Rajkumar accused of plagiarizing Gateway Plaza lawsuit

Downtown Express file photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer Jenifer Rajkumar singing last September for her neighbors at the annual Battery Park City block party.

Downtown Express file photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Jenifer Rajkumar singing in September 2012 for her neighbors at the annual Battery Park City block party.

BY SAM SPOKONY  | Days after filing a $100 million class action lawsuit against the landlord and management of Gateway Plaza on behalf of a fellow tenant of the complex, Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar is dealing with an ethical crisis of her own.

Rajkumar, who spoke openly about the suit a day after it was filed by her law firm, Sanford Heisler, on April 1, suddenly went silent after she was accused of plagiarizing the suit from a draft previously written by two other law firms.

In an action filed in State Supreme Court on April 3, those two firms — Morgan & Morgan and Newman Ferrara — sought to disqualify Sanford Heisler as lead counsel on the class action suit, explicitly claiming that Rajkumar acted in an “unprofessional and devious manner” by taking and using their documents to serve her own firm’s ends.

According to the April 3 memorandum, Rajkumar — who currently lives at Gateway Plaza, a six-building complex in Battery Park City — received a call from a Morgan & Morgan attorney on March 5, regarding the possibility of a class action suit, after which Rajkumar expressed interest in joining that litigation solely a plaintiff (not as an attorney).

That discussion came after a March 4 inspection of Gateway Plaza apartments, which was conducted by attorneys from Morgan & Morgan and Newman Ferrara (and without any involvement by Sanford Heisler), according to the same documents. That inspection had shown the supposed problems with shoddy windows, heating and other elements that would eventually form the basis of the litigation, which seeks damages against Gateway’s management.

After subsequent discussions in which Rajkumar continued to express interest in becoming a plaintiff, a Morgan & Morgan attorney sent a draft of the litigation to Rajkumar’s personal email on March 7, according to the memorandum, believing she would be reviewing the documents for personal, rather than professional purposes.

Then, on March 10, Rajkumar changed course unexpectedly by calling Morgan & Morgan to tell them that she no longer wanted to join the suit as a plaintiff, but instead wanted to serve as co-counsel along with her firm, according to the memorandum.

Several conversations followed over the next few weeks between Sanford Heisler and the two other firms, regarding the possibility of Rajkumar serving as co-counsel, but no final agreement on that issue was ever reached. And when Sanford Heisler filed and announced the Gateway Plaza suit on the morning April 1 — featuring Rajkumar as a key attorney handling the case — attorneys from the two other firms say they were caught completely by surprise, because they were still waiting for a call back from Rajkumar and several of her colleagues regarding their previous discussions.

“The complaint filed in the [Gateway Plaza class action lawsuit] by Sanford Heisler on April 1, 2014, is, in all material and substantive respects, an identical of [sic] draft complaint emailed by [Morgan & Morgan] to Ms. Rajkumar to her personal email account on March 7, 2014, after she had stated that she wished to pursue litigation as a plaintiff,” the April 3 memorandum reads.

“No permission was ever granted to Sanford Heisler by Newman Ferrara or Morgan & Morgan to utilize the complaint which was provided to Ms. Rajkumar with the express understanding that she was reviewing the complaint in her capacity as a possible plaintiff in the case,” the memorandum continues. “Nonetheless, Sanford Heisler now uses that same information, plagiarized from the draft received by Ms. Rajkumar, personally, for use in [Sanford Heisler’s April 1 lawsuit].”

Rajkumar did not return multiple phone calls on Tuesday, and Sanford Heisler did not allow her to be interviewed regarding the plagiarism allegations.

David Sanford, chairperson of Sanford Heisler, told Downtown Express on Tuesday afternoon that his firm is now in the process of negotiating a deal with Newman Ferrara and Morgan & Morgan, which would allow all three firms to act as co-counsel on the Gateway Plaza lawsuit.

“We’ll make Jenifer available once that deal is done,” said Sanford. He added that Rajkumar was not involved at all in the negotiations, and that, at that point, it “doesn’t make sense to talk to her, because she doesn’t even know what’s going on with that right now.”

When Sanford was asked to address the allegations against Rajkumar he claimed they were all “inaccurate,” but declined to go into any further detail.

It’s unclear how far the negotiations Sanford explained had actually gotten as of Tuesday afternoon.

Just an hour before Sanford made those comments, Lucas Ferrara, a partner at Newman Ferrara, told Downtown Express that his firm expected to continue its April 3 motion, and did not mention anything regarding an imminent deal.

Ferrara declined to comment on the details of the memorandum, but stressed that his firm planned to present its case at an April 29 hearing before a State Supreme Court judge, who would then decide whether or not Sanford and Heisler — along with Rajkumar — should be disqualified as lead counsel on the Gateway suit and replaced by the two other firms.

This is not the first time Rajkumar has taken heat regarding debatable aspects of her career.

Last May, while she was running in the Democratic primary for the City Council’s District 1 seat against incumbent Margaret Chin — a race Chin eventually won by 17 points — Rajkumar admitted to the New York Post that her nonprofit organization W-Spin Inc., which she founded, had actually never done anything in its three years of existence.

Responding to a question about her political future, Rajkumar previously told Downtown Express in an April 2 phone interview that she has no “current” plans to run for office again.

 

On April 9, 2014, the day after this article was posted, the two law firms withdrew their accusations against Jenifer Rajkumar and her firm, and all three firms announced that they would work together on the lawsuit. 

