A Manhattan attorney has been hit with a $10,000 sanction plus fees for deposition conduct that included insulting the judge, her clerk and a court reporter. But the sanctioned attorney claims it is his “scum of the earth” adversaries who ought to be penalized.
The sanction against Joseph Sahid came in an order from the Appellate Division, First Department, after the trial judge referred Sahid to a disciplinary committee and considered sanctioning his opponent at Vlock & Associates.
Cadlerock Joint Venture v. Sol Greenberg & Sons, 105190/07, arose from an incendiary battle over a $1.1 million judgment owed by a diamond dealer, Sol Greenberg & Sons, to a partnership, Cadlerock Joint Venture, that had been assigned the debt by a bank.
After a deposition where Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jane Solomon (See Profile) said that “neither lawyer had been punctiliously professional,” she referred Sahid to the departmental disciplinary committee for “offensive” conduct and “belligerence.”
Solomon said in a November 2010 decision that she also considered sanctioning the Vlock firm for its “professional thoughtlessness, if not outright frivolity,” but ultimately decided against fueling the fires of a matter that “should be put to rest.”
But her decision did not put the matter to rest.
Cadlerock appealed Justice Solomon’s denial of a motion seeking sanctions against Sahid and seeking to hold officials at the diamond dealers in contempt for failing to produce documents or comply with a subpoena. The plaintiffs also sought discipline and sanctions against Sahid under the frivolous conduct rule. In addition, plaintiff’s counsel Vlock & Associates said the firm received an e-mail from Sahid acknowledging his receipt of the record on appeal and the brief on appeal.
On April 19, the First Department unanimously reversed Solomon, imposing sanctions on Sahid and ordering a continuation of the deposition.
The court said Sahid “repeatedly interrupted the questioning and made improper objections and lengthy speeches that had no merit,” and also “insulted plaintiff’s counsel, Justice Solomon and her clerk and even the court reporter, who was eventually compelled to leave the deposition due to the abuse of defendant’s counsel.”
The panel directed Sahid to pay $10,000 in sanctions to the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection and sent the case back to Justice Solomon to assess attorney fees and costs.
“While we recognize that Supreme Court referred Mr. Sahid’s conduct to the Disciplinary Committee, we find that his frivolous, outrageous and unprofessional behavior warrants sanctions, costs and attorney’s fees,” the court said in an opinion joined by Presiding Justice Luis Gonzalez (See Profile) and Justices Peter Tom (See Profile), James Catterson (See Profile), Dianne Renwick (See Profile) and Rosalyn Richter (See Profile).
The First Department made no mention of the Vlock firm’s conduct.
Although the court did not describe in any detail the offensive conduct attributed to Sahid, a brief filed by the Vlock firm contends that at the post-judgment deposition the attorney engaged in “verbal abuse, screaming rants…threatening comments,” forced the court reporter to “leave the deposition well before it was concluded because he could no longer continue to endure the abuse directed at him personally” and referred to a court reporter as a “slave.” The brief describes Sahid’s conduct as “simply disgusting” and “shockingly horrific.”
In an interview, Steven Giordano, an associate with the Vlock firm who argued the appeal, said Sahid’s conduct was the “most horrible behavior I have ever experienced or heard of anyone experiencing from an attorney during a deposition.”
“The last thing I want to do is be forced to bring a motion for sanctions,” Giordano said. “Unfortunately, our hand was forced.”
Sahid, in an interview, claims he was caught off-guard by the First Department decision and never had an opportunity to respond to the allegations that he had been abusive or engaged in sanctionable conduct. He said the Vlock firm was abusive, threatening and should be sanctioned.
“I have to pay $10,000 and I have to pay attorney fees and I’ll bet you the lawyers on the other side, whom I regard as the scum of the earth, will submit bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees,” said Sahid, who said he has never before been sanctioned in 40 years of practice. “The court should have sanctioned the lawyers on the other side for their outrageous conduct. For these judges to do this without giving me an alert is a denial of due process.”
Stephen Vlock said his firm received an e-mail from Sahid after the appeal was filed confirming receipt of the notice of appeal and saying he was no longer representing the Greenbergs and that he would not respond.
@|John Caher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.