Now that Urias v. Buttafuoco, has been decided by the Court of Appeals would Gelwan v De Ratafia 2023 NY Slip Op 32953(U) August 25, 2023 Supreme Court, New York County
Docket Number: Index No. 654525/2016 Judge: David B. Cohen have been decided differently as to the Judiciary Law 487 claim?

In Urias, the Court of Appeals held ” Not only does the text of the provision suggest that a plenary action is available in all instances of attorney deceit, but section 487’s long lineage also confirms that conclusion. The cause of action was descended from the first Statute of Westminster adopted in England in 1275, incorporated in New York’s earliest common law, and first codified in this State in a 1787 statute that closely tracks the current provision (see Melcher v Greenberg Traurig, LLP, 23 NY3d 10, 14-15 [2014]; Amalfitano, 12 NY3d at 12). Its legislative history reflects a consistent view, taken over centuries, that attorney deceit in the course of litigation warrants substantial penalties—both criminal liability and treble damages. By comparison, CPLR 5015 offers a discretionary remedy that includes “restitution in like manner and subject to the same conditions as where a judgment is reversed or modified on appeal” (CPLR 5015 [d]). Such relief is markedly different from that authorized by section 487, and we decline to confine a plaintiff alleging attorney deceit to the sole option of proceeding under CPLR 5015.

We appreciate that it might be more efficient to require a plaintiff who either directly or effectively challenges a judgment to return to the court that issued it and seek vacatur under CPLR 5015, and we note that transfer of a plenary action to the court that handled the underlying proceedings may be desirable where consistent with the CPLR’s venue provisions. Nor do we take lightly the interest in preserving the finality of judgments. But the legislature has singled out the specific type of claim here—an allegation of attorney deceit on the court or a party—and determined that recovery of treble damages should be available in a civil action. We conclude that section 487 must be read to allow a plenary action for deceit, even where success on that claim might undermine a separate final judgment.”

In Gelwan, the court held:

“This action arises out of an incident which took place in 2011, the specific details of
which are not directly relevant to these motions. Plaintiffs Gelwan and Backer were retained by defendants De Ratafia and Ackroyd (De Ratafia parties) to represent them in a federal civil rights action in the Northern District of New York arising out of the incident (De Ratafia v Hyson, US Dist Ct, ND NY, 13 Civ 174, Mordue, J., 2014 [federal action]).
The retainer agreement is written on Backer’s letterhead, and provides that the De Ratafia parties have retained Backer’s firm, as well as Gelwan as “of counsel,” to commence and prosecute the federal lawsuit, and that they have agreed to pay a 40 percent contingency fee, which Backer would share equally with Gelwan (NYSCEF 18).”

“Judiciary Law § 487(1) provides that it is a misdemeanor for, and creates liability for
treble damages against, an attorney who is “guilty of any deceit or collusion, or consents to any deceit or collusion, with intent to deceive the court or any party.”
As Gelwan was not a party in the federal action ( Gelmin v Quicke, 224 AD2d 481 [2d Dept 1996] [“party” refers to party in action]), and as the alleged misconduct occurred during the federal action and not here ( Chibcha Rest., Inc. v David A. Kaminsky & Assoc., P.C., 102 AD3d 544 [1st Dept 2013] [claim must be brought in action in which alleged misconduct occurred]), Gelwan does not state a claim for a violation of Judiciary
Law§ 487.”

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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.