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Law School Case Brief

In re Vincenti - 92 N.J. 591, 458 A.2d 1268 (1983)

Rule:

Vilification, intimidation, abuse and threats have no place in the legal arsenal. An attorney who exhibits the lack of civility, good manners, and common courtesy displayed tarnishes the entire image of what the bar stands for.

Facts:

In two separate occasions, respondent Lester Vincenti, who was the counsel of the respective defendants, displayed numerous improprieties in and out of the court. A panel of the local ethics committee ("the Committee") found that the respondent’s conduct exhibited a “constant a deliberate disregard of the minimum standards of conduct expected of a member of the bar” through his repeated discourteous, insulting and degrading verbal attacks on the judge and his rulings, and that these repeated discourses substantially interfered with the orderly process of the trial. The Committee concluded that respondent’s actions were designed to ridicule, embarrass and harass the individuals concerned, and in the case of his adversaries, his conduct was designed to intimidate them in the performance of their duties. The Committee therefore found that respondent had violated DR 1-102(A)(5) and (6) and DR 7-106(C)(6). The Disciplinary Review Board (“the Board”) then suspended the respondent from the practice of law for one year and until the further order of the court. The Board also required respondent to reimburse the courts for appropriate administrative costs, including the cost of producing transcripts.

Issue:

Was the suspension of respondent attorney from the practice of law proper under the circumstances?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court adopted the Disciplinary Review Board's recommendation in suspending respondent attorney from the practice of law for one year and until the further order of the court because of respondent's rude and obnoxious conduct. The Court emphasized the idea that unless order is maintained in the courtroom and disruption prevented, reason cannot prevail and constitutional rights to liberty, freedom and equality under law cannot be protected. The dignity, decorum and courtesy that have traditionally characterized the courts of civilized nations are not empty formalities. The Court stated that the Board was satisfied that the conclusions of the local ethics committee in finding unethical conduct on the part of respondent was fully supported by clear and convincing evidence. The Board found that respondent had violated Disciplinary R. 1-102(A)(4)-(6); Disciplinary R. 7-102(A)(1), (5); Disciplinary R. 8-102(B); and Disciplinary R. 7-106(C)(6). The Court agreed that violations of this nature required the imposition of public discipline. The Court noted that in severely reprimanding respondent for two related incidents in which he acted rude and disruptive that occurred within a 24-hour period, respondent was contrite and apologetic.

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