How Far is Too Far in Legal Malpractice?
The Surrogate of New York County has undoubtedly been presented with unique cases and big estates, but Matter of Eisenberg 2013 NY Slip Op 51713(U) Decided on October 15, 2013
Sur Ct, New York County Mella, J. presents some unusual issues.
Start with an attorney who boldly proclaims her lack of knowledge of wills, trusts and estates law (""Further, I am not an experienced attorney relating to trust and estate matters given its challenges, whereby I am gaining competency as we go because I am required to do so on my own. ""With my full disclosure however, I do want to assure you that I can manage all such issues and its [sic] complexity as that is my specialty overall in practicing law where my skills are unique as a lawyer.")
End with the attorney seeing incompetency everywhere: " "the record speaks to [sic] itself as to how much Petitioners have worked to make all parties on the record and this Court to understand the law and its duties for proper trust administration. In fact, it ought to be clear to this Court that it is Petitioners who have the greatest understanding of the laws of Trusts and Estates over all other attorneys assigned to these matters. The record speaks for itself that it is this Court who has no understanding of the record and the law over the course these [sic] entire matters . . . If this Court is not prepared to understand each and every legal detail and its implications being said and executed [sic], then this Court should not have ruled upon it to cause more harm. . . No staff has been assigned to understand the record and legal documents that are being ruled on, except for a single court attorney who does not possess enough knowledge to help resolve these matters effectively. . . Yet, Judge Glen ruled in her limited [*14]understanding . . ."
Continue to a claim in US District Court which is dismissed in its entirety' "Finally, in January 2011, Law Offices of Seema Verma PLLC filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging eleven claims against defendants Citigroup, Inc., et al. The March 23, 2011 order of Judge Paul A. Crotty, dismissing the complaint, provides:
"The allegations . . . suggest that Citigroup and related entities have billions of dollars of clients' assets and they exercise control over law firms, which are only too anxious to cooperate with the bank. The Complaint suggests that the bank controls and directs the New York Attorney General's office; [sic] and improperly influences the New York County Surrogate's Court. Finally, the Complaint alleges that as a result of Citigroup's unlawful practices and conflict of interest relationships, Plaintiff lost her client and has suffered substantial financial losses and hardships (i.e., lost legal fees).
* * * * *
"The gravamen of the Complaint deals with certain actions involving a trust in a litigated Surrogate's Court proceeding. Plaintiff believes that a large trust affects interstate commerce all by itself. This is quite wrong. While it is not clear how any facet of a proceeding pending before the Surrogate's Court can be the subject of a monopoly claim under Sherman Act §2, the Complaint is barren of any allegation of a monopoly or any attempt to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several states. . .
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"Whatever else may be said concerning Plaintiff's claim that she is entitled to her legal fees for representing a party in a contested Surrogate's Court proceeding, it does not amount to a plausible anti-trust claim, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).
"When the Court advised Plaintiff that she had failed to state a claim under the Sherman Act or the Clayton Act, and that if Defendants were forced to make a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court would permit a motion for sanctions, the Plaintiff decided to withdraw her Complaint."
In the end the attorney is treated quite well by Surrogate's Court. "Throughout these proceedings, Seema Verma, Esq., has demonstrated a clear want of understanding. The imposition of sanctions, in the instant case, would advance neither the [*15]punitive nor prophylactic purpose of sanctions.[FN19] Therefore, the court declines to impose costs and sanctions and so denies the motion of Citibank.
V.Ms. Hamada's Motion for a Determination of the Attorney's Lien of the Law Officesof Seema Verma PLLC:
Ms. Hamada has moved for a determination of the value of Verma's attorney's lien, so that Citibank, as trustee of the revocable trust, may make distributions.[FN20]
Even if the court were to assume, arguendo, that Verma had a right to a
charging lien pursuant to Judiciary Law § 475, upon her discharge by Ms. Hamada, Verma was limited, at most, to a fee based on quantum meruit for the reasonable value of its services (see Campagnola v Mulholland, 76 NY2d 38, 43-44 ). The court having determined Verma's SCPA 2110 petition, Ms. Hamada's motion is moot, and, accordingly, it is dismissed. "