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In re Bonafield

Decided: March 23, 1978.

IN THE MATTER OF JAMES J. BONAFIELD AND MARINO TEDESCHI, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, RESPONDENTS


For reprimand and suspension of Bonafield and reprimand of Tedeschi -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber and Handler and Judge Conford. Opposed -- None.

Per Curiam

These ethics proceedings against respondents, members of the bar of this State, stem from respondent James J. Bonafield's illegally engaging in the practice of law while a Judge of Compensation, and respondent Marino Tedeschi's aiding and abetting that illegal activity.

Respondent Bonafield was admitted to the bar of this State in 1959. The following year he was appointed a referee in the Division of Workmen's Compensation. In 1966 he became supervising referee. In August 1968, respondent was appointed a Judge of Compensation. During this entire period, and while serving as referee, supervising referee and as a Judge of Compensation, respondent was permitted to and did practice law on a part-time basis.

By L. 1969, c. 252, effective January 7, 1970 (N.J.S.A. 34:15-49), Judges of Compensation, for the first time, were prohibited from engaging in the practice of law and were required to devote full time to their judicial duties. In March 1970, while serving as a Judge of Compensation, Bonafield certified on a Department of Labor and Industry conflict-of-interest questionnaire that he was not engaged in any outside profession.

Bonafield, however, continued to practice law, using the same law office but changing the name on the office stationery,

telephone listing and bank accounts to that of respondent Tedeschi. This was done by virtue of an arrangement he made with Tedeschi. In return, Tedeschi received a small portion of the fees generated.

In 1973 Bonafield's illegal activities were disclosed during an investigation by the State Commission of Investigation and on June 21, 1973 the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry, acting on order from the Governor, suspended Bonafield as a Judge of Compensation pending a hearing on formal charges seeking his removal.

Bonafield filed a court challenge to the suspension and the contemplated removal procedure claiming that, as a judge, he could be removed only by impeachment. The Chancery Division rejected this contention. Bonafield v. Cahill, 125 N.J. Super. 78 (1973). It held that Bonafield was not a judicial officer but rather an executive department employee subject to suspension and removal under the procedures being used. The Appellate Division affirmed, 127 N.J. Super. 149 (1974).

Following an administrative hearing and report which recommended removal, the Governor of New Jersey entered an order dated January 14, 1974 removing Bonafield from office. The order was appealed to the Appellate Division which, in an unreported opinion, upheld the Governor's action. This Court denied certification. 68 N.J. 282 (1975).

Respondent Bonafield admits that after January 1970 and while serving as a Judge of Compensation he continued to practice law in violation of N.J.S.A. 34:15-49. However, he represents that upon his suspension as a Judge of Compensation on June 21, 1973, he "voluntarily suspended" himself from the practice of law and has not practiced since then. He asks that this Court take this into consideration in its imposition of discipline.

Respondent Tedeschi, on his part, admits to violations of DR 1-102 (Misconduct), DR 1-103 (Disclosure of Information to Authorities), DR 2-107 (Division of Fees Among Lawyers) and ...


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