Sometimes, people get a tad too worked up over the small things. Ruffalo v Iannace
2017 NY Slip Op 50296(U) Decided on March 9, 2017 Supreme Court, Westchester County
Marx, J. might be an example.
“Plaintiff moves for an order permitting him to proceed as a poor person and for assignment of counsel in this action in which he claims to have been the victim of “Legal Malpractice, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and Unethical Misconduct.” The claims arise from the alleged negligent representation by defendant, an attorney, of plaintiff in connection with a traffic summons issued to plaintiff for alleged excessively tinted windows, which was heard in the Town of Greenburgh traffic court on March 2, 2016. Plaintiff alleges that defendant “Recklessly Failed to have this Bogus Equipment Citation Voided and Dismissed”, “did NOT want to Challenge a Dirty Corrupt Black Racist Female Judge” and “did Nothing to Augment and he also Recklessly Failed to get this Nonsense Moved to another Jurisdiction Due to the Criminality from the Police and this Dirty Lawyer and Partime [sic] Judge”. ¶¶8, 9, and 12. The papers submitted are laced with invective, insult and allegations unrelated to the application before the Court.”
“Plaintiff, Todd Ruffalo, Jr., has commenced numerous cases in the courts of the State of New York. Many of these are meretricious on their face. These include cases filed against court personnel and sitting Justices and Acting Justices of the Supreme Court, all of whom enjoy absolute immunity from suit for performing their judicial duties. [Ruffalo, Jr. v DiBella, Westchester County Index # 50290/2015, Ruffalo Jr. v Lefkowitz, Westchester Index # 60467/2015, Ruffalo Jr. v Walker, Westchester Index # 64743/2015, Ruffalo, Jr. v Giacomo, Westchester Index # 68060/2015, Ruffalo Jr. v Garfein, Westchester Index # 6886/2015, Ruffalo Jr. v Wood, Westchester Index # 69163/2015, Ruffalo Jr. v Ruderman, Westchester Index # 70196/2015, Ruffalo Jr. v Lubell, Westchester Index # 51171/2016, Ruffalo Jr. v Everett, Westchester Index # 57200/2016, Ruffalo Jr. v Diamond, Westchester Index # 57201/2016, and Ruffalo Jr. v Thorsen. Westchester Index # 59861/2016].
In addition, Mr. Ruffalo has filed other cases of dubious merit. Among these, he filed three separate actions against an individual who once served as his attorney. Ruffalo Jr. v Ackerman, Westchester Index # 52501/2011, 59440/2011 and 50524/2014. In dismissing the last of these and imposing sanctions, Justice Charles D. Wood noted that two prior Justices had cautioned plaintiff against the use of inappropriate and vulgar language.
Specifically, Justice Wood noted that Justice J. Emmett Murphy wrote in his Decision and Order dated September 6, 2011, which dismissed plaintiff’s first complaint against Mr. Ackerman in Index # 52501/2011, that “Plaintiff’s entirely inappropriate use of vulgarities and profane hyperbole as well as the vexatious, rambling abuse which have been carelessly employed … to insult and demean defendants, defense counsel, Judge Friedman and numerous others are improper.” Justice Wood also noted that Justice Mary H. Smith, in a Decision and Order dated February 2, 2012, found plaintiff’s complaint in the re-filed action against Mr. Ackerman to set forth “irrelevant, redundant, prejudicial, slanderous and scandalous assertions in a prolix, rambling, confusing manner which [were found] to be improper, irreverent”. Although Justice Smith granted plaintiff the opportunity to re-plead, he repeated his improper behavior and, ultimately, Justice Smith dismissed the action on April 20, 2012, simultaneously warning plaintiff that future filings would result in severe sanctions.
Notwithstanding that caution, plaintiff filed yet another complaint against Mr. Ackerman under Index # 50524/2014. That action was assigned to Justice Wood, who in a Decision and Order dated December 12, 2014, not only imposed sanctions, but also enjoined plaintiff from filing any further actions against Mr. Ackerman.
