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Former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard A. Grasso received two decisions in New York courts on Thursday that affect the course of the excessive pay lawsuit filed against him by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Supreme Court Justice Charles Edward Ramos rejected a request by Mr. Grasso to reassign the case to another judge. Earlier in the day, the Appellate Division, First Department, however, agreed to order a stay of Mr. Grasso’s trial until his appeals are decided. Mr. Grasso has appealed two of Justice Ramos’ rulings. One involves his decision not to dismiss four of the six counts filed against him by Mr. Spitzer. The second asks the appeals court to overturn the judge’s decision to hold a bench trial over the issue of whether Mr. Grasso’s $187.5 million payment package was reasonable. In responding to the recusal motion, Justice Ramos wrote in People v. Grasso, 401620/04, “This Court does not seek to appear insensitive to the defendant’s anxiety which no doubt motivated this motion to recuse, but the motion must be denied.” Attorneys for Mr. Grasso filed their recusal request last week. They argued that statements made by the judge during preliminary talks indicated he might be biased and therefore it would be improper for him to conduct a bench trial. Mr. Grasso also suggested that Justice Ramos’ two unsuccessful attempts to gain a position at the exchange, and his citing in application materials to a specific case in which he expressed dismay at what he viewed as excessive attorney’s fees paid by tobacco defendants to their counsel meant that the judge would be unable to preside over Mr. Grasso’s case in an unbiased manner. In rejecting these arguments, Justice Ramos said he has “no interest in this case and has formed no premature opinion on the validity of any claim or defense.” He said he applied for a position at the New York Stock Exchange “long before” this case was even filed. He also pointed out that Mr. Grasso knew from the outset that Justice Ramos had sought employment at the exchange, and had never objected to his assignment. In fact, the judge said Mr. Grasso expressly waived any objection to Justice Ramos presiding over the case. “It is now almost two years since the defendant was fully aware of the executive firm placement,” Justice Ramos wrote. The judge invited Mr. Grasso’s attorneys to appeal his ruling. “Appellate guidance, especially in a case of this magnitude, is a comfort to us,” Justice Ramos wrote. Appellate Division Justices John T. Buckley, Angela M. Mazzarelli, David B. Saxe and James M. McGuire issued their one-page decision staying the trial Thursday morning. Gerson Zweifach, a partner at Williams & Connolly, and Mark Zauderer, a partner at Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer, represent Mr. Grasso. Mr. Zauderer declined to comment on yesterday’s developments, and Mr. Zweifach did not return calls for comment. Darren Dopp, a spokesperson for Mr. Spitzer, said the government had no comment. Beth Bar can be reached at [email protected]

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