STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The secret recording of several Staten Island judges and court personnel took yet another turn late Friday when a lawyer for the head of a court officers’ union warned the chief clerk who made the tapes that he had potentially violated attorney-client privileges.
In a letter obtained by the Advance, Bruce Baron, the lawyer for Dennis Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Association, advised the clerk, Michael Pulizotto, that Quirk believed he was on some of the recordings Pulizotto made.
The letter contends Pulizotto, a lawyer, should not have made any surreptitious recordings involving Quirk without Quirk’s permission.
Pulizotto had established an attorney-client privilege with Quirk years ago by giving Quirk legal advice on various matters and performing legal research for him, the letter said. Those matters aren’t specified.
Consequently, all communications between the two men were confidential and should not have been disclosed without Quirk’s permission, the letter maintains.
The attorney-client relationship existed regardless of whether a retainer was executed, maintains the letter.
Pulizotto turned over the tapes and other documents to the state Office of Court Administration (OCA) months ago. OCA is still investigating the matter.
Last week, Justice Judith N. McMahon stepped down from her position as administrative judge for civil matters on Staten Island. Pulizotto alleged she was verbally and emotionally abusive, had threatened his job status and overstepped her bounds into the operation of the criminal term.
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 of one administrative judge for both criminal and civil matters in Richmond County.
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.
Baron’s letter demands that Pulizotto turn over all copies of the tapes or destroy them and any related transcripts.
If Pulizotto does not comply, Baron threatens that Quirk will take “appropriate action” against Pulizotto, including reporting him to the bar and the grievance committee, and filing a lawsuit.
“The entire thing is baseless,” said Richard Luthmann, Pulizotto’s lawyer. “We’ll followup in due course. Dennis Quirk is a well-known bully, and I’m not going to allow him or his team of lawyers to bully my client, who is the victim in this case.”
Last week, Quirk had confronted Pulizotto outside the courthouse where, Quirk said, his union had set up an inflatable rat with Pulizotto’s name on it.
“We put it up so everybody understood what he did,” Quirk said.