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Bavishi v. Verma

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


April 3, 2008

SHRENIK BAVISHI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SUSHEELA VERMA, ESQ. AND PAUL H. MANDAL, ESQ., DEFENDANTS, AND MITCHELL MELNIKOFF, ESQ., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, L-3810-03.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued March 10, 2008

Before Judges A. A. Rodríguez and C. S. Fisher.

Appellant Shrenik Bavishi has appealed pro se from three orders entered by the Law Division, Civil Part. We have calendared these three appeals back-to-back and issue one opinion. The procedural history is lengthy. We include only those portions that provide the context for this appeal.

Appellant sued Susheela Verma, Paul H. Mandal and Mitchell Melnikoff, three attorneys who represented appellant's wife in a dispute over control of his son's passport and green card. The complaint was dismissed. Melnikoff obtained an order awarding him $900 in fees and costs to be paid by appellant. The order was signed by Judge Alexander P. Waugh, Jr., who stated his reasons on the record on February 2, 2004.

Melnikoff appealed the amount of the fees. Appellant did not file a cross-appeal nor did he move for a stay. Therefore, the $900 counsel fee award against appellant remained in full force and effect. We affirmed the amount of fees awarded, No. A-3854-03T3 (App. Div. June 30, 2005), and granted Melnikoff $150 in costs. No. M-4769-04 (App. Div. June 20, 2005).

Melnikoff proceeded to enforce the award by serving an information subpoena. Judge Waugh signed an order on February 4, 2005, enforcing litigant's rights, which: (1) ordered appellant to pay the $900 counsel fee; (2) directed appellant to comply with the information subpoena; and (3) awarded an additional $50 in counsel fees. Subsequently, Melnikoff filed a Certification of Costs totaling $312.24. The costs were itemized as follows:

Filing Fee$135.00 Motion -- 9/17/0530.00 Motion -- 4/18/0430.00 Docketing Judgment35.00 Motion -- 01/14/0530.00 Sheriff's Fee52.24 Total$312.24

Appellant opposed the amount of costs claimed. The court allowed taxed costs at $352.24, which included $40 as the "attorney's allowance by statute."

Appellant moved for an explanation pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:17-19. At that point in time, appellant was obligated to pay $950 in counsel fees and $352.24 in costs. Judge Waugh granted a partial exemption of $674. Thus, the balance of the judgments was still owed.

Melnikoff moved once again to enforce litigant's rights. Judge Robert A. Longhi granted the order on November 22, 2005, and imposed an additional $535 in counsel fees plus costs.

Appellant then moved to compel production of records by Melnikoff and to require the Clerk of the Superior Court to provide an explanation for the taxed costs. Judge Longhi denied the application by order dated December 16, 2005. It is from that order that appellant filed appeal A-2901-05T3, contending:

MY ADVERSARY ATTORNEY MELNIKOFF IS HARASSING ME TO PAY HIM FOR HIS FRAUDULENT CERTIFICATION OF COSTS. EVEN THOUGH MATTER IS AT APPELLATE DIVISION HE ASKED SHERIFF TO TAKE MONEY FROM MY BANK AND MY BANK ACCOUNT, WHICH I HAD SINCE MANY YEARS WAS CLOSED. I SUBMITTED A MONTHLY PAYMENT PLAN UNTIL MATTER IS RESOLVED AT APPELLATE DIVISION, WAS DENIED. I BELIEVE MY MINOR SON'S AND MY BASIC CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS TO SEEK JUSTICE ARE VIOLATED BY THESE ILLEGAL, UNFAIR, FORCEFUL COVER-UPS BY TRIAL COURT.

Appellant moved for an exemption pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:17-19. Judge Longhi granted a partial exemption in the amount of $326, but ordered that the balance of counsel fees and costs in the amount of $415.65 be levied upon appellant's assets. It is from this order, entered on February 16, 2006, that appellant filed appeal A-3874-05T3 contending that, "I don't owe any money to Mr. Melnikoff, Esq. If my adversary had any problems, he should have gone before Hon. Judge Waugh and should have filed a formal Motion."

Eventually, the Sheriff levied on appellant's bank account. Melnikoff moved for a turnover order. Judge Nicholas J. Stroumtsos, Jr., granted the order on June 9, 2006, turning over $1,197 from the levied funds. It is from that order that appellant filed appeal A-6473-05T3, contending:

MY ADVERSARY, WHO IS A PARTY AND A DEFENDANT IN THIS LITIGATION, IS ALSO A PRACTICING NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY SINCE 1965. AFTER LOSING AN APPEAL, WHERE HE WAS SEEKING MORE MONEY, HE FILED AN UNAUTHORIZED CERTIFICATION OF COSTS ON 9/20/05. ON HIS SWORN CERTIFICATION HE IS DEMANDING MONEY FOR TWO MOTIONS HE CLAIMS THAT HE FILED.

HOWEVER, THERE ARE NO RECORDS OF HIS CLAIM OF HIS FILED MOTIONS. MY OPPONENT, MR. MELNIKOFF, ESQ.'S COURT FILED, CERTIFIED DOCUMENT TITLED: CERTIFICATION OF COSTS IS FALSE.

We have carefully considered the three contentions and reject them. These arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).

From our careful and extensive review of the record, we conclude that the challenged orders were properly entered. Appellant did not appeal the entry of any of the various award of counsel fees and costs. Therefore, Melnikoff is entitled to enforce these judgments and to levy upon appellant's assets. Appellant has fought these legitimate efforts to collect on the judgments by raising meritless or picayune objections. For example, he sought to have the Clerk explain the basis of taxed costs rather than consulting R. 4:42-8. Each of these applications was meritless and required Melnikoff to pay unnecessary fees and spend additional legal time. Melnikoff is entitled to be compensated for these efforts where the trial judge determines that the application was unnecessary.

Accordingly, the December 16, 2005 and February 16, 2006 orders by Judge Longhi and the June 9, 2006 order by Judge Stroumtsos are affirmed.

20080403

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