The judges who rule real estate: Judge O. Peter Sherwood

Part V in TRD's overview of the New York property law bench

Judge Peter Sherwood (Illustration by Dominic Bugatto)
Judge Peter Sherwood (Illustration by Dominic Bugatto)

From the April issue: This month, The Real Deal profiled six of the nine judges on the Supreme Court’s Commercial Division bench — focusing on those who have overseen some of the city’s biggest real estate cases in the last few years.

Justice O. Peter Sherwood has held more public positions in law than perhaps many people know exist.

From 1986 to 1991, he served as New York State’s solicitor general. From there he went on to work for then-mayor David Dinkins as chief attorney, making diversity among his legal staff a top priority.

Over the years, he’s also sat on several boards and commissions. In 2008, he was nominated as a judge to the Court of Claims by then-Governor David Patterson. He is now an acting judge of the Commercial Division.

Recent cases from the Sherwood docket include favorable decisions for some marquee real estate machers.

In 2013, he sided with the Malkins in their move to consolidate 19 properties —among them the Empire State Building — into a publicly traded company known as the Empire State Realty Trust. (Sherwood dismissed one shareholder complaint in the case and mediated a $55 million settlement in another.)

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Meanwhile, in 2012, Sherwood decided in favor of real estate titan Rubin Schron when he sued partners intent on preventing him from exercising an option to sell two nursing homes.

And back in 2010, Sherwood made industry news when he rejected a petition from a neighborhood group seeking to stop the development of the Jean Nouvel-designed MoMa Tower at 53 West 53rd Street, a high-rise currently rising adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art.

Shaun Pappas, a lawyer at Starr Associates, said attorneys expecting to pay Sherwood a visit in the near future would benefit from staying on top of relevant case law. According to Pappas, Sherwood is unique among other Commercial Division judges for his erudite knowledge of recent decisions (as fresh as the last couple of months).

“He’ll ask you about cases that are newer,” said Pappas, who’s appeared before Sherwood on several occasions. “He wants to know that you understand where the case law is and where it’s heading.”

Olshan Frome Wolosky attorney Lori Marks-Esterman said that while Sherwood is “a very vocal judge” who will “jump right in and take control of his courtroom,” he has a “mild disposition” and is “not a yeller.”

Both Pappas and Marks-Esterman noted that he closely reads case documents.
And if an attorney uses his or her oral arguments to simply recite what’s already written in case papers, Sherwood will not have it.

“My instinct is that the lawyers [with negative reviews] tried to B.S. Judge Sherwood,” said one Robing Room user. “He has no patience for that.”