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In re Honig

Decided: June 16, 1952.

IN THE MATTER OF HERMAN G. HONIG, AN ATTORNEY AND {Q}COUNSEL{/Q}LOR AT LAW


On order to show cause why the respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.

For two-year suspension -- Justices Heher, Wachenfeld, Burling and Jacobs. For disbarment -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Oliphant and Brennan. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wachenfeld, J. Vanderbilt, C.J. (dissenting).

Wachenfeld

The Ethics and Grievance Committee of Bergen County, on a complaint made, held a formal hearing and took the testimony of the parties in interest and others, after which it unanimously submitted a presentment setting forth:

"* * * this Committee is of the opinion that the said attorney, Herman G. Honig, is guilty of unethical and improper conduct in that he abused and took advantage of the confidence reposed in him by his client for his own personal benefit and gain and that he failed to respect the trust reposed in him by his client."

As a result, we issued an order to show cause, directed to the respondent, why he should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.

He is an attorney and counsellor at law practicing in Waldwick and was also the municipal magistrate of the Borough of Allendale in Bergen County.

The disciplinary proceedings were initiated by Leon R. Kornhoff, a real estate broker.

In the fall of 1950, Kornhoff was critically ill and intended to enter a hospital for a serious operation. He was also in financial difficulty and made an agreement with a friend of his, Berkowitz, whereby he was going to convey his property to Mr. Berkowitz and "* * * in three months' time, if I don't sell it, or redeem it, he keeps it."

For the purpose of having this deed prepared, Kornhoff, on Saturday, November 25, 1950, the day he was to be hospitalized, called at the office of the respondent, Honig, whom he had known for some ten years and who on prior occasions had done legal work for him. Honig warned Kornhoff that under the proposed arrangements he was in danger of losing his house to Berkowitz and offered to give Kornhoff a "better break."

The testimony is at variance as to Honig's proposal. According to Kornhoff, he understood Honig was to take over the property, with Kornhoff and his aged mother, who dwelt with him, having the right to live there rent free for one year, he retaining the right to redeem his property any time within the year by reimbursing Honig for all expenses; if Kornhoff did not survive the operation, the house was to be sold and, after deducting his disbursements and outlays, Honig was to turn the balance of the proceeds over to the mother.

Honig's version, which we are inclined to believe, was that in return for an absolute conveyance of the property he agreed to provide Kornhoff and his mother with a place to live for one year, he paying all the overhead expenses.

In any event, Honig actually prepared a deed for the property to himself and Kornhoff executed it. He also prepared and had executed an agreement between them which read:

"For and in consideration of legal services rendered and the assumption of the mortgage now on the premises known as (description)

and the use and occupancy of said premises for a period of one year from the date hereof,

I, the said Leon R. Kornhoff, do hereby agree to convey the hereinabove premises to Herman G. Honig and I, Herman G. Honig, do hereby agree to accept the aforesaid ...


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