Friday, July 20, 2012

The Feeble "Queen" Excuse Does Not Fly

A reprimand is the sanction imposed by the New Jersey Supreme Court on an attorney who misled a judge in connection with his representation of a client charged with a misdemeanor offense.

The attorney practices in Princeton. The client was employed nearby at the school.The attorney communicated with a representative of the client. They were in regular contact.

The attorney wrote the judge expressing concern about the client's cooperation without copying either the client or the representative. He then raised the issue with the court at an unrelated proceeding outside their presence, and later claimed he was only seeking a postponement. Instead, the judge granted his withdrawal from the case.

The Disciplinary Review Board did not buy his explanation:

Respondent attempted to explain his silence on that day as deference to the Judge, taking the position that he could not "argue" with Judge Goldman, the "queen" in the court setting. We find respondent's excuse feeble, at best. Correcting a judge's misunderstanding is essential to the proper functioning of any court. Calmly advising Judge Goldman that he was seeking only an adjournment would not have been argumentative; it would have been enlightening. Could it be that respondent did not want to run the risk that, if he pressed the judge for an adjournment, she might deny the request, forcing him to change his travel plans? We do not know that. What we do know is that his actions were consistent  with those of an attorney content to be relieved as counsel that day.

The attorney had ignored a post-withdrawal e-mail from the client representative.

The DRB noted that the range of sanctions for lack of candor to a tribunal varies from admonition to lengthy suspension. (Mike Frisch)

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