On an Order to Show Cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For suspension -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Clifford, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock and O'Hern. Opposed -- None.
Respondent, a member of the bar since 1960, has been the subject of some 30 ethical complaints during his professional career. From November 23, 1971 to November 14, 1972, he was suspended from the practice of law for failing to respond to a consolidated statement of charges filed by the Hudson County Ethics Committee. The thread running through respondent's ethical history is a failure to attend to his basic responsibilities to his clients, to the profession, and to this Court.
This disciplinary proceeding focuses upon respondent's admitted failure to pursue diligently the interests of his clients in three civil cases and one criminal appeal. Complaints by those clients to the District VI (Hudson County) and District II (Bergen County) Ethics Committees led to the return of separate presentments which, in turn, were consolidated before the Disciplinary Review Board. That Board concluded that each failure to act constituted gross negligence and, taken together, the four cases demonstrated a pattern of neglect in violation of DR 6-101(A)(1).
At its hearing, DRB made the following findings with respect to the Yuhasz complaint filed with the District VI Ethics Committee:
The respondent was retained by complainant Julius Yuhasz, Jr. to represent his uncle, Alfred Frankino, in an appeal of what was believed to be an excessive sentence to his guilty plea to a criminal offense. Mr. Frankino and his family
retained the respondent to file a motion for reconsideration of that sentence. Respondent processed such a motion and argued the matter in Hudson County before the Superior Court on July 29, 1977. The motion was denied. It was not disputed that respondent was paid in full for his services on the motion for reconsideration.
Following denial of respondent's motion, he conferred with the complainant and Mrs. Wood, his client's sister. Mr. Frankino's right to appeal the denial of the motion to the Appellate Division was discussed, and respondent agreed to handle such a motion for a $500 fee plus costs. Respondent then met with Mr. Yuhasz and Mr. Frankino at the County Jail and an appeal was again discussed. At hearing before the District VI Ethics Committee, three separate versions were presented of the discussion which took place concerning the payment of respondent's fee:
1. Respondent has no recollection of discussing payment with Frankino, and although he does not recall the source of the request, 'the family' requested that he not discuss payment of his fee with Frankino;
2. Both complainant Yuhasz and Mrs. Wood testified that respondent said the important thing was to get Frankino out of jail, and that the fee could be paid later;
3. The client, Mr. Frankino, recalled that the fee was discussed at the County Jail meeting, and respondent advised that the client could pay once he left jail and returned to work.
Notice of appeal was filed by respondent on August 1, 1977. Transcripts were ordered and, according to the certification of the Certified Shorthand ...