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In re O''Gorman

Decided: June 25, 1985.

IN THE MATTER OF THOMAS F. O'GORMAN, III, AN ATTORNEY-AT-LAW


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

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

Per Curiam

ORDER

The Disciplinary Review Board having filed a report with the Supreme Court recommending that disciplinary action be taken against THOMAS F. O'GORMAN, III, who was admitted to the bar of this State in 1968, and who formerly maintained offices in LYNDHURST and HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, and good cause appearing;

It is ORDERED that THOMAS F. O'GORMAN, III, is suspended for a period of three years, effective December 28, 1981, and until he can produce satisfactory medical proof of his fitness to practice law and until the further order of this Court; and it is further

Ordered that THOMAS F. O'GORMAN, III, shall reimburse 1) the Clients' Security Fund for any monies expended on account of his derelictions and 2) the Ethics Financial Committee for the administrative costs of the proceedings; and it is further

ORDERED that respondent's restoration to the practice of law will be limited to respondent's practicing only in a supervised capacity and in a form of proctorship to be approved by the Office of Attorney Ethics. The proctor shall submit detailed reports on respondent's status, on a quarterly basis to the Office of Attorney Ethics, and it is further

Ordered that respondent shall continue to his compliance with Administrative Guideline No. 23 of the Office of Attorney Ethics dealing with suspended disbarred or resigned attorneys.

Respondent, a member of the bar since 1968, has been under temporary suspension since December 28, 1981, pending resolution of charges now before us. That suspension resulted from a presentment that charged respondent with five complaints concerning a pattern of neglect, failure to carry out contracts of employment, and failure to communicate with clients, all of which occurred during the period from 1972 through 1980. The current charges are similar: four complaints of failure to communicate with clients, contrary to DR 6-101(A)(2); failure to carry out contracts of employment, contrary to DR 7-101(A)(2); exhibiting a pattern of neglectful conduct, contrary to DR 6-101(A)(2); and neglecting legal matters entrusted to him, contrary to DR 1-102(A)(6). The Disciplinary Review Board (DRB), acting on a presentment filed by the District IV Ethics Committee, summarized those four charges as follows:

1. SROKE COMPLAINT

Shortly after his eight-year old daughter was injured on August 3, 1972 in an accident, Michael A. Sroke of Elmwood Park retained respondent to handle the personal injury case. The girl was injured when a car struck her bicycle as she was crossing the street and she was thrown about ten feet from impact. She was treated for a sprained ankle and multiple contusions, with possible cerebral concussion, and then released

from the hospital. Sroke told respondent that his daughter might have a permanent leg injury and supplied respondent with photographs and related documents. Respondent had previously represented Sroke on other legal matters and had been recommended by a friend as being knowledgeable about personal injury cases. According to Sroke, there was no discussion at this initial meeting regarding respondent's fee arrangement or what legal course respondent contemplated pursuing.

Within a few weeks of this initial meeting, Sroke telephoned respondent inquiring about the status of the case. He then routinely telephoned respondent at least once a week, but spoke only with respondent's secretary, who informed him that respondent was in court. When Sroke went to respondent's office, respondent told him the case was proceeding. By letter dated May 31, 1973, respondent explained to Sroke that negotiations with the insurance company had "bogged down" and it was necessary to file a civil action. This civil complaint was filed against the driver of the car on June 11, 1973 after respondent received a $100 check from Sroke to cover costs. Respondent had anticipated that there would be substantial medical expenses in this case, but they never materialized. Respondent discussed this case with the insurance company, which initially offered only $99 and, eventually, increased it to $150. However, respondent was seeking about $400 to cover costs. Sroke, when informed of the $150 offer, rejected it. Respondent did not keep Sroke informed of his subsequent negotiations with the insurance company.

The civil action was dismissed by the court on November 22, 1974 for failure to prosecute. While respondent had prepared a motion to reinstate the complaint, he could not later recall why he did this because, in his opinion, the case was not worth reopening. He had not informed Sroke that the complaint had been dismissed.

When respondent was retained by Sroke, his law office was in Lyndhurst. In the summer of 1975, ...


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