Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Not Kissing Cousins

The New Jersey Supreme Court has dismissed ethics charges, agreeing with the recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board in rejecting charges found by the District Ethics Committee.

THe attorney was admitted in 1975 (my year as well) and has no prior discipline.

The board found that the complainant ("grievant") had failed to establish that respondent (his first cousin) was his attorney in a protracted estate dispute.

Respondent and the grievant, Vincent Onorato Alfait, are cousins. The facts underlying this matter span a period of thirty-eight years, and revolve around the estates of respondent’s and grievant’s grandfather, John DiBella (John), and their uncle, Samuel DiBella (Sam), including real estate formerly owned by John and Sam.

The hearing findings were rejected by the board

We were concerned that the DEC’s findings seemed to go to great lengths to place respondent’s conduct in the light least favorable to him and most favorable to the grievant, while ignoring the conduct of the grievant, as criticized by not just respondent, but by other members of the Bloomfield Parcel Owners and by the findings and rulings of the Superior Court. Although respondent was not completely above reproach in this case, the DEC’s findings of fact and recommended quantum of discipline widely miss the mark. Quite troubling is the DEC’s complete reliance on documentary evidence in respect of the grievant’s allegations against respondent, despite the grievant’s failure to testify, juxtaposed against the panel’s utter dismissal of the exculpatory certification of Janssen as mere unreliable hearsay. Although we appreciate the voluntary service of the DEC members, in this case, we are not able to agree with their findings.

(Mike Frisch)


Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


This is an excellent case for review in law school ethics classes or state legal ethics complaint reform. The DEC Committee conducted a thorough scholarly review of archival records including Attorney Herz's copious email exchanges. The DEC basis for an interminate suspension was well-documented and well-founded Docket V-C 2016-0011E. Herz's appeal attorney primarily relied upon blocking the petitioner from testifying remotely from his home 3000 miles away in spite of physician documentation for this requirement, then arguing he did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the Petitioner whose participation he blocked. This allowed Herz's cohorts free reign to provide vague, but derogatory false statements about the Petitioner's credibility -- the primary issue for Herz. The strategy carried the day, but tarnished the integrity of the process. Fascinating!

Posted by: Dr. Vince Alfait | Nov 16, 2021 3:31:21 PM

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