Arrested, Convicted and Now Loses Legal Malpractice Case

Judge Lippman once wrote that allowing legal malpractice proceedings against the criminal defense attorney absent "actual innocence" would be very very bad.   "We see no compelling reason to depart from the established rule limiting recovery [*4]in legal malpractice actions to pecuniary damages. Allowing this type of recovery would have, at best, negative and, at worst, devastating consequences for the criminal justice system. Most significantly, such a ruling could have a chilling effect on the willingness of the already strapped defense bar to represent indigent accused. Further, it would put attorneys in the position of having an incentive not to participate in post-conviction efforts to overturn wrongful convictions. "

Here, in Herschman v Kern, Augustine, Conroy & Schoppman  2014 NY Slip Op 00416
Decided on January 23, 2014  Appellate Division, First Department we see one result.  Plaintiff was arrested and later convicted for medicare violations.  His claim against the attorney was that they negligently advised him such that he was arrested.  His claim fails.
 

In this legal malpractice action, plaintiff, a physician, alleges that defendants failed, inter alia, to represent him properly in connection with investigations by Medicare and the Office of Professional Conduct into the licensure of his employee, Jerrold Levoritz, and his billing practices, and that these failures resulted in his arrest for grand larceny and insurance fraud.

The documentary evidence submitted by defendants on their CPLR 3211 motion refutes plaintiff's allegations, by showing that any purported negligence on their part in connection with the administrative proceedings or any advice with respect to plaintiff's method of billing Medicare for Levoritz's services did not proximately cause plaintiff's arrest. The indictment for grand larceny in the second degree charged that plaintiff billed for services that were not rendered, and the record of his criminal conviction for grand larceny plainly contradicts the allegations in the complaint (see Bishop v Maurer, 33 AD3d 497 [1st Dept 2006], affd 9 NY3d 910 [2007]). Since plaintiff's own actions resulted in his arrest, he failed to show that any alleged malpractice on defendants' part proximately caused his damages, i.e., his arrest (see Minkow v Sanders, 82 AD3d 597 [1st Dept 2011]). This failure mandates the dismissal of his legal malpractice action regardless of whether defendants were negligent (Leder v Spiegel, 31 AD3d 266, 267-268 [1st Dept 2006], affd 9 NY3d 836 [2007], cert denied 552 US 1257 [2008]). "

 

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