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Saturday, July 25, 2009

NY Judge's Defamation Suit Against Lawyer Nixed

NY Judge's Defamation Suit Against NY Lawyer Nixed
The New York Law Journal by Vesselin Mitev - July 17, 2009

An unusual $10 million defamation suit against an attorney brought by a Brooklyn judge for allegedly telling a New York Daily News columnist the judge improperly presided over a case involving a lawyer who represented the judge before the judicial conduct commission has been dismissed. However, while Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Martin Shulman dismissed all claims against attorney Ravi Batra, he allowed a defamation claim to proceed against the Daily News and columnist Errol Louis, finding that "the average reader might have concluded from one of Mr. Louis' columns that Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Larry D. Martin is a corrupt jurist" under investigation.

On the claims against Mr. Batra, Justice Shulman found in Martin v. Daily News, 100053/08, that Justice Martin failed to show the lawyer had control over the publication of the allegedly defamatory article. Justice Martin sued the paper and Mr. Batra earlier this year, claiming he was defamed by two articles and several blog postings regarding judicial corruption in Brooklyn. On Jan. 28, 2007, Mr. Louis wrote an op-ed piece in which he described the judicial process in Brooklyn as "a snakepit filled with bribery and back-room political deals" that was on the verge of being "blown wide open." Mr. Louis cited an action brought by Mr. Batra against attorney Jerome M. Karp, Riskin v. Karp, 34131/06, in which Mr. Batra alleged that Mr. Karp, who had represented Justice Martin before the Commission on Judicial Conduct, simultaneously represented a party in the multimillion dollar real estate dispute before Justice Martin, Singer v. Riskin, 015812/01. Mr. Batra claimed Mr. Karp failed to disclose to the parties his affiliation with the judge. Mr. Louis' article concluded with, "Batra claims that Karp tried to rig the case by simultaneously representing Singer and the judge hearing his case." Mr. Karp was counsel to Justice Martin before the conduct commission, which in a determination issued in December 2001 and modified in June 2002 admonished the judge for sending ex parte letters seeking favorable consideration on behalf of defendants awaiting sentencing in other courts. On Feb. 8, 2007, in a follow-up Daily News piece, Mr. Louis described Justice Martin's admonition and wrote that the judge was "in the hot seat again" for allegedly overseeing a case involving his "personal lawyer" and mistakenly cited another case related to the real estate litigation, Singer v. Riskin, 015812/01, over which Justice Martin never presided. After readers pointed out Mr. Louis' error on the paper's blog, "The Daily Politics," he clarified the case caption but stuck by his claim that the judge should have recused himself. "It's clear as a bell and you know it," Mr. Louis wrote. Mr. Batra then vouched for Mr. Louis in a blog post in which he wrote, "[T]he facts are the facts, and Errol Louis has it right." In another blog post, Mr. Batra wrote that "[i]t is a matter of now-documented fact that Justice Larry D. Martin was then represented by Jerome Karp before NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct, albeit, then an undisclosed and unknown fact." Justice Martin contended he was defamed in the articles because "they accuse, or were intended to be understood by reasonable readers as accusing plaintiff of corruption and criminal conduct which tend to injure him in his profession." Further, Justice Martin claimed Mr. Batra was the source of the articles and defamed him again through the blog posts, claiming the "unequivocal reaffirmation ('the facts are the facts')" by Mr. Batra of the second article was defamatory.

Claims Narrowed

In his analysis, Justice Shulman ruled that the January op-ed piece was not defamatory when looked at as a whole, noting it alluded to "judicial corruption in Brooklyn" and focused on "the secretive, all-powerful screening panel" used to select Supreme Court candidates. The piece only referenced Justice Martin once, Justice Shulman held, and primarily discussed Messrs. Karp and Batra. "Construed as a whole, this court cannot conclude, as Justice Martin suggests, that the First Article conveys to the average reader that plaintiff was an accomplice in rigging a case…or engaged in criminal acts which should be investigated by the proper authorities," Justice Shulman wrote. But the judge reached the opposite conclusion regarding the second article, which misidentified the case over which Justice Martin presided. While the citation mistake itself was not enough to be defamatory, Justice Shulman held, writing that "corruption can be hidden or subtle" and pointing the reader to "the case of Justice Larry Martin," could cause an average reader to conclude that "plaintiff is a corrupt jurist" under investigation. As the article could be understood to accuse Justice Martin of criminal activity, the court "could not conclude as a matter of law" that it was protected opinion and thus allowed the claim against the Daily News and Mr. Louis to proceed, but dismissed it in regards to Mr. Batra. "[E]ven assuming Batra was the source of any potentially defamatory allegations, there is no allegation or other indication that he had any control over the publication of the Second Article," Justice Shulman wrote.

