Editors’ Note: This article has been updated to reflect a Correction.
An attorney who was suspended and later disbarred for misappropriating client funds has been ordered to pay a former client nearly $500,000 in a malpractice case.
A special referee in Manhattan Supreme Court ordered Howard L. Blau to pay the sum to Donald Glassman, a former Barnard College employee who had been charged with third-degree rape and sought counsel from Mr. Blau. Mr. Glassman was found guilty. He then fired Mr. Blau, brought on new counsel and was acquitted.
Mr. Blau did not appear in the malpractice case, and the referee ordered judgment on default. Mr. Glassman will now seek to collect the sum, said his lawyer, Kenneth F. McCallion at McCallion & Associates in Manhattan. The decision in Glassman v. Blau, 111703/2008, by the referee, Nicholas Doyle, has given Mr. Glassman “some vindication with regard to his claims of being wrongfully and improperly and negligently represented by Mr. Blau,” Mr. McCallion added.
The Special Referee’s decision will appear on page 25 of the print edition of tomorrow’s Law Journal.
“He hasn’t quite been able to get his life back, and probably never will,” Mr. McCallion said. However, the written decision and a judgment against Mr. Blau gives Mr. Glassman “some minimal satisfaction,” Mr. McCallion said.
A call to the last known number for Mr. Blau found it had been disconnected. He did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The judgment would be the latest in a string of problems facing Mr. Blau. The Appellate Division, First Department, suspended him in February 2008 after he allegedly misappropriated nearly $764,000 from three clients’ funds. When Mr. Blau continued to practice law despite the suspension, the First Department disbarred him in October 2009. Other default judgments in suits by ex-clients have accumulated since the suspension.
Mr. Blau was hired in 2006 by Mr. Glassman, a former archivist at Barnard College who faced assault, battery and rape charges based on claims by his ex-wife, according to Mr. Doyle’s decision. Mr. Blau was also retained to represent Mr. Glassman in his divorce.
In his complaint, Mr. Glassman said he hired Mr. Blau because he claimed he was “the best criminal defense attorney in New York,” with experience in, among other things, domestic violence cases.
In reality, Mr. Blau had never handled a domestic violence case, according to Mr. Glassman’s complaint. Mr. Blau also has been the subject of five malpractice suits since 1998 for, among other things, negligence in handling criminal matters, misrepresenting his qualifications and failing to properly investigate cases, the complaint said.
Mr. Blau did not prepare for the trial, according to the referee’s decision. He did not interview witnesses, nor keep in contact with Mr. Glassman in the run up to trial. At trial, Mr. Blau did not cross-examine witnesses and failed to put on a case. Though he told the jury Mr. Glassman would testify on his own behalf, he never did.
In October 2007, the jury found Mr. Glassman guilty of rape in the third degree and two misdemeanors of prohibited contact. Mr. Glassman hired two new lawyers, solo Robert J. Feldman and Mark M. Baker at Brafman & Associates, for $55,000, who were able to get the verdict set aside. Mr. Glassman was retried, represented by a court-appointed lawyer and was acquitted of all charges.
Mr. Glassman filed an arbitration request for attorney’s fees against Mr. Blau in November 2007. The arbitration panel awarded Mr. Glassman $32,500 in August 2008.
Days later, Mr. Glassman brought the malpractice suit, seeking $10 million as a result of legal fees, loss of employment and pain and suffering. Mr. Glassman had lost his $48,700-a-year job at Barnard after his conviction and briefly landed a job at the American Civil Liberties Union until his employers learned of his conviction.
In March 2009, Mr. Glassman was hired by the New York Grant Company, a consulting firm run by Ann G. Kayman, who practiced with Mr. Blau under the name Blau, Kayman & Barrows. Ms. Kayman did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Doyle, the referee in the malpractice action, last week ruled that Mr. Glassman was entitled to $496,302 in legal fees, lost earnings and lost future earnings. But the referee found that while alleged emotional and psychological injuries were “understandable,” relief was not available in a malpractice case.
Mr. Doyle’s decision is final and will not need approval of Justice Lucy Billings (See Profile), Mr. McCallion said.
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