On an order to show cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For probation -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None.
[108 NJ Page 455] This disciplinary proceeding arose from a motion filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) before the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB), seeking final discipline of respondent, Aaron R.
Stier, pursuant to Rule 1:20-6. The motion was based on respondent's plea of guilty to the disorderly persons offense of tampering with public records, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:28-7a(1). The DRB found that respondent has engaged in illegal conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law and has recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for one year.
The respondent was admitted to the bar of New Jersey in 1969. In 1971 respondent's brother-in-law, Irwin Pine, a real estate investor, brought two real estate deals to the law firm with which the respondent was then associated. The relevant facts are set forth in the Decision and Recommendation of the DRB.
Between December 1971 and January 1973, respondent was enticed into involvement in two real estate ventures by his brother-in-law. Both ventures involved the purchase and sale of apartment complexes, the first in Camden County and the second in Burlington County. During the course of both transactions respondent prepared and filed with the Registrar of Deeds in the respective counties documents reflecting inflated purchase prices. One showed a $1,275,000 purchase price, whereas the actual sale price was $955,000; the other stated a purchase price of $1,000,000, whereas the actual sale price was $950,000. The new owner, Rendel Corporation, the designated corporate nominee of the law firm with which respondent was associated, resold the property shortly after purchasing it. The sale prices were based on the inflated purchase prices reflected in the false documents, which resulted in a substantial profit.
The matter came to the attention of the then Central Ethics Unit in 1975. Central Ethics referred it to the Division of Criminal Justice of the Office of the Attorney General. In 1976 and 1977, the State Grand Jury returned two indictments against respondent, alleging violations of N.J.S.A. 2A:111-11, 2A:111-30 and 2A:111-39. On November 30, 1981, respondent entered a guilty plea to the disorderly persons offense of tampering with public records by making false entry in a document of record, received and kept by the government, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:28-7a(1). In return, the State agreed to recommend dismissal of the two indictments then pending against respondent. On that same day, the court sentenced respondent to a $500 fine and dismissed the two indictments.
A criminal conviction of an attorney is conclusive evidence of guilt in a disciplinary proceeding. R. 1:20-6(b)(1). The extent
of final discipline to be imposed is thus the sole issue to be determined in this proceeding. R. 1:20-6(b)(2)(ii). Matter of Tuso, 104 N.J. 59, 61 (1986); Matter of Litwin, 104 N.J. 362, 364-65 (1986); Matter of DiBiasi, 102 N.J. 152, 153 (1986); Matter of Kushner, 101 N.J. 397, 400 (1986); In re Infinito, 94 N.J. 50, 56 (1983); In re Hughes, 90 N.J. 32, 36 (1982); In re Rosen, 88 N.J. 1, 3 (1981).
In determining the appropriate discipline, we consider the nature and severity of the crime and whether the crime is related to the practice of law. Moreover, we examine such facts as respondent's good reputation, prior trustworthy professional conduct, and general good character. Matter of Litwin, supra, 104 N.J. at 365; Matter of Kushner, supra, 101 N.J. at ...