Lawyer posted nude photos on public docket to humiliate and pressure opponent, federal judge concludes

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A New York lawyer has been sanctioned for posting nude photos of his litigation opponent on the public docket. Image from Shutterstock.

A New York lawyer has been sanctioned for posting nude photos of his litigation opponent on the public docket.

Senior U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote of the Southern District of New York ordered lawyer Jeffrey Chabrowe of New York to pay a $1,000 sanction in a Dec. 11 opinion, report Law360, Bloomberg Law and Above the Law.

“The public filing can only be interpreted as an attempt to humiliate and place improper pressure on the plaintiff,” Cote said.

The photos should have been filed with restricted access until the opponent had a chance to seek their sealing, according to Cote.

The plaintiff in the case, a physician, had claimed that two former employees stole millions of dollars from him over the course of several years. Chabrowe represented the defendants, who alleged in a counterclaim that the plaintiff asked them to engage in illegal acts and the plaintiff owes them money.

Chabrowe posted the photos twice, Cote said.

The first time, Chabrowe attached four exhibits to a motion. He asked for three of the exhibits to be sealed but not the fourth—which included sexually suggestive pictures of the lawsuit plaintiff nude or partially nude, Cote said. Cote placed all four exhibits under seal.

The photos were included in an exhibit of text messages between the parties.

In a later motion, Chabrowe again posted many of the nude and partly nude photos that had been sealed, Cote said.

Chabrowe had argued that he wasn’t “aware of any per se law or rule that precludes the filing of semi-nude photos or clothed pictures of crotches on the public docket.”

Chabrowe also said he was unaware that the first photos had been sealed, he didn’t consider them to be nude pictures, the photos were in his clients’ possession and not subject to a protective order, they are judicial documents with a presumption of public access, and they are “deeply relevant” to his clients’ claims because they reveal an inappropriate relationship.

Cote disagreed with Chabrowe’s characterization of the photos as not nude, calling it “without merit.” She also said he had not provided a single excuse “that passes muster.”

“Litigation, even highly charged and contentious litigation, should not subject parties to unnecessary breaches of their privacy and bodily autonomy,” Cote wrote. “In the digital age, when everything publicly filed on a court’s docket is readily accessible and transmittable, counsel have a particular obligation to behave responsibly and in a manner that reflects that reality.”

Chabrowe told Law360 that the photos were sent by the physician to one of the defendants, and “none of them are naked, at all.”

“There’s no prohibition against filing these on a public docket, and we don’t think in any sort of way they were filed in bad faith, but Judge Cote disagreed,” Chabrowe told Law360.

The case is Schottenstein v. Lee.

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