By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A former Brooklyn bondsman lost a petition to compel a Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice to refrain from interfering with his business. The Appellate Division, 2nd Department, ruled that George Zouvelos failed to provide a reason for such order.
In August, Zouvelos’ bondsman’s license was revoked after Administrative Law Judge Kay Gardiner found him unfit for the bondsman profession. Evidence showed that Zouvelos required clients to sign 87-paragraph contracts that were “unconscionable and unfair,” Gardiner cited in her opinion.
One example Gardiner noted was a $7,500 fee Zouvelos deducted from a defendant’s collateral after the defendant arrived at Zouvelos’ office to be driven to a court hearing. Zouvelos claimed that the $7,500 was needed to hire two bounty hunters to accompany the defendant “just in case.”
Another egregious act involved Zouvelos’ revocation of a defendant’s bail for his failure to appear for a weekly check-in, which happened to fall on a holiday weekend. After Zouvelos revoked the bail of 15 defendants in a week, Supreme Court Justice John Ingram called Zouvelos into his courtroom to explain the seemingly high number of revocations.
“I find the actions by this bail bondsman reprehensible,” Ingram said in court. “I’m very concerned about this.”
After the hearing in Ingram’s courtroom, Zouvelos filed a motion against the New York State Office of Court Administration to compel Ingram and other judges to adhere to a provision of New York’s Criminal Procedure Law governing the process for bail bond forfeiture. Furthermore, Zouvelos requested that Ingram and other judges be prohibited from “interfering with private bail contracts with clients.”
A panel of four Brooklyn Appellate justices ruled that the “extraordinary remedy” requested by Zouvelos was inappropriate. The use of mandamus, a judicial remedy ordering a governmental body — for example, OCA and its judges — to perform an act is appropriate “only when there exists a clear legal right to the relief sought,” the justices ruled. Here, the former bondsman “failed to demonstrate a clear legal right to the relief sought.”
As for Zouvelos’ demand for the prohibition of interference in private bail contracts, the court found that "[b]ecause of its extraordinary nature,” prohibition is available only in very limited circumstances, such as where the judiciary “acts or threatens to act either without jurisdiction or in excess of its authorized powers." Zouvelos displayed evidence of neither.
Justices Thomas Dickerson, John Leventhal, Priscilla Hall and Robert Miller concurred with the unsigned opinion.