Thursday, October 14, 2021

Former Judge's Threatening Online Comment Draws Reciprocal Censure

Reciprocal discipline of censure has been imposed by the New York Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department

Respondent was admitted to practice by this Court in 1986 and is also a member of the bar in Florida, where he presently resides and formerly served as a member of the judiciary in Broward County. In February 2020, the Supreme Court of Florida approved a stipulation and consent judgment wherein respondent admitted to posting a threatening online comment directed at another member of the Florida judiciary. As a consequence, the Court suspended respondent from the practice of law in Florida for a 45-day term.

His contentions failed to persuade

Respondent's contentions regarding potential conflicts or bias in the proceedings were never raised to Florida disciplinary authorities or before the Supreme Court of Florida and, in any event, are unsupported on the record before  us. Moreover, we note that respondent stipulated to his misconduct in that state while represented by counsel and attested that he had acted "freely and voluntarily" in consenting to discipline, and had "tender[ed] [his] plea without fear or threat of coercion" (see Matter of Hoover, 196 AD3d 994, 994-995 [2021]; Matter of Winograd, 184 AD3d 1073, 1074 [2020]; Matter of Edelstein, 144 AD3d 1311, 1312 [2016]). We therefore reject his contentions regarding a lack of due process in the Florida proceedings. Similarly, respondent's arguments regarding an infirmity of proof are rendered meritless by his stipulation to the facts that underlie the Supreme Court of Florida's finding of misconduct (see Matter of Winograd, 184 AD3d at 1074; Matter of Mora, 163 AD3d 1, 6 [2018]; Matter of Frants, 160 AD3d 171,
 [2018]). Finally, we find that the threatening language at issue constitutes conduct that adversely reflects on respondent's fitness as a lawyer, and the language preceding that statement offers no compelling justification to depart from that conclusion.

The court considered mitigating factors including timely reporting of the Florida action. (Mike Frisch)

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