Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed with the recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board and imposed a public censure for an attorney's negligent misappropriation of entrusted funds.
The attorney entered solo private practice in 1996. He previously had held non-attorney positions at AT&T. He never had supervision from a more senior attorney.
The attorney handled real estate transactions and kept earned fees in the trust account. The trust violations were found in a 2002 random audit.
The attorney fully cooperated and admitted that his record keeping was grossly deficient. Disciplinary charges were instituted in 2007 and are now just getting concluded.
The lengthy DRB report identifies the "vehemently contested" issue as whether the instances of misappropriation were intentional or negligent. The DRB found that the attorney had a good faith belief that he had earned the misappropriated funds. The Office of Attorney Ethics appealed and sought disbarment.
The court agreed with the DRB's negligence conclusion and found that attorney's failure to adhere to trust account requirements was "not an intentional ignorance that clouded a more nefarious intent." Further, no client had been harmed.
Judge Wefing would impose a short suspension and noted that it was the attorney's "great fortune" that no client was harmed. (Mike Frisch)