March 26, 2012
The New Jersey Supreme Court imposed a three-year suspension with conditions in a matter involving an attorney whose trust account mismanagement led to a series of misappropriations.
The attorney had a record of prior discipline that included a 1988 private reprimand for a breach of confidentiality, a six-month suspension for negligent misappropriation and dishonesty in 1994 and a three-month suspension in 2001 for a false certification to opposing counsel regarding his services.
The attorney produced the testimony of a expert to the effect that his prior discipline had caused him to suffer from a "phobic avoidance" of his trust acount responsibilities.
The attorney's aggressive attacks on the hearing judges delayed the proceedings and was considered an aggravating factor. The Office of Attorney Ethics called the attacks "wholly baseless" and "not simply lacking in civility, [but] unprecedented in their mean-spiritedness." eventually, the attorney entered into a disciplinary stipulation.
When trust account phobia becomes a mitigating factor, we can give up any pretense that self-regulation works. (Mike Frisch)
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