In re Caratzola, Docket No. DRB 19-135

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
Writing for the CourtDisciplinary Review Board Bruce W. Clark, Chair
PartiesIn the Matter of Francis J. Caratzola An Attorney at Law
Decision Date27 November 2019
Docket NumberDocket No. DRB 19-135

In the Matter of Francis J. Caratzola An Attorney at Law

Docket No. DRB 19-135

Supreme Court of New Jersey

Argued: June 20, 2019
November 27, 2019

Disciplinary Review Board
District Docket No.


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

Peter N. Gilbreth appeared on behalf of respondent.

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

This matter was before us by way of a disciplinary stipulation filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), in which respondent admitted having violated RPC 8.4(b) (committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer).

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For the reasons set forth below, we determine to impose a censure, with conditions.

Respondent earned admission to the New Jersey bar in 2017 and has no disciplinary history. During the relevant time frame, he maintained an office for the practice of law in Springfield Township, Union County, New Jersey.

The disciplinary stipulation, dated April 9, 2019, sets forth the following facts in support of respondent's admitted ethics violation, and provides us with information in respect of mitigation.

On February 12, 2018, during a motor vehicle stop in Hanover Township, Morris County, respondent was arrested for possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) - oxycodone. Specifically, upon approaching respondent's motor vehicle to investigate his lack of a valid motor vehicle registration, the police officer observed suspected drug paraphernalia - a rolled up dollar bill and a plastic straw - on the passenger seat. Respondent granted the officer consent to search his vehicle and admitted that he had smoked oxycodone the previous night, possessed one oxycodone tablet in his wallet and another in the console of his motor vehicle, and had no valid prescription for the drugs.

On the same date that he was arrested, the authorities charged respondent with one count of third-degree possession of oxycodone, in

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violation of N.J.S.A 2C:35-10(a)(1), and one count of disorderly persons possession of drug paraphernalia, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2.

Four days later, on February 16, 2018, respondent notified the OAE of his arrest and indictable charge, as R. 1:20-13 requires. On February 20, 2018, the Morris County Prosecutor's Office determined to downgrade the third-degree possession of CDS charge to the disorderly persons offense of failure to make lawful disposition of CDS to a law enforcement officer, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(c), thus, remanding the matter to Hanover Township Municipal Court.

On April 23, 2018, the municipal court granted respondent's request for suspended proceedings; admitted him into a one-year conditional discharge program, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:36A-1; and ordered him to pay $833 in fines, costs, and assessments.

Respondent stipulated that he unlawfully possessed CDS, and that his conduct violated RPC 8.4(b). The OAE and respondent further stipulated, in respect of mitigation, that respondent has sought medical counseling to address his opiate addiction; was cooperative with law enforcement; has exhibited remorse; and has no prior discipline. Respondent submits that he has been an "opiate addict for a number of years," and has provided records of his extensive attendance at various drug counseling sessions, including Alcoholics

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Anonymous (AA), the New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program (NJLAP), and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL).

The OAE urges a three-month suspension or such lesser discipline as we deem appropriate. Respondent requests a censure, citing the breadth and scope of his dedication to treatment to combat his addiction.

Following a full review of the record, we are satisfied that facts contained in the stipulation clearly and convincingly support the finding that respondent violated RPC 8.4(b).

Specifically, respondent stipulated that he knowingly and unlawfully possessed a CDS, oxycodone, without a prescription. That behavior constituted a third-degree crime and a violation of RPC 8.4(b)....

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