IN THE MATTER OF NEIL S. BHATIA AN ATTORNEY AT LAW
Argued: March 15, 2018
Hillary K. Horton appeared on behalf of the Office of
Respondent waived appearance for oral argument.
A. Brodsky Chief Counsel.
C. FROST, CHAIR.
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matter was before us on a motion for final discipline filed
by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to R.
1:20-13, following respondent's guilty plea in the
Superior Court of California, to having violated California
Penal Code § 242, misdemeanor battery. The OAE
recommends either a censure or a three-month suspension. For
the reasons stated below, we determined to impose a six-month
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 2003 and the New York
bar in 2004. He has no history of discipline.
has been, ineligible to practice law since August 28, 2017,
due to nonpayment of the annual attorney assessment to the
New Jersey Lawyers* Fund for Client Protection (the Fund). He
is also ineligible due to non-compliance with continuing
legal education requirements.
August 23, 2016, respondent pleaded no contest in the
Superior Court of California, before the Honorable Philip J.
Moscone, to a violation of California Penal Code § 242,
misdemeanor battery. His attorney, Maximilian John Mizono,
waived respondent's appearance and entered the plea of no
contest on respondent's behalf. Judge Moscone confirmed
that Mizono had explained to respondent that a plea of no
contest was the functional equivalent of a guilty plea, and
that a "finding of guilt" would be rendered.
stipulated to the facts as articulated in Police Report
Number 160-208-744.1. Judge Moscone determined that the
police report contained a sufficient factual basis for him to
accept respondent's plea, and found that respondent had
been properly advised of his rights, voluntarily and
intelligently waived his rights, and assented to permitting
Mizono to enter his guilty plea in absentia.
police report filed in the incident, which was included in
the record before us, served as the sole source of the
factual basis for respondent's plea. The report itself,
however, is deemed confidential by virtue of California
Government Code Section 6254. Indeed, even the sentencing
court made no specific reference to the facts contained
therein. Although we have relied on those facts to reach our
determination, we have similarly refrained from any such
specific reference. We note only that, as set forth in the
OAE's brief, and as indicated by the caption of the
criminal complaint filed against respondent by the San
Francisco District Attorney, respondent's conviction was
based on an incident of domestic violence.
same day as his plea, the court sentenced respondent to three
years of "informal probation" with fifty-two weeks
of assigned anger management to be monitored by the pretrial
division. Respondent was also required, as a condition of
probation, to serve one day in the county jail, and to pay
both a $40 operation fee and a $30 criminal conviction
assessment. A "no harass" order was served on
respondent through counsel.
argues that the instant matter is similar to In re
Margrabia, 150 N.J. 190 (1997), both in respect of the
act of domestic violence that formed the basis of the
conviction and the sentence imposed. Margrabia assaulted his
wife by striking her in the face with a half-loaf of bread
and then punching her in the arm. Margrabia pleaded guilty to
simple assault and was sentenced to thirty days in jail,
suspended, and a two-year term ...