A Manhattan lawyer who secretly taped a court proceeding in his own divorce was publicly censured after he refused to accept a private admonition for it and brought a lawsuit in federal court against the attorney grievance committee and the chief administrative judge investigating him.
David Evan Schorr, who once worked for two large law firms but who today runs his own domestic relations practice, has agreed to the public censure and has conditionally admitted—finally—that his taping of a 2013 court conference before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Deborah Kaplan ran afoul of Rules of Professional Conduct 22 NYCRR 1200.0 Rule 8.4(d), regarding conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
In addition, the attorney has now apologized for some of his other actions connected to his fighting with court officials amid his contentious divorce and child-custody dispute with ex-wife Bari Yunis-Schorr, according to an Appellate Division, First Department panel opinion issued Tuesday that publicly censured him.
The attorney grievance committee agreed with and jointly moved with Schorr for censure as his punishment. The panel accepted that motion in its opinion Tuesday while listing certain “mitigating” factors that helped Schorr.
At the same time, though, the panel’s unanimous opinion made clear that the attorney, admitted to practice law in 2000, had engaged in a string of shocking actions—detailed by the panel as “aggravating” factors—that highly disturbed the panel. They included, according to the opinion:
• Schorr accusing Kaplan, her law secretary and a court officer of perjury for denying that they had orchestrated a civil assault against him at the same Oct. 9, 2013, court conference Schorr had wrongfully recorded using his iPhone.
• Schorr accusing the First Department’s attorney grievance committee in his federal lawsuit of retaliating against him at the behest of then-Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti.
• Schorr launching a lawsuit lacking any merit against a psychologist appointed by the court in connection with the custody of his and his then-wife’s child.
• Schorr alleging bias against a financial analyst appointed by the court to evaluate the worth of his insurance business.
• Schorr setting up websites on which he accused his wife’s attorney of lying under oath.
In Schorr’s lawsuit against the attorney grievance committee, Prudenti and other officials, he levied civil-rights claims that alleged they had both retaliated against him for using constitutionally protected speech and violated his due-process rights during an investigation of him, court records show. But in 2016, U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York Robert Sweet dismissed the action, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit later concurred.
Meanwhile, in Schorr’s lawsuit against court-appointed psychologist Marilyn Schiller, he accused her of issuing a biased report to Kaplan that concluded he was “wholly incapable of taking care of” his 4-year-old son, according to a 2013 news report. In Schorr’s lawsuit-telling of it, Schiller’s report was based entirely on him deciding not to take his son to a McDonald’s to eat dinner and the son throwing a tantrum over it, the news report said.
In one line of the lawsuit, Schorr wrote, “The child, stubborn as a mule, chose the ‘no dinner’ option.”
But the panel noted in its opinion, under “mitigating” factors that helped lead to censure rather than a greater punishment, that Schorr has no other disciplinary history; that his misconduct arose as he represented himself in contentious domestic-relations litigation involving child custody and financial obligations; that his father’s death during the litigation added to his emotional strain; and that he has been commended by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper and attorney Harriet Newman Cohen for his calming and credible role as co-counsel in the highly inflamed domestic-relations litigation of another attorney who was pro se.
Moreover, the panel said that Schorr—now in his latter 40s—had presented “credible evidence” at a sanction hearing of his good character. For example, since resuming his law practice on behalf of others in 2015, he “has shown himself to be a sober and reasonable advocate, eschewing rather than creating conflict,” wrote panel Justices Dianne Renwick, Rosalyn Richter, Angela Mozzarella, Jeffery Oing and Anil Singh. In addition, they wrote that Schorr now “represents several of his domestic relations clients pro bono, has demonstrated great patience and dedication toward these clients, makes himself available to them at all hours, and they have great trust in and gratitude toward him.”
Schorr, who was not available on the day the decision was issued but who commented for this story on Wednesday, said that he did not believe appeals court was disturbed by his past behavior. He also pointed out that he was never found guilty by a state disciplinary committee of the professional conduct rule addressing an unauthorized court recording. Instead, he was found guilty of a broader rule addressing conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
“That ought to tell you something,” he said of not being found guilty of the specific rule.
He also said that the “two very large paragraphs” in the panel’s decision on the mitigating factors “were given far more weight” by the panel than the decision’s one paragraph on aggravating factors.
According to an online biography of Schorr, he earned a law degree from New York University and a master’s degree from Oxford University in England. In the insurance field, he holds degrees from the American College, the biography further states. In the financial-planning field, he has earned the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, it says.