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In re Stoldt

Decided: May 22, 1962.

IN THE MATTER OF SYDNEY VALE STOLDT, AN ATTORNEY-AT-LAW


On petition for reinstatement and on order to show cause why respondent should not be disciplined.

For granting reinstatement -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. Opposed -- None.

Per Curiam

On March 20, 1961, petitioner, a member of the bar of this State, was suspended from practicing law for a period of six months. In re Stoldt, 34 N.J. 355 (1961). At the end of that period, he applied for reinstatement and, in accordance with customary procedure, the matter was referred to the Bergen County Ethics Committee for consideration and report. Hearings were held, following which the Committee recommended that the application be denied.

The adverse report was made because of certain activity by Stoldt during the period of suspension which the Committee regarded as violative of R.R. 1:18-2(b). That rule provides:

"No attorney shall employ in his law offices any attorney who was disbarred or suspended after January 1, 1953, during the period of such suspension, nor shall any attorney permit or authorize any such disbarred or suspended attorney to perform any services for him in the practice of law, * * *." (Emphasis added)

At the hearings before the Committee, Stoldt volunteered the information that during his suspension he had made four or five title searches for his son, Sydney Vale Stoldt, Jr., who is also a member of the bar of this State, practicing in Bergen County.

The testimony respecting these searches is clear. Stoldt acted solely as an abstractor; he set up the instruments as they appeared in the records and turned the search with the index work over to his son. He refrained from expressing any opinions upon questions of title. Such limited activity does not constitute practicing law, and so cannot support a conclusion that either Stoldt or his son trespassed upon R.R. 1:18-2(b).

The proof likewise reveals that immediately upon suspension, Stoldt withdrew from the office where he had been engaged in the practice of law with his son, and removed all evidence that he was an active member of the profession, or in an way associated with his son at that address or elsewhere. Since the date of the order of this court, his son has occupied the office exclusively and Stoldt has never entered it. Moreover, he notified all his clients that he was no longer engaged in the practice of law. There is no proof that since March 20, 1961, he has acted in any way in the professional capacity of a member of the bar.

Stoldt, his wife, and Stoldt, Jr., who is unmarried, reside together. It was at home that Stoldt, Jr. asked his father to make the searches in question, and the completed work was delivered to the son there. We find nothing in the record to cast doubt upon the credibility of the testimony in this respect. Such contact between father and son does not constitute employment "in the law offices" of the son within the contemplation of R.R. 1:18-2(b).

Another complaint of unethical conduct was pending against Stoldt at the time of his suspension from practice. It related to a transaction that took place between June and November 1958, involving the purchase of capital stock of a corporation which operated a tavern. A dispute arose

among the individuals participating in the acquisition, and the parties on one side of the controversy made charges of improper activity on the part of Stoldt. Hearings were held thereon subsequent to the order of suspension, and a majority of the members of the ...


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