60 Centre St.
Manhattan Supreme Court at 60 Centre St. (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)

A state judge has dismissed an age discrimination claim filed by the one-time administrative officer of the Federal Defenders of New York.

Martin Smith contended that he was laid off illegally in 2013 because he was 81. But Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Joan Kenney said nondiscriminatory factors appeared to have led to Smith’s termination amid a midyear, 10 percent budget cut following federal sequestration in 2013.

Kenney wrote on March 7 in Smith v. Federal Defenders of New York, 152449/2014, that Smith could not show he was fired due to age in favor of another administrator, Nancy Mao, because Mao was 60 in 2013 and also a member of a protected class. The Federal Defenders also showed Mao possessed administrative and accounting skills comparable to Smith’s, the justice held.

Kenney found that Smith did not show he was retaliated against when Federal Defenders’ leaders ordered all employees to preserve any documents related to Smith’s employment.

Smith had argued that the order was retaliation for the inquiry his lawyer had made to the defenders’ group, but Kenney said the action was a not-unreasonable response to the possibility that Smith would file a discrimination suit and did not represent an “adverse action” for purposes of a claim under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Seyfarth Shaw counsel Stacey Bentley and partner Cliff Fonstein represented the Federal Defenders.

Liddle & Robinson partners Blaine Bortnick and Christine Palmieri argued for Smith.

The Federal Defenders provides defense services to indigent criminal defendants in the Eastern and Southern districts of New York.