By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y., Oct 4 (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved legislation that will allow attorneys to
place liens on out-of-court settlements and arbitration awards.
The measure, which was signed by Cuomo on Wednesday and takes
effect in 90 days, will enable lawyers to recoup fees for their
Section 475 of the state Judiciary Law, known as the Lien
Law, currently permits attorneys to attach liens in "an action,
special or other proceeding in any court or before any state,
municipal or federal department, except a department of labor."
For decades state courts have ruled that settlements and
arbitration are not included in that definition and that
litigation must be initiated in court for an attorney to attach
The new legislation adds to that list "any means of
alternative dispute resolution," including settlements,
arbitration and mediation, and also will allow lawyers to place
liens against their clients' adversaries.
Supporters of the measure, including the New York State Bar
Association and New York City Bar Association, say it will fix
an inequity in the 60-year-old Lien Law, which was written
before arbitration and mediation became commonplace.
"There is no reason to distinguish (alternative dispute
resolution) from court-initiated litigation when it comes to
allowing attorneys to secure payment for services rendered," the
City Bar wrote in an April report.
Cuomo's office did not release a memo explaining his support
for the bill. A spokesman did not return a request for further
At least four other states -- Washington, Utah, Michigan and
Maryland -- allow attorneys to place liens on client awards that
result from alternative dispute resolution.
The New York proposal easily cleared the Senate in April and
the Assembly in June, with only a single no vote in the Senate.
The bill's sponsors, Senate Minority Leader John Sampson and
assemblymen Matthew Titone and Peter Rivera, are all attorneys.
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