Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Law Of Foul Language

A village court justice has been removed from office by the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct for email statements to a client in his (permitted) part-time law practice

Between October 24, 2014, and February 22, 2015, respondent sent nine emails in connection with the Family Court matter to the Colemans at their shared email account in which he:

  • Referred to their daughter several times as a "bitch";
  • Stated that their daughter's "lawyer is a cunt on wheels (sorry for the profanity ... and don't quote me), so be prepared" and, in another email, referred to the lawyer as "eyelashes";
  • After cautioning the Colemans not to contact their grandchild's school, stated, "You should know by now that people who work in schools are assholes" 1;
  • Stated, with respect to a scheduled court appearance, "We will appear entirely calm and reasonable .. .let your daughter act like the asshole she is";
  • Stated in the subject line of an email, in reference to the daughter and her former husband, "THE TWO SCUMBAGS WERE SERVED"; and
  • Stated in reference to the Family Court referee, around the time respondent advised the Colemans to withdraw their petition, "[Y]ou may have noticed that the 'judge' is an asshole. An 'asshole' can issue a warrant for your arrest."

In February 2015, the Colemans withdrew their petition for visitation and the matter was discontinued.


Based on the totality of the record before us, including the nature and frequency of respondent's comments, his repeated use of such language to legal clients, and his earlier caution for making sarcastic and disrespectful comments in court, we conclude that respondent lacks fitness to serve as a judge and, accordingly, that his removal from office is warranted.

Over a period of several months, respondent's email communications with his clients, his former house cleaner and her husband whom he was representing in a grandparent visitation matter, contained crude and derogatory epithets referring to various individuals involved in their case. In the context of informing and advising them about the case, he referred to the clients' daughter and her former husband, his clients' adversaries in the matter, as "the two scumbags," and referred to the daughter as an "asshole" and a "bitch" ( or "that bitch") on multiple occasions. Cautioning his clients not to contact their grandchild's school, he used the same profanity referring to the school's staff ("You should know by now that people who work in schools are assholes").

Referring to the daughter's lawyer, respondent's language was equally vulgar and sexist ("a cunt on wheels" and "eyelashes"). His profane insults extended even to the court referee ("you may have noticed that the 'judge' is an asshole. An 'asshole' can issue a warrant for your arrest").

The impropriety of such language requires little discussion. Criticism of individuals involved in his clients' case is not the issue here, nor is the use of profanity in communicating with his clients. However, as the Court of Appeals has held, using crude language that reflects bias or otherwise diminishes respect for our system of justice, even off the bench, is inconsistent with a judge's ethical obligations.

(Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink


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