District Ethics Committee dismissal
A state appeals court upheld the right of a district ethics committee to dismiss a complaint without investigating it. There is no right to appeal this dismissal.
The plaintiff in O’Boyle v District Ethics Committee alleged his due process and equal protection rights were violated because he could not appeal the rejection of a complaint under R. 1:20-3(e)(6). But the Appellate Division found no constitutional basis on which to challenge the grievance procedure ‘such that we would consider declaring it invalid and compel the Committee to docket plaintiff’s grievance.’ “
Martin O’Boyle accused Millville solo James Swift of threatening to report him for adding an illegal unit to his Longport home if he did not pay money owed to Swift’s client, an electrician who did work on the house.
In a letter sent to O’Boyle’s lawyer on Sept. 19, 2006, Swift demanded payment and enclosed a letter he said he planned to send to Longport officials. He gave O’Boyle “until noon today” to get back or Swift and his client would “move forward in our collection efforts.”
Swift sent his letter to Longport, resulting in municipal action against O’Boyle, though he claims he was ultimately exonerated after spending about $100,000 on lawyers and experts.
O’Boyle claimed the letter violated Rule of Professional Conduct 3.4(g)’s prohibition of lawyers filing or threatening to file “criminal charges to obtain an improper advantage in a civil matter.”
Committee secretary Fredric Shenkman rejected the grievance on the basis that even if proved, Swift’s actions were not unethical because RPC 3.4(g) did not apply to municipal ordinances, since they are not criminal in nature (Via N.J. Law Journal).
The ABA report of its investigation of the N.J. discipline system
ABA report on NJ Attorney Disciplinary System-July, 2011, done at the Court’s request, was released earlier this month for public comment.
I agree wholeheartedly with the comment James Swift, Esquire made to the N.J. Law journal:
Swift says the appeals court made the right call because ‘if you allow people to file grievances against adversarial parties’ attorneys who are zealously advocating for their clients, you are opening the door to abuse.’ “
By the way, O’Boyle still hasn’t paid Swift’s client for the work performed on O’Boyle’s property; despite a judgment against O’Boyle.