An administrative law judge in Nassau County, N.Y., who repeatedly called a litigant while her matter was pending before him and then made dinner plans with her shortly after he ruled in her favor has been suspended from practicing law for three years.
Traffic Violations Bureau Administrative Law Judge Michael H. Dorsky "not only acted improperly in pursuing a personal relationship with the subject of an administrative hearing over which he presided, but also engaged in a selective view of the evidence presented at [his disciplinary] hearing, ignored prior warnings about ex parte communications from the [Department of Motor Vehicles], and made false denials about his conduct to the Inspector General's office," a unanimous New York State Appellate Division, 2nd Department, panel ruled in Matter of Dorsky, 2009-02056.
The panel confirmed a special referee's report and barred Mr. Dorsky from practicing law until at least Oct. 15, 2013.
Presiding Justice A. Gail Prudenti, and Justices William F. Mastro, Reinaldo E. Rivera, Peter B. Skelos and Daniel D. Angiolillo sat on the panel.
Dorsky, 60, graduated from Hamline Law School in Minnesota in 1976 and was admitted to the New York Bar the following year. He worked as an administrative law judge for the Department of Motor Vehicles, which assigned him to the Traffic Violations Bureau in Garden City, from 1985 to 2004.
In late 2003 or early 2004, Dorsky was assigned to hear allegations that New York City policewoman C.E. Johnson-Murphy had been involved in a July 2003 accident while driving an uninsured automobile registered in her name.
Johnson-Murphy claimed that on the date of the accident her car was either being stored at a repair shop or inoperable and parked in front of her home.
Both before and after her March 31, 2004, hearing, Dorsky engaged in several ex parte conversations with Johnson-Murphy, including one in front of his hearing room and several by phone. He also left voice-mail messages on her phone.
On April 7, 2004, Dorsky ruled in favor of Johnson-Murphy and ordered the DMV to remove the record of the accident from her driving record.
In a phone conversation with Johnson-Murphy two weeks later, Dorsky "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," according to the 2nd Department's decision. He also confirmed plans they had previously made to have dinner the following evening.
The Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District ultimately charged Dorsky with three violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility, including engaging in ex parte conversations with a litigant both before and after she appeared before him in his capacity as an administrative law judge.
It is unclear from the decision whether the committee's investigation was spurred by a complaint from Johnson-Murphy, a third party or sua sponte.
A special referee sustained all three charges and last week the 2nd Department confirmed the findings.
"The respondent's conduct clearly served to lessen public trust and confidence in the system and justly led to the termination of his employment with the DMV," the panel concluded in its per curiam decision. "Under the totality of circumstances, the respondent is suspended from the practice of law for a period of three years."
Dorsky was fired from his position with the DMV as a result of his conduct. In addition to serving as an administrative law judge, Dorsky has maintained a private practice and been actively involved in Roslyn Village politics, serving on the Roslyn Board of Zoning Appeals and as the chairman of the Roslyn Village Planning Board. He was a deputy commissioner for the Town of North Hempstead.
Dorsky is married and has three children.
Chris McDonough of McDonough & McDonough in Westbury represented Dorsky. McDonough did not return a call for comment. Calls to Dorsky's office were not answered.
Michael J. Kearse appeared on behalf of the Grievance Committee for the 10th Judicial District. Kearse declined to comment.