Mario Cuomo’s Brooklyn Years: the Smartest Lawyer on Court Street

Mario Cuomo graduated first in his class at St. John’s University School of Law School in 1956 but his job application was rejected by 50 law firms.  As Charles Hynes, the longtime Brooklyn District Attorney, put it: “in those days, bigotry was not confined to matters of skin pigmentation.”

This excerpt from The Atlantic in December, 1990 describes his years at the Brooklyn firm of Corner, Weisbrod, Froeb and Charles.

When Mario Cuomo went into private practice, he joined a firm in Brooklyn, becoming part of the throng of lawyers whose offices crowd Court Street to this day. The term “Court Street lawyer” has curious connotations in the city’s legal profession; it is used to refer to the mob of assembly-line attorneys who fill the borough’s personal-injury and nuisancesuit courts. (In one legal broil a professor at Brooklyn Law School actually countersued a colleague for calling him a Court Street lawyer.) Cuomo, as it happens, worked for Corner, Weisbrod, Froeb, and Charles, one of the two or three prestige firms in the area. But, as the firm’s first litigation specialist, he was not entirely separate from the contentious ambience of Court Street.

Going to trial requires a fantastic level of commitment. When court is in session, good litigators work round the clock in a state of meticulously controlled fury. Cuomo loved it.

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#BlueLivesMatter tweets blame DeBlasio, Sharpton and Obama for the killings

Apparently, torture did NOT save the Brooklyn Bridge

The CIA repeatedly — and falsely — claimed that torture kept the Brooklyn Bridge safe, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. 

In briefing materials, the CIA claimed that it was the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) that led to the capture of Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver who later pled guilty to trying to blow up the Bridge.   National Review cited the case in its article, “waterboarding has its benefits.”

But the Senate report stated:

“Over a period of years, the CIA provided the “identification,” “arrest,” “capture,” “investigation,” and “prosecution” of Iyman Faris as evidence for the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

These representations were inaccurate.

Iyman Faris was identified, investigated, and linked directly to al-Qa’ida prior to any mention of Iyman Faris by KSM or any other CIA detainee. When approached by law enforcement, Iyman Faris voluntarily provided information and made self-incriminating statements. On May 1, 2003, Iyman Faris pied guilty to terrorism-related charges and admitted “to casing a New York City bridge for al Qaeda, and researching and providing information to al Qaeda regarding the tools necessary for possible attacks on U.S. targets.”

Indeed, at one point a CIA official cautioned that the continued use of Faris as an example would end up embarrassing them.

“TC Legal, expressed concern that “the examples cited, while true, and perhaps as far as we can go, are not… striking examples of lives saved.” Referencing KSM’s reporting on Iyman Faris, noted that “we risk making ourselves look silly if the best we can do is the Brooklyn Bridge – perhaps we should omit specific examples rather than ‘damn ourselves with faint praise.'”

Another CIA official mocked the seriousness of the Bridge plot:

“A senior CIA counterterrorism official, who had previously served a chief of the Bin Ladin Unit, commented on the intelligence obtained from Iyman Faris on the Brooklyn Bridge plotting, stating: “i guess we have to take these guys at their word, but if these are the types of attacks ksm was planning, [KSM] was more of a nuisnace [sic] than a threat and you have to wonder how he ever thought of anything as imaginative as the 11 sept attacks. i wonder if he had two tracks going: ops like 11 sept and a whole other series half-baked, secular palestinian-style ops like those majid khan, faris, and the other yahoos are talking about. perhaps he believe [sic] if we caught the yahoos, we would relax a bit and they would be better able to hit us with an effective attack?”

Brooklyn Leads the City in Chokeholds

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It turns out, Brooklyn leads New York City in chokehold complaints.  Brooklyn accounts for 37 percent of the complaints about police chokeholds, compared to 21 percent for Manhattan and 13 percent for Queens.

This was one of findings deep in a report released a few months ago by the Civilian Complaint Review Board a few months ago. I hadn’t noticed the report when it was released but scanned it after the grand jury decision.

In general, the report, which analyzed complaints about chokeholds from January 2009- June 2014, concludes that police punishment of these abuses dropped precipitously in recent years.  The practice is prohibited by department rules.

But there were some fascinating nuggets about the geography of chokehold complaints.

Central Brooklyn – which appears to include Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, and Crown Heights — is sort of the epicenter of chokehold complaints. During this period, there were 118 complaints from Brownsville residents, more than 17 low-crime precincts combined.  East New York was the neighborhood second most likely to prompt chokehold complaints.

The report also indicated that a relatively small number of police account for a disproportionate number of complaints.


Residence of complainants, by zip code, January 2009 – June 2014 (21 or more)

Residence of complainants, by zip code, January 2009 – June 2014 (21 or more)