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Law School Case Brief

Murray v. Nat'l Broad. Co. - 217 A.D.2d 651, 629 N.Y.S.2d 802 (App. Div. 1995)

Rule:

In order for sanctions to be imposed pursuant to N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22, § 130-1.1(c), the party's conduct must be deemed frivolous. Conduct is frivolous if: (1) it is completely without merit in law or fact and cannot be supported by a reasonable argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law; or (2) it is undertaken primarily to delay or prolong the resolution of the litigation, or to harass or maliciously injure another. Courts have found frivolous conduct within the meaning of N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22, § 130-1.1(c) where a party litigated the same issue over an extended period of time. 

Facts:

An attorney filed three different actions in different courts alleging he had a property interest in a television show known as "The Cosby Show" by virtue of a proposal of a program he made to the defendant broadcasting company. The court of the first action found that the attorney's action was not sufficiently novel to create a property interest. The second and third action were dismissed based the complaint being barred by the doctrine of res judicata. After the third complaint, the court ordered a hearing to impose appropriate sanctions and costs against the attorney pursuant to 22 NYCRR 130-1.1 (c). At the sanctions hearing, the attorney asserted that he had proceeded in the good-faith belief that he had a meritorious claim. However, he admitted that the complaint filed in the two counties were identical. The attorney conceded that he was admitted to the New York State Bar in July 1993 and that at the time he brought the instant action, he was a law school student, familiar with the concept of res judicata.

Issue:

Should the attorney be sanctioned for filing the same complaint three times?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court ordered the attorney to pay $ 10,000 in costs to the broadcasting company for filing frivolous appeals. The court held the attorney's multiple appeals were frivolous within the definition of the term contained in N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22, § 130-1.1(c). The court noted that the broadcasting company had to defend itself against the attorney in the federal court system, then again in the Supreme Court, New York County, up through the Appellate Division. Finally, the broadcasting company found itself defending essentially the same action in Westchester County. The court found that the attorney's conduct in commencing the Westchester County action, and in appealing from the orders of that court, not only placed an unnecessary burden on the broadcasting company by requiring it to respond, but also constituted a misuse of judicial resources. Accordingly, the court directed the attorney to pay $ 10,000 in costs to the broadcasting company.

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