By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Second-year Brooklyn Law School student Donald Glassman has partially won his defamation lawsuit against his former attorney, Robert Feldman.
In the case, Glassman v. Feldman, 102988/12, NYLJ 1202574198848, at *1 (Sup, NY, Decided Oct. 2, 2012), Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern ordered Feldman to take down the allegedly defamatory comments that Feldman made in reaction to negative online reviews he thought were written by Glassman.
In October 2007, Glassman hired Feldman to represent him at his post-trial hearing following his conviction of non-forcible rape in the third degree of this then-wife.
Feldman, after expending what the court called “considerable time and effort,” was fired before the hearing, but did manage to negotiate a severance package for Glassman from his former employer, Barnard College.
After firing Feldman, Glassman initiated a malpractice lawsuit against him The suit, which is currently pending before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische, alleges, among other things, that Feldman took on Glassman as a client even though Feldman was aware that a conflict of interest prevented him from doing so.
In June and July of 2010, two negative reviews of Feldman were posted on the website www.RipoffReport.com. The reviews, unsigned by the author, alleged that Feldman uses “cocaine or methamphetamine” and takes large retainers up front with out returning unused attorney fees back to clients. New York’s Professional Code of Conduct, the rules that govern attorneys, require lawyers to return any part of a fee paid in advance if the lawyer did not earn the fee.
In 2011, Feldman went on www.RipoffReport.com and www.about-attorneys.com and responded to the negative comments. Assuming that Glassman wrote the comments, Feldman began his online rant by stating that Glassman was an “emotionally disturbed man…found guilty after trial by a jury of his peers of RAPE [sic] in Manhattan.”
Feldman continued that “as [Glassman’s] attorney, I got the verdict reversed…[Glassman] has previously been found guilty of an unrelated incident when he poured toner or ink on a young girl’s head.” Feldman also invited the online readers to “see come see Glassman in court,” listing the date and the location of Glassman’s next court appearance.
Glassman subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit against Feldman and demanded that Feldman be required to remove all of the allegedly defamatory comments. Glassman also requested that Feldman be prevented from publishing any defamatory comments about him in the future.
Defamation generally involves making public a false statement about a person and proving that that false statement damaged one’s reputation.
Judge Kern however, was not able to make a determination as to whether the statements made by Feldman actually damaged Glassman’s reputation: Feldman, through his attorney, never appeared in court to argue the case against him. Since Feldman did not appear in court, Glassman partially won his case on a default judgment.
Kern ruled that while Feldman must take down the comments he had previously written about Glassman, Glassman’s allegation that “his future legal career may be damaged by defendant’s statements, [was] insufficient to merit a prior restraint on [Feldman’s] speech.”
Glassman’s current attorney, Alexander Levine of Levine & Vaysberg, is happy with the court’s ruling. “It does not matter to me that we won by default judgment though, I believe we had a strong case to win on the merits,” Levine told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Daniel Kim, a solo practitioner representing Feldman, told the New York Law Journal that he was not informed of the hearing that he missed.
“No one told me of the hearing date either,” responded Levine. “It is the attorney’s job to track their active cases. The New York Court System has implemented an online tool allowing attorney’s to track the hearing and trial dates of their cases. I found out about the hearing date by actively tracking my cases. No one called me or sent me a letter. I do not know why Mr. Kim did not track his case.”
According to Levine, Kim sent a letter to the court asking for another chance to advocate his client’s position. Levine noted his shock that Kim sent a letter as opposed filing a motion with the court. Kim could not be reached for this article.
In addition to the malpractice lawsuit filed against Feldman, Glassman also plans to file a complaint to the New York State Bar Association’s Grievance Committee alleging that Feldman violated the attorney-client confidentiality when he posted information about Glassman on the aforementioned websites. The Grievance Committee will not make a determination on the complaint until all active lawsuits between Glassman and Feldman are resolved.