Two Judges Decline to Sanction Sorkin Over His Advocacy

, New York Law Journal


Ira Sorkin

In two separate rulings, one state and one federal judge declined to punish high-profile attorney Ira Lee Sorkin for his advocacy in a now-dismissed civil racketeering case.

Though Eastern District Judge Arthur Spatt disqualified Sorkin, of Lowenstein Sandler, and later tossed the suit, he stopped short on Jan. 10 of sanctioning Sorkin and plaintiff Annette Lorber, finding their decision to bring the case was not "wholly unreasonable."

A day earlier, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Jerome Murphy dismissed a related action that alleged Sorkin told "outright lies" about how he came to possess a document subject to the work product privilege between an adversary and the adversary's attorney.

"Was Sorkin's defense of a claim that he had utilized a document shielded by the attorney work product deceit or collusion within the intent of [Judiciary Law] §487? The Court believes not," Murphy wrote in Winston v. Sorkin, 8227-13.

Both rulings mark the latest round for a legal brawl touched off by a July 2012 suit that Lorber brought against her estranged son-in-law, real estate developer Jonathan Winston and others. With the suit dismissed on procedural grounds, Winston countered with a challenge to Sorkin's conduct related to possession of the privileged document and his decision to file the suit for Lorber in the first place.

The matter traces back to 1999, when the National Association of Securities Dealers—the predecessor of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority—launched an investigation into Winston. He retained Sorkin.

When Winston later learned he was under criminal investigation, he asked Sorkin to represent him, but Sorkin cited a conflict of interest and declined.

While under investigation, Winston married Lorber's daughter, Eve, in April 2000. Their divorce is pending, said Winston's attorney, Judd Burstein of Manhattan.

In March 2001, Winston was indicted and later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, agreeing to a $108 million restitution order. His five-year probation sentence expired in 2010.

In July 2012, Lorber sued her estranged son-in-law, saying, among other things, that he "fraudulently borrow[ed] or outright [stole] funds" from her totalling about $10 million.

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