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In re Toman

Supreme Court of New Jersey

April 24, 2019

In The Matter Of Jeffrey Toman An Attorney At Law

          Argued: November 15, 2018

          Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel

          DECISION

          DISCIPLINARY REVIEW BOARD BONNIE C. FROST, CHAIR

         Hillary Horton appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.

         Respondent did not appear, despite proper notice.[1]

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

          This 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 plea of nolo contendere in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, Pennsylvania, to first-degree misdemeanor corruption of a minor. The OAE recommended respondent's disbarment.

         For the reasons set forth below, we determined to grant the motion for final discipline and to recommend respondent's disbarment.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars in 2010. He has no history of discipline. On June 4, 2018, respondent's license to practice law in New Jersey was administratively revoked for his failure to pay the annual assessment to the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (the Fund) for seven consecutive years.[2]

         On March 16, 2017, respondent appeared in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas and pleaded nolo contendere to first-degree misdemeanor corruption of a minor.[3] Beginning on July 1, 2015, respondent engaged in sexual activity via text messages with a fourteen-year-old female (I.S.). Respondent requested I.S. to send photos of herself while she wore little clothing or a bikini, discussed topics of a sexual nature, and sent her pictures of his genitalia. Respondent was introduced to I.S. through her mother, whom he was representing in a child custody proceeding against I.S.'s father.[4]

         On June 27, 2017, respondent was sentenced to incarceration in the Lackawanna County Prison for a term of six months to twenty-three months. I.S. told the court that respondent's sexually predatory behavior had a "huge negative impact on her life;" that respondent took advantage of her at a particularly vulnerable time, when he was supposed to be representing her mother in a legal matter; and that the repercussions of respondent's conduct would affect her for the rest of her life.

         In turn, I.S.'s mother requested that respondent serve prison time. She emphasized that respondent took advantage of the trust she had placed in him her attorney and that respondent had destroyed their lives with "no ounce of remorse."

         As part of his sentence, respondent was required to submit to a mental health evaluation and a drug and alcohol evaluation, and to refrain from contact with the victim. The judge agreed to consider work release or home arrest at an appropriate time in the future, but required that the sentence be served immediately at the Lackawanna County Prison. Five months later, on November 22, 2017, the judge granted respondent's Petition for Home Confinement.

         On March 26, 2018, the Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) and respondent filed a Joint Petition in Support of Discipline on Consent (Joint Petition) before the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Joint Petition sought a three-year suspension, retroactive to the date of respondent's temporary suspension in Pennsylvania (October 8, 2017). The Petition asserted, in mitigation, that respondent was convicted of a single, first-degree misdemeanor offense; he accepted prison time as part of his sentence; he willingly consented to suspension beyond one year and one day, which will require him to petition for reinstatement prior to resuming the practice of law; he has no ethics history; he did not have physical contact with the minor; and he does not hold public office.

         On May 9, 2018, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted the Joint Petition and suspended respondent for three years, retroactive to October 8, 2017.

         In support of its recommendation for disbarment, the OAE cited the Court's May 24, 2017 consolidated opinion in In re Legato, 229 N.J. 173 (2017). The Court's decision encompassed three disciplinary matters in respect of three attorneys (Legato, Kenyon, and Walter). In sum, the Court ordered an indeterminate suspension for Legato and Kenyon, and disbarred Walter. Legato and Kenyon targeted persons online whom they believed to be underage children, but who were undercover police officers. Those attorneys never met with the "children" or caused any actual harm. Id. at 186. Walter, however, was disbarred because his misconduct involved more ...


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