Tabloid Spread Prompts Libel Suit by NYC Judge

     BROOKLYN (CN) — After a humiliating tabloid spread that said she’d been deemed “unqualified,” a Brooklyn judge slapped the committee blocking her reappointment with a $5 million federal complaint.
     Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Laura Jacobson’s Aug. 26 lawsuit comes just over a month after the New York Post called her chances at re-election “doomed.”
     With 25 years on the bench, the Post reported, Jacobson is the first judge in the borough’s history to be denied approval from the Brooklyn Democratic Party Judicial Screening Committee.
     Reappointment by the 25-member committee “is usually … a rubber stamp for sitting judges such as Jacobson,” according to the article.
     The Post attributed Jacobson’s fall from grace to her poor record, quoting a party source as saying she had an “abnormal percentage of cases … overturned by higher courts.”
     But Jacobson’s lawsuit says this assessment is untrue and libelous.
     “Judge Jacobson did not have an ‘abnormal percentage of cases [that] were overturned by higher courts,'” her 91-page complaint states. “Nor was Judge Jacobson ‘reversed on appeal at least 57 times in the past decade.’ On the contrary, of the many thousands of orders that Judge Jacobson has issued ‘in the past decade’ (since 2006), in the range of approximately 4,000, only an infinitesimal amount were appealed, and only a fraction of those appeals resulted in reversals!” (Parentheses and emphasis in original).
     The Post is not a party to the complaint, which takes aim at the committee and its chairman, Martin Edelman. An umbrella group and its chairman Frank Seddio are named as defendants as well, as are three attorney-members of the Edelman committee.
     Jacobson says real reason she is being blackballed from another 14-year term is because she refused to let “political or social pressures … impact her decisionmaking.”
     “Such judicial independence did not sit well with the Kings County Democratic political machine,” the complaint states.
     Jacobson quotes a subcommittee investigator as calling her “probably the smartest judge on the bench,” but the anonymous committee members who talked to the Post painted an insulting picture of the jurist.
     “She’s not the brightest bulb in the courthouse to begin with,” someone told the Post.
     In addition to being “false, misleading,” Jacobson says the damaging disclosures about her breached the confidentiality of the candidate-nomination process.
     The disclosures were made vindictively, the complaint states, “to harm Judge Jacobson maliciously and permanently.”
     And the committee didn’t stop there.
     Jacobson says the Post’s follow-up article — reporting that she played hooky on the day its article about her nomination ran — relied on more lies from the committee.
     “She’s lazy too,” the Post said, accusing Jacobson of adjourning the three cases on her July 14 docket.
     In reality, Jacobson says, she had a single case calendared that day, and it had to be rescheduled because of an attorney’s absence, not her own.
     “After Judge Jacobson, and the other attorneys who did appear, waited for the missing attorney and unsuccessfully tried to reach that lawyer by phone, a retrial date was set with the attorneys present agreeing to check with the missing attorney if there were any problems with the chosen date,” the complaint states.
     Jacobsen spends much of the complaint defending her work ethic, noting that the Post’s own photograph of her shows her bringing “bags” of work home with her.
     The nominating party did not returned calls to its headquarters Monday afternoon.
     Jacobson refused to comment on the litigation, but her Manhattan attorney Ravi Batra emphasized the importance of protecting judicial independence.
     “This lawsuit honors, by deed, a lawyer’s perpetual duty to protect and defend the noble judiciary and the Constitution,” Batra said in an email. “Here, it is painful, as it seeks to prevent destructive overreach by persons one would easily have a friendly drink and break bread with.”

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