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The Estate of CF v The City of New York


The respondent MJP holdings moves for an order dismissing the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and because a prior action is pending for the same issue in a different court.

Despite the fact that the proceeding was heard on 6/1/18, the history of this case goes back 40 years, starting with the death of the decedent’s grandmother CP. That litigation was only settled in 2017. Her 2 children have passed away. The estate of one child, J, is in litigation. The case with the other child, M, is being litigated as well.

The parties involved here are the petitioner, who is the executor of the decedent’s estate, the grandchild of the decedent, and daughter’s husband, and MJD Holdings.

In the motion to dismiss, counsel notes that this case involves 6 properties. The estate owns 16.66% of 5 properties and 33.33% of another. In opposition, counsel notes that the petitioner seeks to partition 6 pieces of property in Musbeth, NY.

Counsel for CP (grandchild), and J (husband of the decedent’s daughter) refer to this case regarding a single piece of property.

The court says, however, this case isn’t a partition of property ( Article 9 of RP Actions and Proceedings Law). The petition specifically states that the purpose of this proceeding is for “leave” to begin an Article 19 action under the Surrogates Court Procedure Act. The petition also asks for relief by order where the court addresses its jurisdiction over the partition action.

The portion of the motion to dismiss (CPLR 3211[a][4]) cannot be upheld. There is an action pending in the supreme court, but this is not the same cause of action here.

The failure is because of a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. It has a defect because seeking permission for a petition action can only be heard by the Surrogate Court. However, all parties operated as if this was a partition action. So, in light of the judicial economy, the court treats this part of the motion as one for summary judgment and addresses whether this court has proper jurisdiction.

The issue of subject matter jurisdiction has been expanding (Raymond v Davis 248 NY 67). The jurisdiction comes from the NY State Constitution, which states that the Supreme Court has all the power given to it by the constitution. Therefore, the court’s powers are very broad.

Based on this broad power, it seems reasonable that an action for partition would fall with the court’s power (Matter of Wagenstien 82 AD3d 628).

The power isn’t completely limited, however (O’Connell 98 AD3d 673). Subject matter must be demonstrated when challenged (Siegel, NY Practice 8 at 10 [3d] 1999. Matters between living people independent of an estate are not matters that can be resolved (Estate of Wallace 239 AD2d 14). Therefore, the court’s must address only the affairs of the decedent.

A general rule is that the Surrogate Court has complete authority to adjudicate a partition action every time where a decedent’s estate is a co-tenant isn’t supported by law.

While there have been other instances where it made sense, in this case,e it doesn’t. In all properties, the estate holds a minority interest. The majority shareholders have no part in the estate.

Respondent is granted summary judgment.

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