Southampton Town will not have to pay a default judgment of $70 million for missing a deadline to respond to a federal lawsuit late last year.
Federal Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco on February 25 denied a motion seeking a default judgment filed by attorney Frederick K. Brewington, who represents East Quogue resident Nancy Genovese, after former Town Attorney Michael Sordi failed to respond to the lawsuit, which was served in August. Ms. Genovese, who was arrested at the Air National Guard base in Westhampton in June 2009 after she was found taking photographs at the entrance, is suing Southampton Town for $70 million in damages charging she was wrongfully arrested and detained there.
Mr. Sordi, who was the lead attorney on the case, failed to file a timely response to the suit by October 30. Mr. Sordi has indicated in court documents that two of his family members—his mother and his 25-year-old nephew—died within a week of one another around the time the response was due. He also stated that he thought he had filed the response.
Mr. Sordi resigned from his post last month shortly after the issue came to light. Tiffany Scarlato, a Sag Harbor resident and former East Hampton deputy town attorney, has since been appointed to the position.
Mr. Brewington did not return calls seeking comment this week.
Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the decision was what the town anticipated. “I think it was certainly the decision we expected, and it’s certainly good news,” she said.
The Southampton Town Board will hold a special meeting on Friday to consider retaining outside counsel to defend the town in two lawsuits relating to the establishment of a controversial Jewish religious boundary in Westhampton Beach and Quogue villages known as an eruv.
The special meeting, to be held tomorrow, Friday, March 4, was publicized in a notice e-mailed late Tuesday afternoon by Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s office. It will be held at 12:30 p.m., following a work session scheduled for 9:30 a.m.
The town is pressed for time on the case, which is why the appointment is the subject of the special meeting instead of a regular Town Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 8, according to Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray.
“Time is of the essence,” said Ms. Murray. ”We want to get the case assigned to outside counsel as soon as possible.”
Ms. Murray did not have information on which outside firm will handle the case, or how much it would cost the town. Those details will be spelled out in the resolution at Friday’s meeting, she said.
One of the federal lawsuits lists local residents and the East End Eruv Association, a non-profit group that has been pushing for the boundary since last year, as plaintiffs against Southampton Town and Westhampton Beach and Quogue villages. They are asking the municipalities to drop all objections to the boundary’s establishment.
The other suit was filed jointly by the Long Island Power Authority and Verizon, which are asking the federal court to order the municipalities to not block the installation of wooden markers, called “lechis,” which are needed to demarcate the proposed boundary.
Ms. Murray said it isn’t unusual for the town to send federal litigation to outside counsel.