Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.
Decided on December 4, 2012
SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISIONFirst Judicial Department Luis A. Gonzalez,Presiding Justice, Peter Tom David B. Saxe David Friedman James M. Catterson,Justices.
Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department.
Respondent Amy R. Gurvey was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the Third Judicial Department on June 4, 1985, under the name Amy Rebecca Weissbrod. In 1998, respondent changed her name with the Office of Court Administration ("OCA") to "Amy R. Gurvey," and, in 2004, she allegedly advised OCA that she was changing her name to "Amy R. Weissbrod Gurvey." Current OCA records still reflect respondent's name as "Amy R. Gurvey."
This matter arises from a 10-year litigation wherein respondent alleged that she was fraudulently induced to vacate her federally-subsidized Battery Park City apartment. The litigation resulted in, among other things, two Civil Court decisions and one Supreme Court decision imposing monetary sanctions against respondent totaling approximately $8,783. The observations of the courts and/or referees who sanctioned respondent included that her conduct was "indicative of harassment and an abuse of the judicial process" and "mean spirited and vexatious," and that her "inappropriate use of the courts" resulted in "needless expense in the defense of a frivolous lawsuit." She was sanctioned for "years of vituperative litigation," frivolous motion practice, and intentional misrepresentations to the court.
In April 2005, the DDC issued a Letter of Admonition to respondent based on one of the sanction decisions. When respondent demanded that the Admonition be vacated, the DDC commenced a collateral estoppel proceeding based on all three sanction decisions. The DDC contended that respondent's behavior violated the Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-102(A)(4)(conduct involving fraud, dishonestly, deceit or misrepresentation), DR 1-102(A)(5)(conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice), DR 1-102(A)(7)(conduct that adversely reflects on fitness to practice), and DR 7-102(A)(1)(taking an action on behalf of a client when the lawyer knows or when it is obvious that such action serves to merely harass or maliciously injure another).[*fn1]
On March 18, 2008, this Court granted the DDC's collateral estoppel petition and remanded the matter back to the DDC for a sanction hearing. Respondent moved for reconsideration and leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals, and we denied both motions. On September 14, 2010, the Court of Appeals denied respondent's motion for leave to appeal.
At the sanction hearing, respondent challenged the jurisdiction of this Court and the DDC on the grounds that she has never maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Department, that she has not practiced law since 2002, and that the sanctions imposed against her arose from her conduct as a party-litigant, not as an attorney. Respondent admitted that she had not paid the sanctions, nor did she intend to do so. Respondent also testified that she suffers from, among other things, a serious immune deficiency condition that has resulted in serious illnesses, some of which have been life threatening. Respondent also testified that she has been treated for cancer, and that her only source of income was disability benefits.
On December 15, 2011, the Hearing Panel issued a report in which it recommended that respondent be publicly censured. The DDC seeks an order, pursuant to 22 NYCRR 605.15(e), to dissafirm the Panel's recommendation and suspend respondent for one year. The DDC argues that whether respondent was in active practice or not, she engaged in a long pattern of frivolous litigation and willfully disregarded judicial orders imposing sanctions.
In response, respondent, pro se, has submitted a cross motion in which she requests: 1) that the collateral estoppel proceeding be dismissed; 2) that this Court's prior orders be vacated; 3) that the matter be transferred to the Third Department for the commencement of sanction proceedings against the DDC; 4) that the matter be consolidated with her article 78 proceeding [*fn2] and her pending appeal in the Third Department of an order dismissing ...