Disciplinary Reporter Case Digest

Attorney ID 28335
Attorney Name Moeller, G. Jeffrey
DBP Docket No. 69 DB 2004
Supreme Court Docket No. No. 753 DD No. 3
County Out of State (NJ)
Disciplinary Counsel Edwin R. Frownfelter
Counsel for Respondent None
Decision Date 2004-04-23
Effective Date 2004-05-23
Case Digest Respondent was suspended for one year by the Supreme Court of New Jersey for his participation in an arrangement with a nonlawyer estates company, in which the company marketed “living trust” packages to senior citizens. All contacts with clients were made by nonlawyer representatives, who would then pass the completed information to Respondent. Respondent or his staff would enter this information into software that would generate forms, which would be sent to clients for signature with an opinion letter that the “living trust” was valid. Respondent did not communicated directly with clients before the client agreed to purchase the “living trust, and he was unable to show that he had ever advised any client that the “living trust” package was not appropriate to the client’s needs. A total fee of $1,995 was charged, of which Respondent retained $250 and the balance went to the nonlawyer company under various contractual arrangements. The Supreme Court of New Jersey found that the Respondent and the nonlawyer company had made dishonest statements about the benefits of “living trusts” and about the fee arrangements. The Court also found that the fees charged were excessive for the services performed, that Respondent had improperly shared a fee with a nonlawyer, and that Respondent’s professional judgment was compromised because the estates company, rather than the client, was paying his fees. The Supreme Court of New Jersey found that Respondent had violated numerous Rules of Professional Conduct, and determined that he should be suspended for one year. In Case No. 53 DB 2000, Respondent had previously been suspended by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for one year and one day for similar conduct with regard to a Pennsylvania client, and for using stationery that contained a false Pennsylvania address. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania suspended Respondent for one year on a reciprocal basis for the New Jersey suspension order.
Rule Violation(s) 1.4(b), 1.5(a), 1.7(b), 1.8(f), 5.4(a), 5.5(b), 7.1(a), 7.3(d), 7.5(a), 8.1(a), 8.1(b), 8.4(c) [New Jersey versions]
Discipline Imposed Suspension for one year
Points of Law A lawyer who enters into an arrangement with a nonlawyer company marketing living trust packages, by which all contacts with the client prior to sale are handled by the company, and the lawyer merely prepares forms after the fact based on the package sold by the company, who participates in a marketing scheme which overstates the value of “living trusts,” and who shares a legal fee with a nonlawyer estates company, violates several Rules of Professional Conduct and will be suspended.
Report/Opinion not available