Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Freeman

Supreme Court of New Jersey

April 24, 2018


          Argued: February 15, 2018

          Allan Marain appeared on behalf of the District VIII Ethics Committee.

          Justin T. Loughry appeared on behalf of respondent.


          Bonnie C Frost, Chair

         To the Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

         This matter was previously before us on September 14, 2017, on a recommendation for an admonition filed by the District VIII Ethics Committee (DEC). At that time, we determined to treat it as a recommendation for greater discipline and to bring the matter on for oral argument.

         The seven-count complaint charged respondent with violations of RPC 1.2(a) (failure to abide by a client's decisions concerning the scope and objectives of the representation), RPC 1.4(b) (failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the matter)j RPC 3.3(a)(1) (knowingly making a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal), RPC 4.1(a)(1) (knowingly making a false statement of material fact or law to a third person), RPC 8.1(a) (knowingly making a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter) (two counts), and RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). For the reasons expressed below, we determine to impose a three-month suspension.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 2009 and to the New York bar in 2010. He maintains a law office in Edison, New Jersey. He has no history of discipline in New Jersey.

         This matter stems from respondent's representation of grievant Jazaar Redding, through the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) as a pool attorney. Respondent did not notify Redding about a hearing on his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) before appearing on his behalf and then engaged in a web of lies and misrepresentations to the judge, to the OPD, and to the DEC with regard to his conduct.

         Respondent's legal background bears some relevance in this matter. After graduating cum laude from Seton Hall University School of Law, he began his legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable Frederick De Vesa, J.S.C, who, at that time, was the presiding Middlesex County criminal judge. Thereafter, he worked for Cavanagh and Associates until 2012, when he opened his own practice, which consists almost entirely of criminal cases. Respondent handles many cases for the OPD, as a pool attorney, for which he is paid at the rate of $50 per hour.

         In November 2004, Redding, who at the time was twenty-one years old, was charged with second-degree sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a minor after engaging in sexual activity with a fourteen-year-old girl. Redding claimed that, at the time, he believed that she was seventeen or eighteen years old. Although Redding maintained that the conduct was consensual, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(c)(4) includes, as sexual assault, an act of sexual penetration where the victim is less than sixteen years old and the actor is at least four years older than the victim.

         Redding pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child. In exchange, the prosecutor dismissed the sexual assault charge and recommended a non-custodial sentence. Redding was sentenced to two years of probation and Parole Supervision for Life (PSL), under Megan's Law.[1] Redding was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment, but was required to report to a parole officer and to inform the officer of any changes in his residence or employment. Because Redding twice violated the terms of his parole, in 2006 and 2010, the Parole Board revoked his supervision for life and imposed a term of incarceration. He was released from prison in March 2013.

         In April 2012, while incarcerated on unrelated charges, Redding applied for post-conviction relief (PCR) and sought the assistance of counsel. In his petition, he admitted that he had engaged in sexual activity with a minor, but argued that his conviction should be vacated because he believed that the minor was over eighteen years of age and their relations were consensual, and, due to the ineffective assistance of counsel, he did not understand (1) the significance of the PSL sentence at the time of his plea, (2) the concept of an appeal, or (3) his right to appeal the sentence. His primary goal was to obtain relief from PSL under Megan's Law.

         In July 2012, the OPD assigned Redding's PCR matter to respondent. Redding recalled meeting with respondent only once, during his incarceration, possibly via video conference; making arrangements to meet with respondent after his release; and receiving respondent's December 7, 2012 letter, attaching a brief in support of the PCR motion.

         On April 4, 2013, soon after his release, Redding and his sister, Queen N. Stewart, Esq., met with respondent at respondent's Edison office. Redding claimed that, at the time, he lived at a Kent Street, Newark, New Jersey address, as he had for the past ten years, with the exception of earlier periods of incarceration. Stewart confirmed that Redding had always lived at that address with his father and that it was his main residence. She later admitted that, at times, he also stayed with family in Asbury Park and Neptune, New Jersey. Redding claimed that he provided respondent with the Kent Street address and his cell phone number, which periodically was not operational when he failed to pay his bill.

         Respondent counselled Redding against pursuing the PCR petition, because, if his conviction were vacated, the authorities could resurrect the sexual assault charge. In that case, respondent advised, Redding would likely be convicted because he had engaged in a strict liability offense and admitted as much in his PCR application. Against respondent's advice, Redding was willing to take the chance, in order to free himself from PSL. According to respondent, he informed Redding of another option - to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charge to one without a PSL component, for which Redding would be required to obtain, and provide to respondent, documentation showing Redding's good moral character and positive contributions to society. Redding, however, did not recall having such a conversation with respondent.

