On presentment of the Ethics and Grievance Committee for Bergen County.
For suspension for two months -- Justices Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For reprimand -- Justices Heher and Oliphant.
William Genser was admitted in this State as an attorney-at-law in April 1937, and as a counsellor-at-law in October 1941, and has maintained offices at Teaneck and at Leonia, both in Bergen County, New Jersey.
In a presentment filed by the Ethics and Grievance Committee for Bergen County, Genser was charged with unethical and unprofessional conduct. R.R. 1:16-4(h). An order to show cause why he should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined was issued.
The violations of ethics and unprofessional conduct charged to Genser were: (1) violation of Canon 6, in that he allegedly permitted his personal interests to conflict with those of a client; (2) violation of Canon 11, in that he allegedly dealt with property of a client to his own advantage; (3) violation of Canon 22, in that he allegedly falsely represented himself to be the attorney of another and thereby obtained the moneys which were allegedly misappropriated; and (4) that Genser signed his name as witness to a concededly forged signature on a written contract.
Although the presentment alleged violation of specific canons, however in the consideration of such presentment the following paragraph of the Preamble of the Canons of Professional Ethics is pertinent:
"No code or set of rules can be framed, which will particularize all the duties of the lawyer in the varying phases of litigation or in all the relations of professional life. The following canons of ethics are adopted by the American Bar Association as a general guide, yet the enumeration of particular duties should not be construed as a denial of the existence of others equally imperative, though not specifically mentioned."
In this case the presentment charged the respondent with being guilty of unprofessional conduct based on transactions set forth in the presentment and the testimony taken before the Ethics and Grievance Committee for Bergen County, of
which presentment and evidence the respondent was fully cognizant.
An attorney's responsibility is to the courts, the profession and the public, and his misconduct may be of such a nature as to engender disrespect for the law which is his basic trust. In re Howell, 10 N.J. 139, 140-141 (1952).
The facts in this case are that Alfred L. Weiss and Samuel Goldwasser, New York attorneys, were associated with others as Ramsey Associates. A proposed project of Ramsey Associates was for the construction of a restaurant and other facilities on a tract of land at Ramsey, New Jersey, acquired by Mynard E. Greene, a local real estate broker and contractor. Greene transferred his interest to one Kaplan who in turn transferred his interest to Ramsey Associates.
Weiss and Goldwasser contracted with Greene to clear the land and erect a sign on the property. The price Greene was to receive was $1830 ($250 of which was for the sign). Green hired Lucien J. Luckel to supervise the clearing work. The work began. Greene became critically ill. Mrs. Greene asked Maurice H. Ludwin (an attorney and real estate broker interested with Greene in brokerage transactions relating to the project) and Genser to "take care of things," as they were long standing friends of the Greenes. Weiss and Goldwasser heard that dirt fill was being taken onto the property, which they contended was not compliance with their agreement with Greene. They immediately proceeded from New York City to the project and they ordered Luckel to stop work. Ludwin and Genser were also present. Whether there was any representation that Genser represented anyone does not clearly appear. The reason why Genser was present is not definitely established although it would seem throughout the affair he was not acting in the capacity of a lawyer but of one seeking to interlope on some prospective business ...