Phillips & Associates

Abuse of Process

New York City Attorneys Serving Victims of Prosecutorial Misconduct

Abuse of process exists when someone uses judicial processes for reasons that were not the purpose for which the processes were designed. Judicial processes include bringing motions for sanctions, issuing subpoenas, filing counterclaims, requests of summons from the court, and filing appeals. For example, if you were charged with a crime after filing a lawsuit against a police officer for excessive force, solely so that the city or a police officer would have the upper hand in the excessive force litigation, that would be an abuse of process. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced civil rights lawyers can represent people subjected to prosecutorial misconduct throughout New York City.

Bringing an Abuse of Process Claim

It is very rare that you can successfully sue a public prosecutor or government official for abuse of process. However, in some cases, such as when they are acting beyond the scope of their powers or official duties, it may be appropriate. You would have to establish three elements to prevail in an abuse of process claim: regularly issued process, intent to harm someone without an excuse or justification, and perverted use of the process to achieve a collateral objective.

"Process" refers to legal process that compels someone to do or stop doing a particular act. An abuse of process claim can only be brought for improperly using process after the process is issued. There needs to be an unlawful interference with person or property under color of process or order.

The person who activates the process must be acting with a purpose to do harm and must not have a justification. However, a malicious motive alone is not enough to give rise to an abuse of process claim. Process must be used in a manner that is inconsistent with the purpose for which process is designed.

In other words, the defendant must have been looking for some collateral advantage or to cause a detriment to the plaintiff in a way that falls outside the legitimate reasons for bringing process. For example, in one case, a plaintiff alleged that the defendants manipulated the process to demean and defame her, and to gain an advantage in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Often, you can determine whether there is an ulterior motive for using process by looking at the facts and circumstances, such as when somebody attempts to gain an advantage in a different legal proceeding, or tries to get an economic advantage that is not available otherwise.

How is an abuse of process case different from a malicious prosecution case? A malicious prosecution case focuses on a meritless lawsuit, whereas abuse of process focuses on an abuse of the tools available under the law to litigants in a lawsuit, regardless of whether there was probable cause to bring criminal or civil charges. Moreover, as a plaintiff in an abuse of process case, you do not need to prove a favorable termination in the way that you do in a malicious prosecution case.

Contact an Experienced Civil Rights Attorney in New York City

Abuse of process cases are often quite challenging not only because the elements are hard to prove but also because the government may rally behind one of its own. At Phillips & Associates, our civil rights lawyers offer experienced representation for New York City residents whose rights have been infringed in all five boroughs, including the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. Call us at (212) 248-7431 or contact us through our online form.

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