Judge Insists He Has No Hostility Against Cozen Lawyer Who Made Bull’s-Eye Claim
Posted Sep 5, 2012 9:08 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Judge Arthur Schack of Brooklyn has agreed to recuse himself in an accident case after Cozen O’Connor accused him of making wanted posters out of an image of one of its lawyers.
Schack insisted he has “no bias, animus or hostility” against lawyer John McDonough or his law firm, the New York Law Journal reports. He said he would step aside, however, “in the exercise of discretion and good conscience and to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
The recusal motion had claimed Schack posted images of McDonough in his courtroom with the word “wanted” printed on them. On another occasion, the motion said, the judge had drawn a bull’s eye around a photo of McDonough’s face. Schack did not address those allegations, but he did say a McDonough colleague had made misstatements about a courtroom conversation on the day of the alleged bull’s eye incident.
The colleague, co-counsel Eric Berger, had claimed Schack refused to sign orders related to a motion in limine, drew the bull’s eye, handed it to Berger, and said, “Tell that piece of sh-- McDonough he should not have made you do this.”
Schack said in his decision (PDF) that he could not sign the orders because the request was made ex parte. He didn’t detail the allegations about the conversation, but said they couldn’t be substantiated. "Unfortunately, there is no record to substantiate the actual conversation and defendants' counsel fails to present any affidavits or affirmations from any witnesses to our conversation," Schack wrote. A lawyer present in the courtroom for another matter, on the other hand, did not hear the language.
Cozen is defending a personal injury case against Duane Reade. Schack had made several rulings against McDonough, then later declared a mistrial after a juror was excused to go back to work. Schack defended the adverse rulings in his decision.
Opposing counsel Evan Torgan told the New York Law Journal that he believed the Cozen lawyers were "judge shopping" and the wanted posters were "obviously a joke."