Report: Lawyer says FBI 'cleared' Justice McCaffery

Seamus McCaffery, Pa. Supreme Court justice, is suing The Inquirer.
Seamus McCaffery, Pa. Supreme Court justice, is suing The Inquirer.
Posted: June 26, 2014

The lawyer handling a defamation suit against The Inquirer filed by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery and his wife told a judge Tuesday that the FBI had "cleared his client," according to a published report.

On Tuesday, the Legal Intelligencer's website attributed the statement to Dion G. Rassius. His comment came during a Common Pleas Court hearing on the newspaper's preliminary objections to the lawsuit.

It was unclear what the FBI investigation involved. According to the Legal Intelligencer, Rassius said the probe resulted from an Inquirer series on McCaffery and wife Lise Rapaport.

Late Tuesday, Rassius was en route from the hearing, held in Harrisburg to accommodate the McKean County judge assigned to the case, and could not be immediately reached for comment.

Common Pleas Court Judge John M. Cleland is hearing the case because of McCaffery's close ties to the court system in Philadelphia, where he began his judicial career. Cleland did not rule on The Inquirer's preliminary objections.

Neither Carrie Adamowski, an FBI spokeswoman, nor Patricia Hartman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, would confirm or deny any investigation.

McCaffery could not be reached for comment.

McCaffery and Rapaport filed suit in March in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, contending they were defamed by a series of stories in The Inquirer between March and August 2013.

The series, by reporter Craig R. McCoy, concerned fees Rapaport received for referring clients to personal-injury law firms. In addition to being a lawyer, Rapaport has served as her husband's chief legal aide for much of the last 16 years.

The Inquirer reported that firms with which Rapaport had a financial relationship appeared before the Supreme Court 11 times on unrelated cases. McCaffery, the paper reported, did not disclose those ties in court.

The newspaper then reported that the FBI had begun an investigation into the matter.

The defamation lawsuit maintained that McCaffery and Rapaport did nothing illegal nor unethical and that the series tarnished their reputations.

Inquirer editor William K. Marimow, a defendant in the lawsuit with McCoy, has called the series "accurate, thorough, and fair," and one that examined an "issue of public importance in the administration of justice in the state of Pennsylvania."

The high court's chief justice, Ronald D. Castille, quoted in the series with other legal experts, said he considered the financial relationships a potential conflict of interest.

After the articles' publication, the Supreme Court adopted rules prohibiting judges from hiring relatives or sitting on corporate boards.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo


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