17:58, February 27 173 0 abajournal.com

2019-02-27 17:58:09
Lawyer and judge wife lose libel appeal over parking spot article

Illustration by Lars Leetaru.

A lawyer and his wife, a judge in New York City, can’t pursue a libel suit against the publisher of the New York Post and two other defendants, according to a New York appeals court.

The Appellate Division’s Second Judicial Department of the New York State Supreme Court ruled against lawyer Bernard Udell and his wife, Bernadette Bayne, in a Feb. 20 decision, the New York Law Journal reports.

They had sued over a 2014 New York Post article titled “Judge’s hubby takes space for prisoner van.” The article now online has a different title. It reads: “Lawyer uses his judge wife’s license plate to park closer to Queens court.”

The suit fails because the article, when read as a whole, is based on substantially true statements and statements of opinion, the appeals court said. The opinion statements were made by an unnamed source and the president of a court officers’ union.

The New York Post article now online reports that Udell “admittedly uses his wife’s car, which has judicial plates, to park in a special area behind the Queens Supreme Court building that’s reserved for cops transporting prisoners.”

According to the article, Udell said he often parks the Mercedes in the spot “for an hour or two when he has business” at the courthouse, which happens about “once a month.” But Udell said he usually gets permission from the court officer on duty, although he couldn’t find the officer on the date when he was spotted by the New York Post.

Udell did not challenge the accuracy of the quote, according to the appellate opinion.

Udell and Bayne had alleged that the article wrongly portrayed them as knowingly placing the public in danger by parking the vehicle in a “special area” behind the courthouse.

The decision upheld dismissal of the suit against three defendants: NYP Holdings; Christina Carrega-Woodby, the article author; and Ellis Kaplan, the photographer who snapped Udell’s photo.

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