Jay Jason Chatarpau, Esq., a New Jersey employment discrimination attorney, represented Rameena Khan in a lawsuit claiming that her employer, Rite Aid stores, among others, discriminated against her on the basis of age, race, sex, ethnicity or national origin, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Hon. Christine A. Farrington, J.S.C., presided over a jury trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants. Chatarpau appealed. While the appeal was pending, the case settled. Chatarpau signed a settlement agreement, which included the following provision:

Plaintiff’s Attorney agrees that as of the execution of this Agreement, [he] has removed: (a) any and all articles, blogs, or other writings that have been authored, posted, publicized or controlled by [him], which disparage or discuss the Lawsuit, Complaint, Federal Action, Amended Complaint, the Trial or the Appeal in any manner whatsoever, from the Internet and elsewhere, … ; and (b) all hyperlinks and references to said articles from the Internet. In addition, respondent agrees not to write any further articles or blogs, or make any non- privileged statements, regarding or referencing the Lawsuit, the Complaint, the Amended Complaint, the Federal Action, the Trial or the Appeal.

The “articles” referred to in the above provision included one that appeared on the website of Chatarpau’s law firm, http://chatarpaullaw.com (the law firm’s website). The article summarized the facts underlying Rite Aid’s termination of Khan’s employment, and purported errors made by Judge Farrington at trial. Chatarpaul stated that:

Judge Farrington made various prejudicial comments suggesting lack of impartiality, improperly excluding [sic] evidence and testimonies, etc., which are the subject of a pending appeal. … [T]he jury’s verdict in favor of Rite Aid was the product of many errors of the trial judge, including various comments suggesting favoritism towards the position of Rite Aid.

The Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) asked Chatarpaul to remove the article about Judge Farrington from his firm’s website, and Chatarpaul complied with the OAE’s request. However, the article remained accessible on the internet through search engines, such as Google. Chatarpaul then took steps to completely remove the article from the internet, and he also sent a letter of apology to Judge Farrington. Unfortunately, the article remained accessible through a Google search, and Chatarpaul admitted that he didn’t know how to thoroughly “scrub” the article from the internet.

The OAE found, among other rulings, that “[Chatarpaul] failed to take reasonable and necessary steps to make sure the [a]rticle was completely removed from the Internet …, and that his failure to do so has unnecessarily consumed resources of the State.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the OAE’s ruling, declining to impose any discipline on Chatarpaul for failing to completely remove the article that criticized Judge Farrington.  The Court found that a violation of the ethics rules requires intent, and that Chatarpaul did not intend to leave the article about Fudge Farrington on the internet. To the contrary, he intended to remove it, and, in fact, removed it from his website, but could not remove the article from the entire internet. Those actions did not give rise to an ethics violation, according to the Court.

The Court’s opinion can be found here-http://drblookupportal.judiciary.state.nj.us/SearchResults.aspx?type=docket_no&docket_no=15-134

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