Misheard, too sensitive, or just wrong? We think it’s a combination of all of those.
Eliot Bloom, a Long Island Attorney, was suspended for three years by New York’s Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, for calling two Nassau County prosecutor “sluts” and for harassing an elderly client. Bloom was suspended by the Second Department because they found that he neglected a legal matter entrusted to him by a client, who died in 2016 at 93 years old.
In response, Bloom filed a federal civil rights complaint against the New York state court system and several of its top officials. He claims that he was misheard and never used the slur and really said “slugs”. (Yes, this is a true story with adults and not kids in the first grade!) Bloom is demanding $6 million in damages.
In the complaint, which was preceded by a required notice of claim filed in March, Bloom described the state’s attorney grievance process as secretive and lacking due process. He also is unhappy about the three-year state grievance process, saying that it was prolonged deliberately after he filed a 2016 complaint against a grievance committee lawyer.
Representing Bloom is attorney Raymond Negron who says that his client is sad to have to take the case to federal court, but that they see no other options with the state. A state court spokesperson would not comment because of the policy against commenting on pending litigation.
The case also points out conduct that adversely reflected on his fitness as a lawyer by calling the female prosecutors “sluts.”
According to the Second Department opinion two prosecutors were standing outside a courtroom talking with a third lawyer. Bloom walked up to them and started talking to the third lawyer, who asked what he was doing at court. This was in 2016. Bloom said he was “just doing a trial with these two sluts,” and when one prosecutor objected, he told her to “stop being so sensitive, this is how I speak to ADAs,” according to the opinion.
Bloom later testified that he had said “slugs,” not “sluts,” but the appellate judges found that explanation “patently incredible.” “The respondent’s present misconduct, alongside his prior disciplinary history, reveals a recurring thread of deceit … His testimony lacked candor and showed no remorse,” the judges wrote.
We think that this blog post is a good place to start our New Year’s Resolution to be respectful to each other. No need to put others down or be rude. Let’s just go back to the basics that we learned as kids.
Photo: Houston Chronicle
A CNN review of federal court filings show that the number of eminent domain cases being filed is seeing an aggressive increase. It’s part of Trump’s promise to “build that wall”. The period of time being reviewed ended on November 15th and shows that 29 eminent domain suits tied to the border-wall construction were filed. That is up from 11 suits each of the past two years. Almost all of the suits, except for four, were filed in the state of Texas.
It is estimated that about 1,300-miles of the 1,950-mile US-Mexico border do not have fencing, since the property is privately owned or too dangerous to cross. This is part of the area, the Rio Grande Valley, has seen the first new barriers. Three miles of new wall will be built in the coming months according to the US Customs and Border Protection. Mark Morgan, CBP's acting Commissioner, has said the agency wants to build 450 miles of new wall by the end of 2020.
As can be expected, the path to eminent domain for a large expanse of land is going to meet challenges. For example, Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, a conservation group, is fighting an eminent domain suit over a 72-acre parcel of land on the banks of the Rio Grande. Over the past 20 years, the group has worked to create a wildlife corridor with the ultimate goal of selling the land to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to connect two existing wildlife refuges.
The US government, since 2017, has filed 35 "declarations of taking" notices in Starr and Cameron counties, Texas. The Sierra Club obtained internal CBP emails, through a Freedom of Information Act, showing that more than 1,100 parcels of interest along the path of the proposed border wall in South Texas in February 2018.
According to Ricky Garza, a staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, which is representing some landowners, CBP usually starts the process with a "right of entry" letter asking landowners voluntarily to grant the government the right to access their land to conduct surveying and soil testing as a prerequisite to possibly taking the land.
"If you don't answer the letter, you get a home visit from a Border Patrol vehicle, pulling up to the house with an officer with the Army Corps of Engineers, an armed Border Patrol agent and often someone from the Department of Justice as well," he said. Several landowners described similar visits to CNN.
As in many cases of eminent domain, landowners don't understand they have a right not to sign the request for entry. Karla Vargas, a senior attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project confirmed this is happening in Texas.
In many cases, the issue goes beyond the land and includes concerns for clean water. In October 2018, then DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen waived more than two dozen laws to expedite border wall construction in Texas, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, among others.
Is “national security” enough to justify eminent domain for the taking of private property? According to Emma Hilbert, an attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, there is relatively little dispute over the government's right to use eminent domain to acquire private property in cases of national security.
For many landowners, they are trying to see if time will be on their side, slowing the process down and waiting for either for a change in administration or higher land prices.
We will be waiting and watching too.
Usually we post about eminent domain in New York State, but the truth is that across the nation there are lots of interesting cases to write about. Especially this one that we recently came across. We have to admit it’s the first time we’ve ever written about eminent domain and tree houses. Here goes!
In Columbia, Missouri Ms. Sutu Forte, who is 67-years old, is fighting against City Hall. She is doing this from a tree house where she is holding a “sit in” or “tree sit” in a statement of protest for the construction of a new trail on Bluff Dale Drive. She wants to stop the removal of some old trees in a Columbia neighborhood to make way for a new hiking and biking trail. News reports say that she has been doing this for several days.
(We don’t want to get off track, but we can’t help but wondering about bathroom facilities, running water, food, and the comforts of home!)
According to Forte, she commented, “I’m doing well. I’m filled with warmth and people caring and their support. They’re taking a big interest in what our statement is to save this land.”
City leaders took the property through eminent domain from Forte’s organization called “It’s Our Wild Nature”. (A very fitting name if you ask us!). As one would imagine for a “tree sit”, Forte said that she was not moving from the tree house until city leaders stopped their new trail construction plans.
In 2019, Columbia City leaders paid $85,000 to take title to the easements for trail construction through eminent domain. Forte’s non-profit “It’s Our Wild Nature” was the former owner of the land. Leaders of the non-profit filed a request in court to increase the City’s payment to a higher, fair market price under the State’s eminent domain laws. (We’ve certainly heard this before). In October 2020, a jury trial was set to finally decide how much the land is worth.
City of Columbia spokesman Steve Sapp said, “We continue to work with It’s Our Wild Nature [as] we’ve doing since 2013. Unfortunately, we’re just unable to come up with a compromise that suited both parties.”
We often write about the law in New York, which is different than that of most other States (for example, New York is one of the only States that does not allow jury trials for eminent domain takings). However, once the government acquires property by eminent domain, the former owner loses its rights to it. That law is universal.
In the case of Ms. Forte, the treehouse trespasser, City officials will have the option to file a complaint with police, and probably the court, to get Forte out of the tree when construction of the new trail is scheduled to begin.
We’re guessing a few squirrels and birds are probably upset too.