Legal Aid, Private Attys Must Face Frozen Child Death Suit

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In an article published by Law360, Professor Bruce Green shares his insight into the malpractice suit brought against the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society.

The Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County and private attorneys must answer for the death of an 8-year-old autistic boy who was left to freeze to death in a garage by his father following the mother’s failed attempts to remove him from the man’s custody, a Brooklyn federal judge has ruled.

In her 99-page civil complaint filed on June 16, 2020, Zubko-Valva accused the attorneys of legal malpractice for allegedly lying to the judges to have her former husband take custody of Thomas and his two brothers, Anthony and Andrew. The suit, which also named county and municipal defendants, alleged wrongful death, defamation, negligence and other charges under New York state law, as well as federal claims of malicious prosecution, denial of the right to a free trial, abuse of process and conspiracy.

The complaint accuses [Ethan Halpern] of the Legal Aid Society of lying under oath when he told the judge that the mother had admitted to hitting the children, despite knowing it wasn’t true.

Bruce Green, a legal scholar and director of the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University School of Law, told Law360 in an email that if the allegations in the suit are true, Halpern may have committed perjury.

“The relevant ethics rules are pretty clear: Lawyers may not knowingly make false statements to the court about matters within their personal knowledge, and most especially may not do so under oath,” Green said.

Read the full article.

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