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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Defamation Suit Gets Appellate Kiss Good-Bye

(CN) - An attorney for New York City cannot sue over embarrassing disciplinary charges since the allegations that he tried to kiss a rival lawyer were upheld and landed him with a 30-day suspension, a state appeals court ruled.

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development suspended Ralph Brannon based on the recommendation of an administrative law judge. At the disciplinary hearing, the judge sustained charges that Brannon approached another attorney in the hallway, failed to settle the case they were litigating, and asked her for a kiss.

While Brannon appealed to the Civil Service Commission, an ultimately unsuccessful maneuver, he filed suit against the city, the agency and its attorney, Paul Schreiber, for defamation, retaliation and malicious prosecution.

His allegation that the disciplinary proceeding was baseless hinged on his denial of culpability for the misconduct charges.

A Manhattan judge dismissed the case, however, since commission decisions are final and not subject to further court review. The appellate division affirmed last week, saying the doctrine of collateral estoppel "provides a complete defense to plaintiff's claims against the city defendants in this action.

"We also find that there is no basis for concluding that the disciplinary action was commenced in retaliation for a letter written by plaintiff 3½ years earlier to an assistant commissioner, complaining that the prices of properties offered for sale by the agency were improper," the unsigned decision states.

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