Suspended lawyer blames leisure lifestyle for misstatements, acknowledges snarky emails
A New Jersey lawyer has been suspended for three months for “sarcastic and sophomoric” comments to opposing counsel and misstatements to a judge.
The New Jersey Supreme Court suspended lawyer Jared Stolz on Sept. 4. The Legal Profession Blog linked to the Supreme Court order and the opinion (PDF) by the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Review Board.
Stolz admitted making the inappropriate comments in emails and a fax, but attributed his misstatements to a busy schedule that included vacations to the Dominican Republic and to Ireland, where he played golf with his father. “Am I going to get lazy again and play more golf?” Stolz testified at the disciplinary hearing. “I hope so. But I certainly did not intentionally lie.”
Stolz added that he had learned his lesson and had hired two more lawyers to help him review things.
The complaint targeted emails and a fax Stolz sent to opposing counsel in 2009 and 2010 reading:
“Don’t feel you have to email me daily and let me know just how smart you are.”
“Did you get beat up in school a lot? Because you whine like a little girl.”
“Why don’t you grow a pair?”
“This will acknowledge receipt of your numerous Emails, faxes and letters. … In response thereto, Bla Bla Bla Bla Bla Bla.”
The ethics complaint also said that, after a December 2010 motions hearing, physical contact occurred between Stolz and the lawyer, who told Stolz not to touch him. Stolz allegedly replied, “Why would I want to touch a fag like you?”
At the ethics hearing, Stolz apologized for the statements to opposing counsel. “It was not considerate,” Stolz said. “I have no explanation. I should be disciplined for it.” He called the statements inexcusable, undignified and “venomous.”
Stolz, however, denied an allegation that he lied to a tribunal when he said he never received certifications supporting a requested court order. He acknowledged at the ethics hearing that he had received the certifications but said he hadn’t seen them when he made the misstatements. The reason, he said, was because he was frequently out of the office during the period in question and he had to respond to 10 to 15 motions all in one busy day.
“I neglected my files, I played too much golf, I went to Punta Cana with my family all within two months,” Stolz testified at the ethics hearing. “Was it wrong? I don’t know. This is the lifestyle that I’ve chosen, the practice I’ve chosen because I worked at Methfessel & Werbel for 15 years in a cubicle rising to managing director. I didn’t want that anymore. I want to play golf. I do insurance work. I missed it. I screwed up. I had no motivation to lie to the judge about this particular thing. …
“Should I have done things differently? Absolutely. Did I learn a lesson about this? Absolutely. After this, and I got that I now have hired two other attorneys, they review things, I review everything that comes in. Am I going to get lazy again and play more golf? I hope so. But I certainly did not intentionally lie.”
The Disciplinary Review Board recommended a three-month suspension, which was adopted by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“The sarcastic and sophomoric comments made in the emails and fax set forth in count one demonstrated a failure to treat [opposing counsel] with ‘courtesy and consideration,’ ” as required by the ethics rules, the Disciplinary Review Board said. “The wildly inappropriate—indeed, discriminatory—comments [calling opposing counsel a ‘fag’] also demonstrated a lack of courtesy and consideration.”
In addition, the review board noted, Stolz told a judge he had not received the certifications, instead of saying he was out of the office and may have overlooked them.
It may be true that Stolz had no reason to lie about not receiving the certifications, but “his actions were so contrary to what a reasonable attorney would have done if confronted with the same situation, that his story cannot be believed,” the Disciplinary Review Board concluded.
The District Ethics Committee had previously found no intentional misrepresentation, although it said Stolz may have been sloppy. It had recommended only an admonition.