Defense Lawyer Seeks Recusal of Every Judge in Philly

Suggests PA Justice Seamus McCaffery, who is suing Inky, is too connected locally for defendants to get fair trial.

A defense lawyer in Seamus McCaffery’s lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer is asking that every judge in Philadelphia be recused from the case.

Richard Sprague, lawyer for Intertrust GCN, a company owned by Inky co-owner Lewis Katz, filed the motion Friday (below). In it, he notes that McCaffery — now a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — was previously a judge in the First Judicial District that Philadelphia, between 1993 and 2003, and has since participated in judicial reform efforts here. McCaffery’s brother, Daniel, is currently a judge in the district.

Sprague cited other ties between McCaffery, his wife, and the Philadelphia courts — ties, he said, that would undermine public confidence unless the case were assigned to a judge from outside the county.

“Because of the foregoing ties to the First Judicial District, the recusal of the entire Philadelphia County bench, and the assignment to an out-of-county judge to preside over the instant matter, are warranted,” Sprague wrote.

Other parties in the case have until April 7th to respond to Sprague’s motion.

McCaffery and his wife filed notice earlier this month of his intention to sue the Inquirer. That followed articles in 2013 that detailed how McCaffery’s wife and chief judicial aide, Lise Rapaport, received fees for steering cases to personal injury firms — and that in eight of 11 appeals, McCaffery voted for the position favored by the firms that had paid Rapaport in other cases. (In at least one of the cases, Rapaport was running McCaffery’s Supreme Court election campaign at the time she made the referral.) Sprague said in his motion that he believes that at least eight Philadelphia firms were connected to those referral fees.

The reporting also quoted legal experts saying McCaffery should’ve disclosed the payments or even recused himself from the cases.

After the articles appeared, the court adopted rules prohibiting judges from hiring relatives or sitting on corporate boards. The articles also prompted an FBI investigation, McCaffery acknowledged. In court filings, however, he has asserted that he has done “nothing wrong, illegal, or unethical.” His lawyer, Dion Rassias, has suggested the Inquirer’s legal experts might’ve offered differing assessments if they’d been provided different information about the cases by the newspaper.

McCaffery and his wife have not filed an official complaint specifying the Inquirer’s wrongdoing. The newspaper last week asked a judge to require McCaffery and Rapaport to do so, or see the case dismissed. Rassias responded with a motion asking the Inquirer to name the 11 firms mentioned in its reporting.

A hearing to determine how the case will proceed is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

The defendants in the case are Interstate General Media, which owns the paper; Intertrust GCN, the company owned by Lewis Katz, a minority shareholder in IGM; Inky editor Bill Marimow and reporter Craig McCoy; Daily News editor Michael Days; and Inky editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.