IN THE MATTER OF JACQUELINE ROCHELLE HARRIS AN ATTORNEY AT LAW
A. Brbdsky Chief Counsel
C. Frost, Chair
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matter was before us on a certification of default, filed by
the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) pursuant to R. 1:20-4(f).
The complaint charged respondent with violations of
RPC 1.15(a) (knowing misappropriation of client
funds) and the principles of In re Wilson, 81 N.J.
451 (1979); RPC 1.15(d) and R.
1:21-6(c)(1)(H)(2) (record keeping violations); RPC 5.5(a)
(practicing law while suspended); RPC 8.1(b)
(failure to cooperate with disciplinary authorities); and
RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud,
deceit, or misrepresentation). For the reasons expressed
below, we recommend that respondent be disbarred.
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1990. At the relevant
time, she maintained a law office in Orange, New Jersey.
2001, respondent was admonished for practicing law while
ineligible for failure to pay the annual assessment to the
New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for. Client Protection. In
the Matter of Jacqueline R. Harris, DRB 01-137 (June 29,
2009, respondent received a censure for failure to promptly
notify a third-party lienholder of her client's receipt
of settlement funds and failure to safeguard those funds by
disbursing them to her client. She also failed to cooperate
with the district ethics committee, by failing to turn over
information it requested during the course of its
investigation. In re Harris, 213 N.J. 540 (2009). We
found, as aggravating factors, respondent's belligerent
behavior toward the hearing panel and her failure to
recognize or acknowledge her wrongdoing. In the Matter of
Jacqueline R. Harris, DRB 09-038 (August 25, 2009) (slip
op. at 15). In addition to the censure, the Court ordered
that respondent complete six hours of courses in professional
responsibility and that the OAE audit her attorney accounts
in respect of that client matter.
was temporarily suspended, effective May 3, 2013, for failure
to pay costs assessed in connection with her disciplinary
matter. In re Harris, 213 N.J. 540 (2013). She was
again temporarily suspended on May 31, 2017 for failure to
cooperate with the O&E's investigation. In re
Harris, 229 N.J. 219 (2017). Respondent remains
suspended to date.
of process was proper in this matter. On June 21, 2017, the
O&E sent a copy of the ethics complaint by regular and
certified mail to respondent's last known home address
listed in the attorney registration records. On July 13,
2017, the certified mail was returned marked "Attempted
not known, unable to forward." The regular mail also was
returned with a similar notation.
did not file an answer to the complaint. Therefore, on July
21, 2017, the OAE sent letters to the same address and to
respondent's office address by regular and certified
mail. The letter notified respondent that, if she did not
file an answer within five days of the date of the letter,
the allegations of the complaint would be deemed admitted,
the record would be certified to us for the imposition of
discipline, and the complaint would be deemed amended to
include a willful violation of RPC 8.1(b). The
letter sent to respondent's office address included a
copy of the complaint.
certified letter sent to respondent's home address was
returned marked "return to sender, vacant, unable to
forward." The regular mail sent to respondent's home
address was returned marked "return to sender,
undeliverable as addressed, unable to forward."
A handwritten note on the envelope indicated that
respondent did not reside at the address. The certified mail
sent to respondent's office address was returned marked
"refused" and unable to forward. The regular mail
sent to the office address was not returned.
on August 7, 2017, notice of the complaint was published in
both the New Jersey Law Journal and the Star
Ledger, As of the date of the certification of the
record, August 30, 2017, respondent had neither contacted the
OAE, nor filed an answer to the ethics complaint.
allegations of the complaint are as follows. In 1998,
respondent began representing Valerie Cobb in a personal
injury matter. In May 2003, Cobb entered into an agreement
with New Amsterdam Capital Partners, LLC (NACP) for an
advance on anticipated settlement proceeds. Respondent and
Cobb signed an acknowledgement and assignment with NACP,
which, in part, obligated respondent to notify NACP when
Cobb's case settled and to disburse the settlement
proceeds and a fee to NACP, in full, on the date the proceeds
were recovered. Respondent indicated in the agreement that
there were medical liens of $14, 000 on the settlement
April 13, 2005, respondent received Cobb's settlement
funds, totaling $28, 000, which she deposited in her trust
account, in Cobb's subaccount. Between April 14 and
December 13, 2005, respondent made seven disbursements to
herself and Cobb, totaling $16, 787.77, leaving a balance of
$11, 212.23 in ...