November 21, 2011
Freeze Play Doesn't Work
The New Jersey Supreme Court has reprimanded an attorney who released escrow funds to his client without the necessary authority of the opposing party. The attorney, who had no prior discipline in 38 years of practice, was representing a client in a bitter divorce case.
The Disciplinary Review Board found that the attorney's conduct involved improper "self-help" but not knowing misappropriation. However, the attorney attempted by agreement to prevent the filing of an ethical complaint, which was additional misconduct:
That respondent knew that [the agreement] eliminating [the opposing party's]] right to file a grievance against him, was unenforceable is without moment. The point was that he wanted [her] to believe it was enforceable. In repondent's own words, he sought to "freeze" her from filing a grievance against him, so that he could continue to represent [his client].
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