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Lawyer Who Sued 'Law & Order' Joins IDNYC Destruction Suit

By Nicholas Rizzi | December 28, 2016 2:34pm
 Lawyer Ravi Batra, a longtime Democratic Party member, joined a suit by Republican lawmakers to block the deletion of data used to apply for IDNYC cards.
Lawyer Ravi Batra, a longtime Democratic Party member, joined a suit by Republican lawmakers to block the deletion of data used to apply for IDNYC cards.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

STATEN ISLAND — A lawyer who once sued TV show "Law & Order" claiming it based a corrupt character on him has joined a lawsuit to stop the city from destroying IDNYC records.

Ravi Batra, a former state ethics commissioner and longtime Democratic Party member, was named co-counsel on a suit filed by Republican lawmakers to stop the city from deleting the data.

"The destruction of records is a destruction of our separation of powers because it destroys judicial review," said Batra. "It is one step towards political tyranny."

Mayor Bill de Blasio previously said he would purge information the city has stored by the end of the year to help protect undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation.

He was reacting to the election of Donald Trump, who has vowed to expel up to 3 million undocumented immigrants from the country after his inauguration.

Assembly members Ron Castorina Jr. and Nicole Malliotakis sued the city to retain the documents, arguing their destruction violated the Freedom of Information Laws.

They also said deleting the data would create security risks because it would make it impossible to track people who got the ID cards fraudulently or used them to commit a crime.

After the suit was filed, the city announced it would no longer keep a record of any documents used to obtain an IDNYC card.

Batra said that while he was against illegal immigration, he agrees with de Blasio that New York should remain a sanctuary city, but not by deleting the data.

"The mistake that Mayor de Blasio has made is that the law that they are passing is not the way to achieve their goal," said Batra, who's working the case pro-bono.

"There is a right way to do it and there is a wrong way to do it. Mayor de Blasio is doing this the wrong way."

Batra previously served as the founding commissioner of the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics but resigned in 2012 over disagreements over how it was run, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In 2008, he sued the producers of "Law & Order" for libel claiming they based a corrupt lawyer on the show after him. 

They eventually settled the case for an unspecified amount.

De Blasio launched IDNYC in 2015 for residents like undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and transgender individuals for whom getting regular identification is difficult.

The program has had more than 900,000 applications since it launched and only 92 instances of suspected fraud, according to the Gotham Gazette. All of those cases were unsuccessful in getting the cards.

IDNYC was also crafted with a "destroy in case of Tea Party" clause that the city said would allow for the deletion of application data.

Last week, a judge ordered the city to temporarily halt erasing information until a Jan. 5 hearing.