Attorney Philip V. Toronto was suspended for six months by the Supreme Court of New Jersey on Friday, June 30, 2023. The court found that Toronto committed various ethics violations.
The case is entitled “In the matter of Philip V. Toronto”, and was bought by the District IV Ethics Committee with case no. 087706.
The charges cited New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a), 1.15(d), 5.5(a)(1) and 8.1(b), which states:
Negligent misappropriation of client funds.
Failure to comply with recordkeeping requirements.
Unauthorized practice of law – practicing while ineligible.
Failure to cooperate with disciplinary authorities.
The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
The respondent was found to have committed various violations, including negligent misappropriation of client funds, failure to comply with recordkeeping requirements, practicing law while ineligible, and failure to cooperate with disciplinary authorities. The respondent had a history of disciplinary actions, including previous suspensions and reprimands. The misconduct included overdrawing the attorney trust account, not safeguarding client funds, and failing to provide requested financial records during an investigation. Despite multiple opportunities, it was said that attorney Toronto failed to file a proper answer to the formal ethics complaint, leading to a default ruling. As a result, a six-month suspension with conditions was deemed appropriate as a disciplinary measure.
The Decision states:
“The OAE’s review also revealed that, on December 23, 2019, the respondent again invaded client funds by disbursing the $30,000 check from his ATA, payable to Donna Cristelli, thereby causing an $8,691.42 overdraft to his ATA. Further, according to the OAE, on December 31, 2019, the respondent should have maintained funds on behalf of four clients: Luciana; Cristelli; Janakat; and Piazza Pizza. Respondent, however, failed to safeguard $9,726.42 on behalf of Luciana and Piazza Pizza and invaded client funds belonging to Janakat and Cristelli. After the OAE had filed its motion for his temporary suspension, the respondent caused two additional overdrafts in his ATA”
The Decision continues:
“Specifically, on December 11, 2020, the respondent’s ATA held $30,768.66. Respondent then issued check number 1185, in the amount of $31,000, thereby overdrawing the account by $231.34. Next, on January 25, 2021, the respondent’s ATA was overdrawn by $709.34. In each instance, the respondent failed to provide the OAE with an explanation for the additional overdrafts of his ATA, or any financial records related to these two additional matters, despite the OAE’s repeated requests for same. The OAE, thus, was unable to determine the nature of the disbursements or the specific clients’ funds that were invaded as the result of his overdraft.”
The Decision further states:
“Between September 17 and November 13, 2020, the OAE attempted to contact the respondent by telephone and in writing and offered additional deadlines for compliance and dates for his demand audit. Respondent failed to provide outstanding financial records and documents and failed to appear for his audit. Therefore, on December 1, 2020, the OAE moved for the respondent’s immediate and temporary suspension.”
Based on the factual findings and the Disciplinary Review Board’s decision, the Supreme Court of New Jersey suspended the respondent from practicing law.
The Disposition states:
“It is ORDERED that Philip V. Toronto is suspended from the practice of law for a period of six months, effective July 27, 2023, and until further Order of the Court, and it is further ORDERED that the Order of the Court filed March 11, 2021, is vacated.”
Mr. Toronto practices in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. He is licensed in New Jersey. His info can be found on martindale.com.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.