Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery and his wife and chief judicial aide, Lise Rapaport, have filed a motion for a mandatory injunction seeking to prohibit Philadelphia’s two major daily newspapers from publishing any personal information about the couple.
The filing was made as part of the couple’s defamation and false-light lawsuit against The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Rapaport v. Interstate General Media, filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. That suit raises claims that the newspapers portrayed McCaffery and Rapaport in a false light through articles about referral fees Rapaport received from law firms that had cases before the state Supreme Court.
The motion for mandatory injunction, docketed Tuesday, specifically references a July 27 article the Inquirer wrote at the conclusion of the ticket-fixing trial of several former Philadelphia Traffic Court judges. The article, a portion of which was attached as an exhibit to the motion, is titled “More lessons to learn from Traffic Court” and next to that is a copy of a portion of a 2010 traffic citation issued to Rapaport.
While her street address is blocked out, the city and zip code are listed as well as her date of birth and identifying information about her vehicle.
The ticket came to light as part of a report on an internal investigation of traffic court handled by Chadwick & Associates. It noted that McCaffery met with a court administrator outside of traffic court on the day Rapaport was scheduled to appear for the citation. McCaffery has adamantly denied the meeting was an attempt to fix the ticket. And according to the motion for mandatory injunction, there was never a mention of the ticket, McCaffery or Rapaport at the weeks-long traffic court fraud trial.
In the motion, McCaffery and Rapaport argue the publication of the ticket in context with a negative article about the “wholly unrelated” traffic court scandal was just another “cheap shot” by the papers and evidence of the papers’ malice against the couple.
“What is even more troubling about the traffic citation however, is the fact that, despite knowing that plaintiff Rapaport is married to plaintiff McCaffery and that plaintiff McCaffery is a justice on the Supreme Court and is a 20-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, the defendants recklessly published personal information sufficient to enable any crafty miscreant to figure out plaintiff McCaffery’s home address,” the couple said in the motion.
They argued in the motion that the publication of the citation was “reckless, unnecessary and calculated” to further “smear” the plaintiffs. Rapaport and McCaffery said the publication crossed a “particularly vicious line.” The couple said there is a balancing test under Pennsylvania law for weighing the interests of publishing public documents against concerns of invasion of privacy and personal security. They said the state’s Right-to-Know Law, for example, balances a person’s privacy interest in her home address.
“Not all ‘public records’ should be published on page one of any section of a newspaper when there are valid ‘personal security exceptions’ that should be considered,” the plaintiffs said in their motion.
The couple noted courts have found the release and publication of personal information could be exempted from an otherwise public disclosure. Those concerns are even more paramount in McCaffery’s case, according to the motion, because he is a former police officer who has arrested thousands of people over two decades and is a current jurist who is involved in the sentencing of criminals.
“There is no remotely reasonable explanation for what the defendants have done in this instance,” McCaffery and Rapaport said. “It does, however, provide significant insight into and circumstantial evidence of exactly how much these defendants want to harm the plaintiffs at every turn.”
The couple has asked the court to restrain and enjoin the papers from publishing any personal information about the plaintiffs, “including, but not limited to, their automobiles and home addresses.”
Dion Rassias of The Beasley Firm represents McCaffery and Rapaport. When asked what information he was seeking to prohibit the papers from publishing, Rassias said there was “nothing else to publish,” because his clients have already been through the “labyrinth” of an FBI investigation. That investigation, according to court filings and statements Rassias has made in the case, turned up no evidence of wrongdoing by his clients. But Rassias said he filed the motion because the papers may keep publishing similar articles.
“This had no basis in fact or reality and they still had to publish something that equated [McCaffery and Rapaport] with traffic court unfairly,” Rassias said.
Michael Schwartz, a lawyer at Pepper Hamilton who is representing the newspapers, declined to comment on the motion.
The newspapers are due to respond today to a motion by McCaffery and Rapaport to quash the subpoenas of eight law firms, some of which were those reported to have paid Rapaport referral fees.