Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stealing From Blind Vendor Draws Censure

The New Jersey Disciplinary Review Board has ordered a censure of an attorney admitted in 1974. The attorney was employed by the state Department of Human Services ("DHS"). He was observed stealing items from a DHS refreshment vendor. The police were advised of the behavior and installed a surveillance camera.

Fourteen times over a five week period, the attorney was "observed taking various food and/or beverage items from the refreshment vendor, without paying for the items. The vendor was a blind operator for the Commission for the Blind and Visually impaired Enterprise Program."

The attorney was not criminally prosecuted and had no record of bar discipline. As part of a settlement, he paid the vendor $1,200. He is listed as "retired" with the Bar and it was not clear in the record whether he had ever actively practiced law.

The sanction was imposed notwithstanding the board's expressed view that the offenses were "particularly repugnant" because the attorney took advantage of the vendor's blindness.

Anyone think censure is a tad light?  (Mike Frisch)

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Striking is the amount of emphasis on finding precedent for the sanction, when the case is different from others by involving conduct that everybody would recognize as reprehensible. The legal analysis served to avoid an analysis of the facts of the case, the avidonce shown by the prosecutor's inability to find a single aggravating factor; the victim's blindness itself was surely an aggravation.

The discipline system was punishing wrongdoers rather than protecting the public. The police regarded the crime as beneath prosecution because of the meager worth of the stolen items, but the court's duty was to analyze the significance of the misdeed for the lawyer's moral character, for which the conduct is damning in the absence of mitigation.

Posted by: Stephen R. Diamond | Oct 25, 2010 1:09:04 AM

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