On an Order to Show Cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For disbarment -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Clifford, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern and Garibaldi. Opposed -- None.
[97 NJ Page 545] This matter arises from a report of the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) recommending disbarment for multiple instances
of misconduct over a period of years, aggravated by respondent's failure to comply with his December 1978 agreement to limit his practice to criminal matters and to comply with an October 31, 1979 order of temporary suspension.
The eleven instances of misconduct are similar in nature. In each, defendant essentially failed to carry out contracts of employment with his clients, failed to act competently with respect to the matters entrusted to him, and misrepresented the status of the actions being handled on the clients' behalf.
The DRB has made detailed findings with respect to the several incidents that may be summarized as follows: clients Morrell, Zalinski, DeDonna, Hedges, Patrick and Mary Nelson were each told that their personal injury or property damage claims were either filed, being advanced, or settled. In fact, for the most part, respondent did absolutely nothing on their files.
John Nelson's criminal appeal was never prosecuted, although he was told that it would be. Respondent also failed to follow through on a motion to recover Joseph Nelson's property seized by authorities. Eileen Walsh's criminal case remained pending, although she was told that it had been dismissed.
Wilson and Harman were dissatisfied matrimonial litigants. Respondent failed to file a counterclaim for Wilson and failed to follow through on pending support matters, causing Wilson to be arrested for nonpayment of support before the matter was resolved. Respondent erroneously told Harman that an order restraining him from extended off-premises visitation was invalid, subjecting Harman to contempt-of-court proceedings.
Of gravest concern to the Board, however, was the fact that respondent undertook the Harman representation in the summer of 1979 in violation of his specific agreement with the Board and the Monmouth County District Committee that he would limit his practice to criminal matters. In his 1978 appearances before the District Committee, his witnesses had described respondent as an able criminal-law practitioner, but found that he was practicing without a regular office, clerical
staff, or supervisory attorneys. Respondent agreed to limit his practice. Following notice of the Harman matter, the respondent was temporarily suspended from the practice of law. Yet he persisted into 1980 in advising Patrick that he was settling his case and Mary Nelson that he was working on her case.
The Board found this conduct inexcusable. It concluded:
Although the Board is sympathetic to respondent's background and personal problems, it considers the protection of the public to be of paramount importance here. Since a significant amount of misconduct occurred when respondent was allegedly free of the psychiatric disability, the ...