Thursday, July 29, 2010
The New Jersey Supreme Court today imposed a one-year suspension that will continue until the attorney complies with certain conditions in a case that "dealt mainly with charges of sexual bartering." The attorney had been previously disciplined four times for misconduct that primarily involved failures to communicate with clients. He admitted in this matter that he had practiced while suspended for failure to pay his annual assessment and had not properly maintained law office records.
The remaining charges involved allegations that he offered discounted legal services or refunds to three female clients and the daughter of a fourth client "in the context of suggestions that they perform certain acts with him or with other women while he watched." He told one lesbian client that her lesbianism was caused "by a bad experience with the male sexual organ," that she was "looking good," and that he "would return $600 of fees she had paid him if she joined him on the office couch." He claimed that these and other similar comments were made in jest.
The attorney's explanation was rejected by a district ethics committee and the Disciplinary Review Board. The DRB proposed a three-month suspension with two dissenters favoring a six-month sit down. The court here took a sterner view, although the court majority concluded that disbarment was "disproportionate...for his boorish, insensitive and offensive, but hardly criminal, conduct."
Justice LaVecchia, joined by Justice Albin, would disbar: "A zero-tolerance policy toward attorneys who prey on clients, whether financially or as [he] has done, is needed to protect the public and the reputation of the profession." (Mike Frisch)