Manhattan attorney Robert Feldman must take down allegedly defamatory comments he made about negative online reviews that he believed were written by a former client, a state judge has ruled, though the judge declined to bar Feldman from making any such statements in the future.
The Oct. 2 ruling from Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern (See Profile) in Glassman v. Feldman, 102988/12, also denied a request by Feldman to consolidate the lawsuit with a legal malpractice suit filed against him by the former client, second-year Brooklyn Law School student Donald Glassman. The malpractice suit is pending before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect a Correction.
Glassman retained Feldman in October 2007 to represent him in his post-trial hearing after being convicted of non-forcible rape in the third degree of his then-wife. According to last week’s decision, Feldman put “considerable work” into the case but was fired before the hearing. At the hearing, the verdict was overturned. Feldman also negotiated a severance package for Glassman from his former employer, Barnard College, where he worked as an archivist, according to the opinion.
In the summer of 2010, two negative reviews of Feldman were posted on a website, www.RipoffReport.com. Glassman denied writing these reviews. Feldman wrote responses to both in which he named Glassman as the author and characterized him as an “emotionally disturbed man” who was “found guilty after trial by a jury of peers of RAPE in Manhattan.” Feldman added that, aside from the rape case, Glassman had committed “another unrelated egregious assault on another young woman,” and “scared off and freaked out still more women, most of whom he finds on the Internet to victimize.”
In December 2011, Feldman posted a series of comments on another website, www.about-attorneys.com, in which he reiterated his description of Glassman with additional details. He said that the other assault alluded to in his earlier comments involved Glassman pouring toner ink on the head of a “young girl who he claimed owed his first Internet bride fifty dollars.” Feldman went on to call Glassman a “paradigm of domestic abuse,” according to Glassman’s defamation suit, which was filed in June.
Glassman alleged that the comments posted online by Feldman were defamatory and asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction that they be taken down. He also sought a preliminary injunction against further defamatory statements by Feldman.
Kern said in last week’s order that Glassman was not entitled to the injunction against future statements because there is “no evidence of a sustained campaign to interfere with plaintiff’s business that would justify a prior restraint on speech,” quoting LoPresti v. Florio, 71 A.D.3d 574, 575, a 2010 Appellate Division, First Department case.
“Although plaintiff alleges that his future legal career may be damaged by defendant’s statements, this is insufficient to merit a prior restraint on speech,” Kern said.
Kern granted Glassman’s request for an order that Feldman remove the existing statements, or contact the website administrators and ask for them to be removed, purely because Feldman failed to appear for oral argument on the preliminary injunction motion.
She denied Feldman’s request to consolidate the defamation and malpractice cases. Feldman made that request in an opposition brief, and Kern said she was denying it because he failed to file a formal cross-motion.
Glassman is represented by Alexander Levine of Levine & Vaysberg.
Feldman is represented by Daniel Kim, a New Jersey solo practitioner. Kim said that he was not informed of the hearing he missed, and that there was a formal motion to consolidate pending in the malpractice case.
Glassman clashed with the attorney who represented him in his rape trial as well as with Feldman. In May 2010, Glassman won a $500,000 malpractice judgment against that attorney, Howard Blau, who had already been disbarred for misappropriating over $740,000 in client funds (NYLJ, May 25, 2010). Blau never appeared in the case, so the judgment was awarded by default.
Glassman said that Blau had said he had experience in domestic violence cases when in fact he had none, and that he had not prepared for the trial, interviewed no witnesses and had not communicated with Glassman, and that at the trial, he cross-examined no witnesses and told the jury that Glassman would testify on his own behalf, which he did not.
Glassman originally sought $10 million from Blau.
@|Brendan Pierson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.