IN THE MATTER OF FELIX NIHAMIN AN ATTORNEY AT LAW
Argued: October 19, 2017
Docket No. XIV-2016-0398E
Hillary K. Horton appeared on behalf of the Office of
Ringler 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 motion for reciprocal discipline,
filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to FL.
1:20-14, following respondent's voluntary resignation
from the New York bar, which he submitted after the New York
disciplinary authorities uncovered evidence that he had
continued to practice law after he was suspended in that
State. The OAE seeks a one-year suspension. Although
respondent sought either a three-month or
six-month suspension or a retroactive suspension in his
brief, counsel asserted, at oral argument, that a censure
would be appropriate. We agree with the OAE and, thus,
determined to grant the motion for reciprocal discipline and
impose a one-year suspension on respondent.
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1995 and the New York
bar in 1996. He maintained a law office in New York City that
operated under the name Felix Nihamin & Associates, P.C.
2010, we imposed an admonition on respondent for deficient
recordkeeping practices, negligent misappropriation of escrow
funds, failure to safeguard funds held on behalf of a third
person, and commingling personal and client funds in his
trust account, violations of RPC 1.15(a) and
RPC 1.15(d). In the Matter of Felix
Nihamin, DRB 10-073 (June 14, 2010).
17, 2014, the Court suspended respondent for three months,
following his June 29, 2012 conviction of third-degree
misapplication of entrusted property, in violation of
N.J.S.A. 2C:21-15. In re Nihamin. 217 N.J. 616
(2014). Specifically, over the course of a few years, in five
or six New Jersey "sale-leaseback" transactions,
respondent listed inaccurate deposit amounts on the HUD-1
settlement statements and, instead of disbursing the funds as
required by the lenders' written instructions, disbursed
the monies on the instruction of the entities that structured
the transactions. In the Matter of Felix Nihamin,
DRB 13-245 (December 18, 2013) (slip op. at 3-5). Respondent
was reinstated on January 23, 2015. In re Nihamin,
220 N.J. 344 (2015).
10, 2013, the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division,
First Judicial Department (New York Court) entered an
unpublished order deeming the New Jersey offense a
"serious crime," and directing the Departmental
Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department of
the Supreme Court of the State of New York (Committee) to
designate a hearing panel to "conduct a hearing why a
final order of censure, suspension or disbarment should not
hearing took place on July 30, 2013. On September 27, 2013,
the hearing panel recommended that respondent receive a
three-month suspension. More than a year later, on October
21, 2014, the New York Court accepted the hearing panel's
recommendation and suspended respondent for three months,
effective November 20, 2014.
February 24, 2015, respondent applied for reinstatement in
New York. On March 17, 2015, Orlando Reyes, staff counsel to
the Committee, examined respondent, under oath, in connection
with his motion for reinstatement.
the examination, respondent stated that he had not closed his
law practice after he was suspended, because he did not
believe that he was required to do so. Rather, he permitted
his firm's only other attorney, Natalia Sishodia, to
manage its day-to-day affairs, including handling the
told Reyes that, after his suspension, his involvement in the
firm's operations was very limited, as were his visits to
the office. Respondent represented that, on those limited
occasions, he was not involved in pending client-related
matters, but only "maybe something having to do with the
business account," such as "a payment or what have
you." He claimed that he had discussions with Sishodia
every seven to ten days, limited to the topic of firm
expenses incurred and the payment of bills. He denied that
they had discussed individual client matters.
denied that, after he was suspended, he received remuneration
for legal services provided by the firm; that he instructed
Sishodia or anyone else at the firm about the handling of
specific client matters; that he requested information about