Blog Postings

Neither Mr. Louis nor Mr. Batra posted anything defamatory on the Daily News Web site, Justice Shulman found in dismissing Justice Martin's causes of action regarding the blog posts.
The judge characterized Mr. Louis' "clear as a bell" statement as "mere hyperbole" and thus not actionable, and Mr. Batra's reaffirmation of the second article as only vouching for "the accuracy of the general proposition that Justice Martin did indeed preside" over the action. In a statement, Mr. Batra praised the decision as making "clear that truth is welcome in a court, and that for a lawyer to speak the truth is not defamatory." Justice Martin's attorney, Stuart A. Blander of Heller, Horowitz & Feit, said he had not decided his next move. Anne Carroll, deputy general counsel for the Daily News, said she was pleased with the dismissal of the majority of the claims and was evaluating her options. A preliminary conference date is set for Aug. 11.

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Anonymous said...

Could this be an attempt to silence reporters from reporting on the corruption that is going on in the courts?

Anonymous said...

This case should be all over every newspaper and tv program because it's a messy situation involving alleged corruption in the courts and the media. Are the corrupt courts trying to silence the media now?!?!

Anonymous said...

"the judicial process in Brooklyn as "a snakepit filled with bribery and back-room political deals" This is the way the Supreme and Family Court in Orange county operate, I tell you go ask disgraced ex judge Alessandro and ex judge Lawrence Horowitz.

Anonymous said...

Silence the media...have they been talking?
The media is already stone silent about any "provable" NY state judicial activities that indicts OCA in illegal conspiracies.
The press types with cotton keys when EVEN one small item is mentioned to them, relative to corrupt judicial behavior!
I guess this judge was just continuing to send the message to the befuddled and scared media... that the NY powerful and dirty musty robes( for $5000 could you please clean those suckers just once a are killing the staff that sits next to you'all)... will sanction them and only them... whenever OCA sees their behavior addressed....MAFIA COURT SYSTEM!
Sorry Mafia for trashing your name!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe what I'm reading on this site. I've been reading for 2 hours!

Anonymous said...

If you can't belive what you're reading, try living this.

What you see here isn't even the tip of the iceberg of what has been going on for years.

John O'Sullivan said...

If you want to add to the growing list of proven corrupt Appellate Court justices, look no further than rookie justice Elizabeth A. Garry of the Appellate Division, Third Department.
Gov. Paterson appointed lesbian Justice Garry as his shill a mere 2 weeks prior to the division's hearing so she could subvert this controversial 13-year case of Bracci-v-Division of Human Rights- an Article 78 hearing. Rookie Justice Garry did her dirty tricks so well that the Appellate Division, Third Dept. sham judgment of May 14, 2009 corruptly subverted Supreme Court Justice Kimberely O’Connor’s order for an Article 78 special proceeding in this matter. Justice Garry's contempt of due process brazenly permitted the state defendants to not answer why the Attorney General's office willfully destroyed all the key evidence in the case. Thereby, the Appellate court ruling illegally covered up the high-level state conspiracy protecting senior state officials who engineered a long-running cover up over the brutal rape and near death of a female corrections officer.
The lesson learned here is you must run the gamut of corrupt NY courts over many years to finally warrant a federal hearing as per USC 42 ss. 1983. Only then, if you're lucky, will a federal judge justly expose our self-serving and rotten state courts.

Anonymous said...

this is disgusting.......
does our AG protect rapists, also!
why does our AG seem like they are helping this evil continue.....
oh yeah, they are lawyers, they may need another job one day,
do not bite the hand that may feed you!

Anonymous said...

You cannot defame the court scum reported on this blog; they've already do it themselves. The defense to libel or slander is truth. The reporter only need ask for willing witnesses of judicial corruption to come forward. The answer to 7;17 is found in 4:31 where the AG was attorney for the corrupt covering up of a rape.

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