Lawsuit: McCaffery Lawyer Decries “Smear Campaign” by Inky

Lawsuit filing suggests ownership fight helped provide basis for lawsuit. Inquirer editor defends paper, reporting.


Inquirer editor Bill Marimow (left, AP photo by Joseph Kaczmarek); Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery (right)

Philadelphia Inquirer editor Bill Marimow used the paper to conduct a “smear campaign” against Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and his wife, McCaffery’s lawyer said Tuesday in the official civil complaint filed against the paper.

Dion Rassias opened his blisteringly worded 60-page broadside (in full below) against the Inquirer and Daily News — alleging they defamed McCaffery and his wife, and cast them in a false light — with an attack on their shared ownership, Interstate General Media.

“Philadelphia is unfortunately a one-horse media town because both major daily newspapers are owned by the same entities; that means that the Defendants can write whatever they want, whenever they want to, and their publications can only be held in check by the legal system,” Rassias wrote. “This case is all about media accountability for publishing smear pieces.”

But on Wednesday, Marimow defended the paper and its reporting. “The Inquirer’s stories were accurate, thorough and fair and examined an important issue in the administration of justice in Pennsylvania,” he said in an email to Philadelphia magazine.

The case, though, is also about the Inquirer’s fractured ownership and administration: In the complaint, Rassias quotes from the November trial that restored Marimow to his job at the Inquirer after his earlier firing by publisher Bob Hall. Questioning at the trial suggested Hall thought the initial March 2013 story — reporting that Rapaport, McCaffery’s wife and chief judicial aide, received fees for steering cases to personal injury firms — was unworthy of its front-page placement. The story quoted legal experts questioning the propriety of the arrangements, and eventually prompted both rules changes at the court and an FBI investigation of McCaffery.

Rassias wrote:

In fact, The Inquirer’s March article was so heinous, untrue and savage in its portrayal of the Plaintiffs that even the publisher of the newspaper, Robert J. Hall, had to admit under oath that he was so appalled by the story, and the lengths The Inquirer had gone to in order to “make Justice McCaffery and his wife look bad,” he called Defendant Marimow — the newspaper’s editor — and expressed deep concern over the placement of the article, and specifically told Defendant Marimow that such a piece “should not have been on page one.” He also told Defendant Marimow that the story was “seriously flawed because it implied that Justice McCaffery and his wife Lise Rapaport had done something wrong.”

Remarkably, publisher Robert Hall was so concerned over the placement of this article that was maliciously designed to “make Justice McCaffery and his wife look bad” that he even sent a follow-up email to Defendant Marimow on March 4, 2013, exclaiming how “disappointed” he was with the story and how “distressed” he was that it was put on the front page of the Sunday paper.

Rassias had filed notice of the lawsuit earlier this month; Tuesday’s filing was the first to detail his client’s complaints about the Inquirer stories.

Rassias repeated assertions made in previous court filings: That McCaffery was innocent of unethical and illegal conduct; and that Rapaport properly and legally received one particularly large fee — $821,000 — for a referral made when she was on leave from the court, managing an election campaign for McCaffery. He added that McCaffery properly disclosed the fees.

Indeed, the third paragraph of the original Inky story said the fees were listed in McCaffery’s state-mandated financial disclosure forms; the story added, however, that on 11 occasions McCaffery had ruled on cases involving firms that had made referral fees — voting eight times in favor of the firm that had made the payment — and said: “Lawyers in the cases say the justice never disclosed the fees.” Rassias says McCaffery made every disclosure required by the law

While the case includes a number of defendants — including the Daily News and its political cartoonist, Signe Wilkinson, for a cartoon satirizing McCaffery and Rapaport— Rassias singled out Marimow for particular criticism, saying the Inquirer editor “had an extremely close personal friendship and business relationship with individuals whose interests and motivations were completely adverse to Plaintiff McCaffery,” relationships “he deliberately kept … a secret from the general public.”

In printing the story about McCaffery, Rassias said, Marimow aimed to advance “the several agendas of his friends and his personal counsel.” Rassias did not, however, detail who those friends might be, their agendas, or how they might have influenced Marimow’s decision-making.

Rassias is seeking unspecified “compensatory damages, punitive damages, (and) delay damages” from the defendants.

Mark Block, a spokesman for Inquirer parent company Interstate General Media, was not immediately available for comment.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.

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  • Northeaster

    He’s married to a Rapaport? He’s gotta be dirty.

    • Keith

      Any connection to the political boss?

  • matthew brandley

    seamus, the inky. every damn one of them thats involved is corrupt. They are all tied in to politics. Its all dirty nasty politics. Not one bit of this can be clean . None of it. Its get down on your kn ees and who can you blow to get to the top

    • Keith

      That’s why the political boss should be under a federal investigation

  • Christopher Sawyer

    Please PAGOP and Tea Party Republicans in Harrisburg, join with PA Sen. Larry Farnese and pass anti-SLAPP legislation in Pennsylvania and force defamation plaintiffs in court to prove their defamation claims up-front rather than file fruitless lawsuits intended to intimidate defendants into silence. The Democrats are trying to destroy their own liberal newsmedia.

    • Keith

      Are you referring to the SJ Democratic machine whose orchestrating this madness? It’s how he rolls

  • Keith

    This sounds like A political boss hiding somewhere in the shadows orchestrating this nonsense and targeting the man he wanted fired. This is how this machine operates.

    If the political boss can’t get what he wants, he uses people to manufacture a story and aim for the person he wants out.

    This is so obvious. What’s worse is he’s sending them to the same attorney the editor is using.

    I hope he gets caught and investigated for this frivolous nonsense. Come to NJ. We’ll be glad to give you detail of how he operates.

  • CCUMA Worker

    Everybody knows Norcross put these people up to this. He will do anything to get rid of Marimow. Now people, do you see how silly and petty Nocross can be. He’s vile and vicious. He will use anyone or anything he can to demonize someone he hates. Norcross is ruthless

  • Hank

    Everyone knows McCaffery is corrupt, psychopathic, free mason, who loves to abuse power…that’s why we love him! Seamus has just recently outlawed the 4th amendment for PA drivers. Too bad the people of PA don’t deserve rights. The voters of PA are so naive, they will continue to give up all their freedoms.. Can’t say I feel bad for these dumb Pennsylvanian sheep. I hope one day Seamus outlaws freedom of speech for Pa too, so that nobody can speak bad about him.