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

Plus: Will Interstate General Media defend its own journalism?

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.

In fact, those lawyers said, some Philadelphia judges are likely to be witnesses in the case — as are members of a number of law firms headquartered in the city. Thus the need for an out-of-county judge

“This case involves more than Justice McCaffery, it concerns the First Judicial District itself,” the lawyers wrote. “Judges and staff members may be called as material witnesses to testify about publications in the statements at issue.”

They also asked that discovery in the case be delayed until the judge issue is resolved — and noted that the Inquirer’s owner, Interstate General Media, had thus far been absent in the case. “No counsel has yet even entered an appearance for defendant Interstate General Media,” wrote lawyers for the quartet.

Mark Block, a spokesman for Interstate General Media, did not immediately know if and when the company will have a lawyer enter the case to defend its journalism.

One result of the motions: The case has bounced around between several judges; it currently resides with Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, the presiding judge for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

McCaffery and his wife, Lise Rapaport, filed suit against the Inquirer last month following Inquirer articles in 2013 that detailed how Rapaport, McCaffery’s wife and chief judicial aide, 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.

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,” and says the Inquirer’s reporting — along with the Daily News‘ editorializing on the issue — cast him and his wife in a false light.