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Monday, May 5, 2008

Continuing Chaos: NY Judge Sues Attorney and Newspaper

NY Judge Sues Manhattan Attorney, Daily News for $10 Million
The New York Law Journal by Noeleen G. Walder - May 5, 2008

A Brooklyn judge has filed an unusual $10 million defamation suit against attorney Ravi Batra and the New York Daily News. The suit, Martin v. Daily News, 100053/08, filed earlier this year in Manhattan Supreme Court by Justice Larry D. Martin, alleges that Mr. Batra was the source of two Daily News columns and related blog postings falsely accusing the judge of improperly presiding over a case involving a lawyer who had defended him before the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Justice Martin maintains that Mr. Batra "requested and urged" Daily News columnist Errol Louis to publish "defamatory statements" about him. He claims the articles were "outrageous, grossly irresponsible, malicious and evinced a complete and utter indifference" to his "rights and reputation." Both Mr. Batra and the Daily News have filed motions to dismiss. On Jan. 28, 2007, Mr. Louis wrote that the "complicated world of judicial corruption in Brooklyn - a snakepit filled with bribery and back-room political deals" - was on the verge of being "blown wide open." He cited an action brought by Mr. Batra, relating to Singer v. Riskin, 015812/01, an ongoing multimillion dollar real estate dispute between Mr. Batra's clients, Martin and Grace Riskin, and Ted Singer. That dispute has spawned 11 lawsuits.

In November 2006, Mr. Batra filed Riskin v. Karp, 34131/06, on behalf of his clients against attorney Jerome M. Karp. The suit alleges Mr. Karp represented Mr. Singer "in secret" in Riskin v. Belinda, 048555/98, a mortgage foreclosure action and offshoot of Singer v. Riskin. Mr. Batra alleged that Mr. Karp's failure to disclose his representation of Mr. Singer in Belinda, over which Justice Martin presided, created an undisclosed conflict since Mr. Karp had served as the judge's attorney before the judicial conduct commission.

The commission, in a determination issued in December 2001 and modified in June 2002, admonished Justice Martin for sending ex parte letters seeking favorable consideration on behalf of defendants awaiting sentencing in other courts. Mr. Batra alleged in Riskin v. Karp that Mr. Karp's representation of Justice Martin during 2000 and 2001 rendered Mr. Karp unable to act as Mr. Singer's undisclosed attorney from July 25, 2000, to "the present time." Mr. Batra maintained that this representation violated the "core holding" of Matter of Huttner 2, a 2005 decision in which the judicial conduct commission censured Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Richard D. Huttner.

Mr. Karp represented Justice Huttner in that matter, in which the judge was faulted for failing to disclose his "close social relationship" with Mr. Batra in the Cypress Hill Cemetery litigation, which was pending before him. The judge, who often dined and socialized with Mr. Batra, had appointed Mr. Batra as fiduciary in 11 matters and as counsel to receiver in Cypress Hill. Nancy Ledy-Gurren of Ledy-Gurren Bass & Siff, who represents Mr. Karp in Riskin v. Karp, said in an e-mail last week that Mr. Batra's case against her client is "frivolous and substantively without any merit."

She wrote that Mr. Karp represented Justice Martin in a single matter, beginning in late 2000 and ending in August 2002. She added that Mr. Karp does not have and has never had a social relationship with Justice Martin. She said Mr. Karp's involvement in Belinda, over which Justice Martin presided, was limited to a single letter he wrote at the request of Mr. Singer, who wanted to intervene in the litigation. She said Mr. Karp was "a third party respected by both sides, to try and get settlement talks started." Nothing came of the letter, and "there was no further connection or knowledge of the controversy on Mr. Karp's part," Ms. Ledy-Gurren wrote.

Stuart A. Blander of Heller, Horowitz & Feit, who represents Justice Martin in his libel action, said that Mr. Singer withdrew his motion to intervene in the Belinda action shortly after making the request. At that point, he said that Justice Martin had not retained Mr. Karp for the judicial conduct matter and had no attorney-client relationship with him. He said that Mr. Singer's only current connection with the Belinda foreclosure action related to a "lingering" sanctions motion that Mr. Batra brought on behalf of Mr. Riskin. Despite Mr. Batra's allegations of a conflict, no formal motion was made for Justice Martin to recuse himself in Belinda, although the judge did deny an oral application for recusal made in 2005, Mr. Blander said.

Citing Mr. Batra's Riskin v. Karp lawsuit, Mr. Louis wrote in his January 2007 column that Mr. Karp gave "legal advice" to Mr. Singer without disclosing that he had "once represented Supreme Court Justice Larry Martin, the judge hearing the multimillion-dollar case." The column later stated that Mr. Karp's representation of Mr. Singer and the judge occurred "simultaneously." On Feb. 8, 2007, in a follow-up Daily News piece, Mr. Louis wrote that Justice Martin is "in the hot seat again" for allegedly overseeing a case involving his "personal lawyer." In his February column, Mr. Louis mistakenly referred to Riskin v. Belinda as Singer v. Riskin.

