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State v. Fineberg

August 2, 2010

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
HARRIS L. FINEBERG, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 08-01-00012.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 25, 2010

Before Judges Rodríguez and Reisner.

Defendant Harris L. Fineberg appeals from his conviction, following a jury trial, of fourth degree knowingly engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and creating or reinforcing a false impression that he was licensed to engage in the practice of law, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-22. Defendant moved for Judgment NOV, or in the alternative, a new trial. Judge James Mulvihill imposed a five-year term of probation, with a special condition of a thirty-day suspended sentence to the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center. We affirm.

This is a summary of the evidence presented at trial. Defendant received a speeding ticket and was required to appear in the Woodbridge Municipal Court. Defendant sent a letter to the court on stationery indicating that it was from "H. LESLIE FEINBERG, ESQ., Attorney at Law." The address was 1 Edwards Court, Sicklerville, NJ 03031." The letter stated:

[p]lease be advised that my office represents Harris L. Fineberg in the case of the State v. Harris L. Fineberg, summons #SP3325591. Please grant us a continuance due to a conflict, I will be out of the area. Also please set the court date at the end of May beginning of June. I will be traveling abroad intermittently. Thank you for your consideration.

Woodbridge Municipal Judge Emory Z. Toth testified that on the adjourned trial date, defendant was disruptive by walking in and out of the courtroom and talking. According to Judge Toth, defendant appeared "disheveled" and did not appear as if he were an attorney.

Judge Toth then told defendant to go meet with the prosecutor. Defendant's behavior made Judge Toth suspicious. The judge examined the letter again. He found it unusual that the letter stated both "Esq." and "Attorney at Law" following the name listed on the letterhead. Judge Toth asked defendant where "Sicklerville" was located. Defendant became nervous and agitated. Moreover, the stationery appeared to come "off a computer... like a fake thing off the computer." Judge Toth asked Defendant for a business card. Defendant immediately replied with a non-sequitur, saying that he "does a lot of favors for people, specifically transporting body parts and blood all over the State." Judge Toth adjourned because of his suspicions that defendant was not an attorney. The judge provided the stationery to a Woodbridge Detective Richard Yanak for investigation.

Yanak contacted the State Board of Examiners, which confirmed that defendant was not an attorney and sent a certification verifying that neither defendant nor "H. Leslie Fineberg" was an attorney admitted to practice in New Jersey. Yanak interviewed defendant at the Woodbridge police station. Prior to the interview, Yanak instructed defendant to bring anything that would prove that he was an attorney.

After receiving Miranda*fn1 warnings, defendant admitted that he falsely represented himself as an attorney in court. Defendant explained that he provided the letter to the municipal court to obtain a continuance. Defendant disclosed that he goes by the names "Leslie, Les [and] Harris." Yanak reported his findings to Judge Toth. Defendant was subsequently arrested and indicted.

After the verdict, defendant moved for Judgment NOV. Judge Mulvihil denied the motion, finding that defendant received a "fair trial" and the evidence against him was "overwhelming."

On appeal, defendant contends:

THE CURRENT STATUTE IS UNCONSTITUTIONALLY VAGUE AS APPLIED.

A. Misrepresenting Oneself As An Attorney Is Not 'The Practice Of Law.'

B. Representing Oneself Pro Se Is Not 'Unauthorized.'

AS A MATTER OF LAW, APPELLANT DID NOT ENGAGE IN THE ...


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