On Wednesday, May 31, 2023, the Supreme Court of New Jersey censured attorney Matthew J. Trella for his failure to disburse $37,000 that he holds in escrow on behalf of a client.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Matthew J. Trella,” with case no. 087499.

The charges cited New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1(a), 1.3, 1.4(b), 1.5(a)(b), 1.8(a), 1.15(a)(b), 8.1(a) and 8.4(c).

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The respondent allegedly neglected his responsibility to promptly settle the inheritance taxes associated with a client’s estate. Additionally, the respondent allegedly failed to promptly disburse the sum of $37,000 that was being held in escrow on behalf of the same client. These allegations suggest a delay or omission on the part of the respondent in fulfilling his obligations related to tax payments and the timely release of funds. Such actions, if proven true, could raise concerns about the respondent’s fiduciary duties, financial management, and adherence to legal and ethical standards.

The Decision states:

“According to the respondent’s client ledger card for Edward Marut, as of January 10, 2014, the respondent held $100,016.23 on his behalf. By March 25, 2014, the balance was zero. Nearly fifteen months later, on June 11, 2015, the respondent deposited in his ATA the $5,000 check from his personal money market account. Five days later, on June 16, 2015, the respondent issued an ATA check in the amount of $147, payable to “Wanda Kietlinski DPM,” leaving a balance of $4,854 held on Marut’s behalf. On October 29, 2015, the respondent paid himself $4,000 in legal fees, via ATA check number 9120, leaving a balance of $854.”

The Decision continues:

“Thereafter, the respondent ignored tax assessment notices from the State indicating that the D’Orazio Estate owed additional taxes. Specifically, on February 11, 2016, the respondent was notified by the State that the D’Orazio Estate’s total tax liability had been $21,161.25. With penalties and interest, the D’Orazio Estate still owed $15,539.94 (with a credit for the July 22, 2014 payment in the amount of $7,533). On April 28, 2016, the respondent received a second notice informing him that those taxes were still owed and that the liability had increased to $15,767.70. On July 25, 2016, the respondent received a third notice informing him that the taxes owed by the D’Orazio Estate had increased to $16,111.21 and were due on August 20, 2016. This third notice was addressed to D’Orazio, as executor of the estate, but mailed to respondent’s law office.”

The Decision further states:

“Citing disciplinary precedent discussed in detail below, the OAE asserted both in its written submission to us and during oral argument that a censure was the baseline discipline for respondent’s misconduct across three matters. The OAE contended, however, that the presence of substantial mitigation including the respondent’s lack of prior discipline and his stipulation to the misconduct, justified a downward departure to a reprimand.”

According to the Supreme Court, despite the respondent’s unblemished disciplinary history, the totality of his misconduct across three client matters and his admitted misconduct in uncounted additional client matters in which he failed to obtain a written fee agreement, was significant. In addition to these reasons along with the factual findings of the court, the same decided to censure the respondent.

The Disposition states:

“It is ORDERED that Matthew J. Trella is hereby censured, and it is further ORDERED that the entire record of this matter be made a permanent part of respondent’s file as an attorney at law of this State; and it is further ORDERED that respondent reimburse the Disciplinary Oversight Committee for appropriate administrative costs and actual expenses incurred in the prosecution of this matter, as provided in Rule 1:20-1.”

Mr. Trella practices in Clifton, New Jersey. He is licensed in New Jersey. His info can be found on lawyersfindlaw.com.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.