The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam.
On an Order to show cause why respondent should not be disbarred or otherwise disciplined.
This is an attorney-disciplinary case. The Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) filed a complaint against respondent, Anthony J. Cavuto, charging him with the knowing misappropriation of client funds, in violation of RPC 1.15(a); failure to safeguard client funds, in violation of RPC 1.15(a); conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, in violation of RPC 8.4(c); failure to maintain proper records, in violation of RPC 1.15(a) and R. 1:21-6(b); and commingling personal and trust funds, in violation of RPC 1.15(a). The matter was presented to the District IIIB Ethics Committee (DEC), which recommended that discipline be imposed.
The matter is before this Court based on the decision of the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) determining that respondent was guilty of unethical conduct and recommending that the respondent be disbarred.
We determine the facts based upon an independent and de novo review of the record. R. 1:20-16.
Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1966. Respondent represented Curtis Bayne in a personal injury action arising out of a motorcycle accident. The matter was settled for $36,000 and the settlement proceeds deposited in respondent's trust account on May 9, 1986. Under the terms of the settlement, after certain deductions, Bayne was to receive $10,022.14; respondent's fee was $12,000. The settlement provided that respondent pay Bayne's health care providers, whose medical bills totaled $12,727.86.
Respondent issued two checks totaling $10,022 to Bayne on May 17, 1986. Respondent's records showed that after depositing the Bayne settlement funds, he wrote numerous checks to himself. The total amount of those checks was $26,259, viz:
5/14/86 7450 6/24/86 2000
Thus, within a short time of distributing the settlement funds to his client, respondent invaded the funds that were escrowed for payment of medical expenses. By July 31, 1986, only $1136.21 remained in respondent's trust account instead of the $12,727.87 that should have been available to ...