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Matter of Okoniewski

March 13, 1990

IN THE MATTER OF JEROME E. OKONIEWSKI, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

ORDER

The Disciplinary Review Board having filed a report with the Supreme Court recommending that the suspension of JEROME E. OKONIEWSKI of MILLVILLE, who was admitted to the bar of this State in 1960, and who has been suspended from the practice of law since March 16, 1983, be deemed sufficient discipline for his ethical infractions and the Disciplinary Review Board having further recommended that any application by respondent for reinstatement to practice be accompanied by medical proofs that he is mentally and physically fit to return to the practice of law and that his readmission to practice be conditioned on successful completion of the Skills and Methods core courses offered by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, and the Disciplinary Review Board's recommendation being based on its conclusion that: 1) respondent had abandoned his law practice at some point between 1978 and 1982, that a pattern of gross neglect in respondent's handling of two estate matters was one consequence of that abandonment; 2) respondent failed to comply with various court directives, and 3) he failed to cooperate in ethics matters, and good cause appearing;

It is ORDERED the findings and recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board are hereby adopted and that the suspension that JEROME E. OKONIEWSKI has served since March 16, 1983, is deemed sufficient discipline for his ethical infractions, and it is further

ORDERED that respondent's reinstatement to the practice of law is conditioned on the requirement that he submit medical proofs that he is mentally and physically fit to return to the practice of law in accompaniment with any application that he may make for his reinstatement to the practice of law and on his submission of proofs of successful completion of the Skills and Methods core courses offered by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education; 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 JEROME E. OKONIEWSKI as an attorney at law of the State of New Jersey; and it is further

Ordered that JEROME E. OKONIEWSKI continue to be restrained and enjoined from practicing law during the period of his suspension and to continue his compliance with Administrative Guideline No. 23 of the Office of Attorney Ethics dealing with suspended attorneys; and it is further

Ordered that JEROME E. OKONIEWSKI reimburse the Ethics Financial Committee for appropriate administrative costs.

This matter is before the Board based on a presentment filed by the District IV Ethics Committee. That presentment concerns respondent's conduct as an attorney in two underlying ethics grievances.

Respondent, who was admitted to practice law in 1960, was engaged in the private practice of law in Millville, New Jersey. At the genesis of the problems detailed in the presentment, respondent was a named partner in the firm of Okoniewski, DiStefano and Bronkesh. Respondent was suspended from practice on March 16, 1983. The pertinent facts of the two grievances follow:

I. THE REGALBUTO MATTER

In the mid-1970s, respondent was retained to act as trustee for Vito Regalbuto (Vito), brother of Nazareno Regalbuto, the grievant herein. An unspecified sum of money was given to respondent to invest on behalf of Vito. Respondent apparently did invest the funds, and made payments of the income on those investments to Vito until the fall of 1980. By this time, Vito was unable to care for himself and resided out of state. Respondent did not provide any explanation for the cessation of the payments to either Vito or the grievant, despite a number of inquiries and requests for an accounting.

A formal complaint, charging respondent with gross neglect, contrary to DR 6-101, was filed on April 15, 1983. In the second count of that complaint, respondent was also charged with failure to cooperate with the investigation by the District IV Ethics Committee. Proceedings before the district committee were held in abeyance for a lengthy period of time ...


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