C. FROST, ESQ., CHAIR EDNA Y. BAUGH, ESQ., VICE-CHAIR PETER
J. BOYER, ESQ. BRUCE W. CLARK, ESQ. HON. MAURICE J. GALLIPOLI
THOMAS J. HOBERMAN EILEEN RIVERA ANNE C. SINGER, ESQ. ROBERT
A. BRODSKY CHIEF COUNSEL
T. GRANUZZO DEPUTY CHIEF COUNSEL
MELISSA URBAN FIRST ASSISTANT COUNSEL
TIMOTHY M. ELUS LILLIAN LEWIN BARRY R. PETERSEN, JR. COLIN T.
TAMS KATHRYN ANNE WINTERLE ASSISTANT COUNSEL
Disciplinary Review Board reviewed the motion for discipline
by consent (censure or such lesser discipline as the Board
deems appropriate) filed by the District IX Ethics Committee
("DEC"), pursuant to R. 1:20-10(b).
Following a review of the record, the Board determined to
grant the motion. In the Board's view, a censure is the
appropriate quantum of discipline for respondent's
violation of RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). The Board
determined to dismiss the alleged violation of RPC
1.1(a) (gross neglect).
respondent was admitted to practice in 2013. In January 2014,
respondent began her employment with the law firm Bright
& Sponder, in-house counsel for Citizens United
Reciprocal Exchange (CURE), an automobile insurance company.
She handled a large and demanding caseload of personal injury
protection arbitrations and actions. In December 2014, after
less than a year in her position, respondent was ticketed for
driving while intoxicated (DWI) after a night out with
friends. She tried to hide the incident from her employer,
due to her fear that her employment would be terminated.
During the next five months, respondent appeared in court on
multiple occasions, each time expecting the matter to be
resolved. With each adjournment, respondent continued to keep
the matter from her employer, believing it would be resolved
with the next court appearance.
April 2015, respondent entered a guilty plea and the judge
suspended her driver's license for three months, through
July 28, 2015. Respondent feared that, if she stopped
submitting monthly mileage reimbursement requests, her
employer would become aware of the circumstances leading to
her driver's license suspension. Therefore, from April
through July 2015, respondent submitted falsified monthly
mileage expense reimbursement forms, and accepted those
reimbursements from her employer.
September 2015, Bright & Sponder discovered inaccurate
mileage entries, and informed respondent that it believed a
number of her entries had been falsified. At that time, she
readily admitted the deception and offered to repay the
excess amount she had received as reimbursement. The firm
declined her reimbursement offer, but terminated her
employment. Respondent remains willing to make repayment.
mitigation, respondent submitted that, as both an
undergraduate and a law school student, she was involved in a
number of campus civic and charitable activities. In 2015 and
2016, respondent provided pro bono legal services
for South Jersey Legal Services. From the outset of the
investigation, she provided full and candid cooperation. She
readily admitted her wrongdoing, accepted full responsibility
for her actions, deeply regrets the incidents giving rise to
the grievance, and has no ethics history. At the time of the
misconduct, respondent was young and inexperienced.
Additionally, as stated, she has offered to pay restitution
and remains ready to do so.
admitted that, over the course of five months, she falsified
mileage reimbursement forms to conceal the loss of her
driver's license, stemming from her DWI conviction.
Although respondent was not motivated by financial gain, but,
rather by the fear of potential job loss if her employer
discovered her driver's license suspension, she kept the
monies received as a result of her false reporting.
Respondent's misrepresentations violated RPC
her stipulation to the contrary, however, respondent did not
violate RPC 1.1(a). That Rule is
inapplicable, as it pertains specifically to attorneys'
conduct concerning client matters with which they are
"entrusted." Therefore, the Board determined to
dismiss that alleged violation.
support of the recommended quantum of discipline (censure or
less), the parties rely on In re Day, 217 N.J. 280
(2014), where the attorney was suspended for three months for
violating RPC 8.4(c), in connection with his
submission of false time entries indicating that he had
attended depositions on fifty-one dates when he had attended
only twenty depositions. Clients were billed based on the
false time entries. Day's firm ultimately reimbursed
those clients a total of $123, 050.49. In the Matter of
Neil M. Day, DRB 13-244 (December 20, 2014) (slip op. at
13, 14). The Board distinguished the attorney's conduct
from that of lawyers ...