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Lawyer gets slap on wrist for feeding answers at Zoom deposition

A federal judge has decided that the Boston managing partner accused of “feeding” answers to a witness during a remote deposition has suffered enough and only should be referred to counseling to learn to control his emotions.

U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin handed down his order after a remotely conducted Jan. 19 show cause hearing on whether to impose discipline on Jeffrey M. Rosin, the managing partner of O’Hagan Meyer’s Boston office.

“Considering the totality of the circumstances, the Court refers Attorney Rosin to Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers for the limited purpose of receiving and completing counseling on better management of emotions and judgment in the face of adversity,” Sorokin wrote. “The Court finds no other further sanction appropriate in the circumstances, and no further proceedings on sanctions are warranted.”

Before the court was resolution of an attorney discipline proceeding against Rosin commenced pursuant to District of Massachusetts Local Rule 83.6.5(d)(3).

The rule provides for the resolution of a disciplinary proceeding in federal court by settlement.

The case comes amid the growing use of Zoom and other remote technologies as COVID-19 has temporarily shut down many online depositions and hearings.

The matter landed on Sorokin’s desk as a referral for attorney discipline by Judge Indira Talwani in a commercial dispute, Barksdale School Portraits LLC v. Williams.

In that case, Talwani granted in part the plaintiffs’ motions for sanctions, which included disqualification of Rosin as counsel for defendant Elizabeth Williams. Talwani found that there could be “little question” that Rosin had engaged in misconduct during an April 28, 2021, Zoom deposition of Williams.

“By exploiting the remote nature of the deposition to improperly assist Ms. Williams, Mr. Rosin plainly frustrated Plaintiffs’ rights to a fair examination of Ms. Williams,” Talwani wrote.

Talwani further found that Rosin’s actions were not a “momentary” lapse of judgment but were repeated numerous times over the course of the day.

“In coaching Ms. Williams during her deposition, Mr. Rosin undermined the truth-seeking purpose of discovery,” Talwani wrote.

In his order on sanctions, Sorokin concluded that Rosin’s conduct at the deposition violated Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 3.4(c), which prohibits lawyers from “knowingly” violating other rules of court. On that count, Sorokin cited Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(d), which prohibits conduct by a lawyer “that impedes, delays, or frustrates the fair examination of [a] deponent.”

The judge further cited Mass. Prof. R. 8.4(h), which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct that “adversely reflects” on his or her fitness to practice law.

“The conduct at issue here plainly ran afoul of these rules,” Sorokin wrote.

In deciding that Rosin’s conduct only warranted a referral to counseling, Sorokin observed that the attorney had accepted responsibility for his misconduct.

Further, Sorokin found that Rosin had suffered enough given that he had to withdraw from the underlying case, his firm forgave the $65,000 fee owed by the client, and he was subjected to media attention over the disciplinary matter.