Signing off for the last time

After eight years of covering courts, crime and just about every other topic imaginable, I am leaving The Journal News for a reporting job in New Jersey. This will be my last post on and on Completely Legal, the blog I created in 2008.

State and federal courts in Westchester is in the capable hands of staff writer Erik Shilling. He can be reached at

Rockland County courts will remain the purview of reporter Steve Lieberman, while Putnam County courts will continue to be covered by reporter Terence Corcoran. Their emails, respectively, are and

Bankruptcy firm wins 2012 “family friendly” award

A White Plains bankruptcy firm has been chosen to receive the Westchester Women’s Bar Association’s  2012 Family Friendly Employment Policy Award.

Rattet Pasternak LLP was selected for creating an environment that encourages employees to balance professional and family responsibilities, according to the WWBA.

The WWBA has awarded several other law firms for their family-friendly workplaces, including the White Plains office of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP; The Pace Women’s Justice Center; Hyman & Gilbert; McCarthy, Fingar LLP; Glassman & Brown, LLP; The Westchester Legal Aid Society; Cuddy & Feder, LLP; the White Plains office of Jackson Lewis LLP; The Dorf Law Firm LLP; The Law Firm of Thomas M. Bona P.C.; Benchmark Title Agency; and, last year, Littman Krooks LLP.

Rattet Pasternak will be given the award at the WWBA’s annual dinner on June 13 at the Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club.

With more than 650 male and female members, the WWBA is the largest chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York.

South Nyack man faces sex abuse trial involving young girl

Todd Retallack, 49, of South Nyack went on trial today in Rockland County Court in New City on felony charges of sex abuse involving a girl under the age of 11.

The final two jurors were chosen to the 11-member panel, with several alternates. The prosecution then gave its opening statement to the jury, followed by the defense lawyers.

Testimony opened with the little girl’s mother taking the stand before the jury and Judge William K. Nelson. The girl is expected to testify for the prosecution.

Following a six-month investigation, Retallack, once married with children, was charged with first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. The felony abuse count involves accusations of improper sexual contact with a child younger than 11, according to the state penal law.

South Nyack-Grand View police arrested Retallack in May 2011 after the girl’s father went to the police about six months earlier. Retallack knew the family.

The trial continues on Monday at the Rockland County Courthouse in New City.

Contractors admit to not paying prevailing wages; fines

An Orange County married couple who own a construction company pleaded guilty today in Rockland County Court to defrauding $190,000 in pay and benefits from their employees who worked three municipal sewer jobs in Rockland.

After admitting the knowingly refused to pay state mandated prevailing wages, Diane and Kenneth Deaver and their Schenley Construction Inc. must pay restitution of $638,000 in underpayments to workers, forfeit two vehicles and pay $55,0000 in forfeiture to the Rockland District Attorney’s Office.

As part of their plea to second-degree grand larceny, the Deavers will be barred from bidding or performing public work in New York state for five years.


Guilty plea in West Haverstraw townhouse explosion case

After weeks of negotiations, a Westchester County man pleaded guilty today in Rockland County Court in New City to overseeing the construction work that caused a natural gas leak and explosion that destroyed a West Haverstraw townhouse and nearly killed two volunteer firefighters and two utility company workers.

Fidel Padilla, 53, of 97 Croton Avenue, Cortlandt Manor, and his company, FGC Communications of the same address pleaded guilty before County Court Judge Charles Apotheker.

Padilla pleaded guilty to a felony charge of first-degree reckless endangerment while his company pleaded guilty to the charge of first-degree assault.

Apotheker scheduled sentencing for July 27.


Mamaroneck lawyer to be honored

The Legal Services of the Hudson Valley will honor attorney Jon A. Dorf at the 2012 Equal Access to Justice Dinner on Wednesday, May 23. The ceremony starts at 6 p.m. at the VIP Country Club in New Rochelle.

Dorf (pictured, right) is the Founder and Managing Partner of Dorf & Nelson LLP in Rye.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will be the guest speaker at the fundraising dinner.

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley handles urgent matters such as domestic violence, foreclosures, predatory lending, children’s advocacy and access to food and medical benefits for poor and newly unemployed New Yorkers in Westchester and surrounding counties.

For tickets and information, go to or call 914-355-4806.

Photo courtesy of LSHV

NY Bar Association president marks Law Day with plea for better court funding

This just in from the New York State Bar Association:

In the historic chambers of the state’s highest court, State Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III today stressed the vital importance of a fully funded and operational court system.

“In matters large and small, the Judiciary is the foundation of our freedom,” he said. “The courts defend our fundamental rights, protect public safety and facilitate the peaceful resolution of disputes,” he said. “When the courts suffer, the pain is felt throughout society.”

Doyle delivered his remarks at Law Day ceremonies at the state Court of Appeals where Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman opened the session attended by members of the Court of Appeals, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and other elected officials.

Doyle’s speech reflected a central theme of Law Day being echoed in the legal community across the nation: “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”

Doyle cited a Bar Association report in January that revealed the impact of 2011 budget cuts on the state court. Among the report’s findings: reduced courthouse hours were limiting citizen access to courts and resulting in delays in resolving cases; the jury selection process potentially was being compromised by the prospect of lengthier trials; delays were resulting in criminal suspects spending more time in jail before trial; staff reductions were affecting the ability of the courts to efficiently and effectively dispense with cases; and less assistance was available to litigants who represent themselves in family court and other civil cases.

The report is available at

Doyle said the State Bar Association understands that “government resources are not unlimited,” but when setting spending priorities, elected officials must recognize the fundamental role of the Judiciary in establishing the rule of law.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association, founded in 1876,  is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country.

New lawyers will have to do 50 hours of pro bono work to pass the New York bar

This is one way for the state to help financially-strapped people get the free legal advice they need: a mandate for recent law school grads to volunteer more than four dozen hours to help those who need their counsel the most.

“With this initiative, New York will lead the way in stating loudly and clearly that service to others is an indispensable part of our legal training,” Lippman said today at an annual Law Day event at the state Court of Appeals in Albany.