The attorney for the Art Factory may have a conflict in representing more than 60 tenants and the complex’s owner in the case where the city issued 145 summonses, according to municipal court judge Giuseppe Randazzo.
Attorney Michael Rubin told the court on Friday morning he is representing both the owner and the tenants of the Spruce Street art complex.
“I see a blatant conflict,” said municipal prosecutor Vincent Stampone.
Rubin argued the city issued the same violations to both the owner, David Garsia, and the tenants. “I don’t know how they can write two same summonses to different people,” he said to the court.
The judge said the city can issue same summonses to different parties. The city issued 65 summonses to the tenants (the Art Factory says the occupants are “technically” not tenants) and 80 to Garsia.
“I really think you do,” said the judge speaking about the conflict of interest. Rubin said the owner has taken responsibility to protect the tenants against the city’s actions.
“If the tenants are sentenced to jail will Garsia serve their sentence?” Stampone asked rhetorically. He can pay their monetary penalties.
Rubin also told the judge the summonses issued to his clients did not have an appearance date. Stampone said an initial summon does not have such a date. Rubin said he only learned about today’s court date from a reporter.
“I don’t know why Mr. Rubin is surprised,” said Stampone adding Rubin asked the court to reschedule the matter to today.
Randazzo scheduled a case management conference on March 3rd, 2017. He said he wants to see all the tenants appear in his court room to explain to them their rights and the possible conflict of interest in one attorney representing the tenants and the owner.
The judge scheduled a trial date for March 31st, 2017.
In the meantime, Rubin plans to appeal the order issued by Passaic County superior court judge Thomas Brogan. Rubin sought to block the city from taking further actions against the Art Factory, but Brogan ruled in the city’s favor.
Garsia continued to maintain the tenants do not require a certificate of occupancy to have businesses inside the Art Factory on Spruce Street. He compared his complex to We Work, a shared office space company, and Impact Paterson which runs 100 Hamilton Plaza.
The municipal court has issued a warrant for Garsia’s arrest on Wednesday for failing to answer a summon issued for alleged illegal dwellings at his Totowa Avenue complex in 2015.