Court dismisses defamation lawsuit brought by ex-Chief Justice Janet DiFiore

A federal judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit against former New York Chief Justice Janet DiFiore – who resigned last month amid an ongoing ethics investigation – as “unbelievable to frivolous”.

The lawsuit, first filed in 2020 by NY State Court Officers Association chief Dennis Quirk and revised last year, referenced two Post stories that revealed DiFiore opened a racial discrimination investigation into the union chairman over his alleged treatment ordered by a black court official.

Quirk alleged that DiFiore and co-defendant Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Marks submitted the “false, defamatory and hurtful allegations” to The Post, which was not listed as a defendant.

The union leader had sent DiFiore – who resigned last month – a fiery email protesting the publication of the allegations against him, telling her: “[L]Let’s see have [sic]You like the online articles about your relationship with a police officer with organized crime ties while you were married, which have been posted throughout every NYS courthouse.”

Chief Justice of the New York City Circuit Court of Appeals Janet DiFiore asks questions during the hearing at the Circuit Court of Appeals June 1, 2016 in Albany, NY
Former New York Chief Justice Janet DiFiore resigned last month amid an ongoing ethics investigation.
AP/Hans Pennink

The Office of Court Administration then issued disciplinary charges against Quirk for “sending a threatening email to Chief Judge DiFiore to intimidate her.”

Following his suspension, OCA told The Post that Quirk was suspended for posting the Chief Justice’s address on social media. He has since retired as a court official, but remains chairman of the officers’ union.

Dennis Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Association, gives union approval to Democrat Domenic Recchia Tuesday on the steps of the Richmond County Superior Courthouse in St. George.
NY State Court Officers Association chief Dennis Quirk claimed DiFiore leaked the “false, defamatory and hurtful allegations” to the Post.
staff shot

Quirk — who has criticized the court system’s safety measures during the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak — also named state Senate Judiciary Committee Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Senate Attorney Erik Katz in the lawsuit.

He accused her of violating his right to free speech after he was not invited to speak at a legislative hearing on the court system’s response to the pandemic – a claim that US District Judge Lewis Kaplan called “unbelievable to the point of frivolity.” ‘ deemed.

Kaplan also said in his 29-page Sept. 13 judgment that Quirk did not prove defamation or retaliation, finding that those allegations were “baseless.”

Lawrence K. Marks, Chief Administrative Justice of the New York State Office of Court Administration, testifies during a joint legislative budget hearing Wednesday, February 12, 2020, in Albany, NY
New York State Office of Court Administration Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks was named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit.
HANS PENNINK

He said DiFiore and the judiciary merely called for an investigation into Quirk based on a court official’s email alleging discrimination — and concluded that any of her comments had the protection of free speech.

“It is a fundamental principle of First Amendment law that no one can be held responsible for voicing an opinion. . . no matter how unreasonable, extreme or wrong those opinions may be,” the judge wrote.

“It would be an understatement to say that it’s at least as plausible that Mr. Quirk was investigated and charged for attempting to intimidate the state’s top attorney general, than for his COVID-related comments, or a combination of other reasons not documented anywhere.” be mentioned in the indictment document,” Kaplan said.

An OCA spokesman for DiFiore and the OCA welcomed Kaplan’s decision.

“Judge Kaplan has clearly determined that the entire lawsuit is a paper tiger. It is bizarre and unfortunate that Mr Quirk continues to use the financial and other resources of the court clerk’s union to further his personal vendetta against senior court system administrators and the former Chief Justice,” said OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen.

Quirk said he was disappointed with the ruling but said that given the ongoing ethical investigations, DiFiore is “not out of the woods.”

The Commission on Judicial Conduct is reportedly investigating whether DiFiore abused her influence to urge court officials to punish Quirk.

Meanwhile, Quirk filed a separate ethics lawsuit against DiFiore with the judiciary in August, asking officials to revoke her license to practice law.

This complaint accuses DiFiore of improperly intervening in his disciplinary case; refused to obey court orders when the presiding judge was sued by 46 senior judges forced out of their jobs; and decided on cases, rather than retiring, by bringing in the Greenberg Traurig law firm, which represented her personally in the litigation with the senior judges.

Janet DiFiore walks in a Capitol hallway before a Senate Judiciary hearing on her nomination for the New York Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, in Albany, NY
DiFiore previously dismissed Quirk’s lawsuit for disqualification.
AP/Mike Groll

Quirk also accused DiFiore of “conspiring” with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint four additional judges to the State Court of Claims to “clear the way” for the chief’s daughter, Alexandra Murphy, to run for a seat and elected to the Supreme Court in Westchester County.

“We have already forced DiFiore to resign. The Commission of Judicial Conduct and the Complaints Committee have active cases against them,” Quirk said.

He also said he recently filed a case with the Public Employee Relations Board alleging DiFiore and OCA meddled in union affairs.

DiFiore previously, through a spokesman, dismissed Quirk’s lawsuit for disqualification.

https://nypost.com/2022/09/19/court-tosses-ex-chief-judge-janet-difiore-defamation-suit/ Court dismisses defamation lawsuit brought by ex-Chief Justice Janet DiFiore

JACLYN DIAZ

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