As we are taught in law school, and as some members of the public find hard to believe, attorneys are held to the highest ethical standards. One of the surest ways for an attorney to secure his or her disbarment is to misappropriate funds. In a December 18, 2014 decision, however, the New Jersey Supreme Court drew a bright line between misappropriation of client funds held in trust and misappropriation of other types of funds – the former mandating disbarment and the latter providing for more flexibility in punishment. In Re Sigman, decided December 18, 2014.
While employed by a law firm in Pennsylvania as an associate, Scott P. Sigman, among other conceded wrongs, kept client fees for himself rather than sharing them with his employer firm as required by the terms of his employment. The Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board recommended a 30-month suspension for this and other violations of the disciplinary rules, and that discipline was subsequently imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.