Statement of NJSBA President Jeralyn L. Lawrence

Regarding New Jersey Supreme Court Decision In the Matter of Dionne Larrel Wade

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June 7, 2022
For Immediate Release
Contact: Thomas Nobile
"The New Jersey State Bar Association believes it is time to end the practice of pushing the limits of what knowing misappropriation is beyond Wilson’s bright-line rule, which specifically addresses thievery and fraud against clients. 
Disbarment is a punitive and extreme remedy, especially in instances such as this case where no client or member of the public suffered any harm. We believe it is important for the Court to consider the merits of the particular facts of each case and exercise the ability to craft an alternative sanction. The Association understands the role of disbarment to bolster public faith in the legal system when there is clear and convincing evidence of an intent to steal money or defraud a client.
We believe there are alternatives short of disbarment in cases such as this and we applaud the Court’s decision to create a committee to reexamine New Jersey’s approach to disbarment. This is an important, seismic and much-needed shift in the right direction. Indeed 41 other states and the District of Columbia allow for readmission five years after the effective date of disbarment. 
Reinstatement works in many other states especially for attorneys who can show they have rehabilitated themselves, particularly those suffering from mental health issues or addiction. We stand ready to assist in any way we can to help the legal profession, the clients we serve and our system of justice. 
The NJSBA provides many resources to assist attorneys who are facing ethics infractions from its New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program that helps attorneys confronting depression or substance abuse that could have hurt their law firm and clients; to the Ethics Diversionary Program which provides educational sessions; to our PracticeHQ suite that provides resources about practice issues, including trust account matters; and our Putting Lawyers First Task Force that will examine these issues and offer constructive, practical solutions."
Read the NJSBA brief here.