Wednesday, September 15, 2021
We often have occasion to lament the institutional leniency of New Jersey attorney discipline.
Well, today that system produced a result to counter our narrative.
The attorney had been subject to a public reprimand in Pennsylvania for conduct described by the New Jersey Disciplinary Review Board
This case arises from respondent’s representation of two clients in their personal injury matters, wherein he sued the wrong defendant; misidentified the address where his clients’ injuries occurred; failed to preserve his clients’ claims before the statute of limitations expired; and then deceptively induced the clients to settle and release any potential malpractice claims they had against him.
The DRB surveyed the sanctions for the violations
Based on New Jersey disciplinary precedent, a term of suspension is required for the totality of respondent’s misconduct. A reprimand would be the baseline level of discipline merely for respondent’s misrepresentations to his clients or his tricking his clients into waiving their malpractice claims against him. Further considering his gross neglect; his egregious failure to communicate, including his failure to inform his clients that the statute of limitations had run; and his failure to provide his clients with fee agreements, at least a censure would be required.
Respondent, however, committed additional, serious misconduct, in an attempt to conceal his legal malpractice and to minimize his own financial and reputational consequences. Specifically, he directed Oliver to induce his clients, under completely false pretenses, to waive their potential claims for legal malpractice. Respondent, thus, exceeded the misconduct of attorneys who merely failed to supervise their employees, by affirmatively directing his employee to engage in misconduct. Respondent then failed to pay the sums he had promised to his clients to secure the nonconsensual, improvident releases that he had directed his employee to obtain. Further, respondent made a false statement to Pennsylvania disciplinary authorities, denying that he had committed any misconduct. For such brazenly dishonest behavior toward clients and disciplinary authorities, a term of suspension is required to protect the public and preserve confidence in the bar.
Thus three months.
The New Jersey Supreme Court accepted that recommended sanction. (Mike Frisch)