‘Kung fu’ judge’s kin sues Park Slope assisted living center

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

A prominent Brooklyn judge — whose multi-million dollar estate was looted by court-appointed guardians — died at the hands of unlicensed nurses at a sham senior housing facility in Park Slope, a bombshell lawsuit alleges.

John Phillips — the politically ambitious former Civil Court Judge who was nearly left broke after he was deemed “mentally incompetent” by the legal system he loved so much — suffered serious neglect at Prospect Park Residence, an unlicensed “assisted living center,” according to a wrongful death suit filed this week by Phillips’s nephew, Samuel Boykin.

The suit alleges operators of the facility — which markets itself as “senior living at its elegant best” and overlooks Grand Army Plaza at 1 Prospect Park West — failed to give the 83-year-old Phillips proper treatment for his diabetes, left him shivering with no heat for days and would not allow visits from family members. It also claims operators “committed fraud” by running the place without a proper health department license — all of which “ led to [Phillips’s] injury, suffering and eventual death,” the suit claims.

“They are running a prison of death,” said lawyer John O’Hara, who filed the lawsuit in Kings County Supreme Court. “It’s like something from a Dickens novel. It’s bad.”

More than three years after Phillips’s death, his nephew is seeking $40 million in damages from Prospect Park Residence.

It’s the latest chapter in a decade long saga about the renowned judge, whose estate was plundered by legal guardians while he sat in a Bronx nursing home.

Phillips was a well-known figure in Bedford Stuyvesant, and was nicknamed “the kung-fu judge” for his martial arts skills. He owned 10 buildings in Brooklyn, including The Slave Theater on Fulton Street.

But everything went downhill for Phillips in 2001, when a Brooklyn assistant district attorney claimed the retired jurist could not care for himself anymore and pushed to have a law guardian maintain his affairs.

Critics later raised questions the attorney’s political motives — and new guardians took over. A battle over his estate ensued and Phillips’s fortune shrunk, in part, due to unpaid taxes.

Through the whole ordeal, the rich old fellow sat locked in a Bronx nursing home — until friends moved him to Prospect Park Residence in 2007.

At the time, Phillips was happy for the change in scenery.

“It feels good. It feels like home,” Phillips told The Brooklyn Paper on his first day there.

But that feeling didn’t last long, Phillips’s newphew claims. The senior’s health declined rapidly — and Phillips died in the Prospect Park Residence’s elevator the following year.

Longtime friends never reported anything suspicious about Phillips’s death — at least publicly.

Kathy Azbell, a spokeswoman for Prospect Park Residence would not talk about Boykin’s lawsuit, saying, “In these situations, lawyers say not to comment.”

Attorney Mark Landman, who represents Prospect Park Residence, did not respond to several calls and e-mails seeking comment on Tuesday.

That doesn’t surprise Boykin, who claims that the senior center has plenty to hide.

When Phillips came to Prospect Park Residence, employee’s told Boykin that his uncle’s “diet would be individualized, monitored and routinely observed” and that he would be treated by professionals. Instead, Phillips was cared for by bogus nurses and left to die alone, Boykin claims.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “This is a dangerous place.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.