A Northwestern University law professor came under fire for his “shameful” conduct in litigation. U.S. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter took aim at Bernard Black‘s behavior in a probate case against his sister. Nothing gets quite as messy as family drama.
A previous court found Black used his position as a conservator to steal $1.5 million from his mentally ill sister. And there was subsequent litigation filed by Black, and his wife, Katherine Litvak, also a Northwestern Law prof, which complicated the payback process. Judge Neureiter was… not impressed with their actions, writing, “The fact that Mr. Black and his wife are lawyers and law professors makes the conduct in this affair that much more appalling.”
The matter was before Neureiter as Black was attempting to remove a motion in the probate case to federal court. But, as reported by Law360, Judge Neureiter was having exactly none of that:
“His conduct, as described in the underlying state probate case, is shameful,” Neureiter wrote. “That conduct, coupled with his ongoing attempts to interfere with efforts by Joanne’s guardian to recoup money ($1.5 million-plus) that he stole from Joanne, are unbecoming of a lawyer admitted to practice law in any jurisdiction.”
Bernard Black is on the hook for repaying not just the $1.5 million the Denver Probate Court concluded he stole from his sister, but another $3 million after the damages were tripled.
Beyond that, Judge Neureiter wrote that Bernard Black and his wife, Katherine Litvak, “conspired to fraudulently encumber the accounts which contain the stolen money, making it more difficult for the money to be released for his sister’s benefit.”
And the judge “would not hesitate to refer him for discipline,” were Black admitted to practice in Colorado. And he’s sure going to recommend New York (where Black is barred) do something about it:
“The package to the Appellate Division should include a formal request that the appropriate New York State Bar disciplinary authority investigate Mr. Black for his conduct as described in those reported decisions and in this case, and consider imposing appropriate discipline, including potentially suspension or disbarment,” Judge Neureiter wrote.
But rather than express contrition, Black lashed out at the system, saying Judge Neureiter’s removal decision was “clearly wrong” and said of the probate court, “This whole thing is a crock of nonsense.”
Black and Litvak continued:
“He’s upset at me for a frivolous petition,” Bernard Black said of Judge Neureiter. “I’m rather upset at him for what I want to call a frivolous opinion.”
Meanwhile, he said the probate judge that found him liable for civil theft “is an embarrassment,” and alleged she “makes up facts with no basis in the record.”
Litvak also attacked the probate judge’s credibility, accusing [probate judge, Elizabeth D. Leith] of trying to save face by punishing her husband in the underlying case because she would have to acknowledge she signed off on the legal instrument used for purported the civil theft she found him to have committed.
“She decided that to protect her political career, she’s going to take down my husband,” Litvak said.
Black also indicated he’s planning on filing objections to the magistrate’s report.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.
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