City of New York v. Chemical Bank

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New York)
Citation122 Misc.2d 104,470 N.Y.S.2d 280
PartiesThe CITY OF NEW YORK, Petitioner, v. CHEMICAL BANK, Milton Glass, and Shirley Glass, Respondents.
Decision Date12 October 1983

Page 280

470 N.Y.S.2d 280
122 Misc.2d 104
The CITY OF NEW YORK, Petitioner,
CHEMICAL BANK, Milton Glass, and Shirley Glass, Respondents.
Supreme Court, Special Term,
New York County, Part I.
Oct. 12, 1983.

Page 282

Maria T. Jones, Sp. Asst. Corp. Counsel, Allan R. Bloomfield, Deputy Dir., Legal Collection Div., Dept. of Finance, New York City, for petitioner.

John B. Wynne by Thomas W. Cullen, New York City, for Chemical Bank.

No appearance for defendants Milton and Shirley Glass.


This superficially routine enforcement motion, submitted virtually on default, requires that the Court reassess the requirements for "deliver and mail" substituted service under CPLR 308(2). It poses significant questions of constitutional dimension: Is a co-defendant having an apparent conflict of interest a "person of suitable age and discretion"? Does service upon such an individual satisfy generally accepted standards of due process of law?

Plaintiff City of New York here petitions for an order pursuant to CPLR § 5225(b) compelling defendant Chemical Bank to pay the City Collector the sum of $1,980 plus interest. The payment is sought to satisfy an unpaid adjudication of three years' tax liability against defendant Milton Glass. Milton Glass maintains a joint account with his wife, defendant Shirley Glass, at a Chemical Bank branch. Milton Glass did not contest the adjudication of [122 Misc.2d 105] liability; a warrant was accordingly filed with the County Clerk. Shirley was not a

Page 283

party to the tax proceeding and has no liability on account of it. A process-server's affidavit avers that Milton Glass was served pursuant to CPLR 308(1) by personal delivery of the moving papers to him at his home. Another affidavit of the same process server asserts that Shirley Glass was served pursuant to CPLR 308(2) at the same time and place by delivering a copy of the moving papers to "a person of suitable age and discretion to wit: Milton Glass, husband", and by mailing copies the following day to Shirley Glass at her home address, her last known residence. 1 Neither Milton nor Shirley Glass has answered this petition. Chemical Bank answered only to request that it be discharged upon compliance with the expected turnover order.

At issue is whether Milton Glass, in the context of this case, is a "person of suitable age and discretion." The phrase is not defined by the statute which employs it. See CPLR 308(2). 2 Neither is it clearly defined by the cases, although it is used as a term of art. Some cases wisely recommend taking a practical, common sense approach, bearing in mind the unique circumstances of each case. See Karlin v. Avis, 326 F.Supp. 1325. The multiplicity of fact-patterns dealing primarily with the age and mental capacity of the person to whom delivery is made and the nature and closeness of his relationship with the defendant, do not deal with his "discretion" in the context presented here. They thus provide little guidance for the case at bar. The term can only be made meaningful by analyzing the overall statutory scheme for service of process and its underlying purposes.

Service of process is intended to accomplish two related but distinct purposes. Each is basic to due process.

First, it notifies the defendant that the action is pending, fairly apprises him, in general terms, of its object, and tells [122 Misc.2d 106] him when, where and how he should respond. See gen., Valz v. Sheepshead Bay Bungalow Corp., 249 N.Y. 122, 133, 163 N.E. 124.

