An allegation of attorney deceit on the court or a party

In Urias v Daniel P. Buttafuoco & Assoc., PLLC, 2024 NY Slip Op 01497 [Ct App Mar. 19, 2024], the NYS Court of Appeals dealt with Judiciary Law Section 487, holding that:

[Defendant/Attorney] contends that “[Plaintiff/Client] was relegated to bringing a motion to vacate under CPLR 5015. That path may well be available as a general matter,4 but section 487 cannot be read to make CPLR 5015 the exclusive avenue here. 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 N.Y.3d 10, 14–15, 988 N.Y.S.2d 101, 11 N.E.3d 174 [2014]; Amalfitano, 12 N.Y.3d at 12, 874 N.Y.S.2d 868, 903 N.E.2d 265). 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.

Richard A. Klass, Esq.
Your Court Street Lawyer

#CourtStreetLawyer #legalmalpractice #attorneydeceit #Section487

Richard A. Klass, Esq., maintains a law firm engaged in civil litigation at 16 Court Street, 28th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. He may be reached at (718) COURT●ST or with any questions.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

© 2024 Richard A. Klass

Next post
Previous post