March 12, 2012
Show Me the Money
The New Jersey Supreme Court imposed a three-month suspension as recommended by the Disciplinary Review Board for misconduct relating to the rep[resentation of a client who believed that he was not given funds from a retirement party that he was entitled to receive.
The client gave the attorney two things to hold as evidence --- five $100 bills and a gift travel certificate. Issues arose over the attorney's handling of the bills. The gift certificate expired while in the possession of the attorney.
The board found a number of ethical violations. Significantly, the attorney lied at the hearing over the handling of the $100 bills:
At first, he uneqivocally testified that the five $100 bills had been kept in his office safe, intact, until that day. When the panel chair asked him to retieve his safe to show the bills to the panel, he pulled five $100 bills from his pocket, representing that they were the same bills that he had kept as evidence for the...matter. Three of the bills, however, had been printed in 2006, three years after [the client] had given him the money. Respondent, thus, lied when he said that the bills were in the safe, intact. He also testified that a post-it note label identifying the billa as evidence was still in his safe. When he opened the safe, however, his testimony was again proven false.
False testimony under oath at a bar discipline hearing gets the attorney suspended for three months in New Jersey.
In D.C., I'm pleased to say, it can get you disbarred. (Mike Frisch)
Private Conduct, Public Charges
The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney engaged in misconduct as president and treasurer of her condo association:
As President and Treasurer of the Association, Respondent had sole access and control of the Association's funds, which were held in JP Morgan Chase Bank account number ending in 4011 (the "Association's account"). Because she was President and Treasurer of the Association, Respondent also had possession of the Association's checkbook and a debit card linked to the Association's account.
As the Association's President and Treasurer, Respondent was acting as a fiduciary in her dealings with the Association. Because of this fiduciary relationship, Respondent was obligated to exercise at all times the highest degree of loyalty and good faith regarding her handling of the Association's property, and was prohibited from dealing with such property for her own unlawful benefit or unjust enrichment.
Beginning March 31, 2008 through February 1, 2010, Respondent used the Association's debit card to withdraw cash from the Association's account, and to purchase goods and services for her own business or personal purposes, totaling at least $5,666.29. Respondent's purchases included those made at Nordstrom, Jewel, Southwest Airlines and Marc Anthony Salon and Spa. Respondent's cash withdrawals using the Association's debit card included an ATM withdrawal in the amount of $500 at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.
At no time did the Association authorize Respondent to use the Association's funds for her own business or personal purposes.
At no time did Respondent advise the Association that she had used any portion of the Association's funds for her own business or personal purposes.
Between September 3, 2008 and October 9, 2008, as a result of Respondent's use of the Association's funds for her own business and personal purposes, the Association's account was overdrawn on various dates and incurred overdraft fees and other charges totaling $171.00. The Association's account also incurred charges on various dates between May 2008 and December 2009 for balance inquiries and withdrawals made by Respondent from non-Chase owned automatic teller machines.
The complaint alleges that the attorney engaged in conduct involving breach of fiduciary duty and conversion without citation to a disciplinary rule. It also charges a violation of Rule 8.4(c). Because the conduct did not relate to a client representation, there is no Rule 1.15 charge. (Mike Frisch)