Evidence

Lawyer Can Depose Former Chief NY Administrative Judge re Libel Suit Over 'Law and Order' Episode


An attorney who filed a libel suit over a character in a fictional television show that he says could be understood to portray him in an unflattering light has gotten an OK from the trial judge overseeing the case to depose a former chief administrative judge for the state of New York.

Ravi Batra has a right to depose Judge Ann Pfau, who now sits on the state supreme court bench in Brooklyn, “as long as the deposition is not unduly burdensome or prejudicial,” ruled Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings last week in response to a motion by Pfau seeking to quash the deposition subpoena.

However, Billings did limit Batra’s questioning of Pfau, who is a potential witness in Batra’s libel case, to 90 minutes, Reuters reports. The defendants in the case, which was brought over an episode of Law & Order, will get an hour to depose Pfau.

Batra told the news agency that he is seeking to determine whether Pfau made comments critical of him that were attributed to her, as described by unidentified sources, in a 2003 article in the New York Post. NBC, which is a defendant in the libel case, has argued in court papers that the claimed comments show that Batra’s reputation had already been tarnished, explains Reuters.

An earlier Reuters article provides additional details about the judge’s objections to the deposition.

Pfau and counsel for the NBC defendants did not respond to a request for comment by Reuters. Attorney Shawn Kerby of the Office of Court Administration represents Pfau and was not available on Monday. However, Kerby told the news agency last year that Pfau was being used by Batra as “a piñata” in the libel case and said a significant amount of the information the attorney might seek in a deposition would be privileged.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “N.Y. Lawyer: Fictional Persona Libels Me”

New York Times (reg. req.): “At 64, a Longtime Judge Receives a Crash Course On the Ways of the Bench”

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