La Duca, In re

Decision Date23 January 1973
Citation62 N.J. 133,299 A.2d 405
PartiesIn the Matter of Anthony R. La DUCA, an attorney-at-law.
CourtNew Jersey Supreme Court

Howard Stern, Paterson, for Passaic County Ethics Committee.

Richard M. Glassner, Newark, for respondent.


Respondent was admitted to the bar of this state in 1961. Following a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York he was convicted in April 1971 on two counts of a three-count indictment. The first count charged him and a co-defendant, a law partner of his, with conspiring with an unknown third person to sell and dispose of certain stolen property in the course of interstate commerce, knowing the property to have been stolen, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2314 and 2315. The second count charged respondent with perjury in sworn testimony before a federal grand jury investigating the matter. The co-defendant was acquitted. Respondent was sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment for one year on each count. There was an affirmance on appeal (without opinion) and a denial of certiorari by the United States Supreme Court.

At the trial respondent did not testify, electing to rest his defense on the testimony he gave before the federal grand jury investigating the matter, the transcript thereof having been adduced in evidence at the instance of the Government.

The Passaic County Ethics Committee conducted a hearing on the disciplinary aspects of the foregoing prosecution, and respondent there testified as to his version of the transactions in question and was cross-questioned by the Committee. The Committee also heard testimony from Mr. D., a former member of the Committee. See Infra. Thereafter the Committee filed a presentment with this court. This sets forth that it was respondent's position that the Committee should reevaluate the merits of respondent's guilt of the charges of which he was convicted, on the record of the trial; that his conduct was not as an attorney but as an agent of another merely seeking to ascertain whether a reward was available for the return of stolen goods innocently discovered; and that in mitigation the Committee should consider (a) that respondent prejudiced his criminal case by following improvident advice not to take the stand at the trial and (b) that in doing what he was convicted for on the first count he relied on advice by Mr. D.

The Committee found that the trial record submitted on the appeal was not sufficiently complete to enable it to determine respondent's guilt; but that the accusations against him involved serious violations of the law even if they did not relate to his professional conduct. The Committee concluded with a recommendation that the disciplinary penalty be less than disbarment for the reasons that there was no prior blemish on respondent's record and that he had been punished adequately for his 'ill-considered and unwise action' by his conviction and imprisonment and the suffering of his family in consequence thereof.

Neither an Ethics Committee nor this Court reviews the truth of a criminal conviction in a disciplinary proceeding based upon the fact of a conviction. It may be appropriate in a given case to look at the underlying facts involved in the criminal charge to weigh the impact of the conviction upon the measure of discipline but in that process the fact of guilt will not be retried. In re Mischlich, 60 N.J. 590, 592--593, 292 A.2d 23 (1960). We will here advert to the facts, not to rerun the criminal convictions, but to see whether some amelioration may be found in the claim before the Committee that respondent acted pursuant to advice sought and accepted in good faith from Mr. D. Id. at 593, 292 A.2d 23. If his claim in that regard were true, it would not reduce the impact of the convictions for perjury. In any event, an examination of the record reveals that respondent did not inform Mr. D. truthfully with respect to the role he had in mind and that respondent did not abide by the advice he received from Mr. D. The examination of the record, made to the end we have stated, satisfies us fully that respondent has been guilty of dishonest and immoral conduct of a nature which stamps him as unfit to continue on the roll of the members of the bar. His conduct cannot be passed off as merely 'ill-considered and unwise'.

From all the evidence we find the following. In January 1970 respondent came in contact with an individual, of whose identity no one can be confident from the record of this case, who was seeking a reward for return of certain goods he had allegedly discovered. This person apprised respondent of his possession of 30 valuable porcelain art objects, apparently stolen, and he besought respondent's assistance in obtaining a reward from their owner. During his negotiations and communications hereinafter detailed respondent kept the name of the person secret, referring to him only as a 'client'. But ultimately, before the federal grand jury in October 1970, he purported to name the client, who he said had died in April 1970. He also later claimed that an intermediary, whom he had previously represented in certain matters, had put him in touch with the client.

Respondent told Mr. D. and others that his client had told him that the porcelain objects had been found among the effects of a deceased relative, along with a news clipping indicating they had been stolen from an Antique Porcelain Company in New York. A different version given by respondent at one time was that the client, after finding the objects, had engaged a private investigator who informed him as to the identity of the owner, and that the client had turned to respondent to ascertain whether there was a reward because the investigator was too expensive. Ultimately, according to respondent, he agreed with the client on an arrangement of a fee of $1,000 or 10% Of the proceeds if a reward were realized. Soon thereafter the intermediary or the client came to respondent's office and showed him one or two of the porcelains.

Shortly after he was approached on the matter respondent consulted with Mr. D., who respondent thought was still on the Ethics Committee, purportedly to seek advice as to whether it would be ethical to undertake the assignment. D. told him that in his opinion there would be no objection to his merely ascertaining whether a reward was available, reporting that fact to the 'client' and then immediately 'stepping out of the case'. But his opinion was conditioned on respondent first getting a sworn statement...

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29 cases
  • Greenberg, Matter of
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • July 17, 1998
    ...(citations omitted); see In re Rosen, 88 N.J. [1,] 3, 438 A.2d 316; In re Mirabelli, 79 N.J. [597,] 601, 401 A.2d 1090; In re La Duca, 62 N.J. [133,] at 136, 299 A.2d 405. Similarly, we consider evidence of an attorney's good reputation, his prior trustworthy professional conduct, and his g......
  • Yaccarino, Matter of
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • October 13, 1989
    ...betrayed, subverted, and corrupted the system he swore to serve. See In re Rosen, 88 N.J. 1, 2, 438 A.2d 316 (1981); In re La Duca, 62 N.J. 133, 140, 299 A.2d 405 (1973); In re Foster, 60 N.J. 134, 136, 286 A.2d 508 Judicial misconduct that involves overreaching and misuse of judicial offic......
  • State Bar of Nevada v. Claiborne
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court
    • May 18, 1988
    ...may not be relitigated, character of misconduct resulting in conviction may be examined for mitigating circumstances); In re La Duca, 62 N.J. 133, 299 A.2d 405 (1973); Levy v. Association of the Bar of City of New York, 37 N.Y.2d 279, 372 N.Y.S.2d 41, 333 N.E.2d 350 (1975); Office of Discip......
  • Imbriani, Matter of
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • June 27, 1997 593 (citations omitted); see In re Rosen, 88 N.J. at 3; In re Mirabelli, 79 N.J. at 601[, 401 A.2d 1090 (1979)]; In re La Duca, 62 N.J. at 136[, 299 A.2d 405 (1973)]. Similarly, we consider evidence of an attorney's good reputation, his prior trustworthy professional conduct, and his gen......
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