On Friday, June 30, 2023, the Supreme Court of New Jersey announced that it had censured attorney John Thomas Doyle for his misconduct in handling his trust account, which led to overdraft fees and a negative balance.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of John Thomas Doyle,” and was bought by the District VA Ethics Committee (DEC) with case no. 087893.
The charges cited New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(d), 5.5(a)(1), 8.1(a), 8.4(b), and 8.4(c) which states:
Failing to adhere to record-keeping requirements.
Knowingly practicing law while ineligible.
Making a false statement to disciplinary authorities.
Two instances of committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness.
Three instances of committing conduct involving dishonesty or fraud.
Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
In February 2013, the respondent attorney was hired by Tameka Mitchel and Yusef Jabri to handle their personal injury cases. When filing lawsuits for both clients in January 2015, he paid the required filing fees using insufficient funds from his attorney trust account (ATA), resulting in overdraft fees and a negative balance. The respondent attributed the fee shortage to a lack of funds from clients and relatives, failing to cover the expenses. Additionally, he provided falsified retainer agreements and knowingly practiced law while ineligible due to not meeting Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements. As a consequence of these misdeeds, the respondent faced disciplinary action.
Moreover, the respondent’s attorney admitted to multiple recordkeeping violations, which led to an ethics hearing. The violations included failure to maintain required journals, client ledger cards, and correct account designations.
The Decision states:
“Between January 30 and February 9, 2015, the OAE received overdraft notices from Wells Fargo in connection with the Superior Court’s attempts to negotiate the respondent’s $250 filing fee checks. Thereafter, the OAE sent respondent letters, directing him to explain, in writing, the circumstances underlying each of the ATA1 overdrafts. On February 16, 2015, the respondent sent the OAE a letter, explaining that he “took it upon [himself] to pay” Mitchel and Jabri’s filing fees because both of his clients were “indigent” and unable to pay for the costs of their respective 8 lawsuits. Respondent also maintained that he “had to file” the clients’ respective lawsuits “right away in order to meet the statute of limitations.” Respondent, conceded, however, that his law practice recently had “not brought in any significant money,” and that his ATA1 “had a zero balance in it for at least the last six months.”
The Decision continues:
“Following respondent’s submissions to the Superior Court, he failed to pay the $500 owed to the State of New Jersey for filing fees or the $140 owed to Wells Fargo for overdraft fees.2 Meanwhile, in March 2015, Wells Fargo closed respondent’s ATA1 for his failure to pay the account’s $140 in overdraft fees.”
The Decision further states:
“Additionally, respondent admitted that he not only failed to perform threeway reconciliations of his ATA1, as R. 1:21-6(c)(1)(H) requires, but that he also failed to maintain ATA1 receipts and disbursements journals, as R. 1:21- 6(c)(1)(A) requires. Respondent further conceded that he failed to maintain client ledger cards in connection with at least twenty active client matters, as R. 1:21-6(c)(1)(B) requires.”
After carefully reviewing the entire case, the court concluded that the DEC’s assessment of the respondent’s unethical behavior is strongly corroborated by clear and compelling evidence. The respondent’s actions led to the commission of at least two criminal acts, even without any formal criminal convictions, as the court has the authority to determine such findings.
The court also noted that in agreement with the DEC’s findings, it was established that the respondent knowingly issued filing fee checks from ATA despite being aware of its insufficient funds. In a risky move, he relied on the expectation of receiving funds from a family member or client before the Superior Court processed the checks. Consequently, the respondent deliberately issued two inadequate ATA checks to the Superior Court.
Based on these foregoing reasons, the court decided to censure the respondent.
The Disposition states:
“It is ORDERED that John Thomas Doyle 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.”
Mr. Doyle practices in Newark, New Jersey. He is licensed in New Jersey. His info can be found on avvo.com
A copy of the original filing can be found here