The Long Island Case – Update
Dec 15, 2017, NY
The Appellate Court of NY State, on December 4, 2017, gave a Stay on the recent order of Judge Marber from the NY Trial court, that had ordered the transfer of the Long Island temple and the control of ISKCON, Inc., Srila Prabhupada's original society incorporated in NY in 1966, to the ISKCON GBC.
The stay was requested by the Defendant Nimai Pandit Das, TP of ISKCON Long Island temple and non-party necessary parties – The Congregation and the Trustee board of the Temple – collectively called Appellants. The Respondents are the ISKCON GBC and Adarsi Das, old TP of the temple. The stay is for the duration of the pending appeal in the Appellate court – usually around 1-1.5 years.
The basis of asking for stay, and presumably the basis for their eventual appeal, the Appellants argued that:
The order of Judge Marber was in error as:
a. After 13 years of litigation, instead of holding a trial, it issued a faulty default judgment against Nimai Pandit, and on that basis it extended the default on all the other trustees and on all congregation members – thereby rendering moot their right to defend their rights in a trial. (A default in this context means that the Defendant Nimai Pandit failed to file an answer, back in 2011, to the GBC Complaint hence technically allegedly he did not appear in this case and hence all of the Issues raised by the Plaintiffs GBC ought then to be decided without contest. It is akin to a walk over in a sports analogy. "A walkover or W.O. is the awarding of a victory to a contestant because there are no other contestants or the other contestants have been disqualified or have forfeited. The term can apply in sport but also to elections, when it is also referred to as winning "by default". ) Hence the trumpeting of the ISKCON Communication Ministry in this article , as to the powers of the GBC as "decided" by a NY court, ought to be taken in this context.
b. Instead of issuing a default judgment against Nimai Pandit, the court ought to have dismissed GBC's case, as the NY law states that if a defendant is in default, and the plaintiffs do not bring in an action to the court to issue a Default Judgment within a year, then the Court shall on its own initiative or on motion [by the Plaintiffs] dismiss the case of the Plaintiffs. NY CPLR 3215 (c). The alleged default took place in 2012, many years since.
c. The GBC ought to have impleaded (included) the other necessary parties in the case – The Trustees and the Congregation Members when their rights would be potentially effected by any judgment in this case- as the GBC, in their complaint has asked the Court to decide on the matter of Bylaws, GBC, Elections, Rights of members etc – all matters concerning these two main constituents of a NY temple. Hence the NY law advises dismissal for not impleading necessary parties in most scenarios. NY CPLR 1001. It is axiomatic that if a potential order like Judge Marber that effects all these persons, not just Nimai Pandit, they ought to have been included in the case by the Plaintiffs, so that these parties could bring up their defense in court. It is not an individual's duty to come forward and ask to be sued. It is the duty of the person suing to include all the right parties – in this case GBC ought to have sued the temple corporation and its trustees and members. Instead they sued just a few members/trustees – now only one remaining defendant is Nimai Pandit Das.
d. There will be inordinate harm to the devotees at the temple if this order is allowed to be executed while their Appeal is pending with the court – as they would have to give up the temple to the GBC for the 1 -1.5 years while the Appeal would be most probably decided in their favor.
In their reply on November 17th, 2017, the Respondent GBC had replied to the Appellate court that the stay ought not to be granted as:
a. The Default of Nimai Pandit was correct as per them.
b. The time delay in asking for a default judgment within 1 year was justified – no good reason given except they were litigating the case. (Wrong – they were litigating another related case and had forgotten about this case).
c. The case against them should not be dismissed due to not moving for default judgment within a year, as they did not abandon the case and continued litigating it (Wrong – they were litigating another related case and had forgotten about this case).
d. The other necessary parties – Trustees and the Congregation members – should have asked to appear in the case earlier, on their own, even though the law is the opposite – the GBC should have impleaded these necessary parties.
e. In case the court grants the stay, to ask for a financial undertaking also known as Appeal bond equal to the property value of the temple.
The Appellate court, comprising of four judges, in issuing the brief order (attached) granting the stay as per the request of Appellant, without any undertaking. In effect all what the Appellants asked for. It also asked the Appellant to file their Appeal papers by January 4th, presumably to shepherd an early resolution to the case.
Most likely the Respondents will then get a month to reply. Appellants should normally get another 2 weeks to respond. The oral arguments would most likely be scheduled for sometime later this autumn with a result around two months subsequent. If either party decides to appeal that verdict, they can then choose to appeal in the NY Court of Appeals, the highest court in NY where it may take another six months to a year.
Appellant Nimai Pandit is represented by the Law Offices of G.Oliver Koppell, 99 Park Ave #3, New York, NY 10016. He is an ex-Attroney General of the State of NY.
Appellant Long Island temple, Trustees and congregation are represented by long time faithful of the temple – Krishnan Chittur of Chittur Law Offices, Ossining NY.
Respondent GBC is represented by John Stepanovich of Stepanovich Law, Nanuet NY. He is certified as a Life Member of the Million Dollar and Multi Million Dollar Advocates Forum, one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.
Respondent Adarsi is represented by Steven Lester of La Reddola, Lester & Associates, LLP 600 Old Country Rd #230, Garden City, NY 11530