By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Dec 6 (Reuters) - A libel lawsuit brought by
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Larry Martin against a New York
Daily News columnist was dismissed this week by a Manhattan
The lawsuit, which named former columnist Errol Louis, the
newspaper and lawyer Ravi Batra, claimed that Louis wrote
several erroneous articles and blog posts, based on tips from
Batra, that accused Martin of presiding over a case involving a
lawyer who had represented the judge in a proceeding before the
state Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Martin Shulman, who had
already dismissed several claims in 2009, including those
against Batra, said Martin had failed to demonstrate that the
Daily News acted with "actual malice" when it printed the
"The bar is set high for a public official to recover
monetary damages based upon the publication of defamatory
misstatements of facts concerning that individual's conduct
while acting in his or her official capacity," Shulman wrote in
granting the newspaper's motion for summary judgment on Dec. 3.
Even if Martin could show that the newspaper and Louis were
"unprofessional and/or negligent in their fact-checking and/or
rush to publication," Shulman wrote, that does not mean they
acted with actual malice or willfully ignored the truth.
Martin and his lawyer, Harold Schwab, did not return calls
for comment Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed amid a years-long multimillion-dollar
dispute between Martin Riskin, a Batra client, and Riskin's
former partner, Ted Singer, over the proceeds from acquiring and
selling distressed properties.
The litigation led to 11 separate lawsuits, and Martin
presided over one of them.
In a February 2007 column on judicial misconduct in
Brooklyn, Louis said an attorney who previously represented
Martin in a proceeding before the state Judicial Conduct
Commission was involved in the overall Riskin-Singer dispute.
That, he contended, created a conflict of interest, and Martin
should have recused himself.
The lawyer, Jerome Karp, did not appear as an attorney in
the matter before Martin.
Martin then filed the defamation suit, claiming Louis had
falsely portrayed him as a corrupt judge, Shulman's ruling said.
"The decision recognizes the fundamental protection afforded
by the First Amendment for sometimes critical comments about
public officials, including judges," said Laura Handman, the
lawyer for the newspaper and Louis.
Martin was admonished by the commission in 2001 for sending
letters to judges asking for leniency in cases involving
defendants who were sons of family friends.
The case is Martin v. Daily News, New York State Supreme
Court, New York County, No. 100053/2008.
For Martin: Harold Schwab of Lester Schwab Katz & Dwyer.
For the Daily News: Laura Handman of Davis Wright Tremaine.
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