IN THE MATTER OF NICOLE LEIGH PERSKIE AN ATTORNEY AT LAW
Docket Nos, XIV-2016-0340E; XIV-2016-0641E; XIV-2016-0716E;
XIV-2016-0717E; XIV-2016-0751E; XIV-2016-0752E;
XIV-2016-0753E; XIV-2016-0754E; and XIV-2016-0755E
C. FROST, CHAIR
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matter was before us on a certification of the record filed
by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to R.
1:20-4(f). The nine-count formal ethics complaint charged
respondent with violations of RPC 1.15(d) (failure
to comply with the recordkeeping requirements set forth in
R. 1:21-6) and RPC 8.1(b) (failure to
cooperate with disciplinary authorities) (count one);
RPC 5.5(a)(1) (practicing while administratively
ineligible and practicing while suspended), RPC
8.1(b), and RPC 8.4(b) (engaging in criminal conduct
that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty,
trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other
respects) (count two); RPC 5.5(a)(1),
RPC 8.1(b), and RPC 8.4(b) (count three);
RPC 1.1(a) (gross neglect), RPC 1.3 (lack
of diligence), RPC 1.4(b) (failure to keep the
client reasonably informed), RPC 5.5(a)(1), RPC 8.1(b), and
RPC 8.4(b) (count four); RPC 1.1(a), RPC 1.3, RPC 1.4(b), RPC
5.5(a)(1), RPC 8.1(b), and RPC 8.4(b) (count five); RPC
1.1(a), RPC 1.3, RPC 1.4(b), and RPC 8.1(b) (count
six); RPC 1.1(a), RPC 1.3, RPC 1.4(b), RPC
1.5(b) (failure to communicate in writing the rate or basis
of the fee), and RPC 8.1(b) (count seven);
RPC 1.1(a), RPC 1.3, RPC 1.4(b), RPC.
5.5(a)(1), RPC 8.1(b), and RPC 8.4(b) (count eight); and
RPC 1.1(a), RPC 1.1(b) (pattern of
neglect), RPC 1.3, RPC 1.4(b), RPC 1.5(b), RPC
5.5(a)(1), RPC 8.1(b), RPC 8.4(b), and RPC
8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or
misrepresentation) (count nine), For the reasons set forth
below, we determine to impose a two-year prospective
earned admission to the New York bar in 2011 and to the New
Jersey bar in 2013. During the relevant time frame, she
maintained a law practice in Somers Point, New Jersey. On
September 12, 2016, the Court entered an Order declaring
respondent ineligible to practice law, based on her failure
to pay the annual assessment to the New Jersey Lawyers'
Fund for Client Protection (CPF).
September 21, 2016, respondent was temporarily suspended for
failure to cooperate with an ethics investigation, In re
Perskie, 226 N.J. 515 (2016). She remains suspended to
of process was proper in this matter. On June 12, 2017, the
OAE sent a copy of the formal ethics complaint to respondent,
by certified and regular mail, at both her last known office
address and last known home address. The certified and
regular mail sent to respondent's office was returned
marked "Unable to Forward." Both the certified and
regular mail sent to respondent's home address was
returned marked "Moved, Left No
OAE, thus, effected service of the complaint by publication,
on July 10, 2017, in The Press of Atlantic City,
and, on July 17, 2017, in the New Jersey Law
failed to file a verified answer to the complaint.
Accordingly, on August 8, 2017, the OAE certified the record
to us as a default.
turn to the allegations of the complaint.
engaged in the practice of law in Somers Point, New Jersey,
in a partnership doing business as the Law Offices of Weber
and Perskie, LLC (Weber and Perskie). The firm maintained
attorney trust account XXXXX4159 at Bank of America, until it
was closed, on May 31, 2016. Respondent represented, via her
attorney registration, that she maintained attorney business
account XXXXX9593 at Wells Fargo Bank.
April 21, 2016, Bank of America notified the OAE of a $249.03
overdraft of Weber and Perskie's attorney trust account,
which occurred on April 19, 2016. By letter dated April 29,
2016, the OAE directed Weber and Perskie to provide a written
explanation of the overdraft, and to produce monthly trust
account bank statements for the prior three months and
relevant client ledger cards, no later than May 13, 2016.
11, 2016, Andrew Weber responded to the OAE's letter,
representing that, in 2015, he and respondent had terminated
their partnership, and that he had relinquished any interest
or control in the Bank of America trust account, effective
January 1, 2016; as part of the dissolution of Weber and
Perskie, he transferred all of his clients' funds to a
new attorney trust account, opened exclusively for his new
firm. Weber further stated that respondent was aware of the
overdraft, and had received the OAE's letter requiring an
explanation of it.
response to the information from Weber, the OAE, by letter
dated May 12, 2016, again directed respondent to provide a
written explanation of the attorney trust account overdraft,
and enclosed both its original letter and Weber's
response. That same date, respondent called the OAE,
representing that she would submit a written explanation of
the overdraft, plus the required documentation, by May 20,
2016. Respondent, however, failed to submit either an
explanation or the required documents.
