The Disciplinary Review Board having filed a report with the Supreme Court recommending that KALMAN H. GEIST, of PATERSON, who was admitted to the Bar of this State in 1966, be publicly reprimanded for trial conduct that resulted in his being held for contempt, which conduct the Disciplinary Review Board found to be in violation of DR 1-102(A)(4) and (5), and DR 7-106(C)(1), (6) and (7), and good cause appearing;
It is ORDERED that the findings of the Disciplinary Review Board are hereby adopted and respondent 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 KALMAN H. GEIST as an attorney at law of the State of New Jersey; and it is further
Ordered that KALMAN H. GEIST reimburse the Ethics Financial Committee for appropriate administrative costs.
Decision and Recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board
This matter is before the Board based on a presentment filed by the District XI (Passaic County) Ethics Committee. The facts are as follows:
In March 1982, respondent represented a Paterson municipal court clerk, who had been charged with ten counts of official misconduct, ten counts of bribery and nine counts of extortion in connection with solicitation or acceptance of cash payments to fix ten drunk driving cases. During his summation before the jury on March 10, 1982, defendant made several comments that subsequently became the basis for contempt charges.
While reviewing the testimony of one of the officers who had guarded the municipal court clerk's office after the paperwork
had been impounded, respondent suggested that another municipal court clerk, not his client, was responsible for the case fixing. He then suggested to the jury that the State had withheld evidence. After the State's objection, however, respondent acknowledged the State "didn't keep anythin [sic] from me that I know of, and I would be surprised if [it] did." (1T18-16 to 18).*fn1 Rather, respondent suggested it had been the investigating detective who had not been candid.
A second comment made by respondent during his summation was that he, as defense counsel, was responsible for introducing important transcripts of municipal court hearings into evidence.
You are going to have this, all of this in evidence. Most of it because I moved it in evidence, because I wanted you to see it -- [1T27-21 to 24].
At this point the assistant prosecutor objected, because the State had been precluded from moving the same transcripts into evidence by a ruling of the court at the conclusion of a pretrial hearing, during which defense counsel had sought the court to find all transcripts inadmissible. Respondent continued:
It has D numbers on the back.
[Respondent]: It says defendant --
[Assistant Prosecutor]: Judge --
The Court: It is a matter of court procedure, and the Court made a certain ruling in the State's case that did not make the opportunity available for the Prosecutor to move them.
[Respondent]: But I wanted you [the jury] to have them. [1T28-1 to 28-10].
In an effort to end the matter, the court told respondent to "comment on the evidence in the case and not comment on the Court's procedures." (1T28-11 to 13).
A series of comments made by respondent throughout his summation about the court's dismissal of two bribery counts at
the conclusion of the State's case forms the basis for the third instance upon which contempt charges were based. The first time respondent commented on the dismissal of these counts was during his review of the testimony of the investigating detective. The detective had been the sole witness to appear before the grand jury, which had indicted his client for bribery. He then told the jury: "The Judge dismissed the count." (1T20-19 to 20). No objection was made, and respondent opined that the detective must have lied to the grand jury, because "there's not one scintilla of evidence before the jury[.] And the Judge, as a matter of law, says there is not even an issue here." (1T20-24 to 21-1). Since there were still no objections, respondent forged forward:
A witness can come in. He can be the biggest liar in the world. . . . But as long as he says something happened the Judge has no choice, he ...