IN THE MATTER OF KEITH T. SMITH AN ATTORNEY AT LAW
Argued: November 16, 2017
District Docket Nos. XIV-2016-0486E, I-2015-0018E
HoeChin Kim appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney
Ethics for DRB 17-306.
D. Scherzer appeared on behalf of District I for DRB 17-330.
Respondent appeared pro se.
A. Brodsky, Chief Counsel
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matters were before us on a disciplinary stipulation filed by
the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) (DRB 17-306) and on a
recommendation for a six-month suspension, filed by the
District I Ethics Committee (DEC) (DRB 17-330). We
consolidated them for disposition.
17-306, respondent admitted having violated RPC 5.5(a)(1) and
R. l:28A-2(d) (unauthorized practice of law) for failure to
comply with the requirements of the Interest on Lawyers Trust
Accounts (IOLTA) program.
17-330, a two-count complaint charged respondent with
violations of RPC 3.5, presumably (b) (a lawyer shall not
have ex parte communications with a judge), and RPC
4.2 (improper communications about the subject of the
representation with a person the lawyer knows to be
represented by another lawyer).
determine to impose a three-month suspension for the combined
misconduct in the matters.
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1989. On October 1,
2008, he received an admonition for misconduct arising from a
fee-sharing agreement with another attorney, which
encompassed several matters. After allowing a complaint to be
dismissed, respondent failed to take steps to have the
complaint reinstated and to contact his client about the
status of his case, violations of RPC 1.1(a) (gross neglect),
RPC 1.3 (lack of diligence), and RPC 1.4(b) and (c) (failure
to communicate with a client). Additionally, respondent
violated RPC 1.5(e), because the proportionality of fees
shared with the other attorney was not reasonable. In the
Matter of Keith T. Smith, DRB 08-187 (October 1, 2008).
In a later disciplinary matter, respondent was found guilty
of additional violations in several of the client matters
underlying the fee-sharing arrangement. No new discipline was
imposed, however, because the second disciplinary matter was
"inexorably intertwined" with the admonition
matter. In re Smith, 2009 N.J. LEXIS 1408 (December
7, 2011, respondent was censured for misconduct in two client
matters, including gross neglect, a pattern of neglect, lack
of diligence, failure to expedite litigation, and failure to
cooperate with disciplinary authorities. In addition,
respondent practiced law while ineligible, based on his
failure to pay the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client
Protection (CPF) annual attorney assessment. In re
Smith, 206 N.J. 137 (2011).
Court entered an Order, effective October 24, 2015, declaring
respondent ineligible to practice law, based on his failure
to comply with IOLTA requirements. He was returned to
eligible status on December 11, 2015.
was temporarily suspended from the practice of law, effective
February 28, 2017, for failing to comply with a fee
arbitration committee determination. In re Smith,
228 N.J. 2 (2017). He was reinstated less than a month later,
on March 27, 2017. In re Smith, 228 N.J. 308 (2017).
recently, on January 11, 2018, respondent, again, was
censured in a default matter. There, respondent failed to
comply with recordkeeping requirements, in violation of RPC
1.15(d) and R, 1:21-6, and failed to cooperate with the
ethics investigation, in violation of RPC 8.1(b). In re
Smith, ___ N.J. ___ (2018).
17-306 (District Docket No. XIV-2016-0486E)
facts are contained in an August 22, 2017 stipulation between
respondent and the OAE.
October 21, 2015, the Court entered an Order, effective
October 27, 2015, declaring respondent administratively
ineligible to practice law, based on his failure to comply
with IOLTA requirements. Respondent was returned to eligible
status on December 11, 2015.
November 12, 2015, during that ineligibility period,
respondent filed a complaint in Superior Court of New Jersey,
Atlantic County, in behalf of client William Lacovera. When
respondent filed the complaint, he was unaware of his IOLTA
ineligibility, having previously paid the annual CPF
assessment on September 4, 2015. Indeed, respondent learned
of his ineligibility only much later, during the summer of
stipulated that his actions in the Lacovera matter violated
RPC 5.5(a)(1) and R. l:28A-2(d).
recommended an admonition for respondent's misconduct,
citing several admonition cases involving attorneys who, like
respondent, were unaware of their ...