Faye Dunaway's Day in Housing Court Illustrates How Case Files are Built

Actress Faye Dunaway got her day in New York Housing Court this week providing both an update on our August entry regarding Dunaway's dispute with her New York landlord and an in-the-moment look at how court files are actually built and what they document. First, the update:  Dunaway and her attorney faced off against her landlord and his legal team this past Thursday in Housing Court; Judge John Stanley presiding.  Dunaway had hinted to reporters that she would set the record straight regarding her landlord's failure to maintain her apartment.  Instead, Dunaway and her lawyer joined her landlord and his attorney in Judge Stanley's chambers for a private conference, the result of which, according to her landlord, was that Dunaway was ordered to pay the rent she has been withholding and her landlord was given access to the apartment to make repairs.

In all likelihood, the case file on this matter will note (on the case docket sheet) that both parties were present in court and represented by counsel and that there was a settlement conference.  The file probably won't contain more than the broadest of outlines of the conference unless one of the parties later claims that the other didn't keep its side of the bargain and complains to the judge, which will be done in the form of a motion for sanctions.   So, absent this article from The New York Times, it is unlikely the agreement in detail would have been made public.

This is worth keeping in mind when reviewing case files: they exist to document the legal process and oftentimes do so in the broadest of terms.  It is only when a conflict about an agreement or an order arises that more detail (in the form of motions, answers and supporting affidavits) on the matter at hand emerges.