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BRODSTEIN DISBARRMENT CASE. (06/13/62)

June 13, 1962

BRODSTEIN DISBARRMENT CASE.


Appeal, No. 225, Jan. T., 1962, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, Aug. T., 1961, No. 216, in re report of Committee of Censors of Berks County Bar Association relating to Ellis Brodstein. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

C. Wilson Austin, with him Speicher & Austin, for appellant.

James W. Bertolet, with him John S. Rhoda, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'brien, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 408 Pa. Page 85]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BELL

Ellis Brodstein, a member of the Berks County Bar for 40 years, was disbarred, after a hearing by the lower Court. Brodstein had filed three income tax returns which the lower Court found to be fraudulent. In one of these returns he had omitted to report approximately $22,000 income which he received in 1956. In imposing sentence the Court took into consideration not only the aforesaid fraudulent income tax returns but also (a) the fact that in 1930, Brodstein had been suspended for three years for unprofessional conduct, and (b) the fact that Brodstein's conduct for nearly 25 years had been so exemplary that he had been elected in 1951 President of the Berks County Bar Association, and (c) that he was highly respected by judges and lawyers alike, and (d) that he is now 66 years of age and ill, and (e) that he had paid his deficiency (income) taxes in full.

Brodstein contends that in the light of all these facts, the sentence of disbarrment was unreasonable, unjust and undoubtedly too harsh, and that the Court should instead have imposed a sentence of suspension. The lower Court imposed the sentence of disbarrment with great reluctance.

Mr. Justice BENJAMIN R. JONES and Mr. Justice EAGEN dissent and would enter an order suspending appellant from the practice of law for a period of five years.

Disposition

This Court being evenly divided on the question of whether there was an abuse of discretion, the Order of the lower Court is affirmed.

[ 408 Pa. Page 86]

CONCURRING OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN:

The apparent lack of appreciation of the lawyer's fundamental responsibility to the courts, the public and our form of government which is evidenced by the dissenting opinion compels me to make this observation in support of the majority.

Since the founding days of this nation, the lawyer has played an important part in our democratic process. It was through the lawyer and his intimate relationship with government that our country developed the unique institutions that now characterize our American society. The large number of lawyers who have been presidents, governors, congressmen and legislators, not to speak of those who served in countless other public positions, have closely identified the lawyer with our democratic government and our democratic institutions.

The relationship of the lawyer to his government should provide an exemplary standard for the relationship of the general public to its government. Actions that breach the solemn trust that the lawyer owes to his government do great damage to our democracy. They should not be glossed over, justified or excused by unwarranted emotionalism.

ING OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO:

In 1930 when Attorney Ellis Brodstein was young at the bar he represented a man named A. Edward Hoffman who was sued by a woman named Anna Baumwald for $12,000, being commissions allegedly due her for the sale of trucks manufactured by Hoffman. In this litigation, Brodstein allowed zeal to becloud judgment and championing of his client's interests to overcome integrity, and in doing so transgressed the code of the profession. He quickly realized

[ 408 Pa. Page 87]

    his error and himself paid $12,000 to Miss Baumwald, the amount she had been claiming from his client. Because of this straying from the paths of professional rectitude, Brodstein was suspended as an attorney for three years.

At the end of the period indicated, Brodstein resumed the practice of the law, determined to so comport himself that the stain on his professional shingle would not only be completely eradicated but that his conduct might be cited as exemplary. He was eminently successful in this noteworthy endeavor. He labored long and arduously, he put his heart into his work, he plunged into religious, civic and charitable activities, he treated his brothers at the bar and his fellow-men with respect, kindliness and amiability. His friends became ...


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