A Brooklyn federal judge did not disclose she was colleagues with a lawyer in a politically-charged civil lawsuit over which she presided — raising potential ethics concerns.
Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall handled a suit filed by former Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Laura Jacobson against the Brooklyn Democratic Party, its leader Frank Seddio and its judicial screening committee.
Jacobson alleges she was railroaded out of her judicial seat and defamed by the party and its screening committee — in part because she ruled against the Kings County Democratic Committee’s chief lawyer Frank Carone in a 2014 case.
Hall and Carone served together on the city Taxi and Limousine Commission beginning in 2011, their online bios show. Judge Hall did not disclose that connection during the Jacobson legal proceedings, which began in 2016. Carone was not a defendant in Jacobson’s lawsuit.
“They would normally at least raise the issue,” Ronald Minkoff, a legal ethics professor at Columbia Law School, said of judges in such situations. “Is it something in a perfect world you would disclose? Yes. Is it something that matters? I don’t know.”
Minkoff said situations where relatives or close friends show up in lawsuits would be clear grounds for disclosure or recusal. A situation like Hall’s is more of a gray area, but Minkoff said judges often leave such situations for lawyers to decide.
Jacobson’s attorney Ravi Batra said it’s “too early to say” whether he would pursue an ethics complaint through the federal court system.
“While I’m more comfortable with it, my client is not,” Batra said of Hall presiding over the case. “I just wish there had been fuller disclosure so this would not even be an issue.”
Hall dismissed Jacobson’s lawsuit last September. Batra filed a notice of appeal the following month.
The complaint alleges that the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s judicial screening committee found Jacobson “not qualified” in order to push her from the bench over court decisions she made, including the one involving Carone.
Batra noted that this is not the first time ethics issues have arisen around Carone, a Brooklyn lawyer and a donor and friend to Mayor de Blasio.