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In re Bernot

Supreme Court of New Jersey

November 28, 2018

In The Matter Of Robert J. Bernot An Attorney At Law

         District Docket No. XIII-2017-0004E

          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 on a certification of the record filed by the District XIII Ethics Committee (DEC), pursuant to R. 1:20-4(f). The formal ethics complaint charged respondent with violating RPC 5.5(a)(1) (engaging in the unauthorized practice of law).

         For the reasons set forth below, we determine to impose a six-month consecutive suspension.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1982.

         On May 2, 2012, respondent received a reprimand for violating RPC 1.3 (lack of diligence). In re Bernot, 210 N.J. 117 (2012). On May 3, 2013, he was temporarily suspended by the Court, for failing to pay disciplinary costs assessed in his reprimand matter. In re Bernot, 213 N.J. 541 (2013). On October 4, 2013, respondent was reinstated, having paid in full the monies owed. In re Bernot, 215 N.J. 634(2013).

         On November 2, 2018, respondent received a two-year suspension, for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and failing to cooperate with disciplinary authorities. In violation of two Court Orders, respondent practiced law both while temporarily suspended for failure to pay costs and while ineligible for failure to comply with the Court's mandatory IOLTA program. That matter proceeded by way of default. In the Matter of Robert J. Bernot, DRB 17-339 (April 3, 2018) (slip op. at 7).

         Specifically, between August 29 and September 16, 2013, respondent sent six letters on behalf of his client to her former husband regarding compliance with a property settlement agreement. Each of these letters was faxed from his law office, using his office stationery, which identified him as an attorney in good standing, a violation of RPC 5.5(a)(1). Id.

         Additionally, despite repeatedly accepting and signing for letters from the Office of Attorney Ethics requesting that he reply to the grievance, respondent failed to do so. Subsequently, the Office of Attorney Ethics filed a disciplinary complaint. Despite receiving a second opportunity to cooperate, respondent again ignored the requests. We found that his conduct in this regard brazenly violated RPC 8.1(b). Id.

         On October 22, 2012, respondent was deemed administratively ineligible to practice law, pursuant to R. 1:28A-2(d), for failure to comply with the Court's mandatory Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) program.

         On November 17, 2014, the Court declared him ineligible to practice law, for failure to satisfy his Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements. He remains ineligible.

         Additionally, since September 12, 2016, respondent has been ineligible to practice law for failure to pay the annual attorney assessment to the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (the Fund).

         Service of process was proper in this matter. On November 30, 2017, the DEC mailed a copy of the complaint to respondent at his business address in Flemington, New Jersey, by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, in accordance with R. 1:20-4(d) and 1:20-7(h). ...


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