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Monday, April 13, 2009

Jury Finds SDNY Federal Magistrate Judge Guilty of Punching Woman

3 Stories follow:
  • Verdict is Battery; No Damage Award - December 11, 2008
  • Civil Trail Starts for Judge in Island Dispute - December 9, 2008
  • Judge Refuses to Award Costs in Case - March 4, 2009
Note: The Watertown Daily Times website is:
Note: Watertown, New York is located near the Canadian border, 320 miles from Manhattan


Verdict is battery; no damage award
The Watertown Daily Times by BRIAN KELLY - December 11, 2008

GRINDSTONE INCIDENT: Jury says Smith punched Purcell; plaintiff's attorney says case about 'vindication'

A state Supreme Court jury has determined that a U.S. magistrate judge punched a Jamesville woman in August 2006 on Grindstone Island, but awarded no damages to the victim. The jury deliberated for less than an hour Wednesday before reaching a verdict that Lisa Margaret Smith committed battery against Julie L. Purcell on Aug. 20, 2006. The jury subsequently pronounced Mrs. Purcell was entitled to no damages for the act. "It was never about providing damages," said Stephen W. Gebo, Watertown, Mrs. Purcell's attorney. "It was particularly a vindication that she was the victim of a battery. The jury said she was, and we're pleased with that.

Mrs. Purcell sued Ms. Smith in October 2006, claiming she was "sucker-punched" in the face at a gathering at a campfire. Mrs. Purcell was attempting to obtain more information about an incident the night before in which her two daughters and a friend had their clothes stolen and one of the girls was allegedly assaulted after skinny-dipping at Potter's Beach. Mrs. Purcell said she believed the judge's nephew might be able to identify some of the alleged assailants. Taking the witness stand Wednesday, Judge Smith, a chief U.S. magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, White Plains, vehemently denied she punched or kicked Mrs. Purcell.

Judge Smith testified that she was temporarily blinded by the campfire as she approached Mrs. Purcell to ask her to stop "ranting" and using "vile" language in the presence of the judge's children and other children. Because she couldn't see, she had her hand in front of her as she walked. "I took two small steps, and I came into contact with something. I touched something," Judge Smith said. She said Mrs. Purcell immediately began screaming, "She hit me," an allegation the judge denied.

"I did not touch her intentionally. I did not touch her maliciously," Judge Smith said. "I've certainly never punched anyone or hit anyone. I've never hit anyone. I don't even know how to punch someone." When asked by her attorney, Kevin E. Hulslander, why she immediately left the area while Mrs. Purcell was screaming that she had been hit, the judge said she knew it would be of no use to try to talk Mrs. Purcell about the incident. "I felt as though she had painted a target on my forehead and I knew that I was going to be in this courtroom, that she was going to sue me," Judge Smith testified. Mr. Hulslander said in his closing statement that the judge had been provoked by the "vile, nasty" language coming from Mrs. Purcell and that the judge was "standing up and taking a stand" on behalf of her children. He called Mrs. Purcell's lawsuit "revenge" for her belief she had been purposely punched, contending that Mrs. Purcell "exaggerated" the incident and her purported injuries. "Why are we here?" he asked the jurors. "Damages? Pain and suffering? This case? No. We're here because this woman here, Mrs. Purcell, wants retribution. She wants to bring a judge down."

Mr. Gebo argued in his closing statement that Judge Smith "abused her position" by identifying herself as a judge before approaching Mrs. Purcell in an attempt to "intimidate" her. "I submit to you that punching Julie as hard as she could, when she wasn't looking, was malicious," Mr. Gebo told jurors. "This is an opportunity to say the law applies to every one of us, even a United States magistrate judge." The incident at Potter's Beach that led to the confrontation between the women is the subject of a separate lawsuit pending in state Supreme Court. That suit was brought by Mr. and Mrs. Purcell on behalf of their minor daughter, Maeve E. Purcell, and by their daughter Heather E. Henderson and a third woman, Lisa M. Onderdonk, against eight Clayton-area residents who allegedly participated in the assault. Brian Kelly can be reached at BKELLY@WDT.NET.


Civil trial starts for judge in island dispute
The Watertown Daily Times by BRIAN KELLY - December 9, 2008

Testimony began Monday in state Supreme Court in the civil trial of a U.S. magistrate judge who allegedly assaulted an attorney's wife during a dispute over a skinny-dipping outing on Grindstone Island. Lisa Margaret Smith, a chief U.S. magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, White Plains, was sued in October 2006 by Julie L. Purcell, James-ville, who claimed the judge "sucker punched" her in the face in August 2006. Kevin E. Hulslander, Syracuse, Judge Smith's attorney, argued in his opening statement that his client was provoked by "an explosion of expletives" from Mrs. Purcell in the presence of several children, including those of Judge Smith. "There's no doubt there was contact," Mr. Hulslander said. "There may have been a slap. The intent is what's at issue." According to court documents, the two women were discussing an incident that occurred the previous night in which two of Mrs. Purcell's daughters and a third teenager had their clothes stolen while swimming nude off Potter's Beach. One of the girls was allegedly assaulted as the teenagers tried to retrieve their clothes. The next night, Mrs. Purcell was discussing the incident around a campfire, with Mrs. Purcell claiming the judge's nephew had witnessed the incident at Potter's Beach and could identify some of the alleged assailants.

