The state's former chief administrative judge has been ordered to give deposition testimony in a $15 million suit filed by attorney Ravi Batra claiming that he was defamed by a 2003 episode of the TV series "Law & Order" allegedly based on the bribery case of Gerald Garson, a former Brooklyn Supreme Court justice.
Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings (See Profile), in a decision Dec. 24, refused to quash a subpoena in which Batra wants Acting Supreme Court Justice Ann Pfau (See Profile) to testify as to comments she may have made regarding his character that were reported by the New York Post.
Batra's 2004 suit names "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf, NBC Universal and 33 other defendants involved in an episode called "Floater," in which a bald, Indian-American matrimonial attorney named Ravi Patel attempts to bribe a Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn. Batra was born in India and bears some resemblance to Indian-born actor Erick Avari, who played "Ravi" in "Floater."
Garson was charged in 2003 along with divorce lawyer Paul Siminovsky. The ex-judge was later convicted of accepting bribes. Simonovsky pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.
After he was charged, Garson attempted to curry favor with prosecutors by claiming that Batra, a well-known figure in political circles who was a member of the Brooklyn Democratic Party judicial screening panel, was selling judgeships for $50,000 and up, records show. Garson surreptitiously recorded a lunchtime conversation with Batra where he unsuccessfully attempted to elicit incriminating statements from the attorney. Batra was never accused of wrongdoing.
"Law & Order" claims that even if Batra can sustain his burden and prove that he was the model for the character in "Floater," Batra's name had already been sullied by the media and therefore the show caused him little damage.
That is where Pfau comes in.
While the Garson scandal was unfolding, Pfau was deputy chief administrative judge and also administrative judge for Kings County.
A report in the May 3, 2003, New York Post claimed that "Brooklyn's administrative judge has warned fellow jurists to steer clear of Ravi Batra, a veteran lawyer who has close ties to Brooklyn Democratic leader Clarence Norman." The article also stated: "One source quoted Pfau as saying, 'If I ever get a call from Ravi Batra it won't be returned. Anyone who deals with him is on his own.'"
Pfau moved to quash both the deposition subpoena and a subpoena duces tecum, claiming that each seeks information that is irrelevant and privileged.