Legal Ethics

Judge sanctions lawyer who claimed 'rogue attorney' appeared on his behalf

A New York lawyer who claimed a “rogue attorney” appeared on his behalf and settled a case has been sanctioned for his explanation.

Judge James d’Auguste of Manhattan fined lawyer Richard Savitt $10,000, to be paid to the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, and ordered him to pay $7,400 in attorney fees to opposing counsel, the New York Law Journal reports.

Savitt had sought to reopen a $10,750 settlement for nonpayment of rent on the ground that he didn’t know the lawyer who claimed to represent him, and didn’t authorize the deal, the story says. He claimed he had a verbal agreement with the landlord to break his lease, and he owed no money. He says he didn’t know about the settlement until 2012 when the judgment appeared on his credit report.

The lawyer who appeared for Savitt, Marion Mishkin of Per Diem Services Inc., testified that she had represented Savitt in a prior case, and she read the entire stipulation of settlement to him, over the phone, before it was submitted in the landlord case in October 2006, the story says.

Phone records indicated Savitt spoke with Mishkin in six telephone calls on the day of the settlement; Savitt maintained the phone calls were from the landlord, according to the story.

D’Auguste said Savitt’s claims were “inherently implausible” and he “repeatedly made factual assertions that, upon examination, are either untrue or misleading,” the story reports.

Savitt had sought the recusal of d’Auguste and a prior judge in the case, claiming alleged bias. Savitt told the New York Law Journal he has always told the truth.

“It’s such a nightmare for me,” Savitt told the publication. “I have a judge who, no matter what I say, [says] ‘I don’t believe you, you’re dishonest.’ I have never lied in a courtroom in my life. … I have never fabricated or misrepresented anything. I’m willing to take a polygraph or anything else from anyone.”

Mishkin told the New York Law Journal that Savitt had filed a suit against her claiming she acted as a rogue attorney, but it was dismissed for improper service. “It was harassing, tortuous,” she said. “It was just mortally disturbing. I felt I was in a middle of an ever-growing nightmare.”

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