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In re Cresci

Supreme Court of New Jersey

December 10, 2018

IN THE MUTTER OP PETER JONATHAN CRESCI AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

          District Docket No. XIV-2017-G080E

          Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel

          DECISION

          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 Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to R.1l:20-4(f). The formal ethics complaint charged respondent with having violated RPC 8.1(a) (failure to cooperate with disciplinary authorities) and RPC 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice), as the result of his failure to file an affidavit of compliance with R. 1:20-20 following his November 2016 temporary suspension. Respondent filed a motion to vacate the default. For the reasons set forth below, we deny respondent's motion and determine to impose a censure.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars in 1992, to the Texas bar in 1998, and to the New York bar in 2011. At the relevant times, he maintained an office for the practice of law in Bayonne.

         Respondent has no history of final discipline. On November 17, 2016, the Court temporarily suspended respondent, based on allegations of knowing misappropriation in three matters. In re Cresci, 227 N.J. 139 (2016).

         Service of process was proper. On December 1, 2017, the OAE sent a copy of the formal ethics complaint to respondent's two last known office addresses, his office post office box address, and his home address, by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested. The certified letters were "unclaimed," and, thus, returned to the OAE. The letters sent by regular mail were not returned.

         On January 10, 2018, the OAE sent another letter to respondent, at the same addresses, by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested. The letter informed respondent that, if he failed to file an answer within five days, the allegations of the complaint would be deemed admitted, the record would be certified directly to us for the imposition of a sanction, and the complaint would be deemed amended to include a charge of a violation of RPC 8.1(b). The certified letters were "unclaimed, » and, thus, returned to the OAE. The letters sent by regular mail were not returned.

         As- of February 21, 2018, respondent had not filed an answer to the complaint, and the time within which he was required to do so had expired. Accordingly, the OAE certified this matter to us as a default.

         On April 20, 2018, respondent filed a motion to vacate the default. Prior to our discussion of respondent's motion, we first set forth the allegations of the complaint.

         According to the single-count ethics complaint, the Court's November 17, 2016 Order temporarily suspending respondent from the practice of law required him to comply with R. 1:20-20, which obligated respondent, within thirty days, to, among other things, file with the OAE Director "a detailed affidavit specifying by correlatively numbered paragraphs how the disciplined attorney has complied with each of the provisions of this rule and the Supreme Court's order." Respondent did not file the affidavit within the required time.

         On March 9, 2017, the OAE sent a letter to respondent at one of his office addresses, the office post office box address, and his home address, by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested. The letter informed respondent of his responsibility to file the affidavit of compliance with EL. 1:20-20, and requested its submission by March 23, 2017. The certified letters were ...


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