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In re Hasbrouck

January 30, 1998

IN THE MATTER OF PATRICIA LYNN HASBROUCK, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW.


Argued November 17, 1997

On an Order to show cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

This attorney-disciplinary matter is based on respondent's criminal convictions in Warren County Superior Court on four counts of third-degree burglary, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2, three counts of third-degree theft by unlawful taking, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, and one count of fourth-degree theft by unlawful taking, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3. Having pleaded guilty to all eight counts on which she was charged, respondent, Patricia Lynn Hasbrouck, was sentenced to four years of imprisonment and was ordered to pay a $400 Violent Crimes Compensation Board penalty, a $600 Safe and Secure Communities Program fee and $4,178.38 in restitution.

This is not respondent's first disciplinary matter to come before this Court. In May 1995, we suspended respondent for a period of one year for obtaining a controlled dangerous substance by fraud and for uttering a forged prescription. In re Hasbrouck, 140 N.J. 162 (1995). Respondent has not yet sought to be restored to practice.

On motion of the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) for final discipline, the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) unanimously recommended that respondent be disbarred, rejecting the OAE's recommendation that respondent be suspended for three years. We adopt the recommendation of the DRB.

I.

Respondent was admitted to practice law in New Jersey in 1981. Until her suspension in 1995, she was in private practice in Washington Township, Warren County. She served on the Fee Arbitration Committee and was an officer of the Warren County Bar Association. Her ethical record as an attorney was unblemished. Tragically, beginning sometime around 1986, an addiction to prescription pain-killers changed respondent's life. The undisputed facts leading to respondent's initial one-year suspension were set forth in this Court's opinion:

An unspecified number of years ago, respondent began suffering from migraine headaches. Her father, a physician, prescribed the pain-killing medication, darvocet, for her. Gradually, she started taking the medication more frequently. In 1986, she began taking sheets from her father's prescription pads and forging prescriptions for the drug. At first, respondent had the prescriptions filled only at local pharmacies so the prescription would not be questioned. As she needed to have prescriptions filled more frequently, she traveled greater distances. In 1989, she switched from darvocet to vicodin. When respondent's father retired, his office supplies, including prescription pads, were stored at respondent's home. Respondent wrote prescriptions for herself, not only in her name, but also in the names of her husband and her sister.

On April 12, 1993, respondent was apprehended attempting to have a prescription filled in her sister's name. The pharmacist had called the telephone number on the prescription for verification and learned that respondent's father had been retired for over one year. The pharmacist telephoned the police. Respondent was arrested on that date for violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1a(3), uttering a forged prescription, and violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-13, obtaining a controlled dangerous substance by fraud.

In a statement to the Morris County Prosecutor, respondent admitted the facts underlying the charges. In the criminal proceeding, respondent executed a Waiver of Indictment and was admitted to the [Pre-Trial Intervention] program by order dated August 2, 1993. Respondent entered Clear Brook Manor on April 17, 1993, completed the prescribed twenty-eight day program for substance abuse, and was discharged on May 15, 1993.

In disciplinary proceedings, respondent admitted that she had violated [Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC)] 8.4(b) and (d).

[In re Hasbrouck, supra, 140 N.J. at 165-66.]

Respondent averred in that disciplinary proceeding that she had overcome her addiction to pain-killing medications, and sought to introduce her rehabilitation as a mitigating factor before both the DRB and this Court. Id. at 169-70. Finding that respondent had "given us no indication that she would have attempted to control her addiction to painkillers if one of her forged prescriptions had not been detected," the Court declined to give significant weight to her efforts to achieve rehabilitation, noting that "t was the heavy arm of the law, rather than her own conscience, that convinced respondent to seek help." Id. at 170.

The facts giving rise to this subsequent disciplinary action arose during the very period when respondent's initial disciplinary action was pending before this Court. Her misconduct is described in the Offense Information ...


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