It’s good to be passionate about your work, but not too passionate. Take the case of Stanley Protokowicz, a Maryland divorce lawyer. He represented one Thomas Sanders (his best friend), who, shortly after divorce proceedings began, learned that his wife had been having an extramarital affair. Things began to go downhill at a meeting after a hearing before Harford County Circuit Court Judge Cypert Whitfill. As the Circuit Court for Baltimore County later explained:
It was during this meeting to discuss child custody and visitation that [Mr. Protokowicz] referred to Ms. Sanders as a slut. Although [Mr. Protokowicz] testified that it was Ms. Mervis (the lawyer for Ms. Sanders) who first referred to her client as a slut, the court finds [Mr. Protokowicz] was the first to use the term. Apparently [Mr. Protokowicz] was extremely emotional about Ms. Sanders conduct which he termed immoral. During this period there were rumors that there had been more than one adulterous affair during their marriage.
The Court continues (as if reciting the plot from a bad episode of Melrose Place):
Some of those rumors persisted and perhaps originated at the country club. There was some attempt by some members of the country club to bar Ms. Sanders’ use of the club swimming pool. Apparently Mr. Sanders was behind Ms. Sanders’ exclusion. . . In response to Ms. Mervis’ questioning as to why this was happening at the club, [Mr. Protokowicz] speculated that prior to the Sanders’ marital problems, Ms. Sanders was very popular at the club. Women members would circle around her when she put her chair down at the pool and now when she put her chair down, the others turned their chairs away.
Ms. Mervis referred to Ms. Sanders as a JAP, saying that if Ms. Sanders weren’t Jewish, she should be because she’s a Jewish American Princess. (Ms. Mervis attributes that reference to [Mr. Protokowicz]) In response to Ms. Mervis’ insistence on an explanation of why the women at the country club were snubbing Ms. Sanders, [Mr. Protokowicz] said, ‘Lisa, if I went into your Temple this week and shit on the floor, you wouldn’t welcome me back next week.’ Ms. Mervis testified that she was offended and took the remarks as anti-semitic.
Cat lovers might want to stop here. Dog lovers, click here to get to the microwaved cat.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Protokowicz moved in with his best friend/client, Mr. Sanders. Then things start to go really wrong for our hero. As described by the court:
In the evening of October 12, 1991, Mr. Sanders had been to Ms. Sanders home to search for corporate papers/stock certificates. Apparently unsuccessful, he returned the next evening with [Mr. Protokowicz]. In the afternoon of October 13, 1991, [Mr. Protokowicz] had been to a bull roast and drank several beers. Later that evening he consumed a half fifth of rum. When respondent and Mr. Sanders departed for Ms. Sanders’ house, both were intoxicated.
Ms. Sanders had spent that weekend in Annapolis and Ocean City, Maryland and upon her return home at about 10:00 p.m. on Monday, October 14, 1991, she and her children found their kitten, Max, on the kitchen floor. Max was dead. He was wet and there was an odor of champagne about him.
It was clear to Ms. Sanders that someone had been in her house. A photo of daughter Kerry on the refrigerator was disturbed, her contraceptive was found on the bathroom floor, bedroom dresser drawers were open and letters and underwear were moved about. The toilet was clogged and flooded the bathroom the next day.
This wasn’t a good week for Ms. Sanders.
On Friday, October 18, Ms. Sanders used her microwave oven for the first time since the death of Max. She was defrosting a bagel and smelled the distinct odor of cat. Upon examining the interior of the microwave, she observed cat hair. It was then she realized how Max had died.
So, here we have a divorce lawyer, dead drunk, accompanying his best friend/client to his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s house, while she is out of town. There, they break in, ransack the place looking for evidence, and in the process, clog the toilet, and kill the family cat in the microwave.
And get this, Mr. Protokowicz told the court that “he accidentally turned the microwave oven on when the cat was in it.” Yeah, that almost happened to me this morning. My crazy cat just loves to sleep in the microwave, which I always leave open for him. And I’m always turning that darned microwave on by accident, without opening it!
Not surprisingly, the Maryland Court of Appeals did not look favorably on this sort of behavior. It suspended Mr. Protokowicz’ license to practice law indefinitely, forbidding him from applying for reinstatement within a period of one year.
The case is Attorney Grievance Commission v. Protokowicz, 619 A.2d 100 (Md. 1993).