In the Matter of Stephen Robert Murphy An Attorney At Law
Docket No. XIV-2017-0160E
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 certification of the record filed
by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to R.
1:20-4(f). The formal ethics complaint charged respondent
with violations of RPC 1.15(a), and the principles
of In re Wilson, 81 N.J. 451 (1979), and In re
Hollendonner, 102 N.J. 21 (1985) (knowing
misappropriation), RPC 1.15(a) (failure to safeguard
funds), RPC 1.15(d) and JL 1:21-6 (recordkeeping violations),
RPC 8.1(b) (failure to cooperate with an ethics
investigation), and RFC 8.4(c) (conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation).
reasons set forth below, we recommend disbarment.
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1999 and the
Pennsylvania bar in 1998. On September 8, 2017, he was
temporarily suspended from the practice of law for failure to
cooperate with the ethics investigation in this matter.
In re Murphy, 230 N.J. 346 (2017). He remains
suspended to date.
August 25, 2014, respondent was declared ineligible to
practice law for failure to pay the annual attorney
assessment to the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client
Protection (CPF). He remains ineligible to date.
of process was proper in this matter. On July 31, 2018, the
OAE sent a letter and a copy of the complaint to respondent,
by certified and regular mail, at his last known home address
appearing in the attorney registration records. The certified
mailing was returned marked "Return to Sender,
Unclaimed, Unable to Forward." The regular mail was not
September 7, 2018, the OAE sent a letter to respondent, to
the same home address, also by regular and certified mail,
informing him that, if he did not answer the complaint within
five days of the date of the letter, the allegations of the
complaint would be deemed admitted, the record in the matter
would be certified directly to us for imposition of sanction,
and the complaint would be amended to include a charge of a
violation of RPC 8.1(b). The certified mail return receipt
card was returned, signed on September 10, 2018, but the
signature is illegible. The regular mail was not returned.
time within which respondent may answer the complaint has
expired. As of September 27, 2018, the date of the
certification of the record, respondent had not filed an
relevant times herein, respondent maintained the following
accounts at TD Bank: an attorney trust account (ATA) and two
attorney business accounts (ABA1 and ABA2).
April 2015, Jason James Maddonni and his partner, Ryan
Macartney (also spelled "McCartney" in the record),
retained respondent to represent them in the purchase of the
"Shore Road Tavern." The sale documents identified
the seller as Michael Fiedler, Executor for the Estate of
April 28, 2015, Maddonni issued a personal check for $20,
000, payable to "Law Offices of Stephen R. Murphy,
Esq.," representing the required ten percent deposit for
the transaction. On May 5, 2015, respondent deposited the
check into his ATA. The $20, 000 deposit consisted of a
bifurcated escrow; $6, 500 toward the purchase of the tavern
real estate and the remaining $13, 500 for the purchase of
the business and liquor license.
August 28, 2015, Fiedler sent respondent an e-mail
withdrawing the offer of sale, after which Maddonni requested
the return of his $20, 000 deposit. Respondent, however,
informed Maddonni that he was required to maintain the funds
in escrow for potential litigation over Maddonni's
alleged failure to complete the purchase. Thus, respondent
was required to maintain the $20, ...