Former Justice Sandra Schultz Newman will answer questions about the Family Court building project

Sandra Schultz Newman
Sandra Schultz Newman
Posted: July 14, 2012

She'll talk after all.

After a six-month standoff, former state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman gave up the fight Thursday and said she would answer questions in a lawsuit over the controversial effort to build a new, $200 million Family Court building.

Her reversal came one day after she appeared at a law office at the court-ordered time for a deposition and then refused to answer questions or turn over thousands of pages of documents.

Newman has decided to waive her claim that she had immunity from the process, though she still believes that she has it, according to her lawyer, Gene D. Cohen.

Lawyer Richard A. Sprague had been seeking to interview Newman to flesh out a subplot in a civil suit alleging that top court administrators, notably Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, were hoodwinked during the campaign to find a site for the new Family Court facility.

Sprague, who filed suit on behalf of Castille, alleges that his client was misled by lawyer Jeffrey Rotwitt, who ended up on both sides of the project, representing the high court and becoming codeveloper of the project, earning fees from each party. Rotwitt says that everyone knew what he was doing and that he did nothing wrong.

While on the Supreme Court in 2006, Newman hired Rotwitt to scout out a Family Court building site. In 2008, after stepping down as a justice, she sought to make sure that her son would get paid in connection with the project.

Newman's son, Jonathan, introduced her to Rotwitt; the son and Rotwitt worked at the same law firm, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel L.L.P.

Sandra Newman, who was briefly married to the firm's chairman, Martin Weinberg, contacted the firm and said her son should get financial credit for bringing the deal to it.

Jonathan Newman, a former chairman of the state Liquor Control Board, has said he was paid nothing out of the project and had not known about his mother's pitch.

Since December, Sandra Newman had been unavailable for a deposition, citing such issues as her busy civic and personal life, her winter vacation, and an unspecified illness.

"It was never a matter of something to hide," Cohen said Thursday. He said her health was somewhat improved.

On Wednesday, Cohen had reasserted that a "deliberative process privilege" for judges meant that Newman did not have to undergo the deposition, expected to last several days.

The judge in the lawsuit had previously rejected this argument, but Cohen had said he would appeal the rejection. On Thursday, he said his client had decided not to invoke immunity.


Contact Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or cmccoy@phillynews.com.

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