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PROBE TARGETS JUDGE OVER PAPER THREATS ALBANY, N.Y. — The state Commission on Judicial Conduct is apparently investigating a Buffalo judge who is accused of threatening to retaliate against Western New York’s largest newspaper because the publication refused to hold a story about the arrest of a prominent local attorney. A source close to the matter said the commission has made inquiries into a series of incidents that led Supreme Court Justice Nelson H. Cosgrove to recuse himself from an unrelated libel action against The Buffalo News. Justice Cosgrove asked to be removed from the pending libel case after The News submitted an extraordinary set of motion papers and affidavits in which two editors said the judge attempted to use the power of his office to bully the press. Unclear, however, is whether Justice Cosgrove will step aside from any future case involving The News, as the paper requested in its motion. The tension between The Buffalo News, a 224,000 circulation daily, and Justice Cosgrove is rooted in an incident last month when the veteran judge was presiding over a medical malpractice trial that had nothing to do with the newspaper. On Nov. 12, The News was preparing a story about the arrest of attorney Carmen P. Tarantino, who was representing the defendant in the medical malpractice trial under way before Justice Cosgrove. Tarantino, of Brown & Tarantino in Buffalo, had been arrested Nov. 1 on the complaint of a former girlfriend and charged with burglary, grand larceny and criminal mischief for allegedly breaking into her bedroom. The News was planning to publish an article on Tarantino’s arrest in its Nov. 13 editions and contacted his attorney, Mark Mahoney, for comment, according to court papers. Later that day, Justice Cosgrove called The News and asked editors to hold the Tarantino story on the grounds that publication could compromise the malpractice trial, according to motion papers. When The News refused Justice Cosgrove’s request, court papers allege, the judge threatened to retaliate if given the opportunity. In his motion for judicial disqualification or recusal, the newspaper’s attorney, Joseph M. Finnerty of Stenger & Finnerty in Buffalo, included affidavits from two editors who said they spoke with Justice Cosgrove the afternoon of Nov. 12. — New York Law Journal BACKDATING CLAIMS AGAINST CLERK DROPPED NEW YORK — Attorneys for a major asbestos maker have withdrawn their claim that a state Supreme Court clerk in Manhattan helped backdate amended asbestos complaints at the behest of plaintiffs’ firm Weitz & Luxenberg. Saying a former Weitz & Luxenberg employee and key witness now asserts that the documents in question were not asbestos related, attorneys for G-I Holdings have notified Southern District Judge Robert W. Sweet that they were withdrawing their claim of common law fraud against the firm. The development is the latest turn in the almost three-year-old case of G-I Holdings Inc. v. Baron & Budd , 01 Civ. 0216, in which G-I asserts that Weitz & Luxenberg and fellow plaintiffs’ firms Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole, and Baron & Budd were part of a concerted effort to punish G-I for its attempts to persuade Congress to impose a cap on asbestos-related claims and attorneys fees. — New York Law Journal

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