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A former associate at Schulte, Roth & Zabel and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius has seen an indignant Brooklyn judge recommend that he be suspended indefinitely from the practice of law for his continued failure to pay $71,000 in court-ordered child support. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William Rigler issued a scathing opinion condemning Chaim Steinberger for his “continuing gamesmanship” in the protracted child support battle with his former wife Sharon. Rigler then ordered that Steinberger’s driver’s license be revoked and that disciplinary proceedings be commenced in the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, with the recommendation that he be barred from practicing law until all the arrears are paid. “This failure is an abomination. For a lawyer to defy intentionally courts and to neglect wilfully his children, as defendant Chaim Steinberger has done, requires not more hearings, but resolute judicial action,” Rigler wrote in Steinberger v. Steinberger, 1504/96. “Failing to fulfill such an essential responsibility reveals a serious defect of moral character. If Mr. Steinberger cannot meet basic responsibilities to his children, he cannot be entrusted with the fiduciary duties owed by a lawyer to the public at large and to the particular clients.” Steinberger, who graduated eighth in his class at Brooklyn Law School and was a member of the Law Review and the Moot Court Honor Society, began his career as an associate at New York’s Schulter Roth & Zabel. He had a clerkship with Eastern District Judge Edward R. Korman in 1995-96, and later joined Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. But Rigler noted in his decision that Steinberger has opted for a state of underemployment during the duration of the litigation with his wife and that he has created a Professional Corporation to shield his income. “The defendant-husband had the academic, employment and professional background to enable him ‘to write his own ticket’ in the legal profession and attain the commensurate financial rewards with the prestigious employment he attained,” the judge wrote. “Instead, with this divorce action, he embarked on a ‘scorched earth’ policy, deliberately whittling away at his own status and income.” The Office of Court Administration’s current records list Steinberger as a sole practitioner with an office on 49th Street in Brooklyn. The ongoing four-year litigation between the Steinbergers, which included a 28-day trial on the issues of custody, visitation and equitable distribution, resulted in a divorce judgment calling for Steinberger to pay $520 per week in child support. Steinberger was criticized by Rigler in a 1998 decision in the case for frivolous activities bordering on “abuse of process.” In his decision, Rigler referred to an order he handed down in the case this March. “The court cautioned defendant-husband that his continued disobedience of the court’s orders will result in the court taking ‘every possible measure against defendant, an attorney, to ensure compliance,’” the judge wrote. “That time has arrived.” In addition to the driver’s license suspension and recommendation of attorney discipline, Rigler’s decision grants Mrs. Steinberger’s motion to hold Steinberger in contempt and grants her motions to have any money held in several bank and individual retirement accounts in Steinberger’s name turned over to her. The decision also directs the Manhattan law firm of Rosenthal & Herman to release to Mrs. Steinberger funds that it owes to Steinberger for legal work. And it grants numerous discovery motions filed by Mrs. Steinberger, including requests for copies of: statements from Steinberger’s IOLA account; his Westlaw bills; and paychecks he received for work done for the Manhattan firm of Smith, Campbell & Paduano. Franklyn H. Snitow and Mark M. Holtzer of Snitow & Cunningham represented Mrs. Steinberger. Steinberger appeared pro se.

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