By Robert Spolzino
Court of Appeals limits Judiciary Law § 487 claims to deceptive acts within litigation
The Court of Appeals held yesterday, six to one, with Judge Rivera dissenting, that a claim against a lawyer under Judiciary Law § 487 for deceptive conduct can be made only where the deception occurs within litigation and cannot be made for deceiving the client into commencing the lawsuit. In Bill Birds, Inc. v. Stein Law Firm, P.C., the plaintiff alleged that the defendant law firm had advised it to commence an action over a trademark claim knowing that the claim had no merit, solely for the purpose of generating a legal fee. Relying on an 1878 decision holding that a predecessor statute did not give rise to a cause of action on essentially the same set of facts, the Court reasoned that the statute, which can be traced back to 1275, historically applied only to conduct “in any court of justice” intended to mislead “a court or party.” Recognizing that there are other remedies for the client deceived into bringing a lawsuit, the Court affirmed summary judgment dismissing Judiciary Law § 487 claim.
Should you have any questions on this decision or any appellate issue, please contact Judge Robert Spolzino (ret.) at RSpolzino@abramslaw.com or (914) 607-7010.