NEW YORK, April 9 (Reuters) - A defense attorney who showed
up to a trial 30 minutes late has been slapped with sanctions by
a Brooklyn judge who said she's fed up with his "pattern of
practice to delay trials."
In an order made public Monday, Kings County Acting Supreme
Court Justice Suzanne Mondo directed Brooklyn attorney Douglas
Rankin to pay $500 for his "premeditated, blatant and willful"
late arrival to court on March 5, after he had received repeated
warnings to be on time.
"He knew full well that a trial would commence and that it
was his obligation to be present at 9:30 a.m., the time the
court ordered him to appear," Mondo wrote. "Mr. Rankin's conduct
in (this) case exemplifies his practice of failing to appear on
specified dates and times before this and other courts."
Rankin has 31 cases pending in Kings County Supreme Court,
19 of which are older than two years -- and together those cases
"encompass hundreds of adjournments that waste hundreds of hours
of court resources," according to Mondo.
An attorney for Rankin, Richard Grayson, said his client
intends to appeal the sanctions.
The case at hand involves a defendant, Marcia King, who is
awaiting trial on charges including grand larceny and welfare
fraud. The case was originally slated to go to trial in February
2010, but due to various motions, discovery issues and Rankin's
occasional failure to appear, the trial date was adjourned more
than a dozen times, Mondo said.
The final straw came on Feb. 28, when Rankin showed up three
hours after the trial was scheduled to begin, Mondo wrote. After
Rankin requested an additional week-long adjournment due to
doctor's appointments and a family commitment, Mondo
"reluctantly" granted his request, despite her "skepticism of
the validity of the medical appointments, which appear to have
been manufactured by counsel to avoid trial," the ruling stated.
Mondo made it clear that if Rankin were not present in court
at 9:30 on March 5, sanctions and fines would follow, according
to the ruling.
But on March 5 at 9:30, there was no sign of Rankin, the
ruling said. A few minutes before 10 a.m., he walked into the
courtroom, put down his coat and then walked back out, talking
on his cell phone, according to the ruling.
When asked why he was late, Rankin replied that he had been
caught in traffic. But given his history -- and his apparent
familiarity with New York City traffic patterns -- the excuse
was "inadequate," Mondo found. She imposed the $500 sanction,
which was affirmed after a subsequent hearing on the sanctions.
It's not the first time Rankin has gotten in trouble for his
tardiness, Mondo noted. In 2004, the Lawyers Fund for Client
Protection imposed sanctions against him in a proceeding in
Westchester County Court, and in 2011, Rankin was relieved as
counsel following similar conduct in a New York County
drunk-driving case that had been pending for nearly three years,
the ruling stated.
The case is Matter of Rankin, Supreme Court of the State of
New York, Kings County, no. 5502/2009.
For Rankin: Richard Grayson.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye)
(A prior version of this story identified Suzanne Modo as a
justice. She is an acting justice).
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