On an order to show cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For disbarment -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None.
[120 NJ Page 460] Occasionally a case arises with facts so egregious that although tragic, they cry out for disbarment. This is such a case. Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1967. On July 20, 1988, he was charged in a twenty-eight-count indictment with five counts of aggravated sexual assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, eight counts of sexual assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, five counts of attempted sexual assault in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, seven counts of criminal sexual contact in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2 and 14-3, and three counts of endangering the welfare of children in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4. The charges related to numerous incidents occurring between 1980 and 1988, in which respondent engaged in various sexual acts with his three daughters.
Pursuant to a plea agreement, respondent pled guilty on September 28, 1988, to three counts of second-degree sexual assault. At the plea hearing, he admitted that he had sexually assaulted his three daughters, one of whom was under the age of thirteen years, and two of whom were between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years at the time of the assaults. He was sentenced on February 22, 1989, to three concurrent terms of five years at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Avenel.
Respondent, who has been temporarily suspended from the practice of law since October 19, 1988, came before the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) on a motion of the Office of Attorney Ethics for final discipline based on the criminal conviction. See R. 1:20-6(b)(2)(i). The DRB concluded that respondent had engaged in conduct that adversely reflected on his fitness to practice law, in violation of Disciplinary Rule 1-102(A)(6) and Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(b). In its report, the DRB concluded that
respondent's atrocious acts justify his disbarment. More despicable behavior is difficult to fathom, especially in light of the vulnerability of the victims and of their close relationship to the offender. For a period of eight years, respondent sexually abused his three young daughters for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification because, as put by the prosecutor and as found by the sentencing judge, respondent found his wife unattractive and prostitutes were too expensive. And he did so knowingly. The Board scoured the record for the existence of circumstances that might indicate that respondent's cognitive senses were substantially impaired. The Board found none.
The shocking details described in the above factual recitation leave no doubt that respondent's behavior was so shameful, so immoral, so vile as to evidence an absolute lack of good moral character. The Board, therefore, unanimously recommends that respondent be disbarred. [Citation omitted.]
No useful purpose would be served by detailing the degrading acts that respondent performed on his daughters or the devastating effect of those acts on them. Consequently, we
turn to the legal effect of respondent's guilty plea to three counts of second-degree sexual assault. As described by the DRB:
A criminal conviction is conclusive evidence of respondent's guilt in disciplinary proceedings. Matter of Goldberg, 105 N.J. 278, 280 [520 A.2d 1147] (1987); Matter of Tuso, 104 N.J. 6 , 61 [514 A.2d 1311] (1981); In re Rosen, 88 N.J. 1, 3 [438 A.2d 316] (1981); R. 1:20-6(b)(1). Therefore, no independent examination of the underlying facts is necessary to ascertain guilt. In re Bricker, 90 N.J. 6, 10 [446 A.2d 1195] (1982). The only issue to be determined is the quantum of discipline to be imposed. Matter of Goldberg, supra, 105 N.J. at 280 [520 A.2d 1147]; Matter of Kaufman, 104 N.J. 509, 510 [518 A.2d 185] (1986); Matter of Kushner, 101 N.J. 397, 400 [502 A.2d 32] (1986); In re Addonizio, 95 N.J. 121, 123-124 [469 A.2d 492] (1984); In re Infinito, 94 N.J. 50, 56 [462 A.2d 160] (1983); In re Rosen, supra, 88 N.J. at 3 [438 A.2d 316]; In re Marabelli [Mirabelli] 79 N.J. 597, 602 [401 A.2d 1090] (1979); In re ...