On an order to show cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For disbarment -- Justices Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None.
This disciplinary proceeding arose from a motion filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) before the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB), seeking disbarment of respondent, Carmine P. Lunetta, pursuant to Rule 1:20-6(b)(2)(i). The motion was based on respondent's plea of guilty to a criminal Information charging him with knowingly and willfully conspiring to receive, sell and dispose of stolen securities in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 317 and 18 U.S.C. § 2315. The DRB found that respondent engaged "in illegal conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law" in violation of DR 1-102(A)(3) and (6); that his conduct involved "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" in violation of DR 1-102(A)(4); and recommended that respondent be disbarred. Our independent review of the record leads us to accept that recommendation.
It is well-established that in disciplinary proceedings against an attorney, a criminal conviction is conclusive evidence of respondent's guilt. R. 1:20-6(b)(1). The sole issue to be determined, therefore, is the extent of the final discipline to be imposed. R. 1:20-6(b)(2)(ii). In re Goldberg, 105 N.J. 278, 280, 520 A.2d 1147 (1987); In re Litwin, 104 N.J. 362, 364-65, 517 A.2d 378 (1986); In re Kushner, 101 N.J. 397, 400, 502 A.2d 32 (1986); In re Alosio, 99 N.J. 84, 88, 491 A.2d 628 (1985). In determining the appropriate discipline, "the Court's goal is to protect the interests of the public and the bar while giving due consideration to the interests of the individual involved." In re Litwin, supra, 104 N.J. 365, 517 A.2d 378. In meeting this goal, we consider the nature and severity of the crime, whether the crime is related to the practice of law, and any mitigating
factors such as respondent's reputation, his prior trustworthy conduct, and general good conduct. Id. at 365, 517 A.2d 378; In re Kushner, supra, 101 N.J. at 401, 502 A.2d 32; In re Alosio, supra, 99 N.J. at 88, 491 A.2d 628.
Each disciplinary proceeding is extremely fact-sensitive. While we do not make an independent examination of the underlying facts sustaining a criminal conviction, those facts are relevant to the nature of the discipline imposed. In re Goldberg, supra, 105 N.J. at 280, 520 A.2d 1147; In re Kushner, supra, 101 N.J. at 401, 502 A.2d 32.
Respondent was admitted to the bar in 1966. Prior to his involvement in this securities scheme, he had an unblemished professional career. He was a well-known, respected Morris-town attorney who served for three years as a municipal court judge in Morristown. While his legal practice was generally sound, he testified that he never earned more than $48,000 per year.
In the late 1970s, defendant overextended himself financially. He purchased a condominium in Florida and a new home in Morris Township. In 1979 he also started to invest in stock options and quickly went into debt. As a result of these losses, combined with mortgage payments on the condominium and new house, the cost of private schools for his three children, and taxes due the Internal Revenue Service, respondent desperately needed money. At this time respondent began exploring new job leads, none of which proved fruitful. Deep-seated feelings of inferiority and unworthiness prevented respondent from discussing his need for money with his wife, his family, or his friends. Instead, he asked Stanley Buglione, an acquaintance, for a loan, and hence unintentionally began his involvement in this scheme.
Mr. Buglione stated he could not lend respondent money but instead proposed that respondent ...