According to Mr. Blander, Justice Martin's attorney, the judge "had nothing to do with Singer v. Riskin," which is before Brooklyn Judge Michael A. Ambrosio. Justice Martin was assigned to the smaller foreclosure action Riskin v. Belinda, Mr. Blander said. When readers pointed out Mr. Louis' error on the newspaper's blog, "The Daily Politics," he clarified the case caption but stuck by his claim that the judge should have recused himself from Belinda. "It's clear as a bell and you know it," Mr. Louis wrote. Mr. Batra then suggested in a related blog posting that skeptics should take a trip to the Brooklyn courthouse, if they had doubts about the accuracy of Mr. Louis' February column. Mr. Batra contended that he had an obligation to remedy readers' "sloppy" misconceptions, particularly where "fraud upon the court is afoot!"

Judge's Contentions

In his suit against the Daily News, Mr. Louis and Mr. Batra, Justice Martin maintains that the articles and blog postings got the facts wrong on a number of counts. The judge says that he never presided over Singer v. Riskin, and argues that Mr. Karp was not an attorney of record in the proceeding. Justice Martin also contends the newspaper and blog posts gave readers the false impression that Mr. Karp currently represented the judge, when he had not been his attorney for "more than five years." Justice Martin pegs Mr. Batra as the "source" of the misinformation. He claims Mr. Louis' columns, which were "widely read and discussed by the public," the "legal community" at large, family and friends, including his church group, "brought him into public scandal and disrepute."

'Accurate Portrayals'

In his motion to dismiss, Mr. Batra denies he provided the Daily News with a copy of his lawsuit against Mr. Karp. But he adds that even if he did, his alleged statements, made in his "capacity" as the Riskins' attorney, are protected under Civil Rights Law §74, which grants absolute immunity from civil suit for the publication of "a fair and true report of any judicial proceeding." "[T]here is universal agreement that the columns are based upon the verified complaint previously filed in Riskin v. Karp - and are substantially accurate portrayals of the same," Mr. Batra claims in an affidavit filed in support of his motion to dismiss. Mr. Batra also claims his statements could not have defamed Justice Martin, since they "are not even about the plaintiff - but about Jerome Karp." Mr. Batra has requested attorney's fees and sanctions against Justice Martin and his counsel.

In papers filed with the court, the Daily News admits Mr. Louis erred in his Feb. 8, 2007, column when he identified Justice Martin as the presiding judge in Singer v. Riskin, instead of Riskin v. Belinda. But the newspaper argues that the fair reporting privilege renders it immune from suit, since Mr. Louis "substantially stated the substance" of Mr. Batra's complaint against Mr. Karp. The Daily News also argues that Mr. Louis' pieces amounted to "non-actionable" opinions. Anne B. Carroll, deputy general counsel for the New York Daily News, declined to comment on pending litigation.

Mr. Blander said in an interview that Justice Martin learned of Mr. Batra's claim that Mr. Karp was secretly representing Mr. Singer in Riskin v. Belinda for the first time in 2005, when Mr. Batra sent a letter to then-Administrative Justice Neil J. Firetog raising the issue. Mr. Blander said that "any sitting judge values very, very highly his reputation for honesty and for fairness" and that the "entire thrust of the [Daily News] columns was that Justice Martin wasn't doing what he was supposed to do." In an interview, Mr. Batra called Justice Martin's pending action "a frivolous lawsuit [that] ill serves one who sits on the noble bench." The suit is before Supreme Court Justice Martin J. Schulman.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing "usual" about our judges and lawyers in New York. In fact, the entire legal system in New York is farce.

Next we will read that the presiding judge in this case is joining in on the suit... and he'll call himself as a witness. This, of course, will happen after he has sex with the court stenographer, court officer and opposing counsel (male or female-it doesn't matter) And they'll all change the court transcripts to whatever they want.

On their way home, they will pick up little brown bags filled with cash, and when the get pulled over for driving drunk and running a red light, they will get out of it.

So bad is the state of our courts that I think something has to break soon.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

the birds do it, the bees do it, and now we have Judges doing it! They sue, sue & sue etc. Ravi Batra is a dog.

Anonymous said...

Impossible to predict what will happen next. My guess is that Judith Kaye will challenge Shelly SIlver and David Paterson to a group sword fight. David won't have a chance, not because he's blind, but because the odd couple are a bunch of dirty bitch fighters. Shelly will pick David's pocket, and maybe steal his shoes. Judy will be stabbing David in the back while Shelly gnaws on David's bare ankles. And the people will live unhappily ever after, reminded that this is how the leaders of the 3 branches of New York State operate. HEY MO!!

Anonymous said...

Impossible to predict what will happen next. My guess is that Judith Kaye will challenge Shelly SIlver and David Paterson to a group sword fight. David won't have a chance, not because he's blind, but because the odd couple are a bunch of dirty bitch fighters. Shelly will pick David's pocket, and maybe steal his shoes. Judy will be stabbing David in the back while Shelly gnaws on David's bare ankles. And the people will live unhappily ever after, reminded that this is how the leaders of the 3 branches of New York State operate. HEY MO!!

Anonymous said...

hope all the bastards drop dead

Anonymous said...

All of this is so sick and twisted, these criminals belong behind bars.They must be smoking something and it certainly isn't tobacco.

Anonymous said...

hope that this atty & the paper get hit hard --- Good Luck Judge

Anonymous said...

in my opinion this jerk Batra is dirty

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