Legal Ethics

Lawyer is censured for angry email accusing jury foreperson, a BigLaw attorney, of hijacking jury

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A lawyer angered by a lost case lashed out four years later in an email at the BigLaw lawyer who served as jury foreperson, resulting in an order for public censure.

A New York appeals court ordered the censure of lawyer Frank Panetta on Wednesday. The Legal Profession Blog has a summary.

Panetta had represented the plaintiff in the losing negligence suit, according to the opinion by the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Divison, Second Department. After a unanimous verdict for the defendant in June 2008, Panetta spoke “in an unpleasant manner” with the jury foreperson, who was a first-year-associate at Debevoise & Plimpton, the court said.

Panetta told the foreperson that the verdict didn’t make sense and asked how she reached her decision. A month later, Panetta searched for the foreperson online and contacted Debevoise & Plimpton to investigate her background, the opinion says.

Nearly four years later, Panetta searched for the foreperson online once again and sent her an email under the subject line: “ALL THESE YEARS LATER I WILL NEVER FORGET LAUREN THE LIAR.”

“After numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and success beyond anything you will ever attain in your lifetime,” Panetta wrote, “I will never forget you: the bloated Jury [Foreman] that I couldn’t get rid of and that misled and hijacked my jury. You lied, said you had no involvement in defense—no biases. It was all bullshit. …

“You either had no idea of what the concept of probable cause meant or you misled the jurors because you were defense oriented. You rooted for the underdog, a totally incompetent corporate counsel, outgunned and stupid. I will never forget the high-fives after the trial you tanked[,] between you and a clueless [corporation] counsel. ‘I feel attacked.’ Well you should get attacked you A-hole. Good Luck in Hell.”

A referee found Panetta communicated with a juror in a manner that involved harassment and engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer.

In mitigation, the court considered the isolated nature of the conduct, the stress in Panetta’s personal life, favorable testimony of character witnesses, and Panetta’s expressions of regret.

Panetta, a lawyer in Garden City, has appeared as a commentator on Fox News, according to his law firm profile. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last edited 4:30 p.m. March 12.

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