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In re Nichols

Decided: January 10, 1984.

IN THE MATTER OF JAMES D. NICHOLS, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW


On an Order to Show Cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.

For reprimand -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Clifford, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern and Garibaldi. Opposed -- None.

Per Curiam

This disciplinary proceeding arose as a result of a presentment filed by the District VIII Ethics Committee (Committee) against respondent, a member of the bar, charging him with violations of DR 1-102(A)(4) (engaging in conduct involving deceit and misrepresentation) and DR 5-104 (engaging in improper conduct in a business transaction with a client). After a hearing, the Disciplinary Review Board (Board) accepted the Committee's finding and recommended that respondent be publicly reprimanded. We agree.

I

Respondent was admitted to the practice of law in 1971; he had an unblemished record until the events giving rise to these proceedings. His present difficulties arise from his improper attempt to purchase property in Bayville, New Jersey from his

client, Noel Scheurich, and Noel's estranged wife, Agnes Scheurich.

In 1976 respondent represented Noel on a charge of possession of a controlled dangerous substance. He also represented Noel's grandmother, Rosalie Scheurich, for a period of time.

Respondent was a personal friend of the Scheurichs. In September 1979, he was a dinner guest at their home in Bayville. At that time the house was listed for sale, with the listing to expire in June 1980. During the dinner, in a casual discussion, respondent expressed an interest in purchasing the Bayville property for rental purposes.

In October or November 1979 the Scheurichs separated and Mrs. Scheurich engaged other counsel to start divorce proceedings. Respondent continued as counsel for Noel. Sometime between the Scheurichs' separation and March 1980, respondent expressed a firm interest in purchasing the Bayville property, which was then vacant. Respondent and the Scheurichs agreed to wait until the real estate listing expired before reaching a formal agreement.

Sometime during this same five-month period, Noel was charged with possession of stolen property. He again was represented by respondent. He was convicted of the charge sometime before March 1980. After his conviction, he went to Mississippi, where he remained until late April. He returned for sentencing in early May and received a suspended sentence.

At this point the respondent and Noel disagree about what occurred. We adopt the Board's findings, affirming the findings of the Committee. The Board found the following relevant facts:

Before Noel Scheurich left for Mississippi in March, he met with the respondent at the Bayville property to discuss certain repairs to the house which the respondent contended were needed. Mr. Scheurich agreed to attend to those repairs. Since that meeting was rushed, Noel Scheurich left the house key with respondent, with ...


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