McCaffery’s Suit Survives First Inky Objections

Seamus McCaffery can proceed with his lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer, a judge ruled this week.

McCaffery, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, is suing — along with his wife — over a 2013 Inky regarding legal “referral” fees she collected. That story led to rules changes at the court, and an FBI investigation, but McCaffery said he did nothing wrong.

The paper’s lawyers this week argued that editors and journalists have the job “to highlight what public officials are doing and let the public make its own determination on the conduct.” McCaffery’s lawyer once again pointed out that then-publisher Bob Hall questioned the worthiness of the story after it was published.

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Lawyer: McCaffery Cleared in FBI Probe

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:

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Lawyer: First Amendment Doesn’t Protect Inquirer

seamus mccaffery

The Inquirer may have the right to report on the actions of public officials, an attorney says in filings against the newspaper, but it doesn’t have the right to mislead readers into believing an official has done something wrong.

Dion Rassias, the attorney for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and McCaffery’s wife, Lise Rapaport, made the argument this week in his latest filings against the newspaper over its 2013 story about referral fees Rapaport earned from law firms that later came before her husband on the bench.

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Marimow, Inquirer Fight Back Against McCaffery Lawsuit


The Inquirer has struck back against a lawsuit from Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, defending the accuracy of its reporting — and its right to report on matters involving the state’s public officials.

McCaffery and his wife, Lise Rapaport, sued the Inquirer in March, a year after a front-page article by investigative reporter Craig McCoy detailed how Rapaport — who also served from time-to-time as McCaffery’s chief judicial aide — had received hefty case referral fees from firms that later appeared before McCaffery and the state court. The fees were legal and disclosed in McCaffery’s official disclosure forms. Nonetheless, the articles produced an FBI investigation and the overhaul of some ethics rules at the court.

But McCaffery and his wife did nothing illegal or unethical, their lawyer said in his initial filings against the paper.

Late Thursday afternoon, an attorney for McCoy and Inky editor Bill Marimow responded that they had reported — and let the readers decide. McCaffery, they said, had shown no evidence that any element of the reported stories were false.

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Filing: Inky Publisher Was “Disappointed” in McCaffery Story

Robert Hall. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Robert Hall. AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Will Inky publisher Bob Hall end up being the star witness in a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice’s lawsuit against his paper?

That appears to be the strategy mounted by Dion Rassias, the Philadelphia attorney representing Justice Seamus McCaffery and his wife, Lise Rappaport. The two are suing the Inquirer over a March 4, 2013, story that depicted how Rappaport earned lucrative referral fees from firms that later had cases before McCaffery’s court — a story that prompted an FBI inquiry and changes to ethics rules at the court.

Rassias on Friday filed an amended complaint in the case — this time including an email from Hall to Inquirer editor Bill Marimow sent the same morning the original McCaffery story ran. Rassias had referenced the email in previous filings in the case; Friday’s filing is the first in which he quoted the email directly and in full:

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Sandusky Judge Gets McCaffery Case Against Inky

Law360 reports: “McKean County Court of Common Pleas Judge John M. Cleland was appointed Wednesday to preside over a libel suit brought by state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and his wife, five days after the co-owners of Philadelphia’s two major newspapers won a bid to recuse the entire Philadelphia bench.”

Cleland is apparently the go-to guy for mass recusals in Pennsylvania: He served as judge in the Jerry Sandusky case after every judge in Centre County was recused over their connections to Sandusky, Penn State, or the Second Mile charity that Sandusky ran.

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Out-of-County Judge Will Get McCaffery-Inky Case

An out-of-county judge will be appointed to preside over Seamus McCaffery’s lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer. Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, the presiding judge in the civil division of the Philadelphia Court of Common Please, made the order Friday afternoon.

The order is a victory for defendants in the case, who had argued that McCaffery’s ties to the district’s judges and lawyers —he’s a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice from Philadelphia — would create the appearance of a conflict of interest to every judge here.

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McCaffery Opposes Out-of-County Judge in Inky Lawsuit

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice suing the Inquirer is opposing a move to bring a non-Philadelphia judge in to try the case.

Dion Rassias, the lawyer for Justice Seamus McCaffery and McCaffery’s wife, Lise Rapaport, this week filed a motion objecting the defense request that an out-of-county judge be assigned to the case. Lawyers for the defendants had previously suggested that McCaffery’s close ties to Philadelphia courts could give local judges the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Not so, Rassias wrote in passionate defense of the impartiality of Philadelphia judges.

“There are no actual facts, either direct or implied, that support such a wild and wide-sweeping condemnation of the integrity of all of the judges in the First Judicial District,” Rassias wrote.

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More Lawyers Ask for Out-of-County Judge in Inky Lawsuit

More defendants in Seamus McCaffery’s lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer are asking that an out-of-county judge be assigned to the case, according to court filings.

But there is one party to the proceedings that has been noticeably silent in the matter: Interstate General Media, owner of the paper, has made no filings and hasn’t even had a lawyer enter an appearance in the matter.

A lawyer for Lewis Katz, a minority owner of the paper, in mid-March asked for the recusal of every judge in Philadelphia, citing the close ties of McCaffery — now a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice — to the district and nearly every judge in it. Katz was joined late last week by lawyers for Inky editor Bill Marimow, reporter Craig McCoy, Daily News editor Michael Days, and Daily News editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson in requesting an out-of-county judge be assigned to the case.

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Lawsuit: McCaffery Lawyer Decries “Smear Campaign” by Inky


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.

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