MANHATTAN (CN) - Saying he should have known his client's story stank from the start, a federal judge issued a $19,000 burn against the attorney who filed a frivolous lawsuit for a cook at ritzy Cipriani.
"Litigation is not a sport; litigation is not a lottery," U.S. District Judge Shira Schiendlin wrote.
Patricio Jimenez brought the case in question after he was charged with domestic abuse after an ambulance rushed his wife to Harlem Hospital the morning after Christmas of 2012.
A police report from that day quotes the wife, Maribel Jimenez, as telling the investigating officer that her husband smacked her three times with an open hand.
Over a month later, however, the Jimenezes appeared together at the police precinct and Maribel insisted that she never reported a domestic assault to anyone.
The case against Patricio soon evaporated for lack of evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.
When he brought a civil lawsuit for false arrest last year, Jimenez's only piece of evidence was an affidavit signed by his wife and prepared by his lawyer, Gregory Mouton.
The city, on the other hand, produced hospital records, police reports and statements from a social worker pointing to domestic abuse.
"Mrs. Jimenez informed me, in no uncertain terms, that she was assaulted by her domestic partner, Mr. Jimenez," a volunteer advocate from Mt. Sinai's Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention program told the court, according to a Sept. 24 ruling awarding the city summary judgment.
In awarding the city fees last week, Judge Schiendlin said she found it "very likely that Mrs. Jimenez committed perjury."
"This affidavit, and the motiveless conspiracy between police officers, medical professionals, and domestic violence advocates to fabricate an assault charge in order to arrest her husband that it alleged, were both too fantastic to be credible," the 22-page ruling states.
Although Mouton insisted that he did not know his client's wife was lying, Scheindlin found that the attorney's "willful blindness to the obvious and fatal flaws in Mrs. Jimenez's story rises to the level of egregious behavior."
Mouton did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
The Dec. 9 ruling notes that Mr. Jimenez pleaded poverty to avoid having to pay the city's legal fees. He makes $600 a week at a restaurant operated by the upscale Italian restaurant chain Cipriani.
Judge Scheindlin said that she was "not unsympathetic" to Jimenez's financial straits, but that the city still deserves compensation.
The New York City Law Department's senior counsel Tobias Zimmerman also hoped that the ruling would serve a warning to bad-faith plaintiffs.
"We are hopeful that the court's decision granting our motion for monetary sanctions against the plaintiff and his attorney will discourage the filing of frivolous lawsuits based on false or inadequately investigated allegations," Zimmerman said in a statement.
Reporting on another civil-rights case that fell apart in March 2014, The New York Times called it "unusual" for a judge to order a lawyer to pay the city's legal fees for filing a frivolous case.
Ironically, the judge granting this rare victory for City Hall was recently cast as one of its biggest opponents.
During the waning days of ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, Scheindlin issued the landmark decision slamming the NYPD for racially profiling blacks and Latinos in its "Stop, Question and Frisk" program. The Bloomberg administration attacked Scheindlin in court and in the press for supposedly being biased against the city, ultimately forcing her recusal from the case.
Scheindlin always defended her neutrality on this case, and vigorously disputed any anti-police leanings.
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