MANHATTAN (CN) – Irate by the description of her caseload handling as “lazy” and “slow,” the first Asian woman to be elected to New York’s state court system brought a libel suit Wednesday against the New York Post.
Doris Ling-Cohan has presided on the Manhattan Supreme Court since 2003 but made headlines last year when the county Democratic Party declined to approve her candidacy for re-election.
Reporting on the 12-10 vote, the New York Post quoted two anonymous sources as calling the judge lazy, saying she left behind a “backlog of hundreds of unfinished cases and undecided motions” when she moved up to the Appellate Term in 2014.
“Democratic Party bars ‘Lazy’ pro-LGBT judge from election ticket,” the headline to the Aug. 31 article said, referring to Ling-Cohan’s most famous case, a 2005 decision that approved the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Less than a month after that article ran, however, the Manhattan Democratic Party held another vote and approved Ling-Cohan’s nomination.
This time the Post quoted top party officials as saying Ling-Cohan had been done an injustice.
The committee is made up of local attorneys, and the Post’s Sept. 12 article included speculation that some of the votes against Ling-Cohan had come from lawyers with “a personal ax to grind because of her unfavorable rulings toward them.”
New unnamed sources told the Post that Ling-Cohan’s “statistical record in handling and disposing of cases put her in the middle of the pack, not at the bottom.”
She won re-election in November and now wants $40 million in damages from NYP Holdings, Laura Marsh, Carl Campanile, and Laura Italiano — the three Post reporters credited with writing the August article.
“The use of the words ‘lazy’ and ‘slow’ were, as used about an Asian-American hero of the community, scandalous, shameful, and reprehensible as they represent the traits most valued by such communities,” says the complaint, which Ling-Cohan filed in her home court.
Ling-Cohan notes that court records “easily disproved” what the Post claimed to have heard from its anonymous sources. She also says that a rally for her candidacy in September 2016 drew more than 100 supporters.
Describing the far-reaching consequences of the Post’s article, the complaint notes that Chinese language newspapers such as Sing Tao Daily and The World Journal included libelous excerpts from the report.
Ling-Cohan says the Post used the same “lazy” tag about her in two other September articles before the county committee held its second vote.
In 2005, the year of Ling-Cohan’s gay-rights ruling, the Post had profiled her as one of its “Best of the Best” judges in the city. In addition to noting Ling-Cohan’s work in the Asian-American community, the article credited her with helping senior citizens understand their rights as residents of an adult home.
Ling-Cohan’s gay-right’s ruling in 2005 likened laws prohibiting same-sex marriage to outdated laws forbidding mixed-race marriages.
The opinion was eventually overturned on appeal but may have laid the groundwork for New York’s Marriage Equality Act, which passed in 2011.
Dolly Caraballo, an attorney for Ling-Cohan at the firm Caraballo & Mandell, did not immediately respond to a voicemail and email seeking comment.
Genie Gavenchak, a deputy general counsel at Post parent company News Corps, was not immediately available.