Farid v. Gussak
An attorney who allegedly combines an expletive with a derogatory reference to an individual's ethnic background, during cross-examination, engages in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal, in violation of Rule 3.5(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The respondent attorney, David Gussak, of Greene Law PC in Farmington, represented the plaintiff in a contentious civil trial. During cross examination of the defendant, Tariq Farid, the respondent allegedly approached the witness stand, saying "What did you say to me?" and approached so close that Farid was forced to back away. Farid's attorney, Kevin Walsh, asked the trial court to order the respondent to step back. The respondent allegedly said, "You piece of Arab sh--!" Farid and his attorney protested. The respondent claimed that his remark was in response to Farid's exclamation, "Go fuyourself!" No one other than the respondent heard Farid curse. The respondent apologized to the court and refused to apologize to Farid, because Farid allegedly insulted him. Farid denied the respondent's claim that Farid cursed. The court reporter did not include the expletive that the respondent claimed that Farid issued in the official court record. The trial court decided against declaring a mistrial. Farid filed a grievance complaint. Rule 3.5(4) provides, "A lawyer shall not . . . [e]ngage in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal or ancillary proceedings such as depositions and mediations." The Statewide Grievance Committee found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the respondent attorney intended to disrupt a tribunal, in violation of Rule 3.5(4), because he allegedly combined an expletive about the complainant with a reference to the complainant's ethnic background. "Such a biased and derogatory statement by an attorney, in the midst of a trial," wrote the Statewide Grievance Committee, "is entirely unacceptable." Even if the witness' conduct was rude, wrote the committee, an attorney must refrain from engaging in such behavior, particularly while in the middle of a trial. The Statewide Grievance Committee expressed dismay that the respondent was unwilling to express remorse. It rejected the respondent's claim it should not order discipline, because the trial judge did not order discipline. The Statewide Grievance Committee ordered the respondent to take a continuing legal education course in legal ethics.