On an order to show cause why respondent shouldnot be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For suspension -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None.
The Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) commenced this disciplinary proceeding by filing a motion before the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB), seeking final discipline of respondent, Louis P. Kaufman, pursuant to Rule 1:20-6. The motion was based on respondent's guilty pleas to separate indictments charging possession of methaquaalude in the one instance and of cocaine in the other. The Rule makes the criminal convictions conclusive evidence of the commission of the crimes, R. 1:20-6(b)(1), and the sole issue before the DRB and this Court is the extent of final discipline to be imposed. R. 1:20-6(b)(2)(ii).
The DRB recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six months. One member recommended a one-year suspension. Our independent review of the record leads us to accept the recommendation of the majority of the DRB.
Respondent was arrested in Passaic at about 3:00 a.m. on June 1, 1984. Local police observed respondent's vehicle back out of a parking space at a high rate of speed and crash into a cement flower box. Subsequent investigation disclosed that respondent was in possession of eight and one-half methaquaalude tablets. The incident resulted in respondent's guilty plea, in March 1985, to an indictment charging him with possession
of a controlled dangerous substance contrary to N.J.S.A. 24:21-20.
Four months after the Passaic incident, on October 3, 1984, respondent was arrested as a result of an undercover operation that led to the discovery of cocaine in respondent's apartment. In May 1985 he pleaded guilty to a Bergen County indictment charging possession of cocaine, in violation of N.J.S.A. 24:21-20(a)(1).
Respondent was sentenced on the Bergen County charge on June 14, 1985, to a two-year term of probation and fined $750, with the additional provision that he continue psychotherapy and submit to urine testing. Five days later, on June 19, 1985, he was sentenced on the methaquaalude possession charge to two-years probation and an additional $750 fine.
In resisting the DRB's recommendation of a six-months suspension respondent argues that the recommendation fails to recognize that he was "a victim of the disease of drug dependency during a time of severe personal and financial problems." He points as well to his "self-initiated rehabilitative efforts to eliminate his dependency" and to the undisputed fact that he had voluntarily removed himself from the active practice of law during the period of his dependency. Kaufman emphasizes that his convictions did not grow out of the practice of law, nor was any client affected by his actions. Finally, respondent asks that we weigh in the balance his "otherwise excellent public and professional reputation both before and since his drug dependency," the punishment already imposed by the courts, and the "public ignominy created by newspaper publicity."
We recognize and accept the fact that respondent was indeed beset by both personal and financial problems. He was denied visitation with and custody of his three children for more than three months during 1983, and his income and profit from ...