STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Justice Judith N. McMahon, the former administrative judge for civil matters on Staten Island, was allegedly verbally and emotionally abusive to the former chief clerk of state Supreme Court, St. George, as well as to others and intimidated court staff into doing what she wanted, according to sources with knowledge of the clerk’s complaints to state court officials.
In recent days, the Advance has learned that Michael Pulizotto, the clerk who secretly taped a number of conversations and who just took on a controversial Staten Island attorney to represent him, also alleged Justice McMahon threatened his job status and made discriminatory remarks about him in the presence of others.
The recordings have sparked a months-long probe by the inspector general of the state Office of Court Administration (OCA). The investigation is ongoing.
Lucian Chalfen, an OCA spokesman, declined comment on the allegations, citing them as a personnel matter.
Pulizotto, meanwhile, has retained controversial lawyer Richard Luthmann.
Luthmann on Wednesday said his client was “exploring his legal options, including the presence of a giant rat on court property with Michael’s name on it.”
The huge blow-up rat was placed Thursday at the entrance to the driveway at the back of the courthouse.
Luthmann declined further comment.
Last week, Justice McMahon resigned from her post as the borough’s administrative judge for civil matters.
Justice Stephen J. Rooney, the administrative judge for criminal matters on Staten Island, also stepped down after learning of Justice McMahon’s resignation.
Rooney was named to his administrative position in May 2015, when Justice McMahon, then the administrative judge for both civil and criminal matters, stopped overseeing criminal matters to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest while her husband, Michael E. McMahon, successfully ran for district attorney. She remained administrative judge for civil matters.
Rooney said he resigned to facilitate the transition back to the long-standing practice in Richmond County of one administrative judge for both criminal and civil matters.
Justice Deborah Kaplan of Manhattan was appointed Staten Island’s interim administrative judge for criminal and civil matters.
Rooney will continue to preside over criminal cases in state Supreme Court, St. George, while Justice McMahon has been transferred to Manhattan where she is hearing civil cases.
Pulizotto has been reassigned to the deputy chief administrative judge’s office in Manhattan.
Daniel Alessandrino, who has extensive experience in Brooklyn’s Criminal Term, has been named interim chief clerk for Staten Island.
Sources also said Pulizotto complained to state court officials that Justice McMahon inappropriately involved herself in staffing and overtime issues pertaining to criminal matters, and had inserted herself into the operation of the criminal Narcotics part of state Supreme Court.
When informed of the latest allegations, Justice McMahon’s lawyer, John P. Connors Jr., referred to a column written by former Family Court Judge and Advance columnist Daniel Leddy, which appeared in Tuesday’s editions.
Leddy contended Pulizotto had “numerous avenues of recourse available to him” if he had grievances with Justice McMahon, and to “lull unsuspecting people into conversation, while armed with a hidden recording device, was not only sleazy but despicable.”
Leddy maintained the Rules of the Chief Judge bar such secretly-recorded conversations “absent properly procured permission.”
Leddy further opined it was “virtually impossible” to maintain a strict separation of court administrative matters between the Criminal and Civil terms since allocations of resources and personnel could affect both sides of the court.
“I was happy to read Dan Leddy’s piece in the Advance,” said Connors. “I agree with what he said. I think any further comment at this time would be inappropriate.”
‘WE PUT IT UP’
Dennis Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Association, also rallied to the judge’s defense.
“She treated him unbelievably well,” Quirk said. “This whole thing with the taping is outrageous.”
Quirk said his union had set up the inflatable rat outside the courthouse last week.
“We put it up so everybody understood what he did,” said Quirk.