Wednesday, March 11, 2015
A public censure is the appropriate sanction for harassing conduct toward a jury foreperson who also was an attorney, according to a decision of the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department.
As you read the timeline from the mid-2008 trial to the offending April 2012 email, you get a strong sense of an attorney experiencing difficulty letting go of a loss.
In or about June 2008, the respondent represented Patricia D. Hartman, the plaintiff in a negligence action entitled Hartman v City of New York that was commenced in the Supreme Court, New York County, under Index No. 113683. Lauren Curry was the foreperson of the jury at the trial in the Hartman action. At or about that time, Ms. Curry was a first-year associate with the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton.
On or about June 30, 2008, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the defendant in the Hartman action. At or about that time, the respondent spoke to Ms. Curry in an "unpleasant manner." He stated to Ms. Curry, in sum and substance, that "the verdict doesn't make any sense," and asked Ms. Curry, in sum and substance, how she arrived at the decision to find for the defendant.
Following the return of the verdict in the Hartman action, the respondent "had a hunch" that Ms. Curry "lied" during the voir dire of the jury panel. The respondent also believed that Ms. Curry had improperly influenced the jury in its deliberations.
On or about July 30, 2008, the respondent conducted an Internet search of Ms. Curry. At or about that time, the respondent also contacted Ms. Curry's employer, Debevoise & Plimpton, to investigate her background.
In or about April 2012, the respondent continued to believe that Ms. Curry had made misleading statements during the voir dire of the jury panel in the Hartman action, and that she had improperly influenced the jury in its deliberations. At or about that time, the respondent conducted a further Internet search of Ms. Curry. On or about April 9, 2012, the respondent sent Ms. Curry the following e-mail:
"From: [email protected]
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2012, 4:07 p.m.
To: Curry, Lauren E.
"SUBJECT: ALL THESE YEARS LATER I WILL NEVER FORGET LAUREN THE LIAR
"HARTMAN v NYC
"After numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and success beyond anything you will ever attain in your lifetime, I will never forget you: the bloated Jury [Foreman] that I couldn't get rid of and that misled and hijacked my jury. You lied, said you had no involvement in defense—no biases. It was all bullshit. You deprived a very nice lady, [Patty] Hartman, from recovering in a smoking gun liability case. You either had no idea of what the concept of probable cause meant or you misled the jurors because you were defense oriented. You rooted for the underdog, a totally incompetent corporate counsel, outgunned and stupid. I will never forget the high-fives after the trial you tanked[,] between you and a clueless [corporation] counsel. "I feel attacked." Well you should get attacked you A-hole. Good Luck in Hell.
"Massimo & Panetta, PC
Frank C. Panetta, Esq."
In determining an appropriate measure of discipline to impose, the Court has considered the isolated nature of the respondent's conduct, the stressors in the respondent's personal life about which he testified, the favorable testimony of the respondent's character witnesses, and the respondent's expressions of regret and remorse. However, the respondent's email to Ms. Curry was designed to harass her, and his conduct adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer. Under the totality of the circumstances, the respondent is publicly censured for his professional misconduct.