Manhattan attorney Scott A. Stern was disbarred Tuesday by a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, for physically threatening judges and lawyers.
Stern pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment and stalking in January 2010. He admitted he told a court clerk that he was “seriously considering resorting to violence” against a judge and asked whether he should come back to the courthouse “with a bat.” He also admitted to sending a box cutter to a judge, with instructions to show it to six other judges and to attorneys representing his landlord.
Shortly before these incidents, Stern had been admitted to psychiatric hospital with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and held there involuntarily for several days, until a judge ordered him released upon finding that he was not “gravely disabled.”
As part of his plea, Stern agreed to resign from the bar without possibility of reinstatement. However, the departmental disciplinary committee rejected Stern’s first resignation because it was not notarized, and did not accept a second resignation because it failed to include a required admission that he could not defend himself against disciplinary charges on the merits.
The committee brought charges against him, seeking disbarment. Stern did not appear in the proceeding. A referee recommended disbarment, but a hearing panel recommended “indefinite suspension” instead on the grounds that Stern was incapacitated.
The First Department found that, while attorneys who have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility may be indefinitely suspended pursuant to 22 NYCRR §603.16, Stern’s brief hospital stay in 2009 did not qualify him for that remedy. It therefore disbarred him.
Matter of Stern, M-5633, appears on page 7 of the print edition.