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For immediate release: January 14, 2009
For more information contact:
Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig

Supreme Court Names New Director of the Office of Attorney Ethics

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner today announced that Charles Centinaro has been named the director of the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE). He succeeds David E. Johnson Jr., who will retire on Jan. 31 after 32 years with the Judiciary.

"Charles brings a wealth of experience to this vital position. He has served ably as a leader in the public defender's office, as a prosecutor, member of the executive branch, and private practitioner. We welcome him as he takes on the critically important responsibilities of the Office of Attorney Ethics," said Chief Justice Rabner.

Stephen Townsend, clerk of the Supreme Court, noted Johnson's place in the history of New Jersey's OAE. "David Johnson was named as the first director of the OAE when it was created in 1983. Under the guidance of four chief justices, he has shaped an attorney ethics office that is among the very best in the nation," said Townsend.

"On behalf of the Supreme Court, I want to express our gratitude to David for his leadership and commitment to safeguarding the public's trust and the integrity of the legal profession in New Jersey. The justices and I congratulate him on this well-deserved retirement," Townsend said.

The OAE investigates allegations of attorney misconduct and files formal complaints when warranted. Disciplinary sanctions are imposed by the Supreme Court and include both final discipline, which is imposed after the completion of an investigation, hearing and review by the Disciplinary Review Board, and emergent actions, which are imposed to protect the public while a disciplinary case is pending.

As the director, Centinaro will lead an office of more than 64 full-time employees and oversee the administration of 18 district ethics committees consisting of 600 volunteers who investigate, prosecute and adjudicate grievances filed against attorneys. He also will oversee the administration of 17 district fee arbitration committees consisting of 300 volunteers who adjudicate fee disputes between clients and attorneys. In addition, he will be responsible for the administration of the Random Audit Compliance Program, which audits trust and business records of law firms to ensure compliance with the recordkeeping requirements of the Supreme Court.

During 2007, the last full year for which statistics are available, OAE and the district ethics committees together received 1,553 grievances. In that year, some form of discipline was imposed on 155 attorneys. In addition, the fee arbitration committees resolved 1,038 fee disputes.

Centinaro serves as the director of juvenile defense services for the Office of the Public Defender, a position he has held since 2007. From 2001 until 2007, he served as the first assistant deputy public defender for the Mercer trial region.

A graduate of Rutgers University and of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, Centinaro began his career in private practice. He was named assistant county counsel for Hudson County in 1991, leaving in 1992 to join the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office as an assistant prosecutor. From August 1999 to July 2001 he served as assistant counsel in the Office of Chief Counsel to the Governor, first for Gov. Christie Whitman and then for Acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco.

"I am honored to be given the opportunity to serve the citizens of New Jersey in this new capacity," said Centinaro. "Our attorney ethics system is a national leader in upholding the integrity of the legal system, and I look forward to building on that reputation."

Additional information about the Office of Attorney Ethics can be found at judiciary.state.nj.us.

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