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In re Liebowitz

December 18, 1985

IN THE MATTER OF SHELDON M. LIEBOWITZ, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

ORDER

The Disciplinary Review Board having filed a report with the Supreme Court recommending that SHELDON M. LIEBOWITZ, of ENGLEWOOD, who was admitted to the Bar of this State in 1949, be publicly reprimanded for his violation of DR 1-102(A)(5), conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice,

and DR 1-102(A)(6), conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness to practice law, and good cause appearing;

It is ORDERED that the findings of the Disciplinary Review Board are adopted and respondent be and hereby is publicly reprimanded; and it is further

Ordered that the Decision and Recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board, together with this order and the full record of the matter, be added as a permanent part of the file of said SHELDON M. LIEBOWITZ as an attorney at law of the State of New Jersey; and it is further

Ordered that SHELDON M. LIEBOWITZ reimburse the Ethics Financial Committee for appropriate administrative costs.

Decision and Recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board

This matter is before the Board based upon a report filed by a Special Master assigned by the Office of Attorney Ethics to hear this case. The Board makes the following findings of fact:

On February 24, 1983 Respondent's law firm was assigned by the Superior Court to represent a female client under a court program to provide counsel for indigent matrimonial clients. This woman was involved in custody litigation with her former husband. Respondent assigned one of his associates to handle the case. The client, however, canceled her initial appointment. It was rescheduled for March 1, 1983, the day before the scheduled hearing. The client arrived at Respondent's office late in the afternoon of a rainy day.

Respondent met briefly with the client at 6:30 p.m. She informed him she was there as an assigned client. She had no papers with her relating to the court proceeding. Respondent advised the client that he would not be able to handle her matter personally since he was otherwise engaged but an associate would appear with her at the hearing. Respondent told the woman that he was about to have dinner with clients

and another attorney at a nearby Chinese restaurant. She accepted Respondent's invitation to join them. Respondent drove the client to the restaurant in his car. Neither the client nor Respondent drank any alcoholic beverages during dinner. After dinner, Respondent offered to drive the client home or to his apartment where he said he had to make some telephone calls and they could have some drinks. The client believed this would give her an opportunity to discuss her custody case. However, Respondent contended that since he would not be representing her, he felt that his invitation to his apartment was purely social in nature. He believed he had no professional lawyer-client relationship with her. Respondent maintained that he felt that his responsibility ended once he had assigned the case to an associate.

In Respondent's apartment the client consumed a small amount of vodka and acquiesced to Respondent's request that she enter his bedroom and sit on the bed next to him while he made business telephone calls. Respondent then suggested that they commence sexual activity. When he unbuttoned the top front of her dress, she verbally resisted and pushed his hand away. Respondent kissed her on the lips. The client said, "I think I had better go." She buttoned her dress. Respondent ...


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