JESSICA T. v. KIETH T., 2020 NY Slip Op 50673, NY: Supreme Court, Suffolk County, June 12, 2020:

“In addition, the Court cannot ignore the role the Defendant has played in wasting precious time these last several years that the Plaintiff could have utilized for training, education or building her resume. His bullying tactics enumerated above were born out of spite and ill will. He perverted the judicial process to exact some sort of revenge upon the Plaintiff and alienated his own son as a result of his actions. This Court must redress the Defendant’s misbehavior in a way not to penalize the Defendant, as such would require various due process procedures such as notice absent here.[13] This Court however, must compensate the Plaintiff for the Defendant’s frivolous conduct and abuse of her through the legal system.

Federal courts have “inherent powers,” not conferred by rule or statute, “to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases” (Link v Wabash R. Co., 370 US 626, 630-631, 82 SCt 1386, 8 LEd2d 734 [1962]). That authority includes “the ability to fashion an appropriate sanction for conduct which abuses the judicial process” (Chambers v NASCO, Inc., 501 US 32, 44-45, 111 SCt 2123, 115 LEd2d 27 [1991]). The United States Supreme Court has made clear that such a sanction, when imposed pursuant to civil procedures, must be compensatory rather than punitive in nature (see Mine Workers v Bagwell, 512 US 821, 826-830, 114 SCt 2552, 129 LEd2d 642 [1994]).

Similarly, this Court has the discretion to impose financial sanctions upon any party or attorney in a civil action or proceeding who engages in frivolous conduct (22 NYCRR 130-1.1[a]; see Rhodes v Rhodes, 169 AD3d 841, 844, 94 N.Y.S.3d 123, 127 [2d Dept 2019]). Conduct is frivolous and sanctions may be awarded if “it is completely without merit in law” or fact and “cannot be support by a[ny] reasonable argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law” (22 NYCRR 130-1.1[c][1]). Furthermore, if conduct “is undertaken primarily to delay or prolong the resolution of the litigation, or to harass or maliciously injure another” (22 NYCRR 130-1.1 [c] [2]) or if such conduct “asserts material factual statements that are false” (22 NYCRR 130-1.1 [c] [3]) sanctions may be warranted (see Weissman v. Weissman, 116 AD3d 848, 849, 985 N.Y.S.2d 93 [2d Dept 2014]). In light of the fact that the Defendant has abused the Plaintiff throughout the litigation with his manipulation of the court process by his blatant disregard of the truth, pressing frivolous claims, wasting court time with witnesses that had at best merely uninformed opinions, causing drawn out conferences and examinations of witnesses that were not probative, making specious arguments and accusations including parent alienation, refusing to pay timely support payments until threatened with incarceration, refusing to help save the marital home from foreclosure, harassing and annoying the Plaintiff and J., refusing to pay his share of the court-ordered business evaluation which precluded the Plaintiff from demonstrating any potential increase in business’ value during the marriage, and by prolonging this case by creating unnecessary litigation, the court will award financial compensation to the Plaintiff (see id. at 850).[14]

Therefore, pursuant to the Court’s above consideration of the factors necessary to award an amount and duration of maintenance, and in order to do justice in this case and compensate the Plaintiff for some of the injuries that the Plaintiff has suffered as a result of the Defendant’s malicious, vexatious/abusive litigation, and as a sanction for the Defendant’s completely frivolous conduct throughout this case and certainly during this trial, the Court will award the Plaintiff ten years of maintenance payments. Furthermore, while normally the years and amounts paid during the pendente lite period are accounted for in formulating post-divorce maintenance, here, because of the Defendant’s own actions and vexatious litigation which purposefully attenuated this proceeding, and the need to compensate the Plaintiff, the Defendant will receive no credit for the approximately last 6 years of pendente lite payments.[15] There is simply no other way to accomplish justice in this case as the Defendant’s malicious, egregious and conscience-shocking conduct toward the Plaintiff and the parties’ son J. needs to be addressed. While the Court could under these egregious circumstances equitably distribute all of the assets to the Plaintiff as a penalty (see Howard S. v Lillian S., 14 NY3d 431, 436, 928 NE2d 399, 402, 902 NYS2d 17, 20 [2010]), it is necessary for future payment purposes to award the Defendant his business (which is addressed below).


[13] Indeed, the only notice to the Defendant regarding the possibility of punishment was given in the Plaintiff’s contempt motion that was referred to this trial, which addressed his failure to pay money, not his abuse of her through the judicial process. The Court does note, however, that over the course of this case, the Plaintiff did repeatedly request that the Court stop the Defendant from delaying the case, from harassing her with motion practice and in other ways, and from allegedly giving away her pertinent personal information to the Father’s Rights groups he associated with which she found on the Group’s social media. The Court, however, does not deem that to be sufficient notice.

[14] The Defendant’s vexatious behavior in this case is akin to a prima facie tort or an abuse of process. A prima facie tort consists of four elements: (1) intentional infliction of harm, (2) causing special damages, (3) without excuse or justification, (4) by an act or series of acts that would otherwise be lawful (Burns J.son Miller Summit & Spitzer v Lindner, 59 NY2d 314, 332, 464 N.Y.S.2d 712, 451 N.E.2d 459 [1983]). An abuse of process has three essential elements: (1) regularly issued process, either civil or criminal, (2) an intent to do harm without excuse or justification, and (3) use of the process in a perverted manner to obtain a collateral objective (Lynn v McCormick, 153 AD3d 688, 688, 60 N.Y.S.3d 316, 317 [2d Dept 2017]).”