A former Bayonne business administrator and parking authority city lawyer, Peter Cresci has been suspended from the practice of law by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics, reportedly for acts in connection with his 2013 indictment for unlawfully taking money from a client.
Suspensions are extremely rare and any formal discipline of lawyers is also rare in the state. Here is a list of all disciplines of lawyers for the three months ended September 30, 2016. Only nine lawyers were suspended in the entire state, and only seven were disbarred for that three month period. Even noted former municipal lawyer Dennis Oury, who was indicted and plead guilty to federal felony charges in 2009, was only suspended from the practice of law for three years. (He was suspended in 2009 and his three-year suspension is retroactive, meaning he could theoretically apply now for reinstatement to the legal profession with no guarantee of reinstatement.)
Here is what it officially means when a New Jersey lawyer is “suspended”:
The Supreme Court has suspended the attorney’s license to practice law in New Jersey because of unethical conduct or failure to comply with certain rules governing attorneys. The suspension may be a temporary suspension or may be for a set period of time, but both types of suspension require an Order of the Supreme Court for the attorney to return to Active status and be eligible to practice again.
For the benefit of the public, here are examples from the Office of Attorney Ethics of “prohibited conduct” which may be “cause for discipline”:
While it is impossible to list all of the acts or omissions which may constitute unethical conduct, here are a few examples of prohibited conduct which, if proven, may be cause for discipline.
- A lawyer cannot or will not give you money that he or she is holding on your behalf and to which you are entitled, or will not provide you a complete written accounting for that money.
- A lawyer continually fails to respond at all to inquiries about your case, to tell you about court dates, or to appear in court. Where the problem is simply a lack of communication, first try your best to resolve the problem yourself.
- A lawyer advises you or anyone else to lie, or lies himself or herself in the course of a case. Lawyers pride themselves on their honesty. The profession does not need those who feel they must resort to deception to conduct their practice.
- A lawyer represents one party to a transaction while also the attorney for the other side. This is a conflict of interest and is generally prohibited unless both parties are fully aware of the situation and consent to it.
Cresci, who maintains an office on Avenue A in Bayonne and an additional office in the town of Paris, New York, is unable to practice law while suspended.
Cresci is subject to ongoing formal hearings as a result of a grievance filed by Charles D’Amico charging a violation of attorney ethics rules governing legal officers and “false statements” under the Professional Rule 8.2 that governs lawyer conduct. The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, November 30, 2016. Cresci is one of only seven pending hearings in the Judicial District VI which covers Hudson County (there are 14 in the state).
Attorney trust accounts are special bank accounts which are generally only supposed to contain clients’ funds and never the lawyer’s funds.
Cresci threatened HudsonTV earlier this year with a lawsuit in connection with an employment dispute between his client and the City of Bayonne, .
There are estimated to be over 41,500 lawyers who are residents of New Jersey and who are “active” lawyers, in the entire State of New Jersey. That number does not count non-resident New Jersey lawyers who live in other states.