Miho Suzuki v Greenberg 2023 NY Slip Op 31289(U) April 21, 2023 Supreme Court, New York County Docket Number: Index No. 159360/2021 Judge: David B. Cohen may be the only case in which summary judgment was granted to plaintiff on a Judiciary Law 487 claim. It leans heavily on a prior finding in a matrimonial action.
“Plaintiff moves for summary judgment, pursuant to CPLR 3212, seeking an award of
treble damages against defendant for an alleged violation of Section 487 of the Judiciary Law. Defendant cross-moves for summary judgment, seeking an order dismissing plaintiffs complaint, and sanctioning plaintiff and her attorney for their alleged frivolous conduct in bringing this action.
Plaintiff, a resident of the State of Michigan ( complaint ,JI [NYSCEF Doc No. 197]),
previously resided in the State of New York, during her 2002 marriage to, and later separation from, her former husband Sebastian Gollings (see id. ,i,i 3-7 and Plaintiff aff,J3 [NYSCEF Doc No. 176]). Plaintiff and Gollings have one child togther, Kira Gollings, who was born on April 25, 2006 ( complaint ,J,J3-4 and Plaintiff aff,J3).
Gollings commenced an action for divorce against plaintiff in 2014, represented by a
non-party attorney, in New York County Supreme Court under Index Number 309246/2014 (Divorce Action) ( complaint, ,J5).
On October 19, 2015, plaintiff and Gollings entered into a settlement of the Divorce
Action, documented by a stipulation, a parenting plan, and a child support stipulation (Plaintiff statement of material facts [SOP] [NYSCEF Doc No. 200], ,J3). Plaintiff alleges that these agreements provided, among other things, that she and Gollings would share joint legal custody of Kira and that Gollings would have residential custody ( complaint ,J6). “
“At an inquest held on October 19, 2015, before a justice of this Court, Gollings and
plaintiff presented their executed stipulation, parenting plan, and child support stipulation to the Court, and allocuted to the terms of these agreements. The justice presiding informed the parties that they were now bound by the agreements but not yet divorced, and directed counsel to prepare and submit the necessary documents, including a proposed judgment, to finalize matters (see ex B to Defendant’s affidavit in support of cross-motion in sequence number 003 [hearing tr.] [NYSCEF Doc No. 206]).
Plaintiff alleges that Gollings’ s attorney failed to submit the proposed judgment and
ancillary documents needed for the judgment of divorce to be granted and that, from 2015 to 2018, she and Gollings remained separated but adhered to their parenting plan with respect to their child ( complaint, ,J7).”
“Here, plaintiff establishes her prima facie entitlement to judgment on her claim, by
demonstrating that the justice presiding over the divorce action already determined that defendant attempted to deceive or mislead the court by failing to include or mention the Final Custody Order when filing for a final judgment of divorce, which caused her to incur damages in the form of attorney fees and costs (see e.g. Schindler v Isller & Schrage, P.C., 262 AD2d 226 [1st Dept 1999], lv dismissed 94 NY2d 791  [plaintiff granted judgment on Judiciary Law § 487 claim as defendant law firm knowingly withheld crucial information from court in underlying action]; cf Betz v Blatt, 160 AD3d 696 [2d Dept 2018] [defendant attorney was properly denied summary dismissal of Judiciary Law § 487 claim based on allegations that he filed blatantly deficient accounting with court, which delayed administration of estate, and
caused estate to incur legal fees]; see also Amaltifano v Rosenberg, 428 F Supp 2d 196 [SD NY 2006] [attempted deceit is sufficient to trigger liability under section 487]). Moreover, given the prior finding that defendant intentionally attempted to mislead the court, he is estopped from arguing otherwise here.”
“For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby
ORDERED that plaintiffs motion for summary judgment on her sole cause of action, for
violation of Judiciary Law Section§ 487, is granted, and the Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendant in the sum of $54,774.00, with interest at the statutory rate, from the date of this decision, as calculated by the clerk, together with costs and disbursements as taxed by the Clerk upon submission of an appropriate bill of costs; and it is further ORDERED that defendant’s cross motion is denied; and it is further ORDERED, that the clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.”