People’s court conundrum
A Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge smacked Judge Joseph Wapner and all the jurists who succeeded him on “The People’s Court” in the face last week when he proclaimed testimony given on the courtroom reality show could not be used as evidence in a legitimate legal hearing.
Still, Sheepshead Bay resident Ellen Kahn, whose damning “People’s Court” comments were stricken as evidence in her fight to keep her deceased mother’s Mitchell-Lama apartment on Avenue Z, couldn’t be happier.
Kahn is fighting the city’s Housing Preservation and Development decision to evict her from her dead mother’s rent subsidized apartment.
According to court papers, Khan claimed that since she lived with her mother, she should be able to stay in the apartment and pay the cheap rent.
In fighting her motion papers to stay, city attorneys went right to the videotape — of a recent “The People’s Court” episode in which Khan sued her mother’s home health care aide for not repaying a loan.
In her testimony, she claimed she made “frequent visits” to her mother’s apartment on the weekends and complained that she was unable to see her mother during the week.
The city latched on that line, claiming in court papers “If Ms. Kahn had been residing in the subject apartment with her mother in the year prior to her death, she would have seen her mother during the week.”
But Supreme Court Judge Francois Rivera balked at the city’s argument, stating that “The People’s Court” was about as real as “LA Law.”
“The ‘People’s Court’ is not a court, body, agency, public servant or other person authorized by law to conduct a proceeding and to administer the oath or cause it to be administered,” Rivera wrote in his decision. “The show has voluntary participants, who are not actors, who speak about disputes on a stage that resembles a court.”
“The words or statements uttered by these participants are not testimony,” he continued. “They are neither sworn nor reliable.”
Rivera overturned the city’s decision to evict Kahn and ordered a new hearing on the matter —one without any televised testimony.
The decision was cheered by Khan’s attorney Lee Nigen, who told reporters that “Judge Rivera has handed down a landmark decision that will resound beyond the sound stages of the ‘People’s Court’.”
A city spokesperson said they planned to appeal the ruling.
Here’s a hint: If you want a judge to side with your motion, try not to malign one of his robed brothers — or the entire Brooklyn judicial system.
Plaintiff Vincent Longobardi learned this the hard way on July 14 when a judge shot down his motion to hold his upcoming civil case outside the borough, because the Kings County Supreme Court has “had so many scandals and been plagued with corruption over the last few years.”
In court papers, Longobardi, one of a handful of plaintiffs in a complex property ownership dispute between two Brooklyn churches and a handful of banks and property holding companies, sated he could not “receive a fair trial in Brooklyn” because one of the defendants in the case was the brother of longtime Brooklyn jurist Mathew D’Emic, who currently sits in the Kings County Court of Claims.
Even though he’s not presiding on the case, D’Emic has a “pervasive influence” that could taint the court’s decision against himself and his fellow plaintiffs, Longobardi said in his motion.
He then railed against Brooklyn’s “scandal plagued” court — statements that riled the feathers of presiding Judge Arthur Schack.
“[These statements] are not only ridiculous and outrageous, but merely conclusory,” he wrote as he eviscerated Longobardi’s motion. “I know Justice Mathew D’Emic for approximately 30 years. [He] is a jurist of the highest integrity.”
Schack went on to say that he and D’Emic “served together on Bay Ridge’s Community Board 10” as well as various other organizations.
But once he threw out the motion, Schack threw himself off the case, since D’Emic’s brother is involved.
“I know I would be fair and impartial as the Individual Assignment Judge for this action,” he wrote. “However, in the exercise of discretion, good conscience and to avoid any speculation as to the rationale for any decisions, I recuse myself from this case.”
Longobardi is listed as a third party plaintiff in the ongoing property ownership dispute between the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, the Glorious Temple Church of God In Christ, and several holding companies. The two groups are arguing over four parcels on Bond Street between State and Schermerhorn streets Downtown, Nostrand Avenue between Quincy and Gates avenues and two properties on Lafayette Avenue between Skillman Street and Franklin Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant.
Judge D’Emic, 57, has recently made headlines, but for nothing that would be considered inappropriate: He recently got New York’s Committee on Judicial Ethics’ permission to moonlight in a classic rock cover band.