Judge Richard Berman, Credited for Giving Jeffrey Epstein Victims Their Day In Court, Retains… Prince Andrew’s Lawyer?


A few weeks ago, a friend of mine recounted a byzantine story about his arduous efforts to erect a home in Connecticut. Having expected that the approval process would be fairly straightforward, he was frustrated at how contentious the process had become. It all seemed rather petty. Then, he paused and asked “do you know Judge Richard Berman? He’s a federal judge in Manhattan?” I responded that I didn’t know him but knew of him, in particular since he had been assigned as the judge in the all too brief Jeffrey Epstein case.

My friend went on to bemoan the lengths to which he claimed his neighbors, Judge Berman and his wife, had gone to derail his plans. At one point, he said the judge sent an e-mail claiming to own a piece of his land and that’s when he asked, “is it appropriate for a federal judge to be sending a legal claim from his official judicial email?” Suddenly roused from a level of tedium fatigue listening to this arcane real estate drama, I responded that I thought it very unusual and that I’d bet it was a violation of some judicial canon. Regardless, it seemed wrong. I recall even when I worked as a summer associate at a law firm in the 1990s, one of the first things we learned is that we were to never use firm stationary for personal business. Federal judges are forced to jump through all sorts of additional ethical hoops to avoid even the appearance of a conflict so this seemed like a no-brainer.

Considering that I own a website that covers legal matters, I thought there might be a little story here. After seeing the actual email, I reached out to Judge Berman to see if there was anything to this.

I did not hear back from the judge but did hear back from his lawyer, Andrew Brettler, known for his representation of Prince Andrew in connection with the lawsuit filed against him by Virginia Giuffre, who alleges that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked her to the prince for sex when she was 16.

Somehow, I did not immediately make the connection.

In a formal legal letter, Brettler first claimed that my inquiry was somehow invalid because the tip came from a friend. But then offered the sort of all too typical threat lawyers make when trying to intimidate journalists and kill stories: “Apart from your conduct falling below any acceptable journalistic standards, your false and reckless suggestion that Judge Berman somehow acted improperly by sending a non-work-related email from his work account, exposes you and your publication to significant liability.” He went on to assert that Judge Berman used his official .gov email as his primary email and that it didn’t violate any judicial canon. Alas, I became consumed with other things and did not even end up raising it with the site’s editors.

I still had not made the connection.

Then it was brought back to my attention when last week Richard Johnson of the Daily News published a story about this incident asking the question: “Is a judge allowed to use the power of his position and his official judicial email address when he’s in a legal dispute with his neighbor?” He included a response from Brettler.

As I read Brettler’s retort in another publication, and viewed it through a broader prism, it suddenly hit me. It wasn’t just that Judge Berman had been assigned to the Epstein case, but he was also widely lauded for allowing the victims to have their day in court. When Epstein killed himself, Judge Berman could have just ended the case at that point. But as the Washington Post characterized it at the time: “Instead, Berman created a venue for the women to share their stories with each other and the world — some publicly for the first time, others retelling the now familiar horrors they endured in hopes of some bit of catharsis.”

So we have the federal judge recognized, even celebrated, as a supporter of the Epstein victims retaining the lawyer who is actively trying to protect Epstein pal Prince Andrew from one of those alleged victims?

Emails be damned.

That’s a story.

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