Accusing a New York jurist of “bias” and “pre-ordained favoritism” in favor of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, famed conservative attorney Larry Klayman did not show up on Thursday for a remote appearance before that judge.
MANHATTAN (CN) — An attorney representing former Alabama judge Roy Moore was AWOL from a Thursday morning court hearing on his effort to disqualify the federal judge presiding over Moore’s $95 million defamation suit against Sacha Baron Cohen.
Larry Klayman, a conservative legal gadfly and founder of Freedom Watch, filed the motion last week to disqualify U.S. District Judge John P. Cronan from Moore’s defamation suit against the English comedian and the networks Showtime and CBS that partnered with Baron Cohen on the series “Who Is America?”
Klayman alleges in the filing that Judge Cronan’s remarks at a December 2020 court conference and narrow granting of discovery showed his “bias” and “apparently pre-ordained favoritism.”
“Judge Cronan’s bias and prejudice against Judge Moore in particular, and Mrs. Moore by virtue of her being Judge Moore’s wife, can only be logically be explained as a reaction to Judge Moore’s devout political and religious beliefs, and this has been manifested on numerous occasions in this case,” Klayman wrote.
At the December 2020 hearing, Cronan ruled that the deposition of Baron Cohen could last only one hour and include questions only about the enforceability of a television consent agreement as it pertains to the comedian’s motion for summary judgment.
The Trump-appointed Judge Cronan warned Klayman directly that he would immediately shut down the questioning should Klayman tread past that explicitly narrow scope of the deposition. Baron Cohen’s deposition “will not be an opportunity to harass or annoy the witness or place an undue burden on the defendants,” Cronan said in December. “That is inappropriate, not because of Mr. Cohen’s celebrity status, but that is an inappropriate use of discovery and runs afoul of my order as to the scope of the limited discovery.”
In the motion to disqualify, Klayman characterized Cronan’s warning as the judge making himself “available to step in to apparently restrain, if not sanction, Mr. Klayman from holding Defendant Cohen’s feet to the proverbial fire at deposition too rigorously.”
Klayman also included an affidavit from Moore, the ex-judge, recalling Cronan’s alleged “extrajudicial bias and prejudice” in the case in the Southern District of New York.
“Not only did Judge Cronan appear rude and disrespectful to my attorney, but he also seemed to apologize to the Defendant’s counsel for not giving them all the relief they were seeking,” Moore wrote in the affidavit.
Judge Cronan told the parties Thursday, after waiting 20 minutes for Klayman to dial in to the remote teleconference, he had planned to address the issue of Klayman’s failure to report a recent 90-day suspension imposed on him by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
The judge then said he would set a follow-up hearing.
Two hours later, Klayman, a former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor, submitted a letter to the court apologizing for missing the hearing.
“The conference was inadvertently not marked up on the undersigned’s calendar, so he was unaware that it was to occur today,” Klayman wrote.
In a phone call Thursday afternoon, the Boca Raton-based attorney told Courthouse News that missing the conference was merely a “snafu.”
Judge Moore seeks $95 million in damages after he made an unwitting guest appearance on Baron Cohen’s satirical Showtime series “Who Is America?”
Donning one of his trademark disguises in the ambush, Baron Cohen posed as a counterterrorism expert to interview Moore, the former judge who saw his 2017 Senate run derailed by sexual misconduct allegations involving underage girls.
In the 2018 interview, the English actor shows off what he billed as the latest feat of top-flight Israeli technology, a supposed pedophile detector that beeped persistently whenever waved around Moore.
“I’m not saying you’re a sex offender at all,” Cohen assures Moore in the clip.
Moore sued with his wife, Kayla Moore, claiming the actor caused both of them “severe emotional distress,” as well as “severe financial damage” presently and in the future.
The now-74-year-old former judge has been dogged for years that he made inappropriate advances as an assistant district attorney in his 30s against teenage girls in the Cotton State, where the age of consent is 16. Two accused him of assault or molestation. Moore denies the claims.
His case was moved from Washington to the Southern District of New York in May 2019.
The Moores’ complaint survived Baron Cohen’s motion to dismiss before U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter, an Obama-appointed judge who presided over the case in New York until September 2020, when it was reassigned to Judge Cronan.
Responding to the motion to disqualify Judge Cronan, attorneys representing Baron Cohen and Showtime pointed to Klayman’s lengthy history of such baseless motions.
“In short, Plaintiffs’ Motion conforms to the pattern of myriad meritless recusal and disqualification motions Mr. Klayman has filed in the past, including in this case,” Elizabeth A. McNamara wrote in an opposition memo Monday. “This Court should follow the lead of its sister courts across the country and deny the Motion.”
McNamara also noted that over 20 years ago, former Southern District of New York Judge Denny Chin had remarked that Klayman “has a history of accusing judges of bias or prejudging cases,” and that his “repeated efforts to find fault with the judges before whom he appears certainly interferes with the administration of justice.”
In 1997, Judge Chin imposed sanctions against Klayman after he argued that Judge Chin was biased against him merely because he was appointed by President Clinton and is Asian-American.
In addition to the Moores, Klayman’s previous clients include such other right-wing figures as Trayvon Martin’s acquitted killer George Zimmerman, former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.