The Supreme Court of New Jersey issued an admonishment on October 19, 2023, against Attorney Michael Martin McDonnell for violating ethics rules related to failing to cooperate with a disciplinary investigation.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Michael Martin McDonnell,” with case no. 088419.

The case stemmed from a grievance filed in December 2021 against McDonnell regarding his handling of an immigration matter. The District XII Ethics Committee began investigating the complaint and made multiple attempts starting in February 2022 to contact McDonnell regarding the allegations. However, McDonnell failed to respond to any letters or phone calls from the committee as part of their inquiry.

Due to McDonnell’s lack of cooperation, the District Ethics Committee charged him in December 2022 with violating Rules of Professional Conduct RPC 8.1(b), which relates to failing to cooperate with disciplinary authorities. McDonnell did not file an answer to the formal ethics complaint. As a result, in February 2023 the committee certified the matter to the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) as a default.

The DRB considered the case at its meeting on April 20, 2023. McDonnell was notified but did not file a motion to vacate the default. In a decision dated July 6, 2023, the DRB found that McDonnell violated RPC 8.1(b) on two occasions through his complete failure to respond to the ethics committee’s investigation.

Although the usual discipline for an attorney’s first ethics violation related to non-cooperation is an admonishment, the DRB noted McDonnell’s default in the matter as an aggravating factor. However, it gave significant mitigating weight to McDonnell’s almost 30 years of practice without any prior discipline. The DRB ultimately determined that an admonishment was the appropriate level of discipline.

The Supreme Court’s October 19, 2023 order formally admonished McDonnell and further required him to pay administrative costs associated with the ethics prosecution. McDonnell remains ineligible to practice law in New Jersey due to failure to pay annual dues and complete continuing legal education requirements.

According to avvo.com, Mr. Mc Donnell is an attorney in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He acquired his law license in New Jersey in 1995. 

A copy of the original filing can be found here.