"A former Española judge who spent nearly three years in prison for crimes the state Supreme Court determined he shouldn’t have been convicted of has filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against two of his former lawyers.
Charles Maestas is accusing Santa Fe attorneys Stephen Aarons and David Henderson of negligence in their handling of his case for failing to notice that the statute his convictions were based on didn’t apply to judges. The lawsuit was filed Feb. 20 and is pending in state district court in Tierra Amarilla.
Aarons was the lead attorney representing Maestas during his 2003 trial on rape and bribery charges while Henderson represented Maestas during the appeal.
The suit names Aarons Law Firm PC and Downing and Henderson PC as defendants. Maestas is represented by Tony Scarborough, who couldn’t be reached for comment late Thursday.
A jury convicted Maestas in June 2003 on five counts of rape and five counts of accepting a bribe in connection with allegations that he used his power as a judge to compel a woman, Suzette Salazar, to give him sexual favors in exchange for a promise of lenience in her traffic case. The jury acquitted him of a number of other charges. In August 2003, he was sentenced to three years in prison.
But the state Supreme Court overturned those convictions on Dec. 13, 2006, finding that Maestas had erroneously been prosecuted under a state anti-bribery statute that expressly excludes judges. By the time the high court’s decision was handed down, Maestas had finished serving his prison term.
The question of whether Maestas had been convicted of a law that didn’t apply to judges was initially raised by an attorney in the state Attorney General’s Office. But while the Attorney General’s Office conceded that the wording of the law made judges exempt, it argued that the Legislature made a mistake and asked the court to affirm the convictions.
Henderson, who argued passionately before the Supreme Court that Maestas’ convictions should be overturned because he was convicted of a law that didn’t exist, said he was disappointed and upset that he was being sued, given that he won the appeal for Maestas. Henderson had originally based Maestas’ appeal on an argument that a faulty jury instruction had been given during the trial.

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Andrew Lavoott Bluestone

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened…

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened his private law office and took his first legal malpractice case.

Since 1989, Bluestone has become a leader in the New York Plaintiff’s Legal Malpractice bar, handling a wide array of plaintiff’s legal malpractice cases arising from catastrophic personal injury, contracts, patents, commercial litigation, securities, matrimonial and custody issues, medical malpractice, insurance, product liability, real estate, landlord-tenant, foreclosures and has defended attorneys in a limited number of legal malpractice cases.

Bluestone also took an academic role in field, publishing the New York Attorney Malpractice Report from 2002-2004.  He started the “New York Attorney Malpractice Blog” in 2004, where he has published more than 4500 entries.

Mr. Bluestone has written 38 scholarly peer-reviewed articles concerning legal malpractice, many in the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. He has appeared as an Expert witness in multiple legal malpractice litigations.

Mr. Bluestone is an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University College of Law, teaching Legal Malpractice.  Mr. Bluestone has argued legal malpractice cases in the Second Circuit, in the New York State Court of Appeals, each of the four New York Appellate Divisions, in all four of  the U.S. District Courts of New York and in Supreme Courts all over the state.  He has also been admitted pro haec vice in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida and was formally admitted to the US District Court of Connecticut and to its Bankruptcy Court all for legal malpractice matters. He has been retained by U.S. Trustees in legal malpractice cases from Bankruptcy Courts, and has represented municipalities, insurance companies, hedge funds, communications companies and international manufacturing firms. Mr. Bluestone regularly lectures in CLEs on legal malpractice.

Based upon his professional experience Bluestone was named a Diplomate and was Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in 2008 in Legal Malpractice. He remains Board Certified.  He was admitted to The Best Lawyers in America from 2012-2019.  He has been featured in Who’s Who in Law since 1993.

In the last years, Mr. Bluestone has been featured for two particularly noteworthy legal malpractice cases.  The first was a settlement of an $11.9 million dollar default legal malpractice case of Yeo v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman which was reported in the NYLJ on August 15, 2016. Most recently, Mr. Bluestone obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a legal malpractice case on behalf of the City of White Plains v. Joseph Maria, reported in the NYLJ on February 14, 2017. It was the sole legal malpractice jury verdict in the State of New York for 2017.

Bluestone has been at the forefront of the development of legal malpractice principles and has contributed case law decisions, writing and lecturing which have been recognized by his peers.  He is regularly mentioned in academic writing, and his past cases are often cited in current legal malpractice decisions. He is recognized for his ample writings on Judiciary Law § 487, a 850 year old statute deriving from England which relates to attorney deceit.