Disbarment for Phone Sex

On January 4, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court disbarred a lawyer for, among other things, using client trust funds to pay for phone sex. See In re James P. Madden, No. D-17, 078323 (Jan. 4, 2017); see also In re James P. Madden, No. DRB 16-010 at p. 26 (N.J. Sup. Ct. Discipl’y Rev. Bd. Sep. 30, 2016) (describing misconduct and finding that “respondent continuously invaded client funds to support his alcohol, gambling, and phone sex proclivities.”).

Disciplinary authorities commenced their investigation after learning of an overdraft from the respondent’s trust account caused by three $36.00 charges from UNI Information Inc., a provider of “adult entertainment” in the form of “‘phone sex talk.'” UNI charged the following rates: “$18 for fifteen minutes; $36 for thirty minutes; $54 for forty-five minutes; and $80 for seventy-five minutes.” From April 2010 thourgh early 2013, the respondent paid more than $14,000.00 from his trust account to UNI for adult entertianment.

Mr. Madden’s defense? He paid for the phone-sex calls from his trust account because “he had personal funds in the account, at that time, and did not have a business account, but was in the process ‘of reestablishing one as soon as possible.'” The disciplinary review board was unpersuaded: “[F]or respondent’s knowing misappropriation of client funds . . . we recommend respondent’s disbarment.” The court agreed.