Legal Eagles Eye Appeal
By Scott Shifrel
Daily News Staff Writer
An allegation about an illicit affair between a judge and a prosecutor has defense lawyers scrambling to check their files for what could turn into a flood of appeals, the Daily News has learned.
Lawyers who had cases before Queens Supreme Court Justice Jaime Rios when he allegedly was seeing prosecutor Meryl Lutsky in 1996 and 1997 tell The News the affair charge is troubling and convictions involving their clients need to be reviewed. "I can't say anything about the validity of the accusations [of the relationship], but I have to at least investigate," defense lawyer Warren Silverman said. "If a judge has a close relationship with one of the parties, then it is improper for the judge to handle the case. If true, he should have recused himself."
Silverman represented a Queens woman in a 1996 drug case heard by Rios. His client ended up serving two years behind bars.
Lutsky worked regularly as an assistant district attorney in Rios' courtroom, appearing mostly on motions to suppress evidence or statements.
"There's no question that any conviction obtained where both the judge and Ms. Lutsky were involved in should be reviewed," defense lawyer Todd Greenberg said. "If the allegation is borne out to be true, then the court system should look at these cases." Greenberg said one of his clients, Kishore Sumasar, 29, served three years on a drug charge after appearing before Rios. He plans to order the archived court records next week.
The affair allegation was made by the judge's ex-law secretary, Judith Memblatt. Defense lawyer Ron Kuby cited the alleged affair when he sought a new trial for a convicted murderer.
Kuby is arguing that Rios' relationship with Lutsky led the judge to coach another prosecutor, Eugene Reibstein, to help him convict Kuby's client in 2003. Rios, through a spokesman, repeatedly has declined to comment because the murder case is still pending. Lutsky also has declined to comment.
Memblatt, 47, who was fired by Rios in 2004, made the allegation in a $10 million wrongful-termination lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court and in a complaint to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Originally published on November 20, 2005