Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hung Up

The New Jersey Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for three months for conduct in his divorce when he hung up on the judge during a proceeding in which he participated by telephone.

The Disciplinary Review Board described the conduct at issue

In respect of the charge that respondent engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, during the April 4, 2018 motion hearing in the divorce action before Judge Franzblau, respondent had appeared by telephone, apparently from Italy.

During the proceeding, respondent was sworn as a witness and confirmed with the Court his e-mail and mailing address in Italy for the domestic violence matter. When the judge asked respondent whether he knew that a TRO had been issued against him on May 15, 2017, he indicated that he did not, prompting the judge to attempt to read the TRO complaint aloud, to put respondent on notice of it.  The judge explained that he was going to schedule that matter for an April 26, 2018 hearing on final restraints. As he began to read the complaint, respondent objected to service by telephone and abruptly terminated the telephone call, while the judge was in mid-sentence.

Despite respondent’s contention that the court could not assert jurisdiction over him to effect service by telephone, respondent was a sworn witness appearing of his own volition in Superior Court at the time. Nevertheless, he interrupted the judge and terminated the telephone call in an attempt to thwart the proceedings. Respondent’s conduct is akin to appearing in court in person, being sworn, and then leaving the courtroom when the judge changed the topic to a second matter. Respondent was not free to pick and choose which aspects of the court’s jurisdiction he would accede to that day.

The attorney was suspended for six months in 2017 and has not been reinstated. 

New Jersey Herald reported on the prior case

Garofalo was charged in a November 2015 complaint by the Office of Attorney Ethics with several counts of professional misconduct, including sexual harassment and the stalking of a woman that amounted to a criminal act. He also was charged with making false statements to investigators looking into his misconduct.

Prior to being served with the complaint, Garofalo’s actions were reported in March 2014 by the first of the two women he was alleged to have harassed. At the time, the law firm of Laddey, Clark & Ryan, where he was then working, opened an internal investigation that uncovered his ongoing use of the firm’s email system to engage in cyber harassment.

Garofalo left the firm nine days later. Shortly afterward, the firm reported his conduct to authorities

An 18-month investigation by the Office of Attorney Ethics revealed that Garofalo had been sending unsolicited, harassing email messages to the woman over a period of years. In the messages, he pestered her for sex and referenced her variously as his “love doll,” “sweet cheeks” and other such terms.

After she repeatedly spurned his advances, Garofalo’s emails became more abusive. After she arrived for work one morning and found a photo of Garofalo taped to the front door of the building where she was then working, the woman filed a police report.

The investigation later revealed Garofalo’s cyber harassment of a second woman along with his use of the email system of Sandyston Township, where he was then serving as township attorney, to send out harassing messages.

The complaint against him noted that he repeatedly denied his use of the township’s email system to investigators and only admitted to it after they told him they would subpoena the township’s email records if he did not come clean.

Prior to his legal troubles, Garofalo had served for several years as the municipal attorney for Montague, Odgensburg, Sandyston, Stillwater, Walpack and Wantage. He also served as the Land Use Board Attorney in Vernon and as the municipal attorney for Oxford Township in Warren County.

Garofalo, in addition to holding the above posts, also served several years as the unpaid legal counsel to the Sussex County Republican Committee.

He failed to participate in this disciplinary proceeding. (Mike Frisch)

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