Suzuki v Greenberg 2023 NY Slip Op 05455 Decided on October 26, 2023
Appellate Division, First Department is the extremely rare successful Judiciary Law 487 claim. The AD noted that in the First Department a single egregious act can be sufficient, and that no “chronic pattern” is required as it is in the Second Department.

“Defendant, an attorney, represented plaintiff’s former husband in the matrimonial action underlying this action. During the course of the matrimonial proceedings, defendant knowingly failed to inform the court that in accordance with neglect and custody proceedings held in Kings County Family Court, plaintiff had been awarded primary physical custody of the child of the marriage. Defendant also prepared an affidavit for his client, falsely stating that the client had never been party to a neglect proceeding and asserting that the client was the child’s custodial parent. In addition, defendant submitted a final judgment of divorce awarding primary physical custody of the child to his client on the basis of stipulated agreements between plaintiff and the client even though those agreements had been signed three years before the Kings County proceedings. Defendant then presented an order to show cause to hold plaintiff in contempt of court for not complying with the custody provisions in the judgment of divorce.

Plaintiff established her entitlement to summary judgment by submitting evidence that defendant had intentionally failed to apprise the court of the Kings County custody order, thus affirmatively misrepresenting the existence of adverse information relevant to the proceedings (see Schindler v Issler & Schrage, P.C., 262 AD2d 226, 227 [1st Dept 1999], lv denied 94 NY2d 859 [1999]). This evidence was sufficient to establish “egregious conduct” under Judiciary Law § 487 (see id.). Despite defendant’s position otherwise, a plaintiff need not demonstrate a chronic pattern of delinquency to recover on a Judiciary Law § 487 action; on the contrary, a single egregious act, such as the one presented here, is sufficient (see e.g. Mazel 315 W. 35th LLC v 315 W. 35th Assoc. LLC, 120 AD3d 1106, 1107 [1st Dept 2014]).

Furthermore, the court properly awarded treble damages despite the fact that plaintiff had already been awarded attorney’s fees in the matrimonial action. The matrimonial court found that plaintiff had been damaged by defendant’s deceitful conduct to the extent she incurred attorney’s fees to address and rectify the fraudulent order procured through that conduct and to defend against the contempt motion, but the matrimonial court could not and did not entertain a claim for treble damages, which Judiciary Law § 487 authorizes by way of a separate legal action (see Melcher v Greenberg Traurig LLP, 135 AD3d 547, 554 [1st Dept 2016]). In any event, the purpose of awarding [*2]treble damages for a violation of Judiciary Law § 487 is to punish a lawyer for his misconduct and to deter him from future misconduct, rather than to compensate a plaintiff for her injury (see Jean v Chinitz, 163 AD3d 497, 499 [1st Dept 2018]).

We reject defendant’s argument that his conduct merely constituted zealous representation of his client’s interests (see Mazel 315 W. 35th, 120 AD3d at 1107). Defendant had an ethical duty as an officer of the court to uphold the integrity of the court and not to subvert its truth-seeking process for the improper benefit of his client (see Amalfitano v Rosenberg, 12 NY3d 8, 14 [2009]).”

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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.