A New York lawyer who communicated on numerous instances with a person he knew to be represented about the subject of the representation, and whose emails were said to be disparaging was suspended for a year.
“Even though the respondent knew his actions were improper, and despite being put on notice by opposing counsel that his actions were improper, he continued undeterred and without regard to the Rules of Professional Conduct,” the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Division’s Thursday opinion said.
Henry Lung represented a man in a divorce action, the appeals court said. He began cc’ing the woman in his emails to her attorney, Morghan Richardson, in May 2017 after he rejected an offer to negotiate outstanding issues between the parties, the court said.
One email accused Richardson of being a liar, and another included a comment about her client as a parent, the opinion showed.
Although Richardson told Lung to stop emailing her client, he continued to copy her, sometimes sending emails in the middle of the night, the court said.
Lung was charged with violating professional conduct rules prohibiting communicating about a matter with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by counsel; prohibiting embarrassing or burdening a third party while representing a client, and acting in a manner that reflects adversely on his fitness as a lawyer.
At his disciplinary hearing, he said he communicated with Richardson’s client but denied that his emails violated professional conduct rules. Lung said he felt “justified” in disregarding the rules because of his frustration with Richardson, the court said.
A special referee sustained all the charges but found that Lung had acted “in an attempt to zealously represent his client,” the court said. Mitigating factors included that he was taking steps to prevent this from happening again.
“Notwithstanding the mitigation advanced, we find that the respondent’s claims that he acted out of frustration do not justify his violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct,” the appeals court said.
Lung repeatedly sent emails to Richardson’s client, a number were at “inappropriate” hours, and were sent to criticize Richardson and undermine her relationship with her client, the court said.
It noted as an aggravating factor Lung’s “extensive disciplinary history,” which includes a public censure, four admonitions, and two letters of caution, and thus imposed the suspension.
The case is Matter of Lung, 2020 BL 141466, N.Y. App. Div., No. 2018-09536, 4/16/20.