Lawyer Suspended For Disregarding Ethics Authorities' Correspondence
A Newark lawyer who dodged inquiries from ethics authorities about client-neglect and recording-keeping infraction increased his discipline to a three-month suspension.
Though a divided Disciplinary Review Board recommended only a censure for solo Steven Savage, the Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 25 that an unexcused failure to cooperate may be a basis for enhanced discipline.
Savage came to the attention of disciplinary authorities in November 2011 after criminal defendant Daniel Furesz complained that Savage did not adequately communicate with him in several cases and wrongly said one had been dismissed.
Furesz also alleged that Savage provided ineffective representation. Furesz ended up pleading guilty to possessing firearms as a convicted felon and is serving a 70-month sentence.
Savage sent a letter in reply to the Office of Attorney Ethics' request for information about the Furesz matter but did not include requested documents, nor did he answer three follow-up letters.
The OAE charged him with violations of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1(a), gross negligence; 1.1(b), pattern of neglect; 1.3, lack of diligence, and 8.1(b), failure to respond to a demand for information from a disciplinary authority.
Savage came to the OAE's attention again in July 2012 when TD Bank reported that his trust account was overdrawn by $115.
The OAE asked him in writing to provide an explanation and banking records, but he did not reply to that letter or two follow-up letters.
The OAE then obtained Savage's records from TD Bank and learned his wife, Carol Savage, was a signatory to his trust account. Her signature appeared on a $2,000 transfer from that account to his business account on July 27, 2012, and no person by that name is admitted to practice law in New Jersey.
The OAE charged Savage with violations of RPC 8.1(b) and RPC 1.15(d), a recordkeeping violation, for permitting a nonlawyer to be a trust account signatory.