NEW YORK—Is there something in the New York water that brings out the porn defense in lawyers? In 2010, we wrote about the 79-year-old retired Brooklyn attorney who tried (and failed) twice to get the IRS to approve hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax deductions, including money he spent on pornography, prostitutes and massages. Now, another New York lawyer has hit a brick wall with his attempt to get his former law firm (from which he was fired) to pay a $600,000 discrimination judgment, arguing that his mental disorder caused him to spend the firm’s money on porn, escorts and other alleged self-medication.
Following his termination from Hill Betts & Nash, attorney James Hazen filed a discrimination claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights, claiming he suffered from a bipolar disorder. According to Reuters, an administrative law judge awarded Hazen $50,000 and “a subsequent order from the departmental commissioner granted Hazen an additional $550,000 in lost pay.”
However, in his ruling denying the award, appeals court Judge James Catterson said that the firm was unaware of the alleged disorder when it terminated Hazen.
"All that was before (Hill Betts & Nash) when it terminated the petitioner ... was that he had charged more than $21,000 in hotels and other personal expenses [including escorts and porn] to the corporate credit card and tried to bill HBN's clients for personal expenses,” wrote Catterson.
Catterson also chastised Hazen for his claim that he resorted to hotel stays and porn only when his bipolar disorder flared up after learning that he booked the hotel rooms weeks in advance, writing, "The only way to credit the testimony that his disorder caused him to engage in such behavior, is to accept the preposterous notion that he was able to predict his mental state weeks in advance and plan accordingly.”
Catterson said the disorder would not have gotten him off the hook in any case, since "a petitioner's disability does not shield him from the consequences of workplace misconduct.”
Hazen’s attorney said he may appeal the verdict, though it’s unclear how he intends to more successfully explain the apparently premeditated nature of his bipolar disorder.