Wednesday, March 19, 2014
The New Jersey Supreme Court has reprimanded an attorney for dishonest conduct.
Specifically, in 2004, when respondent was hired for a position with the Pennsylvania Health Law Project (PHLP), she had passed both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bar exams and led the PHLP Director to believe that she was taking the steps necessary to complete the application process to be admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. The PHLP personnel manual required attorneys employed by PHLP to pass the Pennsylvania bar examination within two and a half years, but it did not contain any provisions regarding bar admission requirements. The PHLP Director described respondent’s duties as "less legal work and more like administrative paralegal work."
Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 2004, but not to the Pennsylvania bar. From 2003 through 2006, she suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis. The disease seriously impacted her mobility, stamina, and physical and emotional health, and prevented her from completing the steps necessary to gain admission to the Pennsylvania bar.
A benefit of working for PHLP was that it paid the annual Pennsylvania attorney fee for full-time staff attorneys. In two separate years, 2004 and 2008, respondent misled the director that she had paid the annual fee. On one occasion, the director had PHLP reimburse respondent for the $175 fee. Rather than return the check, to which she knew she was not entitled, respondent cashed it and used it for other purposes. She ultimately repaid the $175.
In sum, respondent misrepresented her status as an admitted Pennsylvania attorney, during her five-year tenure at PHLP, and improperly used funds that were earmarked to reimburse her for a fee that she did not pay.
The attorney consented to the sanction. (Mike Frisch)