Monday, April 11, 2011
The New Jersey Supreme Court followed a recommendation of its Disciplinary Review Board and imposed a reprimand in a matter who never returned $250 held in escrow. The money had been returned to the attorney from the lawyer for the buyer in a real estate transaction and involved a water bill that had been paid. The attorney failed to return twenty phone calls and letters from his clients and failed to respond to their ethics complaint. He defaulted in the ensuing bar proceeding.
The board states:
For respondent's lack of diligence, failure to communicate with the clients, failure to promptly return thier funds, and failure to reply to the grievance, only an admonition might have been sufficient. Here, however, there is the additional element of the respondent's default. In a default matter, the appropriate discipline for the found ethics violations is enhanced to reflect the attorney's failure to cooperate with disciplinary authorities as an aggravating factor... We, therefore, determine that a reprimand is the appropriate discipline in this case.
It appears from the board report that the clients never got the $250 back.
Is a reprimand really sufficient here? (Mike Frisch)