Judge Smith denied the youth saw anything, prompting Mrs. Purcell to call her "a goddamned lying bitch," and asking her, "Why the cover-up?" according to Mrs. Purcell's testimony Monday. She said she heard "shuffling" coming from the area where Judge Smith was sitting and then "I was punched, full force, in the right cheek." She also claimed the judge kicked or kneed her. "She said, 'You're not going to call me a goddamned lying bitch. I'm a U.S. magistrate judge,'" Mrs. Purcell testified. Mr. Hulslander told the jury that Mrs. Purcell's outburst went beyond a single curse, stating that she directed numerous expletives at Judge Smith "around a campfire with children roasting marshmallows." "Judge Smith spoke up, said, 'I'm a judge, please don't swear in front of my children,'" Mr. Hulslander said.

He contended that the statement initiated another round of expletives from Mrs. Purcell in which Mrs. Purcell indicated her indifference to Judge Smith's position. Judge Smith was charged by state police with second-degree harassment as a result of the incident. She later was granted a six-month adjournment in contemplation of dismissal and the charge was dismissed. Mrs. Purcell's attorney, Stephen W. Gebo, Watertown, denied his client swore multiple times, portraying her to the jury in his opening statement as an upset mother trying to find out more about her daughters' attack by "a mob" of eight people. Mrs. Purcell testified that she experienced pain in her cheek and around her eye for several months, although she suffered no permanent physical effect from the alleged punch. However, she said she remains "nervous" at times in public and the family has put its Grindstone Island property up for sale "because I don't feel comfortable there." She said she also had to leave her job as a grand jury court reporter. "I couldn't do that job any longer because I would start crying when I would hear these cases," she said. Her lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages for the alleged effects the punch has had on her, as well as punitive damages. Testimony in the trial is scheduled to resume this morning.

A separate lawsuit filed by the three girls who claimed they were harassed while skinny-dipping is pending. That suit was brought by Mrs. Purcell and her husband, Robert E., a Syracuse attorney, on behalf of their daughters, Maeve E. Purcell and Heather E. Henderson, and a third woman, Lisa M. Onderdonk. Brian Kelly can be reached at BKELLY@WDT.NET.


Judge refuses to award costs in case
The Watertown Daily Times by BRIAN KELLY - March 4, 2009

WINNERS LOSE: Neither side showed 'complete success,' state justice says, denying payments

A state Supreme Court judge has ruled neither the plaintiff nor the defendant should be awarded costs in a civil case in which both sides, arguably, won. Typically in a civil case, the side that prevails is entitled to recover costs incurred in the action, excluding attorneys' fees. But what happens when it cannot be said with certainty which side won or lost? Judge Joseph D. McGuire has ruled that, under these circumstances, "it would be inequitable to award costs to either party." The issue arose when a Supreme Court jury in Watertown ruled in December that Lisa Margaret Smith committed battery against Julie L. Purcell, but awarded no damages to Mrs. Purcell. Mrs. Purcell, Jamesville, had sued Ms. Smith, South Salem, in October 2006, claiming she was "sucker-punched" in the face by Ms. Smith at a gathering around a campfire on Aug. 20, 2006. Mrs. Purcell was attempting to obtain more information about an incident the night before in which her two daughters and a friend had their clothes stolen and one of the girls was allegedly assaulted after skinny-dipping off Grindstone Island. Mrs. Purcell said she believed that Ms. Smith's nephew might be able to identify some of the alleged assailants.

Ms. Smith, a chief U.S. magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, White Plains, vehemently denied she punched or kicked Mrs. Purcell during testimony at trial. Ms. Smith said Mrs. Purcell was "ranting" and using "vile" language around her children and other children and she asked her to stop. She testified that as she walked toward Mrs. Purcell, she was temporarily blinded by the campfire. She said because she could not see, she had her hand raised out in front of her as she neared Mrs. Purcell and that her hand "came into contact with something," which Mrs. Purcell and others testified was Mrs. Purcell's face.

