"The public does not need to be protected from David Gross," he said.
In finding that Gross had violated firm policy, the DRB said: "We find the evidence clearly and convincingly supports a finding that Budd Larner had a policy, albeit unwritten, requiring attorneys to disclose to the firm that their receipt of gifts or other items of value from clients," the majority said.
The dissenters' view was in line with the OAE's evaluation. In 2005, the OAE and the defense signed a stipulation of discipline by consent that said Gross was guilty of failing to safeguard funds. The agreed-upon punishment was a censure or less because the office found that Gross had an unblemished record, there was no written gift policy and no client lost money.
But the DRB majorty rejected the deal and a special master called in to investigate, retired Judge David Cramp, recommended disbarment for willful misappropriation.
The majority agreed with Cramp on the misappropriation and also on the disposition of another charge. Gross was accused of cashing a $2,437 check reimbursing the firm for overpayment of expenses to a litigation support vendor in a 2002 case. The board found there was credible evidence that he acted inadvertently and found him guilty of failing to safeguard funds and recommended an admonition, the lowest form of punishment.
Gross, 74, now is with Saiber in Florham Park, N.J. In 2002, he and Budd Larner separated, and the terms were not made public.