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In re Callahan

Decided: May 11, 1976.

IN THE MATTER OF JAMES J. CALLAHAN, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW


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

Per Curiam

This disciplinary proceeding against respondent, a member of the bar of this State, grows out of an investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor's office of official corruption in Jackson Township of which respondent was Township Attorney during 1969 and 1970. As a result of the investigation, respondent and several others were indicted on various charges of conspiracy, bribery and corruption arising out of Township approval of an application for a trailer park license. A separate indictment was also returned against respondent charging him with soliciting a bribe, misconduct in office and conspiracy to bribe involving a senior citizens garden apartment in the Township. Respondent was tried separately on each indictment and ultimately acquitted of the charges by jury verdict. Thereafter, at the direction of this Court, respondent's conduct as an attorney in these same matters was investigated by the Burlington County Ethics Committee, which filed a statement of charges in two counts.*fn1

The first count alleged that respondent, while Township Attorney, worked against his own client's interests and conspired with two individuals to bribe public officials in Jackson Township to remove an age restriction on occupancy of an 18 to 20 unit senior citizens garden apartment owned by Doral Construction Company. A summary of the factual background of this matter is set forth in this Court's opinion in In re Sabatino, 65 N.J. 548 (1974).

The owners of the garden apartment had attempted to comply with the restriction which limited occupancy to persons over 62 years of age, but were plagued by substantial

vacancies with resultant serious financial problems. Consequently, they began to rent to persons without regard to age. Efforts were then made to have the age restriction lifted, but the Township took no action on these applications. The owners also were confronted with a suit brought by the municipality to enforce the restriction.

Frank Vogel, who had been one of the principals of Doral, suggested that the most expeditious way to have the restriction lifted was to bribe certain Township officials. He called upon Murray Eisdorfer, another principal of Doral, to furnish $9,000 which was to be used largely for that purpose.*fn2 Eisdorfer, however, reported the matter to the prosecutor's office and implicated Vogel and one Arthur Sabatino, who was then a New Jersey attorney representing Vogel. As a result, the prosecutor's office, with Eisdorfer's cooperation, made recordings of telephone conversations which Eisdorfer had with Vogel and Sabatino and of a personal conversation between Eisdorfer and Sabatino.*fn3

When Vogel and Sabatino were confronted with the incriminating evidence against them they agreed to assist the prosecutor's office which was trying to reach the public officials involved. It was through their cooperation that recordings of conversations were made which directly implicated respondent in the case.

The transcripts of these conversations demonstrate that a conspiracy to bribe public officials existed, that respondent knew of the plan and discussed terms and ramifications of the bribe or attempted bribe with Vogel and Sabatino.

On one occasion, May 15, 1970, Vogel and Sabatino went to respondent's office with $4,000 in marked money and tendered it to him on the basis that it would "take care

of everything." Respondent refused the money saying he had originally figured "I could get it for a thousand dollars a vote. I can't guarantee that now * * *," adding that the members of the Board of Adjustment were suspicious and that if he walked in with four thousand dollars they would think he "got ten." He suggested that the Chairman of the Board of Adjustment be approached directly.

At a subsequent meeting between the same parties held in respondent's office on June 16, 1970, a discussion was had about how to get the Board of Adjustment to recommend that the senior citizen restriction be lifted. In answer to an inquiry from Sabatino as to whether each member would have to be paid individually, respondent answered "no" and he gave the name of an individual who he ...


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