Attorney is Suspended After Accusing Judge of Religious Bias
Las Vegas attorney Jacob Hafter was suspended by the Nevada Supreme Court partly because he accused a judge of religious prejudice on social media. Jacob Hafter was suspended for six months in a November 17 court order, which claimed he made the comments with no basis in fact. The order also stated Hafter had made false statements under oath in another legal matter. Nearly half – three of the court’s seven justices – said they would have instead imposed a stayed suspension.
“The most serious instance of misconduct was Hafter’s intentional dishonesty in the statements he made under oath, which was done for his personal benefit,” four justices wrote. “By making such false statements, Hafter knowingly violated duties owed to the legal system and as a professional, which resulted in actual injury and had the potential to cause more serious injury.”
The complaint came about following comments Hafter made back in 2014 about then-District Judge Valorie Vega after she had denied him a request to change a trial date due to a Jewish holiday. He accused her of religious prejudice on his Facebook page and also in a media interview that followed.
“Either she’s anti-Semitic or she’s biased against me. In either case, she shouldn’t be the judge in this case,” he said in the interview. Vega responded she refused to move the trial date not because of her religious views, but because it would prejudice the plaintiffs and Hafter had agreed to the date in the first place.
Hafter also made the alleged false statements during a collection proceeding against him and his wife, according to the suspension order. The justices accused the attorney of engaging in fraudulent conduct and making misrepresentations in order to evade a $137,000 judgment against his law firm in Arizona. Hafter said he lacked income or possessions to satisfy a judgment, despite evidence his firm had received attorney fees and contingency payments.
Not long after the order was put into effect, Hafter returned to Facebook, stating: “This state is so crooked. It is so sad. We have attorneys who steal from clients and they get stayed suspensions and slaps on the hand. I try to follow my religion and defend myself in a private litigation matter and the Supreme Court suspends me for 6 months, effective immediately. What about all the clients I have? I represent clients that no other attorney will take. I do it, often, without charge or for delayed compensation. I am a solo practitioner. How is that fair to the public?”
He also stated in an email: “Overlooking the fact that they can use a private litigation matter and my advocacy to observe my religious practices to suspend me for six months is appalling. Worse, for the court to suggest that because they didn’t believe my speech to be true, or, in other words, they did not agree with me regarding the content of my speech, and therefore I do not have any First Amendment protections eviscerates the entire purpose of free speech. We should be able to criticize our elected judges without fear that we will lose our entire livelihood and professional career.”