IN THE MATTER OF DIEGO P. MILARA AN ATTORNEY AT LAW
Argued: October 19, 2017
District Docket Nos. XIV-2013-0502E, VB-2017-0900E
Garcia appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.
E. Hanlon appeared on behalf of respondent.
A. Brodsky Chief Counsel.
C. Frost, Chair
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matter was before us on a recommendation for censure filed by
the District VB Ethics Committee (DEC). The complaint charged
respondent with violating RFC 1.3 (lack of
diligence); RPC 1.4(b) (failure to keep the client
reasonably informed and failure to comply with reasonable
requests for information); RPC 1.15(d)
(recordkeeping); RPC 5.5(a)(presumably (1))
(practicing law while ineligible); RPC 8.4(b)
(presumably RPC 8.1(b)) (failure to cooperate);
RFC 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud,
deceit or misrepresentation), - and RFC 8.4(d)
(conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). For
the reasons stated below, we
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1991. He has no history
of final discipline. However, respondent has been ineligible
to practice law in New Jersey since September 24, 2012, for
his failure to pay his annual assessment to the New Jersey
Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (the Fund). In
addition, respondent was temporarily suspended on January 22,
2015, for failure to cooperate with the Office of Attorney
Ethics (OAE). In re Milara, 220 N.J. 341 (2015). He
was temporarily suspended again, on June 12, 2017, for
failure to comply with a fee arbitration determination.
In re Milara. 229 N.J. 262 (2017). Respondent
remains suspended to date.
outset of the hearing before the DEC, counsel for respondent
stipulated to the facts of the complaint. The panel
determined to hear arguments only regarding aggravating and
mitigating factors, as well as the appropriate quantum of
discipline. Therefore, the following recitation of facts
comes directly from the formal ethics complaint. Respondent
did not appear or otherwise directly participate in the DEC
hearing, as R. 1:20-6(c)(2)(D) requires.
Carbone (Carbone), grievant, is the managing member of
Carbone Developments, LLC. Respondent represented Carbone in
a real estate transaction involving property in Bridgewater,
New Jersey (the property). Jane Kourakos managed PanHellenic,
LLC (PanHellenic). Carbone was also an owner/member of
PanHellenic. PanHellenic and Kourakos also were involved in
the purchase of the Bridgewater property.
to the purchase, Kourakos and PanHellenic had engaged the
legal services of Christopher Hyde, for matters related to
the property, but not for the purchase. Kourakos and
PanHellenic owed Hyde over $27, 000 in legal fees. Pursuant
to an agreement, $15, 750 was placed in escrow to satisfy
Hyde's legal fees. The escrowed funds were held in
respondent's attorney trust account (ATA); however,
Kourakos, Hyde, and Carbone could not resolve how the
escrowed funds were to be distributed.
August 18, 2012, Carbone requested that respondent send her a
copy of her client file. After several months of delay, on
November 6, 2012, respondent informed Carbone that he had
sent part of the file. In fact, he had not.
on September 10, 2012, because the parties could not resolve
the distribution of escrow funds issue, Hyde had suggested
that respondent file an interpleader complaint, to which
respondent agreed. Soon thereafter, on September 19, 2012,
the Court issued an Order declaring respondent
administratively ineligible to practice law for failing to
pay his annual assessment to the Fund, effective September
the course of the following month, Hyde sent several e-mails
to respondent inquiring as to the status of the interpleader.
On October 26, 2012, notwithstanding his ineligible status,
respondent assured Hyde that he would file the interpleader
"shortly." Respondent separately informed Kourakos
that he would file the interpleader by November 30, 2012.
December 21, 2012, respondent notified Hyde and Kourakos by
way of e-mail, that he had filed the interpleader complaint
with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Hudson County, Civil
Division on that same day. Throughout this time, beginning in
November 2012 and continuing through January 2013, Carbone
attempted to contact respondent, presumably about her file.
on January 29, 2013, respondent told Carbone he would be
sending the file to her the next day. He did not. On February
11, 2013, respondent once again informed Carbone that he had
located her entire file and would be sending it. Once again,
he sent nothing. Three days earlier, on February 8, 2013, the
court scheduled a hearing on the interpleader for March 7,
2013 and denied respondent's request to deposit the
escrow funds into the court's account.
was required to serve the order on all parties within five
days of its receipt. Thereafter, the court was unable to
contact respondent during the week leading up to the hearing;
however, on March 6, 2013, respondent contacted the court and
explained that he had failed to serve the order on any of ...