A jury deliberated about 35 minutes before determining that Ms. Smith had committed battery, but awarded no monetary damage to Mrs. Purcell because she had not demonstrated that any pain or suffering resulted from the act. Ms. Smith, contending damages were an essential element of battery and their absence meant she won the case, filed a judgment Jan. 9 at the Jefferson County clerk's office against Mrs. Purcell for $1,095, representing her costs and disbursements in defending the case. The costs do not include attorneys' fees. According to an affidavit filed Monday at the clerk's office by her attorney, Kevin E. Hulsander, Syracuse, Ms. Smith "had to pay our firm tens of thousands of dollars to defend the case." Mrs. Purcell countered that she, not Ms. Smith, won the case and argued that she was the one entitled to costs because the jury had found that Ms. Smith committed battery. Mrs. Purcell applied to the court for an order vacating Ms. Smith's judgment.

Judge McGuire ruled that an award of zero damages did not entitle Ms. Smith to costs or disbursements "when there has been a companion finding in (Mrs. Purcell's) favor arising out of the same facts." "In this case, both parties were successfully asserting their rights, although it cannot be said that there was complete success by either," Judge McGuire wrote in his decision. He granted Mrs. Purcell's motion to vacate Ms. Smith's judgment awarding her costs, but also denied a motion by Mrs. Purcell to have costs awarded in her favor. Judge McGuire's decision on the matter has been accepted for publication with the state Law Reporting Bureau, which serves as a legal reference for jurists and attorneys facing similar cases. The decision was posted on the bureau's Web site Monday. Brian Kelly can be reached at BKELLY@WDT.NET.


retired attorney said...

Is this judge still on the bench?

moviegoer said...

Is Hollywood doing a movie on this? I love it: skinny-dipping, teenage boys running off with the girls clothing, camp fires, marsh mellows, federal judges yelling, 'You're not going to call me a goddamned lying bitch. I'm a U.S. magistrate judge.' Working title: "Justice and New York 's Bitch-Slapping Federal Judge"

Anonymous said...

In upstate NY the 'fixer..closer judge" would have granted a 3 month ACD...that is the political sentence for the connected, wealthy or legal trouble makers!
It is amazing to see that upstate may be more corrupt than NYC...amazing for a conservative area!

westchester county employee said...

Rather than waste time with appeals, these two "women" should stage a mud wrestling event in downtown White Plains. The proceeds could go to charity, or anger management....

I'd like to know what political pack of nitwits recommend this Magistrate Smith in the first place. Does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

Yes, she's still on the bench in White Plains. Amazing!!!!

Anonymous said...

She exceeds the high standard for a NY federal magistrate judge.

retired attorney said...

I remember when the federal system was so much better than the area state court systems. It now appears that the dirty games previously found in the state courts have sadly made their way to the federal system. Quite sad for the people and the rule of law. The quality of our courts is awful.

Anonymous said...

Who in their right mind would want to be a judge these days- state or federal?

Judges are no longer required to answer to their duty to their oath, or to the law itself. Judges are now made answerable to supervising jurists and political whims.

The courts- state and federal- need a major ethics overhaul.

retired nurse from brooklyn said...

This judge needs to be removed from the bench. IMMEDIATELY !

Anonymous said...

What is the surprise here? This is standard fare in the Courts! This is not a surprise! Oh, and did I mention NO ONE CARES, not even other Judges! That is how they get away with all these criminal acts!

Anonymous said...

A "magistrate" is not a judge. It is a "quasi-judicial" position and is someone who performs certain functions, but cannot make take any actions which are strictly Judicial.
The only persons who can perform "Judicial" functions, are those who the Constitution vests with that power.

p.s. This goes for all the other "quasi-judicial" positions the OCA has forced upon the citizens of NY including, referees, special referees, JHOs and "hearing officers." None of these positions are authorized under the Constitution of New York State. It's just another scam by the OCA.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the TWILIGHT ZONE!!!!!!!! These Judges and Lawyers are drinking and smoking something that sounds like it should be in the movie TZ.

Anonymous said...

Our court system, federal and state, is a bad, very bad, dream of horrors.

Anonymous said...

This woman shouldn't be a judge of anything. She's a bully, and has been for a long time. She can't control herself, everyone knows that. Whenever I saw her around the T-Islands, I'd run the other way.

Anonymous said...

Is this animal Lisa Margaret Smith still on the bench?

Anonymous said...

it can hardly be said that the best evidence of corruption in the court system is a poorly pled case of a woman with a personal grudge, who cannot even make out the essential elements of her claim. even if you say she's a bully that has no bearing on her ability to rule on evidentiary issues or her competency in the legal field. the fact that she's still on the bench and an instructor at an accredited law school speaks for itself. and woman who is afraid of running into judge smith: if she's such a bully, how come there are no other reported incidents? and really, why didn't she leave any evidence of an attack on this pathetic claimant's body?

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