31, 2016, the OAE directed respondent, for a third time, to
provide a written explanation of the overdraft, plus the
required documentation, no later than June 7, 2016. That
letter warned respondent that, if she failed to reply, the
OAE could file a petition for her temporary suspension. On
June 7, 2016, respondent submitted two letters to the OAE,
dated June 1 and June 7, 2016. Although her letters purported
to explain the overdraft, respondent failed to provide the
OAE with any of the required documentation.
on June 14, 2016, the OAE directed respondent to appear for a
demand audit, on July 12, 2016, and to produce specific
records of the Weber and Perskie attorney trust and business
accounts. That letter warned respondent that her failure to
reply could result in the filing of both a formal ethics
complaint charging her with violating RPC 8.1(b),
and a petition for her temporary suspension from the practice
of law. Respondent failed to appear for the demand audit, but
both faxed and called the OAE to explain her absence. During
the telephone call, respondent agreed to appear for the
demand audit on July 18, 2016. On that date, however,
respondent again failed to appear. Her assistant, Mary
Bright, faxed a postponement request to the OAE at 6:28 on
the morning of July 18, 2016.
20, 2016, the OAE again directed respondent to appear for a
demand audit, on August 2, 2016, and to produce the required
records for the Weber and Perskie accounts. That letter was
sent via fax, and regular and certified mail, to
respondent's home address. Yet again, the OAE reminded
respondent of her duty to cooperate, and warned her that the
OAE could move for her temporary suspension if she failed to
respond. Although the fax was successfully delivered, both
the certified and regular mailings were returned to the OAE.
August 1, 2016, OAE investigator Jessica Fisher called
respondent on her cellular phone to confirm her appearance at
the demand audit. Respondent did not answer, and because her
voice mailbox was full, Fisher was unable to leave a message.
Fisher left a voicemail with respondent's assistant,
Bright, requesting that respondent confirm the demand audit
appearance, scheduled for the next day. Later that same date,
respondent returned Fisher's call, promising to appear at
the demand audit with the required documentation. The next
day, however, respondent neither appeared for the demand
audit nor contacted the OAE regarding her failure to appear.
September 21, 2016, the Court granted the OAE's August 5,
2016 motion to temporarily suspend respondent from the
practice of law. The OAE then contacted Bank of America and
Wells Fargo to ensure that respondent's attorney business
and attorney trust accounts were frozen, but learned that
both accounts had been closed.
September 29, 2016, the OAE requested that the Atlantic
County Bar Association apply for the appointment of an
attorney-trustee, pursuant to R. 1:20-19, to act on behalf of
respondent's clients. On October 11, 2016, the Honorable
Julio L. Mendez, A.J.S.C, appointed Douglas Stanger as
attorney-trustee for respondent's practice. According to
stanger, respondent was initially cooperative with . his
efforts as attorney-trustee, but later ceased cooperating.
Consequently, Stanger contacted respondent's landlord to
gain access to her office and client files.
June 5, 2017, respondent had not produced the records
required for the demand audit. Consequently, the OAE
subpoenaed her financial records, which revealed that, during
the relevant time frame, respondent had made numerous cash
withdrawals, in "round amounts," from her attorney
trust account, in violation of R. 1:21-6(c)(2). The
subpoenaed financial records also revealed improper account
designations on the attorney trust account statements,
checks, and deposit slips, and checks and deposit slips
lacking information required under the recordkeeping rules.
forth above, on September 12, 2016, respondent became
ineligible to practice law for failure to pay her CPF
assessment? on September 21, 2016, she was suspended from the
practice of law for failure to cooperate with the OAE
investigation underlying this matter. Thereafter, on October
6, 2016, James F. Ferguson, County Counsel for the Atlantic
County Department of Law, informed the OAE that respondent
was practicing law while suspended. On September 15 and 29,
2016, respondent had submitted letters of representation to
the Atlantic County Sheriff's Department, in behalf of
three clients, requesting the postponement of pending
sheriff's sales in mortgage foreclosure matters.
November 17 and 18, 2016, the OAE mailed (regular and
certified, respectively) and faxed copies of Ferguson's
grievance to respondent. The fax was successfully delivered,
but the regular and certified mailings were returned to the
OAE on December 2 and 12, 2016, respectively. Respondent
failed to reply to the grievance.
October 21, 2016, Richard J. Tracy, a private practitioner
who represented M&T Bank, filed a grievance with the OAE,
alleging that respondent was practicing law while suspended.
On September 20, 2016, respondent had submitted to Tracy a
motion to vacate a judgment in connection with a foreclosure
action. The motion identified respondent as the
defendant's attorney. On September 26, 2016, respondent
also filed a motion for substitution of attorney in the same
foreclosure matter. Neither of respondent's motions were
addressed in court, because she had failed to pay the
required filing fees.
December 8, 2016, the OAE mailed (regular and certified) and
faxed copies of the Tracy grievance to her. Although the fax
was successfully delivered, the regular and certified
mailings were returned to the OAE on December 28 and 29,
2016, respectively. Respondent failed to reply to the
November 9, 2016, Robert Schneider, Jr., an attorney with the
Office of the United States Trustee, filed a grievance with
the OAE, alleging that respondent had filed three cases in
the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New
Jersey while administratively ineligible to practice. The OAE
confirmed that, on September 15 and 16, 2016, respondent ...