A former New York City government lawyer violated conflict of interest rules after representing an iconic comedy club in its lawsuit against a City Council member who accused the nightclub of anti-Semitism, according to an agency ruling. .
The decision by the city’s Conflict of Interest Board marks the second loss for Mark Yosef, a former attorney with the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.
First, a judge dismissed Yosef’s defamation suit on behalf of Manhattan’s Comic Strip Live. The Conflicts of Interest Board then ruled that Yosef had nothing to do to file the lawsuit, since he was a city employee at the time.
Local law prohibits a city employee from acting as an attorney against the city’s interests in litigation to which the city is a party. That law applies whether the lawyer is paid or not.
In 2022, Yosef represented Comic Strip Live in a lawsuit against Councilwoman Julie Menin (D-Manhattan) and a news site that covers her Upper East Side district. At issue in the case were news articles and comments by Menin accusing the club of being anti-Semitic.
The club’s judicial boo, which helped launch the careers of Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Adam Sandler, has its roots in its owners’ decision to post a message on social media that included hashtags about vaccine mandates. and about Nuremberg, a reference. which offended some Jewish groups.
The website, UpperEastSite.composted a story with the caption: “Iconic Comic Strip Club posts anti-Semitic, anti-vaccine message on Instagram.”
The article, according to the lawsuit, criticized the Instagram post for drawing a link between COVID-19 vaccination mandates and Nazi human experimentation on Jews in World War II Germany.
After the article appeared, Menin chimed in with a tweet condemning the Instagram post.
“This post is deeply offensive,” Menin wrote at the time. “As a daughter of a holocaust survivor, I cannot condemn this strongly enough. No one should falsely equate the mandates of COVID-19 and the Holocaust. We must immediately denounce hate speech and anti-Semitism.”
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Subsequently, Menin posted a letter criticizing Comic Strip Live for “the anti-Semitic sentiments expressed in their latest Instagram post.”
The club sued Menin and the website over the “defamatory statements”, seeking $1 million in damages. Menin never spoke to them before posting the tweet or posting the letter, according to the lawsuit.
The claim was dismissed.
Menin, who was once a commissioner of the city agency that employed Yosef, said she “can’t even believe that a city attorney… would not only violate a core ethical principle, but also exercise such legal judgment.” poor by filing a completely baseless and baseless lawsuit.” frivolous defamation claim against me for $1 million for calling out a clearly anti-semitic tweet.
“This was always a frivolous case and it is not surprising that it has now been determined to involve an unethical attorney. Instead of horseplay, he should take the practice of law seriously,” Menin said.
Under the rules of the city charter, Yosef could face civil penalties of up to $25,000 for representing the club in its lawsuit against Menin.
“However, the Board has concluded that it will not impose a fine for this violation under the circumstances presented here, in particular that he was not paid for his representation of Comic Strip Promotions and that the case he brought has been dismissed,” the ruling said. saying.