Friday, January 14, 2022

Runaway

The New Jersey Supreme Court has entered two orders suspending an attorney, one for one year and until further order and another for six months.

The one year sanction involved his dilatory handling of an urgently-desired divorce as described by the Disciplinary Review Board

[Client] Hogancamp’s frustration with respondent’s conduct was warranted, especially given the fact that [spouse] Gary was willing to work with respondent; did not contest the divorce; signed the PSA; and consented to a default. The divorce, which should have taken no more than a few months to, at most, a year, lingered for two years and two months, from August 2016 to November 2018.

Harm to client

Here, respondent’s misconduct caused significant harm to Hogancamp. Respondent was aware of the exigency of Hogancamp’s need for a divorce, as evidenced by her living and financial situation, yet her complaint was dismissed as a direct result of respondent’s misconduct. Respondent’s decision to represent Hogancamp in her divorce complaint for a reduced fee should not have impacted the urgency of his actions taken in her behalf and did not diminish his duty to provide competent representation. His claim that communications were confused due to his use of social media to confer with clients lacks support, as it is clear that respondent failed to communicate with Hogancamp in any other manner.

Although respondent categorizes his actions as “mistakes” and not ethics violations, we find that, in the aggregate, respondent’s treatment of Hogancamp and of her divorce matter certainly supports the ethics violations charged and warrants a significant quantum of discipline.

It being New Jersey, "significant quantum" is a relative term

Considering respondent’s failure to learn from his past mistakes, his significant disciplinary history, and the danger that he clearly is posing to his clients, over a prolonged period of time, we conclude that a one-year suspension is the quantum of discipline necessary to protect the public and preserve confidence in the bar.

The DRB described the two matters involved in the six-month recommendation

On November 6, 2012, grievant Michael Salazar sustained significant personal injuries while on the premises of his condominium complex, which was owned by Runaway Beach Community Association (Runaway). Following Hurricane Sandy, Salazar had been evacuated from his residence, but was allowed to return to retrieve his belongings. Upon his return, Salazar tripped over a damaged railing, which impaled his ribs, resulting in his hospitalization for almost a month.

The attorney filed the complaint on the last day and it was dismissed for want of prosecution when service was not obtained

Following the court’s dismissal of Salazar’s complaint, respondent failed to make any efforts to reinstate the case, despite having a year, pursuant to Court Rule, to file such a motion following an administrative dismissal.

There was a second civil matter in which the attorney violated multiple rules and failed to cooperate in the bar investigation. (Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2022/01/the-new-jersey-supreme-court-one-matter-involved-his-dilatory-handling-of-a-divorce-hogancamps-frustration-with-responde.html

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