Judge suing office manager for defamation after argument over mask policy at doctor’s office

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Dutchess County Courthouse
Poughkeepsie City Court Judge Frank Mora. Photo provided.

POUGHKEEPSIE – City Court Judge Frank Mora, involved in a federal lawsuit because he was denied a religious exemption to the COVID vaccine, is now suing the office manager of an eye doctor’s office for defamation.  Mora claims that Stacey Koch made “false and damaging” statements to the New York State Commission on  Judicial Conduct after an argument over mask requirements at the Seeta Eye Center.  Judge Mora says that Ms. Koch demanded that he wear a mask during a visit to the office with his son in December 2021.  Mora is seeking $250,000 in compensatory damages as well as $175,000 in punitive damages, according to the lawsuit filed on December 29, 2022.

Mora is suing the New York State Unified Court System in federal court for denying his religious exemption to the COVID vaccine.

Koch, the office manager for the medical practice allegedly humiliated Mora publicly by yelling at him in a disrespectful manner in the lobby of the office in December 2021.  Koch had demanded that Mora wear a mask and an argument ensued.  He advised that he is medically unable to tolerate a mask, and instead uses a face shield. Koch demanded that Mora provide medical documentation of his incapacity to wear a mask, which was required in the doctor’s office.  Mora said the demand was illegal under “Interim Guidance from the Governor’s Office on April 17, 2020”.  The argument escalated, with Koch eventually calling the police.  Mora says he left the office to secure a note from his doctor to avoid wearing a mask.

Judge Mora secured a note from his chiropractor’s office, Mazzarelli Chiropractic Health, indicating that the judge has a medical condition that prevents him from wearing a mask.  Mora provided the note to Koch, who then allowed he and his son to return to the office that afternoon for his son’s treatment.

Mora says that after the appointment, Koch provided a statement to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct.  He claims, through his attorney, Michael Sussman, that the following excerpts are false and libelous:

  • “Mr. Mora created a huge scene in our waiting room…”
  • “He taunted me in front of a waiting room of @20 people…”
  • “[he] stat[ed] the police won’t come.  The police said they would come and he left once the police were on the way to our practice.”
  • “He then had a letter created from Chiropractor Giovanni Mazzarelli stating Mr. Mora has a “medical condition” that prevents him from wearing a mask.”
  • “This man should not be allowed any decision making for others when he can not act professionally in this medical practice.”

Mora denies all of Koch’s allegations and says the statements “diminishes plaintiff’s reputation and his properly discharge his duties and responsibilities as a city judge, his profession.”  Mora said the “Defendant’s conduct has caused plaintiff emotional distress, humiliation, shame and embarrassment and required him to answer her false claims before a state commission designed and empowered to investigate judicial misconduct,” as the basis for seeking damages from Ms. Koch.