Volume 22, Number 14 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Aug. 14 - 20, 2009
Kim remains in the race after Chin’s ‘frivolous’ lawsuit
By Julie Shapiro
Margaret Chin dropped her challenge against fellow City Council candidate PJ Kim this week after it became clear that she had little chance of knocking Kim off the ballot.
A. Joshua Ehrlich, Chin’s lawyer, had accused Kim’s campaign of fraud in the collection of petition signatures. Although Kim submitted about 5,500 signatures, well over the 900 required, Ehrlich had argued 5,000 were invalid.
“I’m happy we can finally focus on the issues in the campaign,” Kim said after Ehrlich withdrew his claim. He accused Ehrlich and Chin of “perverting the judicial system of political purposes” and said their actions amounted to harassment.
Leslie Lowenstein, a court-appointed referee who heard the case last week, found no evidence that Kim or his campaign committed fraud. Lowenstein’s job was to hear arguments from both sides and then give an opinion to State Supreme Court Judge Edward Lehner, who was to decide the case. Lowenstein recommended that the judge not only keep Kim on the ballot, but also that the judge sanction Chin and Ehrlich for bringing a “frivolous” lawsuit.
Lowenstein made his recommendation on Tuesday and Judge Lehner was scheduled to make a decision on Wednesday. But just beforehand, Ehrlich withdrew his complaint against Kim, which meant the judge did not have to rule on it at all.
Lehner took the opportunity of Wednesday’s hearing to criticize Chin and Ehrlich for bringing the suit, but he decided not to issue sanctions against them because he did not see “real, deliberate bad actions.”
Still, Lehner said the suit “probably should not have been brought” and added, “Maybe, Mr. Ehrlich, you’ll reconsider this type of [petition] in the future.”
After the hearing, Ehrlich said he disagreed with the judge and that Kim’s signatures had serious problems. He previously argued that the signature witnesses for Kim’s petitions either forged their names or committed other fraud. Ehrlich said his case was hampered by the fact that only nine of the 29 witnesses he subpoenaed showed up at the referee’s hearing last week. Kim said his lawyer never got a copy of the subpoenas, though Ehrlich said he sent them.
Kim and Chin are just two of the four candidates challenging incumbent Councilmember Alan Gerson for his seat in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary. Earlier in Wednesday’s hearing, Lehner granted Gerson’s request that he be placed on the ballot, after the Board of Elections previously removed him.
A critic of what he called “draconian” election law, Lehner appeared pleased at the end of Wednesday’s hearing that he had allowed all five of the candidates a chance to run.
“Let the best man — the best person — prevail,” he said, smiling. He then asked the nearly empty courtroom, “Who’s going to win?”