Second, it is "an act of public power" (In Re Bonesteel's Will, 16 A.D.2d 324, 326, 228 N.Y.S.2d 301) which symbolizes the court's assertion of authority over the litigants. It is the modern substitute for the ancient practice of the capias ad respondendum, where the sheriff, pursuant to a writ prepared at the behest of the plaintiff, would arrest the defendant and hold him to answer the plaintiff's charges. See 3 Blackstone's Commentaries 282. While this aspect of service is frequently minimized as archaic ritualism, it effects an important principle in a free society. If an individual is to be subjected to sovereign power, whether by the government or by a private person, the assertion of that power requires a tangible, overt and verifiable act directed toward the individual being called to account. It is for this reason that actual notice alone, unaccompanied by a valid jurisdiction-acquiring act, is legally insufficient to permit the court to exercise its power over the defendant. See Wuchter v. Pizzutti, 276 U.S. 13, 24, 48 S.Ct. 259, 262, 72 L.Ed. 446; McDonald v. Ames Supply Co., 22 N.Y.2d 111, 291 N.Y.S.2d 328, 238 N.E.2d 726; Saleh Al Dohan v. Kouyoumjian, 114 Misc.2d 170, 451 N.Y.S.2d 367, 369; affirmed 93 A.D.2d 714, 461 N.Y.S.2d 2. Conversely, receipt of actual notice need not be proven. Constitutional due process standards require that, process be served by a legally approved method that viewed objectively, is reasonably calculated to make the defendant aware of the proceedings even if the summons is never actually

Page 284

received. Dobkin v. Chapman, 21 N.Y.2d 490, 289 N.Y.S.2d 161, 236 N.E.2d 451. See also Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank, 339 U.S. 306, 70 S.Ct. 652, 94 L.Ed. 865; U.S. Const. Amend. XIV; N.Y. Const. Art. I, § 6.

The New York scheme for service of process on an individual, codified in CPLR 308, is well designed to satisfy both the notice and formality requirements, and thus conforms to constitutional standards. Dobkin v. Chapman, supra. CPLR 308 provides a continuum of methods of service, which, in descending order, have a decreasing probability of according actual notice. Paragraph (1) provides for personal delivery to the individual defendant. Since personal delivery ordinarily affords actual notice, and is thus the most desirable form of service, no further acts are required. CPLR 308(1). The four alternative [122 Misc.2d 107] methods require additional acts which make actual notice more likely, or bear additional conditions which recognize that, while alternative forms of service may often be necessary to subject a defendant to the court's jurisdiction, they are less desirable and more subject to abuse, thus requiring greater regulation. "Deliver and mail" substituted service therefore requires both service to a "person of suitable age and discretion" at the defendant's actual place of business, dwelling, or usual place of...

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43 cases
  • People v. Harper, AP-7
    • United States
    • New York City Court
    • August 25, 1987
    ...of power over the defendant. Matter of Bonesteel, 16 A.D.2d 324, 326, 228 N.Y.S.2d 301; See City of New York, v. Chemical Bank, 122 Misc.2d 104, 106, 470 N.Y.S.2d 280. Thus, if notice is not given both by a legally prescribed method and in a manner which fairly communicates its purpose, the......
  • People v. Gross
    • United States
    • New York City Court
    • June 11, 1990
    ...exercise of state power. Matter of Bonesteel, 16 A.D.2d 324, 228 N.Y.S.2d 301 (3d Dept.); see City of New York v. Chemical Bank, 122 Misc.2d 104, 470 N.Y.S.2d 280 (Sup.Ct., N.Y.Co.). It conveys that a private party is invoking the sovereign's power to redress what is essentially a private w......
  • Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Kaufman, 94-CV-3954 (TCP).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • August 9, 1995
    ...age and discretion. The only case cited by either party on the "suitable age and discretion" issue is City of New York v. Chemical Bank, 122 Misc.2d 104, 470 N.Y.S.2d 280, 285 (Sup.Ct. N.Y.Cty.1983). According to the court in City of New York, "The person to whom delivery is made must objec......
  • Goetz v. Synthesys Technologies, Inc., 04-50971.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • July 1, 2005
    ...process, the judgment is void and the district court must set it aside.") 5. See N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 308(4); City of New York v. Chem. Bank, 122 Misc.2d 104, 470 N.Y.S.2d 280, 284 (N.Y.Sup.Ct.1983) ("`Nail and mail' service requires affixation of the summons to the door of the defendant's place......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Summons, Service of Process, and Appearance
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books New York Civil Practice Before Trial
    • May 2, 2018
    ...discretion for the other. One court has extended this rule to parties with potential conflicts. [See City of New York v. Chemical Bank , 122 Misc2d 104, 470 NYS2d 280 (Sup Ct NY Co 1983).] 9-37 Summons, Service of Process, and Appearance §9:233 CASE EXAMPLES: Plaintiff attempted to satisfy ......

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