This proceeding was initiated by order to show cause signed by the Senior Judge on April 3, 1946, directing the respondent to appear before this Court on May 1, 1946, to show cause why he should not be dealt with in accordance with the rules and practices of this Court concerning unprofessional conduct; and in lieu of personal appearance he filed an affidavit verified April 29, 1946.
A bill of particulars had been filed on April 15th, containing copies of certain letters written by the respondent, to which reference will be made, an excerpt from his testimony before a special master appointed by this court in the case of Cathey v. Bethlehem Steel Company, and a copy of the letter written to one of the Judges of this Court (who has not participated herein) on March 25, 1946, which gave rise to this proceeding.
There are no disputed issues of fact, since it is admitted that the respondent signed and sent all of the said letters, and testified as shown in the said transcript.
The applicable rule of this Court may be quoted for ready reference:
'Unprofessional conduct on the part of a member of this Bar requiring discipline, shall include fraud, deceit, malpractice, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice,
or a failure to abide by any of the provisions of the Canons of Ethics of the New York State Bar Association.'
The relevant Canons read:
'1. The Duty of the Lawyer to the Courts. -- It is the duty of the lawyer to maintain towards the Courts a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance. Judges, not being wholly free to defend themselves, are peculiarly entitled to receive the support of the Bar against unjust criticism and clamor. Whenever there is proper ground for serious complaint of a judicial officer, it is the right and duty of the lawyer to submit his grievances to the proper authorities. In such cases, but not otherwise, such charges should be encouraged and the person making them should be protected.'
'3. Attempts to Exert Personal Influence on the Court. -- * * * A lawyer should not communicate or argue privately with the Judge as to the merits of a pending cause, and he deserves rebuke and denunciation for any device or attempt to gain from a Judge special personal consideration or favor. * * *'
The letter which gave rise to this proceeding bears the date stated and the following caption:
Judge United States Court
Eastern District of New York.
Re: Order Cathey v. Bethlehem Steel Co. returnable for signature
In the light of my past experiences before you, I think it is futile and a waste of stationery to submit a counter order to you for signature.
I think signing this order in its form in its entirety is despotic and in excess of authority as well as deliberately taking advantage of your office to rule with passion and vehemence.
If a specific proceeding was presented to you and you referred the specific proceeding for reference, regardless of justice of so doing, which, of course, is answered that it is correctable on appeal to the Appellate Court, why should your Referee and you deliberately go out of your way to decide a matter which was not embraced in the proceeding and go beyond the issues just so as to show an example of authority.
I protest the signature of this order in this form.
If I had the slightest notion that a counter order would even be considered I would submit one.
No copy of this letter is sent to any other attorney or person as a proposed counter order need not be served.
Respectfully (sic), Jules Chopak'.
The 5 days' notice of settlement of the proposed order to which the foregoing communication referred had been given on March 21, 1946, and the order was signed on the 26th, and it confirmed a report of a referee, fixed his fee, and directed the distribution of $ 9,053.24, the amount of a verdict recovered by the plaintiff in the said action, so that the respondent's successor as attorney for the plaintiff and the respondent together received the amount of the contingent fee originally ...