Sunday, February 14, 2016

Reprimand recommended for Planning Board Attorney who has since been cited for another ethics violation.

On December 22, 2014, I published an article about the East Hanover Township (Morris County) Planning Board Attorney and former municipal judge having been charged by the Office of Attorney Ethics for violating the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) because of his conduct in two real estate closings. Since that article was published, the lawyer, who has since been reappointed as East Hanover Planning Board Attorney for 2016, was recommended for a "public reprimand" and separately charged on October 22, 2015 for RPC violations arising out of other real estate transactions.

The attorney charged is William J. Rush who has office addresses at both 145 Route 46 West in Wayne and 695 Route 46 West in Fairfield.  Totowa lawyer Jared E. Drill, who chaired the hearing panel that considered the charges reported in my December 22, 2014 article, filed his December 11, 2014 "Hearing Panel Report Recommending Reprimand" with the Office of Attorney Ethics on February 5, 2015.  According to that report, the hearing panel, consisting of Drill, Wayne attorney Mary Tom and non-lawyer Mae Benson, unanimously found that Rush had violated the RPCs regarding diligence and the safekeeping of clients' property.  The panel also unanimously found that Rush was not grossly negligent and did not engage in fraud or dishonesty.  The report noted that Rush had "admitted his mistakes" and was "humble and genuine."

Drill's report is only a recommendation and Rush's fate depends on how the Disciplinary Review Board and the New Jersey Supreme Court act on the recommendation.  According to disciplinary reports for the first three quarters of 2015 (the only ones available when this article was written), no official action has yet been taken on the recommendation.

The October 22, 2015 ethics charges against Rush were brought by Roseland attorney Richard I. Miller of the District XI Ethics Committee.  Miller's formal ethics complaint alleges that Rush violated several ethical proscriptions regarding three complex real estate transactions that occurred between 2005 and 2007.  Rush, who is representing himself, answered the complaint on January 3, 2016 and denied any wrongdoing.  In his answer, Rush attacked the credibility of the ethics grievant, Ralph Day, and supplied a court opinion by Somerset County Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman to support his claim that Day's credibility is "highly questionable."  Rush also submitted into evidence Day's testimony during a 2008 bankruptcy proceeding and noted that waiting until 2015 to bring these eight to ten year old charges was "prejudicial" to him.