A Long Island civil rights attorney has been disbarred after being convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring court orders during a federal employment discrimination case, among other misconduct.
The unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, Second Department, ruled Wednesday in Matter of Pollack, 2009-00948, that attorney Ruth M. Pollack's behavior added up to a long-standing pattern of disrespect toward the court system and warranted disbarment.
Pollack was convicted of criminal contempt in 2008 in connection with her representation of the plaintiff in an employment discrimination case (NYLJ, Sept. 29, 2008). That case, Stuart v. Secretary of the Department of the Interior, 07-cv-2239, was filed in 1999 but did not go to trial until 2007.
Eastern District Judge Joseph Bianco (See Profile) dismissed the case two weeks after the trial began as a sanction against Pollack, finding that she repeatedly came to court late or not at all, questioned witnesses after being ordered to stop and referred to court orders as "illegal." Bianco's order described Pollack's conduct as "bizarre" and "contumacious."
Bianco also initiated criminal contempt proceedings against Pollack before Eastern District Judge Allyne Ross (See Profile). Following Pollack's 2008 conviction, Ross sentenced her to two years of probation and suspended her from practicing in the Eastern District for 45 days.
Pollack was subsequently suspended for two years from the Eastern District for continuing to practice during her 45-day suspension, and reciprocally suspended for two years from the Southern District. In 2010, she was disbarred from the Southern District for continuing to practice there while suspended, and was reciprocally disbarred from the Eastern District in 2011.
The state Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District instituted a disciplinary proceeding against Pollack on its own motion in 2009. A special referee, Arthur Cooperman, sustained the charges against Pollack, and the committee moved for the Second Department to confirm the finding.
Pollack never responded to the motion, though Wednesday's order said she had "ample opportunity to do so." Pollack disputes this, claiming she was never served.
In its order, the Second Department noted that Pollack had a "substantial disciplinary history" in addition to the contempt conviction. She was admonished in 1998 for failing to provide a refund to a client in a timely matter; censured in 2000 for failing to turn client files over to new counsel; sent a letter of caution from the grievance committee warning her to better manage her caseload so she could serve her clients; and sent another letter of caution in 2010 for failing to satisfy an arbitration award.
"Based upon the foregoing, we find that the respondent has engaged in a pattern of behavior that goes to the heart of the judicial system," the panel wrote in Matter of Pollack, 2009-00948. "At no time has she made a 'good faith' effort to test the viability of procedures and rulings of the courts. Rather, she has arbitrarily declared them 'illegal' or otherwise decided simply not to comply, repeatedly demonstrating a willingness to violate any rules or procedures which she finds unsuitable."
Pollack said in an interview she was never served with any disciplinary proceeding and never had a chance to defend herself against what she called "false accusations."
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