Plaintiff has also sued: (1) the attorneys for a bank which commenced a foreclosure action [*4]against him [Ruffalo Jr. v Leopold, Westchester Index # 69164/2015 and 67755/2016], (2) the referee appointed by the Court in the foreclosure action [Ruffalo Jr. v Trent, Westchester Index # 67756/2016], (3) the police officer who issued him the summons for the improperly tinted windows, [Ruffalo Jr. v Brown, Westchester Index # 68738/2016], (4) the attorney who represented him in connection with the traffic summons [this action], (5) the operator of an auto repair shop where Mr. Ruffalo contends his car was damaged, [Ruffalo Jr. v Contarino, Westchester Index # 51846/2016 and 51972/2017], (6) the attorneys who represented the auto repair shop, [Ruffalo Jr. v Curcio, Westchester Index # 50290/2015], and (7) the attorneys who represented the attorneys who represented the auto shop [Ruffalo Jr. v Kanca, Westchester Index # 68061/2015].[FN3]
Invariably, in each action he files, plaintiff seeks to be relieved from paying the required filing fees by filing applications, such as the one denied herein, for poor person relief. As noted above, several of these applications have been denied by this Court because they lacked proper identification and substantiation of the source of his income to allow the Court to assess his indigence or inability to pay the fees.
Plaintiff’s filings and letters routinely include inappropriate and insulting language. For example, in a letter dated February 8, 2017 directed to this Court, in a matter entitled Franzoso Contracting Inc. v Robin Ruffalo, Sr, Westchester Index # 62553/2015, various individuals were described as “dishonest”, “dirty”, felons, “unethical”, “POS”, “dirty POS”, or “hacks.” As to this Court, Mr. Ruffalo asserted, that: (1) the Court “Failed Your Classes on the CPLR in Law School”, (2) “Your [sic] in For a Lot of Legal problems and troubles here that You created Yourself and You Should Be Disbarred for good in New York State”, (3) “Your Integrity Stinks and You have Rendered Criminal Assistance to [plaintiff’s counsel]” (4) “We Understand Your Dishonesty that are New Lows which is why Your [sic] off this Farce” and (5) “Your Dereliction in Duties are Duly Noted and Sua Sponte Your [sic] Looking at Legal Action of Your Own to Deal With from Todd Ruffalo, Jr.” The letter cautions that “the Heat is going to get Turned up here against You, Your Duplicate Crony and Swindler Klein and his Felon Foe Franzoso.”
The letter concludes with the statement:
“Finally, Your [sic] Fired From this Farce as of Wednesday 2/8/17, and this Means Your [sic] off of the invented Case Now where You have been Hostile, Indifferent, and Extremely Difficult, Not to Mention Dishonest with this Foolish Liar Klein and if You Refuse to Recuse Yourself from this Bogus Case, then We will have You Removed/Disqualified down the Pike from One of the Supervising Judges, and Not Your Duplicate Dishonest Bunkie Scheinkman, from Your Improper Judicial Misconduct, Malice, Operating in Bad Faith, Fraud, Etc.”
Since defendant lacked the authority to “fire” the Court, the Court construed the letter as a request for recusal, which was denied. See Order Denying Application For Recusal dated February 10, 2017.
In addition to using improper and offensive language, it appears that Mr. Ruffalo believes that he can dictate to the Court and litigants when and how the matters will be litigated and overseen by the Court. His usual filings include statements to the effect that he is not available [*5]until after 3:30 p.m. and that depositions are not required and are a waste of time.
For example, in the Summons With Notice in this matter, plaintiff states: “Plaintiff is Kindly informing All Parties that the Plaintiff is Only Available in the Afternoon from 3:30-PM and 4:00-PM and on for Anything in this Case, etc.” He continues, “Depositions can be Setup Without going into Court before an Unqualified Referee, which can be Setup by E-Mail, or by Mail. Depositions are also NOT Mandatory in All Litigation … Depositions will in Fact in this instance be a Waste of time and Monies, which to Reiterate Depositions are NOT Mandatory in All Litigation, and the Plaintiff has the Deft. Dead to Rights for Malpractice for Mishandling a Staged and Fraudulently issued Equipment Citation…”
Simply put, enough is enough. The court system, which is already overburdened and underfunded, can scarcely spare the resources to address the repetitive, incorrect and often nonsensical filings of Mr. Ruffalo. Unless this Court acts to interdict his unrepentant and abusive filings, there will be no end to them.
Accordingly, plaintiff, Todd Ruffalo, Jr., is hereby enjoined from commencing any actions in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Westchester without the expressed, prior written consent and approval of this Court.”