For suspension for six months of Loring and for reprimand of Houston -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford and Schreiber and Judge Conford. Opposed -- None.
[73 NJ Page 284] The respondent Arthur D. Loring, an attorney at law of New Jersey, has been charged with violations of various Disciplinary Rules arising out of three separate incidents. Charges also were made against the respondent James F. Houston, an attorney at law of New Jersey, based on one of those episodes. Separate hearings were held before the Monmouth County Ethics Committee on each of the three transactions, there being one joint hearing which involved the two respondents. These matters came before us on the return day of orders to show cause why the respondents should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined. The order to show cause directed to Loring was predicated on two presentments of the Monmouth County Ethics Committee, one concerning a transaction with Marvin J. Rosenfield and the other with Mr. and Mrs. Timothy O'Connell, and on the Committee's report involving an incident
with Mr. and Mrs. Fusco. We are satisfied, after reviewing the record, that the facts are as set forth below.
Mrs. Ann Fusco suffered severe injuries as a result of a fall in a shopping center on January 22, 1972. In June 1972, Mr. and Mrs. Fusco retained respondent's law firm to represent them. Respondent was in charge of the case. Since the time was approaching when the two year statute of limitations would bar any action, Mr. Fusco telephoned the respondent once or twice a month to ascertain the status of the proceeding. He did not succeed in speaking with respondent, but was consistently told by the office that respondent would return his calls. Other than on one occasion, respondent did not communicate with Mr. Fusco. Mrs. Fusco also made a number of telephone calls to respondent, but never spoke to him or received any type of response from him.
The respondent did not file a complaint until two years and one day from the date of the accident. On motion the complaint was dismissed because of the statute of limitations. The respondent filed an appeal but it was also dismissed because the notice of appeal had been filed more than 45 days after entry of the judgment of dismissal. R. 2:4-1(a). When Mr. and Mrs. Fusco's new attorney inquired as to the status of the appeal by letter dated January 21, 1976, respondent did not reply. The attorney's two telephone calls to respondent went unanswered. The attorney then wrote another letter to respondent who finally responded indicating the appeal was pending when in fact it had been dismissed.
The Monmouth County Ethics Committee, although concluding there was no unethical or unprofessional conduct, filed a report with the Court in which it recommended a reprimand because his "professional conduct was deficient, improper and not in the best traditions of the legal profession."
II. The Rosenfield Complaint
Marvin J. Rosenfield was defended by respondent in a municipal court proceeding on July 26, 1971. Upon being convicted, Rosenfield stated that he wanted to appeal from the judgment. Respondent advised Rosenfield to consider it further and "get back to me." In the next day or two, Rosenfield telephoned and advised respondent to proceed with the appeal. Rosenfield was told that $60 was required for the filing fee and a deposit for the transcript. He then went to respondent's office on August 3 and gave him a check for $60, which respondent accepted and deposited.
Respondent admitted receipt of a letter on August 14, 1971 in which Rosenfield sought information on the status of the appeal. Respondent never answered that letter. Rosenfield telephoned respondent on numerous occasions and left messages for a return call. None was made. He wrote respondent about seven letters which were never answered.
Rosenfield had sent respondent a check for $20 on August 14, 1971, $15 on August 20, and $10 on September 1, in part payment of respondent's services in the municipal court. Since these checks were not cashed and the telephone calls and correspondence remained unanswered, Rosenfield visited respondent at his office on December 15. Respondent then told Rosenfield for the first time that the appeal had not been filed, and that he was returning the three checks which totalled $45.
The Monmouth County Ethics Committee found that a presentment was not warranted but that the respondent should be reprimanded. Thereafter upon direction by the Court, the Committee submitted a presentment in ...