Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Masessa

Supreme Court of New Jersey

October 22, 2018

In the Matter of Robert C. Masessa An Attorney At Law

          Argued: June 21, 2018

         District Docket No. XIV-2011-0333E

          HoeChin Kim appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.

          Robert C. Scrivo appeared on behalf of respondent.

          Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel.

          DECISION

          Board Bonnie C. Frost, Chair.

         To the Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

         This matter was before us by way of a disciplinary stipulation between the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) and respondent, submitted pursuant to R. 1:20-15(f). Respondent admitted violating RPC 1.15(b) (failure to promptly notify clients or third parties of receipt of funds in which they have an interest and to promptly disburse those funds) and RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation).

         This case represents another example of increasingly common misconduct that we have encountered in transactional real estate matters. In our recent decision in In the Matter of Yuexin Li, DRB 17-356 (January 24, 2018), we recommended that the Court consider the issuance of a Notice to the Bar announcing more stringent treatment of conduct that involves the purposeful, systematic, and unauthorized retention of excess recording fees, including an analysis of the conduct under the principles of In re Wilson, 81 N.J. 451 (1979), and its progeny (knowing misappropriation of client and/or escrow funds). The Li matter is currently pending before the Court.

         The OAE recommended that we impose a censure on respondent, who, in turn, requests a reprimand. For the reasons set forth below, as a matter of stare decisis, we determine that a censure is the appropriate sanction for respondent's misconduct.

         Respondent earned admission to the New Jersey bar in 1982 and to the New York bar in 1991. He has no disciplinary history, and practices law with the firm Masessa & Cluff, in Butler, Morris County, New Jersey.

         Respondent and the OAE entered into a disciplinary stipulation, dated April 24, 2018, which sets forth the following facts in support of respondent's admitted ethics violations.

         In July 2011, an attorney reported to the OAE respondent's systematic practice of overcharging recording costs and retaining excess funds, in connection with his service as the settlement agent in real estate closings. The OAE began an investigation, and respondent provided a written submission, wherein he admitted, but defended, that practice. Specifically, respondent asserted that, as a settlement agent, his practice was proper, pursuant to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), a federal law governing real estate transactions. Respondent, thus, maintained that he had committed no ethics violations.

         The OAE investigation was then "held in abeyance pending the outcome of a class action" lawsuit involving the attorney who had reported respondent's conduct. On May 19, 2016, while the investigation was still on hold, the Court issued its decision in In re Fortunato, 225 N.J. 3 (2016), censuring an attorney for engaging in the same practice, and ordering that attorney to review his real estate ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.