November 20, 2010
The New Jersey Disciplinary Review Board has ordered a suspension of three months conditioned on proof of fitness of an attorney who had "left obscene and threatening messages on a former client's answering machine and later threw a hammer through the client's closed living room window." The attorney did not file an answer to the bar complaint.
The underlying case involved the defense of a consumer fraud action. Judgment was entered against the client and no appeal was taken. When the judgment was executed three years later, the client claimed surprise and asserted that the attorney should have appealed.
That evening, the attorney met with the client at the client's home. The attorney "appeared intoxicated and acted in a belligerent manner toward [the client], but left without incident." Three phone messages were left at 2 am the next morning. The hammer throw was an hour later. The client "peered through the broken window just in time to see [the attorney] drive off."
The attorney pled guilty to a petty criminal charge.
in 2008, the attorney reached an agreement in lieu of discipline that included restitution for the window, that he attend AA meetings and a letter of apology to the client. He failed to report compliance with the conditions but later stated that his alcoholism and depression had prevented him from doing so. The board here rejected charges that his non-compliance constituted a failure to cooperate with ethics authorities or was prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The attorney must submit proof of fitness to practice by a mental health professional approved by the Office of Attorney Ethics. (Mike Frisch)
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