Legal Ethics

Lawyer agrees to 30-day suspension for publicity threats during settlement talks

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A Phoenix lawyer has agreed to a 30-day suspension for using a publicity and criminal-justice threat to gain advantage in settlement talks.

The suspension for lawyer Peter Strojnik begins Dec. 16, according to the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Independent. The Legal Profession Blog summarizes the allegations and links to the final judgment (PDF). A state bar press release is here.

The publicity threat concerned a sex harassment suit Strojnik had filed on behalf of his client, a former restaurant employee, about three months after he began the representation, according to the Nov. 16 decision accepting consent discipline and the amended agreement for discipline.

Strojnik had threatened to issue a press release revealing the suit in his demand to the defendant restaurants, the decision says. He also told the opposing party that he had created a website about the allegations and he would make sure a “shame on you” banner was placed at the defendant restaurants, according to the decision.

Strojnik also told the opposing party that he had scheduled meetings with police and the Justice Department “alleging the hiring and harboring of undocumented workers,” and asserted that a television station was investigating as a result of his efforts.

Strojnik stopped his conduct for about five weeks after he was warned he was violating ethics rules. When settlement talks broke down, however, Strojnik reopened the website and arranged to have fliers distributed at a new restaurant being opened with a picture of a the restaurant principal and a statement that the he was a “predator.”

Strojnik was also accused of writing this to a law firm for one of the restaurants: “Robert, I do not engage in hyperbole. What I say is what I do. Two years from now, we’ll wind up with quadruple” and the restaurant will be out of business.

Strojnik then agreed to stop the inappropriate conduct at the insistence of a federal judge, the decision says.

The consent discipline also requires Strojnik to participate in outpatient chemical dependency treatment and to submit to a psychological evaluation after completing the treatment. He will also be on disciplinary probation for two years.

Strojnik did not immediately respond to a phone message and email from the ABA Journal seeking comment.

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