The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the judgment creditor, Fischer, was not entitled to priority over the respondent wife, Mayrav, who had been awarded real property owned with her husband, Julius, in divorce proceedings. Although Fisher’s judgments were docketed, Julius’s surname was spelled incorrectly, rendering the lien invalid. Although this issue had not been raised below, the appellate court can address it because it is a question of law which could not have been avoided if it had been raised:
“CPLR 5203(a) gives priority to a judgment creditor over subsequent transferees with regard to the debtor’s real property in a county where the judgment has been docketed with the clerk of that county” ( … see CPLR 5203[a]). Pursuant to CPLR 5018(c), a judgment is docketed when the clerk makes an entry “under the surname of the judgment debtor . . . consist[ing] of . . . the name and last known address of [the] judgment debtor” … . “A judgment is not docketed against any particular property, but solely against a name” … . ” Once docketed, a judgment becomes a lien on the real property of the debtor in that county'” … .
… [I]t is undisputed that when the judgments were docketed, Julius’s surname was spelled incorrectly. Because the judgments were not docketed under the correct surname, no valid lien against Julius’s interest in the subject property was created … . Therefore, Fischer was not entitled to a determination that his interest in the subject property was superior to that of Mayrav, whose interest “vest[ed] upon the judgment of divorce” … . Although Mayrav failed to argue in the Supreme Court that Fischer did not have a valid lien on the subject property in light of the undisputed fact that Julius’s surname was misspelled, that issue can be raised for the first time on appeal because it is one of law which appears on the face of the record and could not have been avoided if it had been raised at the proper juncture … . Accordingly, that branch of the petition which sought a determination that Fischer’s interest in the subject property was superior to that of Mayrav should have been denied. Matter of Fischer v Chabbott, 2019 NY Slip Op 09002, Second Dept 12-18-19