A Queens, N.Y., attorney's pro se federal action over a $35 fee for a bounced check, among other issues, has been dismissed.
Eastern District of New York Judge Jack B. Weinstein's dismissal of the case represents yet another defeat for plaintiff Todd C. Bank in his contentious battle with his landlord's collection agency, the Queens-based law firm of Cooper, Paroff, Cooper & Cook.
Bank, a Kew Gardens-based attorney who specializes in fighting "junk faxes," initiated the present action against Cooper Paroff in September, after the firm sent him a notice threatening him with eviction from his apartment if he did not pay $2,854 in unpaid rent and fees.
The total included three months of rent, at $861.28 per month, as well as a $35 "bad check" fee.
In his complaint, Bank asserted five violations of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including that the firm had overstated by $10 the amount agreed to in his lease for bad-check fees and that it failed to disclose in a letter that it was a debt collector.
Bank sought damages of $1,000 and attorney fees, as provided for by the debt collection act.
On Wednesday, Judge Weinstein granted the law firm's motion for summary judgment.
"The issue is de minimis. It does not warrant burdening this court and the parties with discovery," he wrote in Bank v. Cooper, Paroff, Cooper & Cook, 08-CV-3936. "Nevertheless, the issue is decided in favor of the defendant. A reasonable jury could only conclude that this discrepancy was the result of a bona fide error."
The present federal action follows a decision in favor of the landlord in a nonpayment proceeding in state court, which Bank has since appealed. Cooper Paroff represented the landlord in that action.
Weinstein described Bank's filings in the present case as "highly contentious" and "concerned with largely frivolous arguments about the Federal Rules and practice." For example, the judge noted, Eastern District Chief Judge Raymond Dearie in March rejected an earlier motion by Bank challenging the constitutionality of senior judges (such as Weinstein) to hear cases.
Weinstein granted the defense's motion for summary judgment. He declined, however, to award the costs, finding that the action was not brought in bad faith or in order to harass. "The decision disregards the very well-settled law regarding [Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act] claims, so I will either seek reconsideration of the opinion and or appeal to the 2nd Circuit," Bank said Wednesday.
Ira Cooper of Cooper Paroff said he was pleased with the decision.
"It's nice to see things happen [the way] they should happen," Cooper said.