New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

TELLER v. New York, #2000-015-014, Claim No. 100679, Motion No. M-61040


An attorney will be permitted to withdraw upon a showing of irreconcilable differences with a client.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption of this claim was amended sua sponte by an order of this Court filed on September 28, 1999 to reflect the only properly named defendant is the State of New York.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Elaine Teller, Pro Se

For Movant:
Moran and GottliebBy: Steven Ira Gottlieb, Esquire
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Belinda A. Wagner, Esquire, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 21, 2000
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The motion of Steven Gottlieb for an order pursuant to CPLR 321 permitting him and his law firm to withdraw as the attorneys of record for claimant is granted and the Court is exercising its discretion to stay all further proceedings in this claim until April 21, 2000 in order to permit claimant to secure new counsel. In a claim filed on July 8, 1999, claimant asserts that she has been employed at the Ulster Correctional Facility in Napanoch, New York since 1991 as a correction officer and for the period August 1, 1998 through June of 1999 has been sexually harassed by fellow correction officers Herbert Reilly and D. Pellew. It is asserted that the situation persisted despite complaints to her superiors . As the result of a preliminary conference, an order was filed on September 28, 1999 directing that discovery be complete and a note of issue filed on or before September 15, 2000.

Claimant's counsel has brought on this application by order to show cause seeking to be relieved as claimant's attorney of record upon the contention that there has been a breakdown of the attorney/client relationship in that claimant has been uncooperative in failing to supply information necessary to comply with discovery demands and has failed to keep appointments. Defense counsel has submitted an affirmation stating that the State takes no position as to the withdrawal of claimant's counsel. Claimant has submitted an affidavit opposing the motion and contending that she has cooperated and that it is her attorney who is being unreasonable. She states that she has been unable to secure another attorney willing to take the claim on a contingency basis.

A motion by an attorney to withdraw should be granted "upon a showing of irreconcilable differences between attorney and client" (Djeddah v Williams, _____ AD2d _____, 699 NYS2d 867). Irreconcilable differences can arise from a disagreement between the attorney and the client with respect to the proper course to be pursued in the litigation and by lack of cooperation (Winters v Rise Steel Erection Corp., 231 AD2d 626). Here, the tenor of the correspondence between claimant and Mr. Gottlieb establishes to the satisfaction of the Court that there has been a complete breakdown of the mutual respect necessary for a meaningful attorney/client relationship. In particular, both claimant and Mr. Gottlieb have stated under oath that the other is not truthful. As a result, the Court shall exercise its discretion and stay all further proceedings in this claim until April 21, 2000 in order to permit claimant time to obtain new counsel (Welch Allyn v Vail Tool Co., 219 AD2d 824).

March 21, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Order to show cause dated December 14, 1999;
  2. Affirmation of Steven Ira Gottlieb dated December 3, 1999;
  3. Affirmation of Belinda A. Wagner dated January 14, 2000;
  4. Affidavit of Elaine Teller sworn to February 10, 2000;
  5. Reply affirmation of Steven Gottlieb dated February 14, 2000 with exhibits;
  6. Claim filed on July 8, 1999.