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In re Scavone

Decided: May 6, 1987.

IN THE MATTER OF DANIEL J. SCAVONE, AN ATTORNEY-AT-LAW


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

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

Per Curiam

[106 NJ Page 543] This matter comes to us on the recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) that the license to practice law of respondent, Daniel J. Scavone, be revoked. When respondent applied for admission to the bar, he misrepresented to the Committee on Character (Committee) in an answered questionnaire that he had not been "disciplined, reprimanded, suspended, expelled or asked to resign from any educational institution."

Apparently, the Committee staff had misplaced the law school certificate known as Form #3 that is part of the application for admission to the bar. The law school, St. Louis University, had completed the form by answering "Yes" to question two: "Was this individual the subject of disciplinary action, hearings, suspension, or was there any other factor which would pertain to this individual's fitness to practice law?" Through an oversight, the Committee certified that respondent was fit to be admitted to the bar, and he was admitted on December 20, 1984.

Thereafter, the facts came to light, and the matter was presented to this Court. We remanded it to the Committee, which conducted a hearing, at which respondent was represented by counsel. The Committee concluded that respondent should be sanctioned but did "not recommend any particular sanction in view of the fact that such a recommendation is not within this Committee's jurisdiction." The Committee forwarded its report to the DRB, which conducted a second hearing at which respondent was also represented by counsel. The DRB recommended "that respondent's license to practice law be immediately revoked." We agree.

I

The DRB summarized the facts as they were developed before it and the Committee:

Before graduating from Rutgers University in May 1979, respondent twice took the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT). He received scores of 564 and 539. Respondent was disappointed, realizing that these test scores would not permit him to attend the law school of his choice. Respondent had graduated from college with high honors and viewed those low scores as his "first major failure." Knowing that the test scores of minority students were oftentimes overlooked in favor of other factors, respondent applied to the University of Pennsylvania Law School (Pennsylvania) as a minority student. He also applied to other law schools, including Georgetown University and Rutgers University. He was accepted by all three law schools. He chose to attend Pennsylvania.

While a law student, he was never questioned about his application. He did nothing to foster the idea that he was a minority student. Respondent attained average grades throughout his first year, this being the first time in his

academic career that he was not near the top of his class. Respondent found it difficult to obtain a law related summer job after his first year at law school.

During his second year at law school, respondent learned that a few students had verbally misrepresented to interviewers their past accomplishments or future intentions. An acquaintance of respondent's told him what respondent thought was a full-proof method of altering a law school transcript. Respondent altered his transcript to show that in his first year he received three "Excellents" and five "Goods" whereas his true grades were two "Goods" and six "Qualifieds." He submitted the altered transcript to two New York law firms which were engaged in on-campus recruiting. Respondent also falsified his resume by indicating that he received a score of 705 on the LSAT whereas he had only received 564 and 539. He submitted the altered resume during the on-campus recruiting to a New York law firm.

The law school administration discovered respondent's misrepresentations and gave him a choice to either withdraw or face expulsion. Respondent signed an agreement with the law school on October 31, 1980 which provided in part that he "in consideration of the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania's [sic] refraining from bringing a Disciplinary Proceeding against me, agree[s] to withdraw from the Law School on December 19, 1980." That agreement further provided that if respondent failed to withdraw or delayed his withdrawal, the law school would immediately convene a disciplinary committee to hear charges against him. The express charges in that agreement were that he had knowingly and deliberately falsified his admission application indicating he was a minority student, and that he had altered his transcript and falsified his resume which he submitted to law firms recruiting on-campus. This agreement with the law school was negotiated by respondent's attorney and not directly by himself. However, respondent indicated he clearly understood the meaning and nature of the agreement.

During the Fall of 1981, respondent wanted to return to law school and told a close family friend, who was an attorney in St. Louis, Missouri, the full story of his leaving Pennsylvania. That attorney discussed respondent's situation with the St. Louis University School of Law (St. Louis) administration and then suggested to respondent that he apply to that school. Respondent graduated from St. Louis in May 1984. He applied for admission to the bar of this state and was sent the Certified Statement of Candidate, Form 2-a, which informed the candidate that

[IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS TO CANDIDATE:]

This Statement is intended to provide the Committee on Character with information relevant to your fitness to practice law. Candor and truthfulness are significant elements of such fitness. You should, therefore, provide the Committee with all available information, however unfavorable, even if its relevance is in doubt. Disclosure must be as detailed as possible. FAILURE TO DISCLOSE REQUESTED INFORMATION WILL RESULT IN CERTIFICATION BEING WITHHELD.

Included among the various questions was the following:

Have you ever been disciplined, reprimanded, suspended, expelled or asked to resign from any educational institution? [question XIIA]

Respondent answered that question in the negative. He certified his answers were true and accurate to the best of his knowledge and belief, further stating he was aware that any willful misstatement could prejudice his admission to the bar and subject him to such penalties as provided by law. Respondent signed this statement on June 8, 1984. The Law School Certificate, Form 3 that was completed by St. Louis, dated June 1, 1984, answered in the affirmative the following question:

Was this individual the subject of disciplinary action, hearings, suspension, or was there any other factor which would pertain to this individual's fitness to practice law?

That form was forwarded to the Clerk of the Supreme Court of New Jersey by letter dated June 6, 1984 in which the law school dean stated in part:

This material had been received by the Committee on Character administrative office on June 11, 1984 but apparently was misplaced. Respondent was informed by the Committee on Character in late October 1984 that if the required information was not received, he would not be certified for admission to the bar. Respondent, by letter, requested the dean of St. Louis to send the material again. On October 22, 1984 the Committee on Character certified that respondent was fit to be a member of the bar. When respondent received word that he would be sworn in as a member of the bar, he assumed that the dean of St. Louis had sent in all the information. He was admitted to the bar of this state on December 20, 1984.

By letter dated February 7, 1985 respondent was informed by the office of the Committee on Character that a review of his bar admission file "has disclosed evidence that tends to show that you failed to provide the Supreme Court's Committee on Character with information that reflected adversely on your character." The letter added that the Supreme Court had remanded the matter to the committee for findings and conclusions on his conduct. At the Character Committee hearing respondent said he knew "to a moral certainty" that the information would be provided by St. Louis. Although he thought it was odd that he never heard from the committee about the Pennsylvania incident, he had no doubt that the information had been received because he was told by the committee his certification would be delayed until that information was received. Consequently, he did not contact the office to determine if, in fact, the material had been sent.

The Committee on Character conducted a hearing on April 22, 1985. Respondent insisted his negative answer to the question whether he had ever been disciplined, reprimanded, suspended, expelled, or asked to resign, was correct. He maintained that his was a voluntary withdrawal from Pennsylvania. He

acknowledged if he had not withdrawn from the school, the school would have commenced ...


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