March 12, 2012
One Disbarred, One Censured
The New Jersey Supreme Court has decided two cases involving trust account violations. The sanctions imposed were quite different.
One attorney was disbarred, as the Disciplinary Review Board rejected the special master's finding of negligence and determined that the attorney had engaged in knowing misappropriation.
The attorney was in partnership with a part-time judge and was primarily responsible for running the law office. There were a number of problems including a burst pipe in an office wall that caused a severe disruption. The attorney used trust funds to deal with the problems.
When he told his partner of the improprieties, he said:
...well, I had to borrow some money from the trust, but I don't think it's going to be a big deal. It's the kind of thing if you get caught, they just slap your hand.
The second attorney was censured.
His misconduct was discovered in a random audit which revealed a shortfall of over $260,000. His wife had stolen the funds and he had not uncovered it, a fact "seemingly at odds with [his] concession that he had reviewed his attorney bank statements on a monthly basis." He restored the funds to the account.
He also lied to the Office of Attorney Ethics (apparently no big deal) and "did not take swift action to uncover the thefts, once he discovered...that his wife was making excessive transfers from the business account to her own personal account."
He had no prior discipline in 27 years of practice. (Mike Frisch)
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