For disbarment -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford and Schreiber and Judge Conford. Opposed. -- None.
This disciplinary matter presents an extreme case of professional irresponsibility.
In July 1974 a complaint against respondent was filed with the Essex County Ethics Committee by a client charging respondent with failure to properly represent her in a matrimonial suit, as a result of which a default judgment of divorce was entered against her. Respondent was served with a copy of the complaint by mail but failed to file an answer thereto, R. 1:20-4(c), nor did he respond to a subsequent communication from the Chief, Central Ethics, Administrative Office of the Courts.
This Court then issued an order to show cause why respondent should not be suspended from the practice of the law or otherwise disciplined because of his failure to answer the ethics complaint.
On November 19, 1974, the return day of the order, respondent appeared pro se and represented to this Court that
he would immediately answer the complaint and fully cooperate with the Ethics Committee in its investigation of the charge against him.
Respondent did file an answer on December 2, 1974 which the Committee found to be wholly inadequate and respondent was requested to furnish additional information. He has not done so.
On December 31, 1974 another complaint was filed against respondent charging that on October 1, 1974 some $13,061.45 had been entrusted to him at a title closing for the purpose of paying off an outstanding mortgage, but that he had not not done so and the mortgage was still outstanding.
The Committee scheduled an immediate hearing and on January 7, 1975, the date of the hearing, respondent appeared and produced a receipt showing that on that very day he had paid the mortgage money over to the mortgagee. A further hearing was then scheduled for February 4, 1975.
In the meantime, two more complaints were filed against respondent involving his handling of another matrimonial case and an automobile accident case. At the hearing before the Ethics Committee on February 4, respondent appeared pro se and candidly admitted that he had used the mortgage money entrusted to him to pay off other obligations as there was a $13,000 shortgage in his trust account. He said he then borrowed from his mother-in-law to make good the mortgage money. Again respondent promised to file answers to the complaints against him and to cooperate fully with the Committee.
Not only did respondent fail to keep his promises to the Committee, but two more complaints were filed by clients charging respondent with the mishandling of their legal matters. Respondent did not answer these complaints although duly served.
The Committee examined respondent's trust account records but was unable to make any meaningful audit. See R. 1:21-6(a), (b); DR9-102. Respondent kept no ledger or journal. His ...