Friday, December 2, 2022
On August 1, 2018, a Pennsylvania State Police officer observed respondent driving erratically and committing traffic violations on local roads in Thornbury Township, Pennsylvania. Based on her erratic driving, the officer initiated a traffic stop and advised respondent to remain in her vehicle. However, respondent repeatedly exited her vehicle, against the officer’s instructions, and stood in the roadway while sweating profusely with bloodshot, glassy eyes. The officer moved respondent to safety and inquired whether she had been drinking, to which she replied, “I cook with vodka.” The officer then requested that respondent perform field sobriety tests. However, she could not comprehend the instructions and, thus, failed to perform the tests. Moreover, the officer observed that respondent failed to maintain her balance and exuded an odor of alcohol from her breath. Consequently, the officer arrested respondent and charged her with driving while intoxicated (DWI). At the time of her arrest, respondent’s blood alcohol content was 0.362.
She pled guilty to one count of misdemeanor DWI.
Another criminal matter involved terroristic threats
Between October 16 and 17, 2019, respondent called the home of her former psychologist four times, without leaving any messages. Beginning on October 19, 2019, however, respondent started leaving threatening voicemails and text messages on the psychologist’s home landline, personal cellular telephone, and business telephone. Specifically, respondent’s voicemails and text messages contained numerous death threats against the psychologist’s life and vulgar, anti-Semitic language directed at the psychologist’s Jewish faith. In one message, respondent threatened that she would “bury” the psychologist with her “bare hands.” In another message, respondent stated that she would “end” the psychologist with a firearm and, to illustrate the threat, sent the psychologist a picture of an unloaded handgun resting on a religious text. Additionally, respondent left long voicemails in which she rambled in a foreign language, accused the psychologist of owing her trillions of dollars, and threatened to shut down the psychologist’s business.
The threats continued into November and involved "no less than"17 messages.
respondent appeared in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County and pleaded guilty to first-degree misdemeanor terroristic threats and first-degree misdemeanor stalking. During the proceeding, although respondent admitted to the facts underlying her convictions and expressed remorse, she attributed her actions to her ongoing mental health problems.
New Jersey precedent on attorney DWI
Consistent with precedent that the disciplinary system does not address standalone DWI violations, the OAE’s motion did not seek the imposition of discipline based solely on respondent’s DWI conviction. However, we consider respondent’s DWI conviction as an aggravating factor in determining the appropriate quantum of discipline.
So no violation even if the lawyer-driver can't stand alone?
although the OAE did not charge respondent with any RPC violations based on her anti-Semitic remarks, consistent with our obligation to examine the “full picture” of the offense, we consider such remarks, as aggravating conduct, in imposing discipline.
Attorneys found guilty of harassment or stalking have received discipline ranging from a reprimand to a term of suspension, depending on the duration of the offending behavior, whether the attorney had a history of stalking or harassment, and whether the attorney was suffering from mental illness.
...On balance, we determine that a three-month suspension is the appropriate quantum of discipline necessary to protect the public and preserve confidence in the bar.
Additionally, based on respondent’s invocation of her mental health as an explanation for her misconduct, we require respondent to provide to the OAE, prior to reinstatement, proof of fitness to practice law as attested to by a medical doctor approved by the OAE. Moreover, because of her history with alcohol abuse and the egregious level of her blood alcohol content at the time of her DWI, we also require respondent to enroll in an OAE-approved alcohol treatment program and to submit proof of attendance to the OAE, on a quarterly basis, for at least two years.
Two members favored a six-month suspension. (Mike Frisch)