In the Matter of Daniel B. Zonies
Docket No. XIV-2016-0551E
W. Clark, Esq., Chair Peter J. Boyer, Esq. Regina Waynes
Joseph, Esq. Peter Petrou, Esq. Anne C. Singer, Esq.
A. Brodsky Chief Counsel, Timothy M. Ellis Deputy Counsel,
Barry R. Petersen, Jr. Deputy Counsel, Kathryn Anne Winterle
Disciplinary Review Board has reviewed the motion for
discipline by consent (three-month suspension or such lesser
discipline as the Board deem appropriate) filed by the Office
of Attorney Ethics (OAE) in the above matter, pursuant to R.
1:20-10(b). Following a review of the record, the Board
granted the motion and determined to impose a three-month
suspension for respondent's violations of RPC
1.15(a) (commingling personal and client funds; failing to
safeguard funds; and negligently misappropriating client
funds) and RPC 1.15(d) (failing to comply with the
recordkeeping requirements of R. 1:21-6).
the record demonstrates that respondent's egregious
recordkeeping led to his commingling of personal and client
funds in seventeen matters (the Jefferson Hospital referral
fee, the Bell matter, and fifteen other matters),
and his failing to safeguard client funds, leading to
negligent misappropriation in the Vanderslice and
Galezniak client matters. Moreover, in the
Strickland matter, respondent improperly provided
financial assistance to a client, advancing $9, 000 to her
three weeks prior to receiving her corresponding settlement
proceeds. That conduct was violative of both RPC
1.15(a) and RPC 1.8(e) (improper financial
assistance to a client), but, because respondent was not
charged with the latter misconduct, we do not find a
violation of that Rule.
core of respondent's misconduct is his continuous and
complete failure to comply with recordkeeping requirements,
including: R. 1:21-6(c)(1) (failing to maintain trust account
records contemporaneously); R. 1:21-6(c)(1)(A) (failing to
maintain a cash receipts and disbursements journal for trust
account; failing to maintain fully-descriptive monthly cash
disbursements journals); R, 1:21-6(c)(1)(B) (failing to
maintain fully descriptive client ledger cards); and R.
1;2l-6(c)(1)(H) (failing to maintain monthly three-way
reconciliations for a trust account; failing to maintain
individual client ledger cards).
a reprimand is imposed for commingling, recordkeeping
deficiencies, and negligent misappropriation of client funds.
See, e.g.. In re Bucci, 238 N.J.
244 (2019) (attorney violated a number of provisions of R.
1:21-6, including maintaining negative trust account
balances, which she improperly offset by commingled attorney
fees); In re Christoffersen, 220 N.J. 2 (2014)
(attorney negligently misappropriated funds destined for the
satisfaction of a lien, failed to segregate funds that were
subject to a dispute between the lawyer and his clients,
commingled personal and trust funds, and failed to comply
with recordkeeping requirements; violations of RPC
1.15(a), (c), and (d); the Board considered the
attorney's unblemished record of thirty years at the New
Jersey bar, his reputation for honesty, and his considerable
contributions to the community, especially to his church and
the Boy Scouts organization); and In re Wecht 217
N.J. 619 (2014) (attorney's inadequate records caused him
to negligently misappropriate trust funds, violations of
RPC 1.15(a) and RPC 1.15(d)).
this is not respondent's first, or even second, contact
with the disciplinary system. Rather, it is his fifth.
Furthermore, respondent twice has been disciplined for
recordkeeping infractions - a 2003 reprimand and a 2018
censure. Although some of the recordkeeping misconduct under
scrutiny in this case began before imposition of the 2018
sanction, respondent has been on notice of his recordkeeping
deficiencies since 2003, when the OAE first investigated
similar misconduct. Moreover, in 2015, the OAE again
investigated his lack of recordkeeping. In 2017, the OAE
informed respondent that his accounting records were grossly
incomplete and in violation of the Rules. Yet,
respondent's recordkeeping deficiencies continued through
the date of the execution of the stipulation, in August 2019.
Based on the timeframe of the OAE's investigation of
respondent's recordkeeping practices, he had, or should
have had, a heightened awareness of his obligations under
RPC 1.15(d) and R. 1:21-6. Yet, respondent failed to
learn from his prior mistakes.
Court has signaled an inclination toward progressive
discipline and stern treatment of repeat offenders. In such
situations, enhanced discipline is appropriate. See In re
Kantor, 180 N.J. 226 (2004) (disbarment for abandonment
of clients and repeated failure to cooperate with the
disciplinary system). On balance, with emphasis on
respondent's continuous failure to fulfill his
recordkeeping obligations, the Board concluded that a
three-month suspension is the quantum of discipline necessary
to protect the public and preserve confidence in the bar.
are the following documents:
Notice of motion for discipline by consent, dated August 16,
Stipulation of discipline by consent, ...