Friday, July 29, 2016

Reprimand sought for lawyer who drank alcohol, crashed car and left the scene with his 7 year-old daughter in car.

On June 20, 2016, the Office of Attorney Ethics petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court's Disciplinary Review Board to impose a "reprimand" on a Gloucester County lawyer who pleaded guilty to Cruelty and Neglect to a Child in the Fourth Degree following a March 20, 2014 Clayton car crash while "[h]e was operating a motor vehicle after having consumed alcohol . .  while his seven year-old daughter . . . was a passenger in his vehicle."

According to the Motion for Final Discipline and supporting brief, Ronald P. Sierzega of the Woodbury law firm of Puff & Cockerill, LLC, pleaded guilty on November 19, 2014 to the Cruelty and Neglect charge and was sentenced to one year of probation and a substance abuse evaluation in accordance with a plea deal accepted by Superior Court Judge Robert Becker.

Charges of Driving Under the Influence, Refusal to Submit to a Breathalyzer and Leaving the Scene of an Accident were remanded to the Elk Township Municipal Court where two alcohol related offenses were dismissed and a guilty plea was entered on the Leaving the Scene of an Accident charge.  Sierzega was assessed $189 in fines and costs and lost his driver license for six months.

Sierzega reportedly enrolled in an intensive substance abuse treatment program and "voluntarily purchased and installed an ignition interlock device on his vehicle."

New Jersey lawyers who commit offenses can be disciplined even when the attorney’s offense is not related to the practice of law.  A reprimand is the second mildest form of discipline that can be imposed.  The range of discipline that can be imposed, in their order of severity, are admonition, reprimand, censure, license suspension and disbarment.

It is unknown when the Disciplinary Review Board will rule on the motion.