On an order to show cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
For Suspension -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi, and Stein. Opposed -- None.
[120 NJ Page 370] This proceeding arises from a complaint filed by the District IV Ethics Committee (Committee), charging respondent, Stanley A. Rosner, with violating Rules of Professional Conduct
1.2(d) and (e), 1.6(b)(1), 1.15(d), 4.1, and 8.4, and New Jersey Rule 1:21-6(a)(1). Two members of the Committee recommended disbarment and one member recommended suspension. The Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) found that the Committee's findings that respondent had been guilty of unethical conduct "are fully supported by clear and convincing evidence," and recommended a three-year suspension. We agree.
Respondent's conduct arose out of a real-estate transaction that occurred in 1986, shortly after he had retired from his employment as an attorney at CECOM at Fort Monmouth, where he had been employed from March 1980 until January 1986. He retired on disability because of "emotional problems, mostly depression, recurrent depression." Before the DRB, respondent asserted also that he suffered from both alcoholism and compulsive gambling.
After retirement, respondent met Nicholas L. Camerota, a real-estate developer, who hired him to conduct legal research at $10 per hour. Soon after, Camerota told respondent of his desire to hire him as his attorney in connection with a real-estate closing on a large parcel of land in Eatontown, New Jersey. The purchase price was $1,615,000, and the contract provided for Camerota to place $75,000 in escrow with respondent, to procure a mortgage commitment for $1,800,000, to apply for site-plan approval within thirty days of execution of the contract, and to begin test borings within forty-five days thereafter.
Respondent soon realized that he was unable to handle the transaction and so informed Camerota. Respondent did not maintain either a business or trust account, and told Camerota that he could not hold the deposit because of his alcohol and gambling problems. The contract, nonetheless, provided that respondent would hold all deposit monies in trust and would disburse payments for permits, architectural fees, test borings,
and other site improvements. Those provisions and Camerota's role as a svengali proved to be respondent's undoing.
The DRB summarized the relevant facts:
In early March, Camerota purchased legal stationery for respondent. Camerota then prepared a letter to the seller's attorney for respondent's signature. The letter, dated March 19, 1986, acknowledged receipt and escrow of the $75,000 deposit. Bills which totaled $75,000 for alleged site improvements were also listed. Although respondent neither saw nor ever had possession of the $75,000 deposit, and had no knowledge of any site improvements, he signed the letter at Camerota's request. In return for this signature, respondent related the following promises from Camerota:
He said he would still be able to pay me the $20,000, plus he would set me up as a residential manager in the apartments as they were built to sell the apartments to potential buyers and I would get a commission on that so that would be another $20,000. He had told me at one point in time within ...