NEW YORK, April 26 (Reuters) - Former Chief Administrative
Judge Ann Pfau will have to appear for a deposition in a
longstanding defamation case against the producers of NBC's
now-defunct flagship show "Law & Order," a Manhattan judge said
Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings said during a hearing
that she would order Pfau to answer questions from lawyer Ravi
Batra, who has pursued defamation claims against the television
network for eight years over an episode he says featured an
unflattering doppelganger charged in a bribery scandal.
But a lawyer for the Office of Court Administration --
representing Pfau as a nonparty -- argued that much of what
Batra is seeking constitutes privileged information and warned
that the office would object to many, if not all, of Batra's
The episode, called "Floater," featured a Brooklyn attorney
named Ravi Patel who is arrested for bribing a judge.
In 2003, media reports connected Batra with an investigation
into whether judicial selections in Brooklyn were up for sale.
Though he resigned from the Brooklyn Democratic party's judicial
screening committee, which he was sitting on at the time, he was
never charged in the scandal and has steadfastly maintained his
Pfau's involvement stems from a May 2003 New York Post
article, which cited anonymous sources who said Pfau had told
other judges to stay away from Batra.
"If I ever get a call from Ravi Batra, it won't be
returned," she said, according to the article's sources. "Anyone
who deals with him is on his own."
Batra is seeking to question Pfau, now an acting Supreme
Court justice in Brooklyn, about whether she made those
statements and, if so, why.
Batra told Billings in court that he needed to depose Pfau
to defuse NBC's possible use of the article before a jury.
"Once you show them a pink elephant with polka dots and tell
them to forget it, it's too late," Batra said.
But lawyers for both NBC and for OCA said the defense would
not use the article for the truth of Pfau's statements but
merely for background on Batra's reputation.
"Judge Pfau is not depicted in the episode," said Shawn
Kerby, the OCA lawyer. "The Post is not depicted in the
episode...He's making us a piñata."
Billings said she was convinced that Pfau's testimony would
be relevant. But she agreed to limit the time of the deposition
to a few hours at most.
Kerby said she would wait for Billings' written order before
deciding whether to appeal the ruling.
The case is Batra v. Wolf et al., 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
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)
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