Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Jersey Attorney Absolved Of Ethics Charges

A New Jersey attorney with the last name of Christie had all disciplinary charges dismissed by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The 45 page report of the Disciplinary Review Board had recommended dismissal.

The charges arise out of respondent’s conduct in connection with a real estate transaction involving A & S Title Agency, LLC (A & S), which she owned and operated from 2010 to 2014. A & S provided title insurance and conducted real estate closings.

The District Ethics Committee had found some of the alleged violations and proposed a reprimand.

The DRB found that the attorney did not assist in the unauthorized practice of another attorney who was suspended while the closing was progressing

when Kellner was acting as an attorney for the sellers, respondent was not involved. Moreover, when she .wrote the letters to Kellner, she did not know that he was suspended. Thus, she did not assist respondent in the unauthorized practice of law.

On an alleged conflict in her roles in the real estate transaction

Count two of the complaint charged respondent with having engaged in a conflict of interest by representing the buyer who procured title insurance through A & S, which was respondent’s company, a violation of RPC 1.7(a)(2) and (b)(3). We determined to dismiss this charge as well...

In this case, respondent did not engage in the Ocean City practice. She had nothing to do with the negotiation, execution, or review of the agreement of sale. More importantly, she did not receive the title business through a realtor who steered McCaffery to A & S. Rather, McCaffery, an independent contractor who worked .in the title business, chose to have A & S handle the transaction. Indeed, respondent performed no legal services for McCaffery at any time. The two letters written by respondent do not alter this conclusion.

Although respondent identified herself as counsel for Peter in the March 2013 letter to Kellner, she was not. As both she and McCaffery made clear, respondent wrote that letter, as well as the letter in April 2013, as a favor for McCaffery. McCaffery was having difficulty communicating with Kellner, who, when he did communicate with her, was not very cooperative...

The presence of the attorney fee charge on the HUD-I and the payment of the fee to respondent, whether or not they were mistakes, also do not change the conclusion that respondent did not represent Peter in the transaction. Although she stepped in at the eleventh hour, and drafted the deed and affidavit of title, so that the transaction could proceed, the conveyance of those documents is the responsibility of the seller, not the buyer...

In short, the record lacked clear and convincing evidence that respondent represented Peter in the transaction. Therefore, she did not engage in a conflict of interest, and we determined to dismiss the charge.

And as to the dishonesty charges

 The complaint alleged that respondent made several misrepresentations. She allegedly misrepresented on the HUD-I that Kellner was a short sale specialist. This allegation is not supported by clear and convincing evidence, however.

...although respondent may have acted negligently or carelessly, by making statements without first checking the HUD-I, she did not make misrepresentations.

...Here, respondent’s only intention, with respect to the transaction, was to assist McCaffery in making sure that the matter went to closing and that the McCafferys paid only the expenses incurred by A & S in making that happen. There is simply no evidence that she intended to misrepresent anything to the OAE during the investigation. 

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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