Lawyer reprimanded for discriminatory statements about Chinese optometrist
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A New Jersey lawyer was reprimanded Friday for demeaning and discriminatory statements about the Chinese culture in a letter to a medical malpractice defendant.
The New Jersey Supreme Court reprimanded George Farmer of Northfield for violating a disciplinary rule banning discriminatory conduct undertaken in a professional capacity, report Law360 and the Legal Profession Blog. The blog linked to the court’s Sept. 6 order and the Jan. 15 decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court Disciplinary Review Board.
Farmer had sued the defendant, an optometrist, on behalf of a client who had eye surgery.
Farmer contended that the optometrist had lied and tried to cover up wrongdoing by altering records, according to the decision by the review board. In a July 2013 email to the defendant, Farmer wrote, “I have read your letter. The only thing I can suggest is that you are either: delusional, a pathological liar, in denial, a psychopath, or all of the above.”
In an October 2013 letter to the optometrist’s lawyer, Farmer said he had no doubt that the optometrist was a pathological liar. He went on to make this assertion: “I am/was not a student of Chinese culture. So I did a little research and found that ‘In fact, lying to achieve some business or social aim, and getting away with it, is considered to be a sign of intelligence and social skill among many Chinese.’ See/25/http://thelinguafranca.wordpress.com/2008/03do-the-chinese-lie-that-depends/. Also, in the Chinese culture, ‘lying has become a means to an end.’ See http://EzineArticles.com/1435598.
“Having read those articles as well as other related articles, it is starting to make sense to me. Your client’s only problem is that even though he is a doctor, and he thinks that he can lie his way through this matter, he is not going to get away with it. I am someone who is smarter than the average person on the street, and am wise to his nonsense, trickery and chicanery.”
During the ethics hearing, Farmer had contended that he was merely citing the opinions of experts. He also relied on testimony from the client, his girlfriend, his ex-wife and two friends, who said they had never seen Farmer exhibit discriminatory or racist behavior.
A district ethics committee had found that the statements were discriminatory in nature and directed at the defendant in a derogatory manner based on his national origin. In mitigation, the committee said Farmer’s conduct “was an isolated incident and not repeated or recurring behavior.”
The review board affirmed, finding a violation of New Jersey Rule 8.4(g) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule states that “it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: engage, in a professional capacity, in conduct involving discrimination … because of race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, language, marital status, socio-economic status, or handicap where the conduct is intended or likely to cause harm.”
A comment to the rule says the word discrimination is to be “construed broadly,” and it includes “derogatory and demeaning language.”
The review board said Farmer’s statements are “discriminatory and demeaning on their face.” In addition, the board said, Farmer’s contentions that he was not a racist and was merely relying on expert opinions were “wholly specious and unworthy of serious consideration.”
The review board noted this comment of the district ethics committee: “The mere existence of an opinion online does not establish its author as an expert. If it did, every post on Facebook or Twitter could constitute expert opinion.”
Farmer told the ABA Journal that he is working on a statement about the reprimand and would forward it when it was ready.