Muni-mail – “My Decision is final and you can’t appeal!” – O’Boyle v. DEC
[08/14/11 – 5:43 pm] On Friday, the Appellate Division ruled that the decision of the secretary of a local District Ethics Committee (DEC) as to whether to docket an inquiry from a member of the public is exclusive and not subject to review or type of appellate review. In O’Boyle v. District I Ethics Committee, the plaintiff sought to have his complaint against a local attorney docketed. Following an investigation, the DEC secretary determined that the conduct alleged did not constitute a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Rules of Court do not provide a procedure to appeal this type of determination and a law suit followed.
The Appellate Division ruled that the Supreme Court is well-aware of this power vested in the local DEC secretaries. Moreover, the procedure does not violate the state constitution or other New Jersey law.
The case is of critical importance to the bar in that it demonstrates that if the local DEC secretary can be persuaded following an inquiry from a disgruntled member of the public of a disaffected client that the allegations do not constitute an a violations of the RPC’s, the case will be dismissed forever early on the in the process.
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