Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Perth Amboy attorney/judge charged by ethics authorities with convincing widow to give unsecured loans to a woman who had borne the lawyer's child.

On August 1, 2016, the District VIII Ethics Committee, an arm of the New Jersey Supreme Court's attorney disciplinary function, filed a formal ethics complaint against a Perth Amboy-based attorney who serves as one of the City's municipal court judge as well as a judge in neighboring Woodbridge Township.  The complaint alleges that the lawyer convinced an Edison widow to lend $790,000 she received from life insurance and a wrongful death lawsuit settlement to a woman with whom the lawyer had a sexual relationship out of which a child was born.  The lawyer is also charged with billing the widow $80,000 for the "minimal service" of filing a $250,000 double-indemnity claim against her deceased husband's life insurance company.

The complaint, Docket No. VIII-2016-00002E, alleges that Emery Z. Toth, who maintains an office on Maple Street in Perth Amboy, introduced Marybeth DeHanes of Edison, whose husband died in 1992, to Carol Gronczewski.  Toth allegedly had been intimately involved with Gronczewski since the late 1970s and fathered Gronczewski's child.  Yet, according to the complaint, Toth never disclosed to DeHanes his relationship with Gronczewski and DeHanes, at Toth's suggestion, lent $290,000 in 1993 to Gronczewski's company, CG Investment Realty.  The loan was supposed to be secured by a mortgage on an Edison property but, according to the complaint, "a mortgage was never filed to protect the interests of [Gronczewski]."

Toth is listed on Woodbridge Township's website as being one of the Township's four municipal court judges and on Perth Amboy's site as being one of three judges.  According to the ethics complaint, Toth has been practicing law since 1974.

After a different lawyer won a $2,000,000 wrongful death lawsuit in favor of DeHanes' deceased husband's estate, Toth allegedly advised DeHanes to invest her $500,000 share of the settlement with Gronczewski in 2000.  Again, DeHanes was allegedly led to believe that her investment was secured by a mortgage that "was never filed."

Separately, the lawyer who obtained the wrongful death settlement advised DeHanes that she was entitled to double-indemnity on her deceased husband's life insurance policy.  Toth allegedly contacted the insurance carrier and received an additional $250,000 and then told DeHanes that she owed him $80,000 for his services in obtaining the $250,000 insurance check.  According to the complaint, DeHanes paid Toth $80,000 "for the minimal services that he rendered in obtaining the extra $250,000" which was writing a "'few letters' to the insurance carrier."

Toth has had a previous brush with ethics officials. On January 5, 2009, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct filed a formal complaint against him for sentencing a man to 180 days in jail for a contempt charge without affording him an opportunity to respond and without staying the sentence for five days to give the man a chance to appeal.  According to press reports, Toth received a reprimand from the New Jersey Supreme Court.

At the time of this writing, Toth had not yet filed an answer to the complaint.  The ethics charges are only allegations--nothing has been proven--and Toth is entitled to hearing.

Since 1995, attorney disciplinary hearings have been open to the public.  Anyone who is interested in being notified in advance of any hearings on this matter may complete and send a hearing request form to District VIII Ethics Committee Secretary Barry J. Muller via fax to 609-896-1469.