Sunday, September 22, 2019
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered the disbarment of a former county party chairman convicted of RICO and other crimes.
The majority of the Disciplinary Review Board favored that sanction
Here, respondent did not have prior notice of the Court’s announcement in Cammarano, because his misconduct pre-dated the issuance of that decision. However, the holding in Cammarano did not create new law with regard to the discipline imposed on an attorney who engages in bribery. Indeed, New Jersey attorney disciplinary jurisprudence has an unfortunately lengthy history of disbarment cases involving bribery, most pre-dating respondent’s criminal conduct.
He was not a fringe player in the scheme
Here, however, respondent was a part of the orchestration of the bribery scheme, and he benefited from it. Moreover, there were distinct victims - the several municipalities that suffered financial harm as a result of his acts...
In hopes of staving off disbarment, respondent presented mitigation in the form of letters from twenty-eight individuals and a video with additional testimonials. He has been a member of the bar for thirty-six years without prior discipline, performed legal services on a pro bono basis, and gathered the testimonials of members of the bar and the public as to his fine character, his qualifications as an attorney, and his service to the community as a firefighter and in other respects.
Respondent’s good deeds have not gone unnoticed. However, as in several of the disbarment cases cited herein, attorneys with compelling mitigation were disbarred for their involvement in official bribery. For example, in Jones, the attorney was disbarred despite substantial financial needs, emotional stress, inexperience at the bar, remorse, and letters of support from his family and members of his community. The mitigating factors were simply insufficient to mitigate the harm caused by his involvement in official bribery.
A DRB minority would impose a retroactive three-year suspension
In concluding that disbarment is not warranted in this case, we do not suggest that respondent was blameless or that he is not deserving of serious discipline. We have little doubt that his position as a party official carried weight with municipal officials to whom he recommended C3. Respondent’s client, C3, benefitted from his recommendation and respondent was compensated, by payment of a commission, as a result.