Recently we told a mother that she had little likelihood of success in suing her son’s criminal defense attorney.  Questions of privity aside, the bar is extraordinarily high in trying to sue after a conviction.  Social policy and the Courts have set up a situation in which the lack of “actual innocence” acts as a bar to the legal malpractice claim.  Here is Justice Braun discussing the matter in Kaplan v Khanna     2015 NY Slip Op 25158  Decided on May 15, 2015  Supreme Court, New York County.

” Where a plaintiff pleads guilty in an underlying criminal prosecution, expressly admitting his or her guilt, and that plea remains undisturbed, it precludes a legal malpractice claim as a matter of law (see Carmel v Lunney, 70 NY2d 169, 173 [1987] [“To state a cause of action for legal malpractice arising from negligent representation in a criminal proceeding, plaintiff must allege his innocence or a colorable claim of innocence of the underlying offense (citation omitted), for so long as the determination of his guilt of that offense remains undisturbed, no cause of action will lie. [*2]Here, because plaintiff’s conviction by plea of a misdemeanor violation of the Martin Act has not been successfully challenged, he can neither assert, nor establish, his innocence. He has thus failed to state a cause of action .”]; Alampi v Russo, 345 NJ Super 360, 371 [NJ Super AD 2001] [to permit the plaintiff in a legal malpractice action to “go behind a federal guilty plea … would undermine the integrity of the federal guilty plea in pursuit of a highly speculative thesis-that plaintiff would have achieved an optimum outcome’ of no prosecution if his first attorney had in retrospect used different tactics.”]). Moreover, in pleading guilty before the District Judge, plaintiff acknowledged the factual basis for the guilty plea, that he entered it willingly and voluntarily, and that he was satisfied with his attorney’s representation, and that court found that there was a factual basis for the plea of guilty (cf. Schiller v Bender, Burrows & Rosenthal, LLP, 116 AD3d 756, 757-758 [2nd Dept 2014] [“The plaintiff’s allegations that he was coerced into settling the litigation were utterly refuted by his own admissions during the settlement proceeding that he had discussed the terms of the settlement with his attorneys, that he understood the settlement terms and had no questions about them, that he was entering into the settlement freely, of his own volition, and without undue influence or coercion, and that he was satisfied with his legal representation.” Thus, the legal malpractice cause of action was dismissed, upon a CPLR 3211 (a) (7) motion]).”

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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.