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In re Egan

Decided: February 11, 1976.

IN THE MATTER OF JOHN J. EGAN, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW


For disbarment -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford and Schreiber and Judge Conford. Opposed -- None.

Per Curiam

The present disciplinary proceedings were instituted in 1973 as the result of several complaints filed with the Essex County Ethics Committee.

Respondent, a member of the bar of this State, has been employed by the Essex County Welfare Board but also practiced law out of his home. His employment with the Welfare Board brought him in contact with people who sought

assistance from that agency, the Probation Office or the Domestic Relations Court. In several of the matters involved herein, it was shown that respondent would initiate a conversation and offer a solution to the person's problem by suggesting that respondent be retained to bring legal proceedings, usually a divorce suit.

The complaints, in essence, charged that respondent had been paid a retainer or fee in each matter but that he had failed to file suit as promised. Copies of the complaints were served on respondent but were not answered, nor did he attend the hearings before the Committee on such complaints although duly served with a subpoena duces tecum. As a result of the foregoing, the Committee filed a Presentment requesting that respondent be required to answer the complaints, appear before the Committee in response to the subpoena and produce the files and records requested. The Presentment also asked that respondent be forthwith suspended from the practice of law pending disposition of the charges against him. Based on the Presentment this Court issued its Order to Show Cause.

Respondent was served with a copy of the Order to Show Cause but did not appear on the return day, and did not communicate in any way with the Court. Consequently, an order was entered on May 21, 1974 suspending respondent from the practice of law effective immediately. A copy of this order was served on respondent.

In January 1975, still another complaint was filed against respondent by a Jerry Quatro alleging that he had retained respondent in October 1973 to bring divorce proceedings and had paid him $400 but that no suit was ever filed.

At a Committee hearing thereon, respondent appeared and submitted a handwritten answer to the complaint in which he admitted the facts set forth in the complaint and tendered a personal money order for $400 payable to his client representing the return of the fee he had received. Following the hearing, the Committee filed a second Presentment finding that respondent had failed to zealously represent Quatro and

had also failed to file a timely answer to the ethics complaint. On May 5, 1975, this Court entered a second order continuing respondent's suspension until the further order of the Court. A copy of this order was also served on respondent.

Following entry of the May 5, 1975 order four more complaints were filed with the Committee charging respondent with the same type of infraction. However, these complaints presented a more serious aspect in that the events alleged to have taken place occurred during the period when respondent was suspended from the practice of the law. For example, one complaint alleged that on October 27, 1974 (more than five months after respondent's initial suspension) the client had paid respondent $450 by check, to bring divorce proceedings on her behalf. No suit for divorce was ever filed and attempts by the client to communicate with respondent about her divorce were unproductive.

Copies of these complaints were served on respondent but were not answered. A formal hearing was then held before the Committee on July 23, 1975 on notice to respondent who again did not appear. The four complainants were present and verified the facts set forth in their written complaints. Three of them ...


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