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25 Responses to Rajkumar accused of plagiarizing Gateway Plaza lawsuit

  1. This is just a bridge too far, come on Rajkumar. You had so much potential. You can do it the honest way.

  2. StayStrongRajkumar

    Sounds like the competing law firms decided to throw Rajkumar under the bus just so they could get a larger piece of the money pie. Stay strong, Rajkumar.

  3. Women in politics have it hard. Look at Wendy Davis, always accused of dishonesty. Do I believe accusations against Davis or Rajkumar? You bet I don't. I've seen too much of the world for that. Hillary 2016!

  4. Gateway Observer

    How stupid and arrogant can Rajkumar and Koetz both be–taking another law firm's complaint and turning it over to another firm pretending it was theirs? Yikes, there's a good reason Jennifer lost that election.

    • GatewayNeighbor

      Who is this? Shelly Silver's cronies writing again? Or is that you, Margaret Chin? Funny that you take the allegations here as facts. I guess that serves your political ends. You don't like young insurgents running around you little empire, do you.

  5. GatewayTenant

    I believe in Rajkumar. These are false allegations. You should not take them as truth until they are proven so. There was a dimwit named Nico Minerva from one of the accusing firms calling around Gateway tenants. I think his firm got jealous and are lashing out at Rajkumar.

  6. DowntownObserver

    Rajkumar is an opportunist more interested in self-promotion than public service. Gateway tenants deserve counsel that will represent their interests, not use them as pawns in a half-baked plot to win elected office.

    • And you are clearly someone from the opposing law firm or with a political agenda. You have no facts to back up your claims.

  7. Believe in her all you want, but I checked the papers on the Court website (which are publicly available – https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/webcivil/FCASSea… and unless the other law firm falsified the documents it submitted to the court (we are talking about lawyers here), its pretty clear that Rajkumar completely copied and put her and her firm's name on the complaint she was given to review as a tenant. dirty stuff.

    • DowntownTruth

      I checked online, and the two firms filed completely different complaints. Where is the plagiarism?

      • I looked too. You need to look at the motion papers. they gave her an early version of the complaint and that early version is basically a carbon copy of the one her firm filed.

        • Louis, who are you? Are you Nico Minerva from Morgan & Morgan, the irrational egomaniac who filed these false claims in the first place? Shame on you.

  8. This is a hit piece, plain and simple. Someone out there is very threatened by a young woman who is running against incumbents and fighting for the people in the neighborhood. Follow the money.

    • If they COPIED a complaint from another law firm, the public needs to be aware, whether she was guilty or not.

      • Oh, Jake, even though you are no longer working on Margaret Chin's campaign, you are still taking gratuitous potshots? Get a life, hater.

  9. If Rajkumar wants to be a voice for Gateway Plaza residents, why is she essentially speaking through a spokesperson? That's the real question. Why isn't she being a voice?

  10. Hey Rosa, it's called upholding the integrity of the legal negotiations. Don't you get it? Rajkumar is sacrificing herself so that the firms can negotiate. While firms are negotiating, lawyers are not supposed to be speaking to the press.

    Go Rajkumar!

  11. It cracks me up that people are commenting on whether this is true or not without looking at the facts. Either blind support Rajkumar or ignorant persecution. If she did it, there's no excuse no matter how much you like her. its just sad that this craziness is happening at the expense of the GP tenants.

  12. She might be done

    The bigger picture is this: if Rajkumar is found to have unethically copied the complaint (whether she is criminally guilty of anything or not), then it puts her ealier misstatements about her so-called non-profit in a different light. Instead of a one time inaccurate statement (which is teh best spin you can put on her resume exagerations), it looks like being deceptive is order to get ahead is a pattern for her. In short, if any of this sticks, her political career is over, completely and permanently.

  13. we might be done

    this is smoke & mirrors from the landlord/political benefactor who is still skimming massive monies from his serfs every month, and the next generation lord of the manor is now pressing for the lowering of the ground lease from the same politico hacks that his family pays, but you won't see any of that on this website. the cycle is still strong.

    you people enjoy your bread and circus, although nice picture of the lady in dress. complete sideshow, and the big money man laughs and laughs and son now is too. fools all of you.

    follow the money and not the dress.

  14. #impeachjenifer

  15. I do not understand the issue? Are we still talking about big Lanlords skimming off $$$from you? or they have successful by giving you another target.
    Stay focused folks….

  16. Jenifer Rajkumar is a sad joke of a person, and I hope people realize it soon and stop entertaining her antics. She was previously outed for lying about her resume and much of her background. She's accomplished little in life – she made up an entire nonprofit organization, she's barely had any job for more than a year because she gets fired, and she lives off of her parents' wealth. She was a joke in law school where she plagarized papers, took credit for other's work, missed deadlines, and was otherwise a mess.

    I am an attorney and I have avoided referring a couple of cases to Sanford Heisler because they are willing to employ a person like this. David Sanford: I'm sure that Jenifer has proven her incompetence to you many times. She's been outed before for lacking honesty and integrity. How can your law firm think it reasonable or ethical to continue a professional association with Jenifer? I imagine you initially decided it was worth the risk because she seemed like a rising public figure. I hope you've since realized it's not worth getting a little more attention to your firm at the cost of professional ethics and losing trust from anyone else in the profession who has gone to law school with or worked with Jenifer.

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