Pro Se Lawyer's Divorce Leads to Sanctions Over 'Maelstrom of Misconduct'
"You're Pathetic! (Judicial Complaint Forthcoming.)"Judge Mathew Cooper of the Manhattan Supreme Court issued the sanctions order against Zappin in 2015, but many of the questionable actions involved Zappin's behavior toward other judges in his long-running divorce and custody dispute. In 2014, for example, after one judge refused to reconsider a prior motion, Zappin sent the judge an almost Trumpian note:
You're pathetic! (Judicial Complaint forthcoming.)When asked by another judge "Is there anything else, Mr. Zappin?", Zappin responded with "Yeah, your Honor. I am tired of these lies coming from you on the record." Other attacks, Cooper wrote, were so "deeply personal, and frankly outrageous" that they could "only be described as words not said in civil discourse, let alone ones that should ever be uttered by an attorney to a judge in the context of a court proceeding." And that's just the judges. Zappin also "actively campaigned to impugn" the reputation of the attorney representing the interests of his son, the sanctions order against him states. In one instance, he created a website with the attorney's name, on which he pledged to "keep the public apprised of your misconduct and disturbing behavior." In another, he filed, "with malice and reckless disregard for the truth," disciplinary charges against the psychiatrist the attorney for the child used. For these actions, among others, Zappin was sanctioned $10,000, sanctions the New York appellate court found were "amply supported by the record."
A Bit of Advice for Pro Se AttorneysWhat can lawyers learn from this mess? Judge Cooper offered some advice in his initial sanctions order: don't represent yourself.
[I]t is all too common for spouses who are lawyers to represent themselves in divorce proceedings. Because matrimonial practice is a specialized area of the law, with its own rules and ways, most lawyers who attempt to proceed pro se find themselves ill-equipped to competently handle the procedural and/or substantive aspects of their divorce cases on their own. And because a contested divorce is almost guaranteed to be emotionally charged, a self-represented lawyer may be hard-pressed to summon the level of rational thought and independent judgment that is required of a capable litigator.Judge Cooper is currently being sued by Zappin, who accuses him of "extrajudicial conduct" in publicizing the sanctions order. From the looks of it, the attorney will again be representing himself pro se. Related Resources:
- Court Upholds Sanctions Against Ex-Mintz Levin Lawyer (New York Law Journal)
- IRS Ethics Lawyer Disbarred -- for Ethics Violations, Of Course (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Lawyer Disbarred for Tweets and Online Petitions (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Lawyer's Qui Tam Spam Nets Him Nearly $12M (FindLaw's Strategist)
Was this helpful?
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Or contact an attorney near you: