Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Assault On Infant Daughter Draws One-Year Suspension

Non-practice related criminal conduct has resulted in a one-year suspension from the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The Disciplinary Review Board described the circumstances

Sometime between March 22 and 23, 2012, during an alcohol-induced blackout, respondent, who described herself as an "angry drunk," inflicted the following injuries on her eight-week-old daughter: a fractured skull, bleeding in her brain, a palm print on her face, an unidentified injury to her leg, and bruises. As a result, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office charged respondent with one count of second-degree aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(1), and two counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a).

On November 29, 2012, respondent appeared before the Honorable Michael L. Ravin, J.S.C., and pleaded guilty to one count each of third-degree aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-t(b)(7), and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a)(2). In exchange, the Prosecutor’s Office agreed to dismiss the second count of child endangerment and recommend probation, plus anger management classes, parenting classes, and "continued Drug/Alcohol abuse evaluation and treatment."

In addition to the facts underlying respondent’s assault on her infant daughter, respondent testified that, prior to that incident, she had blacked out on more than one occasion. According to respondent, when she was either intoxicated or experiencing a blackout, or both, she would "break stuff" and "go into the [sic] rage."

The bar proceeding

At oral argument before us, respondent’s counsel represented that his client did not report her 2012 conviction to the OAE until 2018 because, prior to that time, she was not certain that she wanted to practice law. Counsel also informed us that, since the incident, respondent has completed a long-term inpatient treatment program, regained custody of her child, and is drug- and alcohol-free. He also represented that she is prepared to accept such form of discipline as we deem appropriate.

The DRB found domestic violence disciplinary cases comparable for sanction purposes

In our view, respondent clearly committed a brutal act of domestic violence against her daughter, which resulted in severe injuries. Under the circumstances, a three-month suspension would be insufficient. Respondent’s victim was not only her own child, but a helpless infant for whom there existed no possibility of de-escalation, self-protection, escape, or even calling for help.

To be sure, respondent was under the influence of alcohol at the time, but the above cases show that the quantum of discipline does not depend on whether the attacker was intoxicated. The horror of a mother, intoxicated or not, brutally attacking her newborn baby cannot be met with a short-term suspension.

(Mike Frisch)

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