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Matter of Ashley

January 10, 1991

IN THE MATTER OF DENISE A. ASHLEY, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

ORDER

The Disciplinary Review Board having filed a report with the Supreme Court recommending that DENISE A. ASHLEY of CAMDEN, who was admitted to the Bar of this State in 1984, be suspended from the practice of law for a period of two years and that any application by respondent for reinstatement to practice be subject to conditions,

And the Disciplinary Review Board having further recommended that respondent's reinstatement to the practice of law

be conditioned by the requirement that she practice under a proctorship for one year,

And the Disciplinary Review Board's recommendation being based on its determination that respondent 1) acted with gross negligence in a number of matters, contrary to RPC 1.1(a); 2) exhibited a pattern of negligence, contrary to RPC 1.1(b); 3) failed to represent diligently or to communicate with her clients, and failed to cooperate with the ethics authorities, contrary to RPC 1.3, RPC 1.4 and RPC 8.1(b),

And good cause appearing;

It is ORDERED that the findings of the Disciplinary Review Board are hereby adopted and DENISE A. ASHLEY is suspended from the practice of law for a period of two years and until further order of the Court, effective January 8, 1991; and it is further

Ordered that respondent's reinstatement to the practice of law is conditioned on the requirement that she submit, as part of any application she may make, psychiatric proofs that she is fit to return to the practice of law and proof of her successful completion of the Skills and Methods core courses and the Professional Responsibility course offered by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education; and it is further

Ordered that in the event respondent is reinstated to the practice of law, her reinstatement is further conditioned by the requirement that she practice under a proctorship for one year, pursuant to Administrative Guideline No. 28; 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 DENISE A. ASHLEY as an attorney at law of the State of New Jersey; and it is further

Ordered that DENISE A. ASHLEY be and hereby is restrained and enjoined from practicing law during the period of her suspension; and it is further

ORDERED that respondent comply with Administrative Guideline No. 23 of the Office of Attorney Ethics dealing with suspended attorneys; and it is further

Ordered that respondent reimburse the Ethics Financial Committee for appropriate administrative costs.

APPENDIX

This matter is before the Board based upon two presentments filed by the District IV Ethics Committee.

Respondent was admitted as a member of the Bar of New Jersey in 1984. She was engaged in a sole practice in Camden, New Jersey, until January 12, 1989, when a consent order was entered placing respondent on disability inactive status.

Respondent was charged with neglect in ten matters, as well as misrepresentation to clients, refusal to return files, and lack of cooperation with the ethics system. In addition, respondent did not return two retainers, as ordered by the Bankruptcy Court, and was charged with three instances of fraudulently signing her clients' signatures to bankruptcy petitions. The specific facts are as follows:

DRB 88-286

HENRY MATTER (IV-87-30E)

Respondent was retained in September 1984, to represent Mary Henry (grievant), in a bankruptcy proceeding. Grievant paid respondent $600 initially (C30E-1 in evidence) and provided a list of assets and debts to respondent to assist her in filing a Chapter 13 petition. In November 1984, grievant again contacted respondent, after a sheriff came to her home with papers for a forced sale of the property. Respondent assured her client that she would take care of it, and not to worry, that her home would not be sold (1T13-14).*fn1 In fact, the house was sold at a

sheriff's sale. Grievant then retained another attorney to file a civil suit against respondent, which was settled for $3,000 (1T18-19, 21).

The committee found a pattern of negligence, considering this matter along with the other matters in the presentment, in violation of RPC 1.1(b); gross neglect, in violation of RPC 1.1(a); lack of diligence, in violation of RPC 1.3; lack of communication, in violation of RPC 1.4; and failure to provide a formal answer to the complaint or to cooperate with the investigator, in violation of RPC 8.4(d).*fn2 The committee found identical violations for all the matters considered in this presentment and, in addition, violations of RPC 1.4 due to respondent's signing her clients' signature to bankruptcy petitions without their consent in both the Connell and Geserick matters (infra).

CONNELL, ALESHIRE & GESERICK MATTERS (IV-87-31E)

The following three bankruptcy matters were brought to the attention of the committee by ...


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