Thursday, February 20, 2014
The New Jersey Supreme Court has imposed a censure of an attorney convicted of offenses arising from a road rage incident with two younger drivers.
...respondent was driving through the town of Clinton below the posted twenty-five mile per hour speed limit, when a car with two young men (ages nineteen and twenty) began to tailgate him. Respondent became upset with the driver of the vehicle and, when the speed limit increased to forty miles per hour, he continued to drive at a speed of twenty miles per hour. Respondent gestured with his middle finger at the other vehicle. Both individuals in the other vehicle returned the gesture. Respondent then slammed on his brakes, almost causing a collision. He pulled over to the side of the road, opened his car door, partially emerged from the vehicle, and brandished a knife. The two young men drove past respondent, at which time respondent got back into his vehicle and began to follow them through several towns for approximately nine to twelve miles. During the pursuit, the passengers could still see respondent brandishing the knife. One of the two young men called the police to report respondent’s aggressive driving and to complain that he was waving a knife. The dispatcher instructed the young men to drive to the Hunterdon Medical Center where the police were waiting. Initially, when the police questioned respondent at the scene, he denied that he had a knife but, later, admitted having one in his car. He falsely informed the police that a mechanic where his car had been serviced had given the knife to him to use to fix his vehicle. Respondent also told the police that the reason he followed the men was to annoy them.
The Disciplinary Review Board described the factors that led to the censure recommendation
...respondent had no physical contact with the driver and passenger of the other vehicle. His actions, however, were menacing. He followed them for several miles and waved a knife at them, prompting the young men to seek police intervention. In that regard, respondent’s conduct is more serious than Thakker’s (reprimand). However, his conduct is not as serious as that of the attorneys who received suspensions, where actual physical contact was involved. Furthermore, he is receiving treatment for his psychological and medical issues and is not an attorney from whom the public must be protected, given that he is not currently engaged in the practice of law. For these reasons, we determine to impose a censure, rather than the three-month suspension recommended by the OAE.
The attorney presented evidence of psychological issues that made him angry at being followed too closely by another vehicle.
He had no prior discipline. (Mike Frisch)