An attorney sanctioned for failing to comply with discovery orders should pay less than one-tenth of the roughly $42,000 proposed because the lawyer proved he’s in poor physical and financial health, according to a federal judge.
In March, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith McCarthy of the Southern District of New Yorksanctioned solo attorney Joseph Adams, former counsel for a party in a case concerning the estate of a prominent photographer, for inviting a local merchant to surreptitiously record a phone call with opposing counsel and for failing to follow discovery orders.
In a ruling entered last week, McCarthy said that while sanctions were still in order, they should be tempered to $3,000 given evidence of Adams’ poor health and perilous financial situation.
The exact nature of Adams’ health was kept confidential in court papers, though he submitted a letter from a doctor confirming he suffers from illnesses that have “detrimental work-related effects.” Adams declined to comment on his health.
In court papers, Adams said the discovery issues took place when his office was “overwhelmed by legal work” in preparing motions to withdraw as counsel, and to respond to the sanctions motion.
The case involves the matter of shareholder rights in the estate of Sam Shaw, a photographer known for capturing iconic images of stars like Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.
Christopher Serbagi of the Serbagi Law Firm, who represents a group of Shaw’s relatives, brought the motion for sanctions. David Marcus, an associate with his firm, said the ruling acknowledges Adams’ ”egregious behavior in the case.”
In an interview, Adams said portions of the decision are “inaccurate, incomplete and disputed,” but declined to comment further because he plans to make future filings in the case.
Serbagi’s motions, he said, were made in “bad faith” to interfere with his efforts to comply with discovery requirements in the case.