Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Suit Against Former New York Times CEO May Proceed

The New York Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the First Department that the son-in-law of the former New York Times CEO stated a cause of action in connection with his claims that he was denied tenure as an elementary school teacher because of the actions of the then father-in-law and his attorney, who also is his son.

The alleged tortious conduct took place in the wake of the claim that the plaintiff had engaged in adultery. Plaintiff contends that the defendants engaged in a campaign to deny hin tenure and cause the revocation of his teaching license.

The court declined to hold that the alleged conduct was protected by absolute privilege.

Courthouse News Service had this report on the decision of the First Department:

A teacher can take former New York Times CEO Russell Lewis and his family to court for allegedly blocking tenure to influence the outcome of the teacher's divorce from Lewis' daughter, a New York appeals court ruled.
     Ronald Bruce Posner claims that he was on track to tenure at Siwanoy Elementary, in 2008 when his wife, Erin, accused him of misconduct - having an affair with a student's mother, who was also a substitute teacher at Siwanoy. Posner and Erin had just had a child, Sydney, days before the couple began divorce proceedings.
     Erin's father, Russell Lewis, and brother, David Lewis, told Posner to leave the marital home, which Russell Lewis owned.
     Russell served as president and CEO of the New York Times from 1997 until his retirement in 2004. David, an attorney who resigned from Proskauer Rose in August 2010, also helped to represent his sister, Erin, in the divorce action.
     "Russell 'warned' ... that if plaintiff 'did not go quietly,' Russell would 'make trouble' for plaintiff," the ruling states. "Russell also 'explicitly threatened to go to the Pelham Board of Education and impact [Posner's] tenure."
     Favoring a so-called "clean break" between Posner and Erin, Russell offered Posner money to relinquish his parental rights to Sydney.
     Posner says that when he refused, Erin's family followed through on their promise to make trouble for him, and the school board eventually denied him tenure.
     Posner resigned and sued the Lewis family for tortuous interference.

(Mike Frisch)

February 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chambers Disclosures Violated Duty Of Confidentiality

The Colorado Hearing Board has concluded that a criminal defense attorney violated his obligation of confidentiality during two in camera chambers conferences with the judge presiding at the trial. The attorney was suspended for a year and a day, with the suspension stayed in favor of a two year period of probation.

The attorney and his law partner represented a client charged in a $1.2 million theft from her employer.

The first conference was initiated by the attorney prior to jury selection. He advised the judge that his client had rejected his advice to accept a plea deal. He opined that his client was competent and sane, but that her choice to go to trial was a "very, very poor one." He did assure the judge that he would nonetheless "carry on with dignity."

The second chambers conference took place during the prosecution's case-in-chief. The attorney told the judge that he was subjected to the "perhaps the most vicious attack I've ever had from a client saying I'm not fighting for her."

He failed to advise the client that he had made these statements.

The client was convicted. The conviction was reversed when the disclosures came to light. After the remand, the client pleaded guilty to one count of theft and was sentenced to seven years.

The hearing board found that the attorney had a conflict of interest and that the failure to tell the client of the discussions violated his duties of honesty and communication.

According to the hearing board, the conduct was an "affront to the fundamental professional duties of communication, loyalty, and honesty [the attorney] owed to his client." (Mike Frisch)

February 19, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)