to demonstrate a groin strike that DeMaria claims he was teaching the girls when two adult male students saw him and accused him of abuse. He showed some other kicks and punches in front of the jury box as defensive moves during an attack.

Assistant District Attorney Christine Cervasio asked Guo Lin about the “tiger claw,” a phrase to describe a groin attack he did not understand in English and that the Mandarin interpreter could not translate.

“Could you demonstrate so I could see what it looks like?” he asked the prim, polished prosecutor. The image of Cervasio, or any of the lawyers, doing Kung Fu caused the courtroom to erupt in laughter.  The judge, with a smile, said there would be no demonstrations and that DeMaria could tell his lawyer the Mandarin word for the tiger claw move so he could inform his witness.

DeMaria, left, and Guo Lin in happier times. Photo from, the American Center of Chinese Studies website.