Court tosses ex-Chief Judge Janet DiFiore defamation suit

A federal decide has tossed out a defamation go well with filed in opposition to ex-New York Chief Decide Janet DiFiore — who resigned final month amid an ongoing ethics probe — as “implausible to frivolous.”

The lawsuit, first filed by NY State Courtroom Officers Affiliation boss Dennis Quirk in 2020 and revised final yr, referenced two Publish tales that exposed DiFiore had ordered a racial discrimination probe into the union head over his alleged remedy of black court docket officers.

Quirk alleged DiFiore and co-defendant Chief Administrative Decide Lawrence Marks fed the “false, defamatory and injurious allegations” to The Publish, which was not listed as a defendant.

The union chief had despatched a fiery e mail to DiFiore — who stepped down final month — objecting to the discharge of the accusations in opposition to him, telling her, “[L]et’s see have [sic]you want the net articles about your relationship with a police officer with ties to organized crime whilst you have been married posted throughout each court docket constructing in NYS.”

New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, asks questions during oral arguments at the Court of Appeals, June 1, 2016, in Albany, N.Y.
Former New York Chief Decide Janet DiFiore resigned final month amid an ongoing ethics probe.
AP/Hans Pennink

The Workplace of Courtroom Administration subsequently introduced disciplinary expenses in opposition to Quirk for sending a “threatening e mail to Chief Decide DiFiore designed to intimidate her.”

Upon his suspension, OCA additionally informed The Publish that Quirk was suspended for publishing the chief decide’s handle on social media. He has since retired as a court docket officer however stays president of the officers’ union.

Dennis Quirk, president of New York State Court Officers Association, gives Democrat Domenic Recchia the union’s endorsement Tuesday on the steps of the Richmond County Supreme Court building in St. George.
NY State Courtroom Officers Affiliation boss Dennis Quirk alleged DiFiore fed the “false, defamatory and injurious allegations” to The Publish.

Quirk — who had been vital of the court docket system’s security measures throughout the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak — additionally named state Senate Judiciary Committee Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Senate counsel Erik Katz within the go well with.

He accused them of violating his free speech rights after he wasn’t invited to talk at a legislative listening to on the court docket system’s response to the pandemic — a declare US District Decide Lewis Kaplan deemed “implausible to frivolous.”

Kaplan, in his 29-page ruling dated Sept. 13, additionally stated Quirk didn’t show defamation or retaliation, discovering these claims have been “meritless.”

New York State Office of Court Administration Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks, testifies during a joint legislative budget hearing on Public Protection Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Albany, N.Y.
New York State Workplace of Courtroom Administration Chief Administrative Decide Lawrence Marks was listed as a co-defendant within the go well with.

He stated DiFiore and the judiciary merely known as for a probe of Quirk based mostly on a court docket officer’s e mail alleging discrimination — and concluded any of their feedback had free speech protections.

“It’s a elementary precept of First Modification regulation that nobody may be chargeable for expressing their opinion . . . regardless of how unreasonable, excessive or faulty these opinions is likely to be,” the decide wrote.

“It will be an understatement to say that it’s a minimum of as believable that Mr. Quirk was investigated and charged for making an attempt to intimidate the state’s highest judicial officer than for his COVID-related feedback or any mixture of different causes nowhere talked about within the charging doc,” Kaplan stated.

An OCA spokesperson for DiFiore and the OCA applauded Kaplan’s ruling.

“Clearly Decide Kaplan discovered the whole thing of the lawsuit to be a paper tiger. It’s weird and unlucky that Mr. Quirk continues to make use of Courtroom Officer’s union sources, monetary and in any other case, to additional his private vendetta in opposition to senior directors of the Courtroom System and the previous Chief decide,” stated OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen.   

Quirk stated he was upset with the ruling however stated DiFiore is “not out of the woods” given the continued ethics probes.

The Fee on Judicial Conduct is reportedly investigating whether or not DiFiore improperly used her affect to induce court docket officers to punish Quirk.

In the meantime, Quirk in August filed a separate ethics criticism in opposition to DiFiore with the judiciary calling for officers to strip her of her regulation license.

That criticism expenses that DiFiore improperly intervened in his disciplinary case; refused to adjust to court docket orders when the chief decide was sued by 46 older judges compelled out of their jobs; and dominated on circumstances as an alternative of recusing herself involving the regulation agency Greenberg Traurig, which personally represented her within the litigation involving the older judges.

Janet DiFiore walks in a hallway at the Capitol before a Senate judiciary hearing on her nomination to the New York Court of Appeals on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Albany, N.Y.
DiFiore beforehand dismissed the disbarment criticism filed by Quirk.
AP/Mike Groll

Quirk additionally accused DiFiore of “conspiring” with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the appointment of 4 extra judges to the state Courtroom of Claims to “clear the pathway” for the chief’s daughter, Alexandra Murphy, to run for and be elected to a seat on the state Supreme Courtroom in Westchester County.

“We already compelled DiFiore to resign. The Fee of Judicial Conduct and the grievance committee are lively circumstances in opposition to her,” Quirk stated.

He additionally stated he just lately filed a case with the Public Worker Relations Board alleging that DiFiore and OCA meddled in union affairs.

DiFiore, via a spokesman, beforehand dismissed the disbarment criticism filed by Quirk.

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