The lawyer, an orthodox Jew, was stopped and ticketed by a New Jersey state trooper for going 84 mph in a 55 mph zone. The lawyer's response to the summons, written on law office stationery, complained that the trooper had called him a "jew kike," which precipitated a police investigation of the trooper. Unbeknownst to the lawyer, the traffic stop had been recorded by a microphone on the trooper's uniform and a camera in the trooper's car. The trooper was exonerated after a nine-month police investigation. A referee had recommended admonition, but hearing panel unanimously recommended suspension, finding that:
to have made entirely fictitious charges of religious bias against a state police officer simply to get out of a speeding ticket, and to maintain the truth of those charges in a follow-up official investigation without regard to the potentially negative impact on the career, livelihood, and emotional state of the police officer, demonstrated Respondent's complete lack of a moral compass and sound judgment.
Agreeing with the hearing panel, the judicial department's disciplinary order suspends the lawyer's license for six months.
A referee recommended an admonition:
The Referee found that while writing the letter was a single aberrational act, it was exacerbated by respondent's statements, required to be truthful, in his telephonic interview with [the officer investigating his claims] and by his perpetration of the theme of anti-Semitic behavior in his answer to the complaint. He further stated that he believed that respondent lacked the intent to harm the trooper, and credited respondent's psychiatrist's testimony that his accusation was an "impulsive" action even though six days had elapsed since he had received the ticket.
The Referee further stated that he believed that respondent was sincerely remorseful for the incident and that his apology to the trooper was genuine. The Referee accepted respondent's psychiatrist's opinion that respondent's personality disorders were legion and strong, and was persuaded that respondent's writing the charge that the trooper used an ethnic slur was impulsive. The Referee further asserted that, while perhaps not technically the "cause" of respondent's misconduct, his many personality disorders, exacerbated by the stress of his job, his marital problems and especially the problems of his oldest child, had a severe impact on his behavior. The Referee credited respondent for his devotion to therapy and continued attendance at therapy sessions, which appeared to be having a positive impact. The Referee observed that the trooper was not directly harmed by respondent's behavior, insofar as he was not disciplined, suspended, docked pay or benefits or even forced to hire a lawyer. On the other hand, he noted that the officer had nine months of emotional stress while the Internal Affairs investigation was ongoing and, though the disparate treatment claim against him was determined to be unfounded, the incident would be documented in his personnel file forever, which could affect or at least delay future consideration of a request for transfer or a promotion. Recognizing the financial hardship which a suspension would cause respondent, the Referee nevertheless recommended a six-month suspension.
The court, however, was unpersuaded that an admonition was sufficient, and imposed the six-month suspension:
Here, respondent cavalierly attributed anti-Semitic slurs to an innocent person in a manner which could have had devastating consequences to that person's career. This act alone warrants a harsh sanction, not to mention that it was done to gain an advantage in an administrative proceeding. Notwithstanding the mitigating evidence and respondent's apparently sincere remorse, his behavior was reckless and reflects poorly on the bar. Under the circumstances, censure or admonition is simply too lenient a penalty.