On Order to Show Cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For disbarment -- Chief Justice Hughes and Justices Mountain, Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber and Handler. Opposed -- None.
[78 NJ Page 445] This complex of disciplinary proceedings has its genesis in some fourteen separate complaints giving
rise to thirteen formal hearings before two county ethics committees.*fn1 Several of the complaints have been dismissed or dropped. Before us are two presentments charging respondent with unethical conduct in four separate instances.
MONMOUTH COUNTY PROCEEDINGS
The Monmouth County Ethics Committee found respondent guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct arising out of two complaints. The first, by Josephine E. Cox, charged that on December 1, 1975 respondent issued to complainant a check in the amount of $1518.67 drawn on his trust account. The amount represented the balance of funds due complainant from a real estate transaction, those funds having been held in escrow by respondent since the closing date of October 29, 1975. The check was returned for insufficient funds, as was a second check drawn on the same account on December 29, 1975.
Respondent, who had failed to answer the complaint, testified before a hearing panel of the Committee and admitted the accuracy of the charges against him. His explanation for the insufficiency of the funds in his trust account was, as to the first bad check, that "certain other checks which were negotiated through that account * * * had failed to clear"; and, as to the second, it was issued "on the belief that I would have certain funds to make that check valid" and "[t]o make a long story short, the funds did not come through."*fn2
The record before the hearing panel further contained Mrs. Cox's assertion, not denied by respondent, that her efforts to communicate with respondent after notification of the first bad check were unavailing, until her husband went to Mr. Netchert's home to protest. This visit apparently resulted in the issuance of the second check, likewise bad. In addition, at the conclusion of the hearing on the Cox matter respondent assured the panel that within a week he would present the records of his trust account from October 1975 through January 1976, covering the transaction in question. He has, however, never done so.
The Committee concluded that respondent's conduct was unethical and unprofessional in the following respects: (a) he used a client's funds held in his trust account and failed to return moneys owed, in violation of DR 9-102(B)(4); (b) his actions involved misrepresentation to the client with respect to the trust funds, in violation of DR 1-102(A)(4); and his conduct adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, in violation of DR 1-102(A)(6).
The second complaint before the Monmouth County Ethics Committee involved one William Hanford, who sustained personal injuries as a passenger in a two-vehicular collision in February, 1970. Hanford alleged that he was accepted as a client by respondent after meeting with him some time in 1971; that thereafter he received a carbon copy of a letter from the liability insurer of one of the drivers, dated November 15, 1971, the original of which went to Mr. Netchert, reciting an offer which had been extended about seven months previously to settle Hanford's claim for $1500 and requesting a decision thereon; that respondent advised him that no settlement should be effected until medical treatment had been completed; that thereafter he authorized respondent in writing to obtain copies of his physicians' reports; and that "in '72 sometime" he had a ...