Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Judge to Defendant: "Um, I'd Love to Get to Know You Better, Could We Go Out?"

In the wake of the case of the Wisconsin District Attorney hitting on the domestic violence victim via text, we have a report (thak you: Legal Profession blawg) of the 3-year suspension imposed by the State of New York on the lawyer/administrative law judge (ALJ) who could not maintain boundaries as it related to a female Police Officer.   The officer had a Department of Motor Vehicle citation which she contested pertaining to her private automobile; apparently, the citation relating to her private car impacted her official status.

Here's the opinion suspending Michael H. Dorsky.  An excerpt from the opinion, gets at precisely the problem with lawyers who can not maintain professional boundaries:

"Between 1985 and March 2004, the respondent was employed as an ALJ for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (hereinafter DMV). He was assigned to the Traffic Violations Bureau in Garden City. The respondent was assigned as the ALJ to conduct a hearing involving allegations that Johnson-Murphy had been involved in an accident while driving an uninsured motor vehicle registered to her. The DMV hearing was scheduled for March 31, 2004. Prior to that date, the respondent had spoken with Johnson-Murphy over the telephone, granted her request for an adjournment, and learned that she was a New York City police officer.

On March 31, 2004, at the DMV offices, the respondent had an ex parte conversation with Johnson-Murphy outside the hearing room prior to the start of the hearing. He then conducted the DMV hearing at which Johnson-Murphy, the operator of the other vehicle involved in the accident, and a New York State police officer testified. At the hearing, the respondent had before him a notarized letter dated July 10, 2003, from Johnson-Murphy to the DMV in which she denied knowledge of the accident and asserted that her car was inoperable and parked at her residence on the date of the accident. She also provided written documentation to the respondent that the vehicle was in storage at a repair shop on the date of the accident.

After the hearing and before a written decision was provided to Johnson-Murphy, the respondent began placing telephone calls to her and either spoke with her personally or left voice-mail messages. The respondent acknowledged placing the calls, noting that Johnson-Murphy was "a person I would like to get to know better." During those calls, the respondent discussed the content of his decision with Johnson-Murphy. In a telephone conversation of April 20, 2004, the respondent discussed his decision with Johnson-Murphy and acknowledged having had previous discussions with her regarding the decision being on his desk. He acknowledged his attraction to her and indicated that he did not want to pressure her to feel that she owed him anything or might have to do something with him. During that conversation, the respondent made the following remark: 'Frankly, I wasn't even sure that you were not guilty . . . but that's neither here nor there.'  In that same conversation, the respondent admitted having previously told Johnson-Murphy that he was not supposed to have contacted her. He then confirmed plans to meet her for dinner the following evening.

In a decision signed by the respondent on April 7, 2004, he found in favor of Johnson-Murphy and directed the DMV to remove the record of the accident from her driving record."
Eventually lawyers and judges may learn the painful truth, clients, witnesses, judicial employees are not there to massage lawyer egos. cf. Book of Daniel, Ch.13.


  1. Love the graphic, it was used on the cover of the Handel CD, Susannah.

  2. Yes, I actually recalled the album when I was thinking about an illustration for this post. This is a profound story, Susannah, apochryphal but a wonderful illustration of justice among the Hebrews. Here, a faithful wife is accused of infidelity by two judges, two witnesses required by Torah to stone some one to death for capital crimes. Daniel beieving Susannah to be falsely accused asks each Judge, separately in front of the community, to name the tree the two were standing under when they observed Susannah in her adulterous act. Each names a different tree, and consequently suffer the fate that they had planned for Susannah in retaliation for her refusal to give into to their lustful entreaties. And the opera by Handel is pretty wonderful, too.