Judge Phillips is dead

Slave Theater could be sold to pay judge’s ‘debts’
The Brooklyn Paper / Robin Lester

John Phillips, the former Civil Court judge whose multi-million–dollar estate was looted by his court-appointed guardians, died on Saturday at his senior-housing facility on Prospect Park West. He was 83.

Judge Phillips’ wake will be held on Monday, Feb. 25, from 2 pm to 8 pm at Woodward Funeral Home, One Troy Ave., at Fulton Street. His funeral service will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Washington Temple Church of God, 1372 Bedford Ave., at Bergen Street.

“It happened after breakfast, in the elevator on his way to his room” at the Prospect Park Residence, a senior housing facility, said his distraught friend, John O’Hara. Phillips was pronounced dead at New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope.

Phillips’s death is the latest chapter in the long saga of how his estate was plundered by court-appointed guardians after he was declared mentally incompetent in 2001 at the request of District Attorney Charles Hynes, whose job Phillips intended to seek.

Indeed, in his heyday, Phillips was not only politically ambitious, but also a well-known figure in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where he served on the civil court and earned the nickname “the kung-fu” judge because of his martial arts talents.

He was also prosperous, having owned more than 10 buildings in Bed-Stuy, including the Slave Theater on Fulton Street, a focal point for neighborhood activists such as the Rev. Al Sharpton.

But after Hynes’s office had him declared incompetent, nearly all of the dozens of properties Phillips owned were auctioned off — yet the profits ended up enriching only his guardians, not the judge.

Just before his death, events had finally started to turn back in his favor. In December, a state judicial panel suspended the legal license of Emani Taylor, who served as Phillips’s guardian between 2003 and 2006, for stealing $328,000 from Phillips’s account.

The day before his death, Phillips had taken delivery on a new set of furniture that had been bought for him by fashion magnate Mark Ecko, who’d taken an interest in Phillips’s plight after reading about it in this and other publications.

But hours later, he was dead. He has no survivors.