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In re Plagmann

Supreme Court of New Jersey

June 24, 2019

In the Matter of Robert Arthur Plagmann An Attorney At Law

          Argued: January 17, 2019

         District Docket No. XIV-2018-0333E

          Eugene A. Racz appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.

          Respondent did not appear, despite proper notice.

          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 motion for reciprocal discipline filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to R. 1:20-14, following the United States Department of the Navy's imposition of an indefinite suspension on respondent for his violation of Navy RPC 8.4a(3), equivalent to New Jersey RPC 8.4(c). That Rule prohibits Navy and United States Marine Corps (USMC)[1] attorneys from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

         The OAE recommends the imposition of a censure for respondent's misconduct. Respondent does not challenge the recommendation.

         For the reasons set forth below, we determine to grant the motion for reciprocal discipline and impose a reprimand on respondent for his violation of New Jersey RPC 8.4(c).

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 2006, the District of Columbia bar in 2009, and the Arizona bar in 2017. At the relevant times, he served as a Deputy Station Judge Advocate in the USMC. Respondent has no history of discipline in New Jersey.

         In October 2014, respondent was a Major in the USMC, and Deputy Staff Judge Advocate and Senior Defense Counsel at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar) in San Diego, California. Sometime that month, he and Lieutenant Colonel Melanie J. Mann, USMC, agreed that, due to a "tremendous amount of stress" and a heavy case load, he '"needed a break' from his intense defense work."

         On November 17, 2014, respondent was reassigned to Deputy Station Judge Advocate. In this position, he provided legal advice to the MCAS Miramar Commander and subordinate commands and staff.

         On December 17, 2014, respondent's brother, Staff Sergeant James L. Plagmann, Jr., was placed in the Pre-Trial Confinement Facility (brig) aboard MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, where he remained for six days. During Staff Sergeant Plagmann's confinement, respondent was neither his attorney, nor authorized to form or establish an attorney-client relationship with him.

         Under brig procedure, telephone calls to a detainee could not be accepted unless the calls were from a lawyer or the detainee's immediate command, or of a medical nature. All other callers were required to leave a message for the detainee, who would be permitted to return the call via payphone at a ...


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