When lawyers are admitted to practice in New Jersey, we swear an oath to uphold and defend the New Jersey Constitution and the laws of the State of New Jersey, as well as the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States. We become bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct, which provide the ethical standards to which we must adhere in our practice of the law. I, like most lawyers, take the oath that I made seriously. I, like most other lawyers, strive every day of my practice to honor that oath. And most of us, without needing to give much thought to it at all, remain within the bounds set by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Most of us understand that our profession is one that holds itself to a higher standard. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to every rule.
On September 4, 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court suspended attorney Jared Stolz for, among other things, calling opposing counsel a “fag,” telling his adversary that he whined “like a little girl” and telling that same adversary that he needed to “grow a pair.”
Stolz’s conduct is disgusting. As a member of the New Jersey bar, not only is Stolz required to uphold our state constitution and laws, he is required to treat his opposing counsel with the courtesy and respect demanded by the Rules of Professional Conduct. This means he is required to set aside any personal prejudice he may have, including his obvious homophobia. Instead, he diminished himself, and in so doing, diminished all of us, when he chose to use abhorrent homophobic language against his adversary.
The New Jersey Supreme Court did the right thing in suspending this attorney from the practice of law for three months. For me, I think a longer suspension would have been more appropriate, but I am heartened that the Supreme Court took this matter as seriously as it did. I hope that this disciplinary action will serve as a reminder to all attorneys, and to the public that we serve, that we are held to a higher standard and that resort to language that is homophobic, racist, sexist or in other ways discriminatory, cannot and will not be tolerated.