By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y., Dec 31 (Reuters) - Former New York Chief
Administrative Judge Ann Pfau has been ordered to give a
deposition in a defamation case brought by a Manhattan attorney
against the hit television show "Law & Order."
Attorney Ravi Batra is pursuing a $15 million defamation
suit against NBC and the creators of the show over a 2003
episode he says featured an unflattering doppelganger.
Batra has said the episode, called "Floater," was based on a
bribery scandal involving former State Supreme Court Justice
Gerald Garson and attorney Paul Siminovsky, according to the
order. Batra said news reports falsely linked him to the
scandal, the order said. He alleged that "Floater" featured an
Indian-American actor and Batra look-alike whose character was
named Ravi Patel. The character was arrested in the episode for
bribing a judge.
Batra has said he is innocent of wrongdoing and was never
charged. Garson was convicted of receiving bribes, according to
New York state records. Siminovsky pleaded guilty to giving
unlawful gratuities, a misdemeanor, according to the New York
Pfau's involvement stems from a story published in the New
York Post in May 2003 which cited anonymous sources saying Pfau
had told other judges to stay away from Batra. "If I ever get a
call from Ravi Batra, it won't be returned," the sources quoted
her as saying. "Anyone who deals with him is on his own."
At the time, Pfau was the administrative judge of the state
Supreme Court in Brooklyn. She later served as the state's chief
administrative judge from 2007 to 2011.
In the latest development, Supreme Court Justice Lucy
Billings last Wednesday denied a motion by Pfau to quash a
subpoena in which Batra is seeking Pfau's testimony about her
"As long as the deposition is not unduly burdensome or
prejudicial to (Pfau), (Batra) is entitled ... to full
disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the
prosecution of the action," Billings wrote.
Batra said in an interview Monday that he wants to establish
during the deposition whether Pfau actually made the comments,
which NBC has cited in court papers as evidence that Batra's
reputation was previously tarnished.
Batra said it was incredible that Pfau had made the
comments, which he said "would fly in the face of my prior
personal interactions" with Pfau.
At an April hearing, Billings said she was convinced that
Pfau's testimony would be relevant to the defamation case. But
in her order last Wednesday she agreed to limit the time of the
deposition in order to "minimize interference" with Pfau's
In last week's order, Billings limited Batra's questioning
of Pfau to 90 minutes; the NBC defendants will get an hour. Pfau
and her attorneys have less than three weeks to request a date.
Attorneys for Pfau had sought to quash the subpoena, saying
it would interfere with her duties as a judge. Shawn Kerby, an
attorney with the Office of Court Administration who is
representing Pfau, was not available for comment on Monday.
Pfau and Elizabeth McNamara, who is representing the
defendants, did not return requests for comment.
The case is Ravi Batra v. Dick Wolf, New York State Supreme
Court, New York County, 116059/2004.
For Batra: pro se.
For the defendants: Elizabeth McNamara of Davis Wright
For the OCA: Shawn Kerby.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax)
(An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that
Batra is a Brooklyn lawyer. He is a Manhattan attorney. It also
misreported when the episode aired. It aired in 2003. The
earlier version reported that the episode was about the sale of
judgeships. This version clarifies that the episode was about
the Garson-Siminovsky bribery scandal).
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