A Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice says the FBI has cleared him of wrongdoing for the activities described in a 2013 Philadelphia Inquirer story at the heart of his lawsuit against the paper.
Seamus McCaffery and his wife, Lise Rapaport, are suing the paper for “false light invasion of privacy,” saying the Inquirer made it look like they’d committed wrongdoing when Rapaport — a sometimes judicial aid to her husband — took hundreds of thousands of dollars in “referral fees” for steering cases to law firms that later appeared before her husband in court. In a majority of those cases, the Inquirer reported, the firm that paid the fees received a positive vote from McCaffery.
The report resulted in new ethics rules at the court, as well as an FBI probe. During preliminary arguments in the case today, McCaffery’s lawyer, Dion Rassias, said McCaffery had been cleared. The Legal Intelligencer reports:
Toward the end of the argument, Rassias told (a judge) that the articles in question falsely suggested that McCaffery’s vote was tainted based on his wife’s acceptance of referral fees.
“Two weeks ago the FBI cleared Justice McCaffery,” Rassias then told Cleland. The judge quickly moved on and wrapped up the hearing, saying he would rule on the preliminary objections promptly.
Calls to the Philadelphia office of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania were not immediately returned.
The hearing was held in Harrisburg; all Philadelphia judges are recused from the case. Senior Judge John M. Cleland is hearing the case.