Thomas Liotti, who has of late been pushing the bounds of criminal defendant representation, and has, incidently, sued the Nassau County DA, is in the news for an inventive investigation. 

His client was accused of abusing a child.  The child and its parents were the subject of a neglect proceeding in Family Court, and Liotti used that proceeding to generate statements exonorating his criminal defendant.  Result?  Lots of outrage.

From the NYLJ

"A Nassau judge has declined to disqualify from a criminal case a defense attorney who took statements from prosecution witnesses without the permission or presence of their attorneys in a related Family Court matter. In November 2005, the prosecutor filed an information charging Mr. Quiroz, 54, of Freeport, with abusing a 16-year-old retarded girl. Mr. Liotti denied that the girl was retarded.

In February 2006, the Nassau County Department of Social Services brought a neglect motion in Family Court against the alleged victim’s mother. The county also commenced a proceeding against Mr. Quiroz. Mr. Liotti served as Mr. Quiroz’s attorney in both matters.

Family Court appointed Steven Herman, a solo practitioner in Rockville Center, as law guardian to represent the girl and Connie Gonzalez, of Legal Aid in Hempstead, to represent the mother.

On Oct. 16, 2006, Mr. Liotti wrote to the district attorney asking that the criminal charges against his client be dismissed. He submitted affidavits, dated Oct. 12, in which the girl recanted her accusation and the mother stated that the alleged incident could not have occurred.

Judge Kluewer said that the record "amply demonstrated" that Mr. Liotti did not get the consent of either Mr. Herman or Ms. Gonzalez before communicating with their clients.

Mr. Herman moved in Family Court to disqualify Mr. Liotti on the grounds he had violated DR 7-104 of the state’s Code of Professional Responsibility. That provision prohibits an attorney from communicating with an opposing party that the attorney knows to be represented by counsel, unless the attorney has secured the prior consent of the opposing party’s counsel.

Mr. Herman also sought to preclude the use of the statements.

Judge Hope S. Zimmerman, now an acting Supreme Court justice (See Profile), ruled that Mr. Liotti had violated the alleged victim’s due process rights and disqualified him from representing Mr. Quiroz in Family Court.

Mr. Liotti appealed to the Appellate Division, Second Department, which has stayed the Family Court order pending the resolution of the criminal matter.

Meanwhile, the district attorney’s office moved for virtually identical relief in District Court. It argued that Mr. Liotti should be disqualified in light of his attempted use of "improper communications" to seek a dismissal of the criminal matter. Further, the district attorney asserted that it would be contrary to the interest of justice to allow the "product of this improper conduct" to be used.

The prosecutor also suggested that Mr. Liotti might have to appear as a witness "in order to determine the genuineness and circumstances of the purported recantations."

In response, Mr. Liotti argued that neither the girl nor her mother were a "party" to the criminal case. He noted that the girl has turned 18 and was no longer entitled to representation by the law guardian.

Mr. Liotti also claimed that because his associates, and not him personally, appeared in Family Court, he was "not aware" that the girl and her mother had counsel.

Judge Kluewer said she was not persuaded by Mr. Liotti’s assertions that he did not know that counsel represented the girl and her mother.

"Given his experience, he certainly should have known of the representation, and neither he nor his associates should have communicated either with the alleged victim, or her mother without the consent of their respective attorneys," Judge Kluewer said.

But the judge agreed that neither the girl nor her mother was a party to the criminal action. And she said that the purposes of the two proceedings were different.

The aim of the criminal action was to determine if the defendant had committed a wrongful act and, if so, to assess blame and impose punishment, the judge said. In that context, a defense attorney is obliged to zealously represent his client and is authorized to conduct the "broadest possible range of pretrial investigation."

By contrast, the Family Court proceeding is essentially civil, Judge Kluewer said. "The real subject of a neglect petition is not the respondent against whom it is brought, but the child it concerns," she said.

The judge noted that the considerations underlying the Family Court ruling did not pertain to the matter before her. But she said that the prosecutor apparently was seeking to punish Mr. Liotti because of factors relevant to the Family Court proceeding.

"I am aware of no public policy or other consideration pertinent to this action that warrants interfering with Defendant’s fundamental, albeit not absolute, right to counsel of his own choosing," Judge Kluewer held.

She also declined to preclude statements Mr. Liotti obtained from the alleged victim and her mother.

"Apart from the fact that such a spectre implicates the constitutional right to confront the people’s witnesses with prior inconsistent statements in New York, exclusion of a statement is not an appropriate remedy for the misconduct about which the people complain," she said. "

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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.