Monday, November 20, 2017
The Nevada Supreme Court adopted the proposed six-month suspension of the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board.
In a matter involving his own debt
Representing both himself and his wife, Hafter informed collection counsel that all of their possessions that may otherwise be subject to collections were owned by a family trust. When collections counsel requested documents regarding the trust, Rafter refused to provide any information, asserting that they had no right to it because the trust was not a judgment debtor. Additionally, in response to garnishment interrogatories, Hafter, as manager of the law firm receiving the interrogatories, responded that he "does not earn a salary or take a draw, as he never makes money from the firm's cases and does not own the firm." During both Rafter's and his wife's judgment debtor examinations, they disavowed owning any property or receiving any income and repeated that all of their possessions were owned by the trust. Despite Hafter's and his wife's representations regarding their income, evidence was presented during the hearing demonstrating that Hafter had claimed a substantial income on a car lease application; had recently received sizeable attorney fees and contingency fee payments; had made a large personal donation to his political campaign; and through his law firm, had created companies to purchase a number of properties during the collections process.
The court sustained the violation
the evidence of the attorney fees and contingency payments Hafter's law firm received, the personal donation Hafter made to his political campaign, and the purchase of multiple properties all contradict Hafter's statements, made under oath, that he lacked any income or possessions to satisfy the judgment against him.
The remaining charges against Hafter stem from a case wherein he represented a doctor defending against a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit. After Hafter's multiple requests to change the trial date due to its conflict with a religious holiday were denied, Hafter posted public comments on Facebook regarding the case alleging that the presiding judge was biased and anti-Semitic, had no justification for denying his requests, and had absolute immunity from trampling on the rights of others. Hafter made similar comments that were published in two newspaper articles about the matter.
There was no basis in fact for Halter's comments that the presiding judge lacked any reason besides bias and anti-Semitism to deny Hafter's requests to change the trial date. The judge specifically stated that the moving of the trial date would cause prejudice to the plaintiffs because they would have to change their experts' schedules and, because Hafter was the attorney that agreed to the trial date in the first place, that the denial had nothing to do with his religion, but rather, lilt had everything to do with [Halter's] ability to control [his] own schedule." While we recognize that disciplining an attorney for statements made regarding a sitting judge can give rise to constitutional concerns, because Hafter's statements respecting the refusal to change the trial date after it was set with his agreement were not truthful, they are not subject to First Amendment protections.
The court considered the debt collection misconduct as the more serious violations.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on the panel recommendation
Hafter, an orthodox Jew, rushed out of the hearing about 6 p.m. to make it home for the Jewish Sabbath immediately after the panel informed him of its unanimous decision. He told the three panel members before they began 20 minutes of deliberation that he had to be home by sundown.
Throughout the hearing, the outspoken Hafter was combative and critical of the disciplinary process that led the State Bar to file a two-count complaint against him in April over his inflammatory 2014 comments about then-District Judge Valorie Vega.
Hafter, who represented himself on Friday, even once asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
He accused [Assistant Bar Counsel] Isaacson of having a “vendetta” against him and the disciplinary panel’s chairman, Paul “Luke” Puschnig, of having his mind made up before all of the evidence was heard. Puschnig denied the allegation and said he viewed it as a personal insult.
At one point, Hafter said he no longer was accepting new clients and wanted to get out of the field of litigation in Nevada.
“If the bar continually wants to go after me because I exercised my First Amendment rights, whether they be religious practices or free speech, I don’t really want to be part of such an organization,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal during a break in the proceeding. “It makes me sick to be a member of a profession that has such little regard for its members’ constitutional rights.”
Hafter accused Vega on his Facebook page of religious discrimination and suggested she was “anti-Semitic or racist.” The Review-Journal quoted him as saying, “Either she’s anti-Semitic or she’s biased against me. In either case, she shouldn’t be the judge in this case.”
The complaint also accused Hafter of fraudulent conduct and making misrepresentations in Nevada legal proceedings to evade a $137,000 judgment against his law firm in Arizona.
Puschnig said late Friday the disciplinary panel found that Hafter had violated six of the nine rules of professional conduct alleged in the complaint and that his actions had a harmful impact on the legal community and the court system.
The panel also recommended that Hafter pay the cost of the proceedings, and Puschnig suggested that Hafter needed to deal with anger management issues.
Hafter denied wrongdoing throughout the hearing and argued that the bar’s case was prompted by opposing lawyers engaged in active litigation with him.
The case is Matter of Discipline of Jacob Hafter. (Mike Frisch)