         During the April 4, 2013 meeting, Stewart gave respondent her business card, containing the address and telephone number of her then employer, the Law Office of Adrienne D. Edward, P.C. Stewart testified that she provided the contact information in case respondent had difficulty getting in touch with Redding. She added her personal cell phone number on the back of the card.

         Respondent asserted that, at that meeting, Redding had stated that he "was currently between residences" and would provide respondent with a permanent address upon obtaining one. According to respondent, because Redding's family members would not let him live with them, he was a transient. He claimed that Redding's Kent Street address was no longer valid, and that Redding was living either in Asbury Park or Neptune. Redding denied this claim, stating that he lived with his father and had a working cell phone.

         By court order dated May 7, 2013, respondent received notice that Redding"s PCR hearing was scheduled for August 2, 2013. Respondent never notified Redding orally of the hearing date. Likewise, nothing in respondent's file reflected that he had communicated the hearing date to either Redding or Stewart. Respondent conceded that, if a letter had been sent to Redding, a hard copy of it would have been in the file.

         According to Redding, he did not contact respondent after their meeting because he was waiting to hear from respondent. Redding did not expect to receive a court date any time soon, because he understood "it would be a waiting process." He testified that, after their initial meeting, he neither heard from respondent nor received any correspondence from him. Between Redding"s April 4, 2013 meeting with respondent and the August 4, 2013 PCR hearing, Redding was not incarcerated. His father was available to receive mail on his behalf at the Kent Street address, and he was in contact with Stewart, who could have relayed information to him, had respondent reached out to her.

         In turn, respondent explained that he had not contacted Redding because he did not have a valid address, noting that neither Redding nor Stewart had tried to contact him. Indeed, respondent claimed that Redding had instructed him not to mail anything to the Kent Street address because Redding would be residing at another address, which he would later provide.

         Redding countered that, despite respondent's claims that he did not have a valid address, his parole officer knew his whereabouts, due to required office visits and monthly "pop-up" visits at his home.

         Respondent asserted that he did not contact Redding's parole officer for Redding"s contact information, because he did not want to alert the parole officer that he could not locate Redding, lest it lead to a parole violation. Moreover, he claimed, the OPD's policy was to not involve the Parole Board in such matters. Raymond Black, Deputy Public Defender, PCR Unit, who testified in respondent's behalf, confirmed that a call to the Parole Board could initiate a violation of parole investigation. He stated that a good-faith effort to locate the client must be conducted, nevertheless. According to Black, if the client cannot be found, the attorney must notify the court that the attorney could not discuss the petition with the client, and the attorney should move to withdraw the petition.

         Respondent claimed that, as the date for the PCR hearing approached, he became concerned that he could not locate Redding. As "a routine occurrence, once, twice a week" he reminded his secretary, Jenny Tobin, to try to contact Redding.[2] He did not try to contact Redding personally, but spoke to Stewart twice at her law office, and called her multiple additional times before the hearing, but no one answered the phone. Stewart denied receiving any phone calls or letters from respondent.

         Respondent further asserted that Stewart had instucted him not to e-mail her at the law firm because "her boss would get mad" if she received personal e-mails there. He likewise claimed that Stewart had told him not to leave phone messages, because her employer did not want her engaging in personal matters at work. Stewart denied any office policy prohibiting her from receiving personal calls or e-mails at the office.

         Respondent neither asked Stewart for Redding's contact information, nor notified her about the hearing date, despite the fact that she had given respondent her business card, with her personal phone number written on the back. Respondent claimed that he spoke to Stewart during the summer, and, subsequently, to her employer, who informed him that Stewart was no longer with the firm. He maintained that he had no other contact information for Stewart. Respondent also claimed that he had attempted to contact Stewart several times, to no avail. His billing records to the OPD showed a telephone call to Stewart on March 26, 2013, before their April 4, 2013 meeting. He asserted further that he tried to contact Stewart several times after March 26, 2013, but was unable to reach her and did not leave voice mail messages or send e-mails because he did not want to get her in trouble with her employer. Respondent's bill to the OPD reflected only two calls "with sister" - the above-mentioned March 26, 2013 call and another, on May 6, 2013, each for three-tenths of an hour. Although respondent stated that he had twice conversed with Stewart, she did not recall any such conversations. If she had, she would have relayed the information to her brother.

         Edward, Stewart's former employer, testified that Stewart j left her employ on good terms and that she had Stewart's contact information. She denied having told Stewart that she was prohibited from accepting personal calls at work. Edward stated that, if respondent had tried to contact Stewart after Stewart was no longer in her employ, Edward would have given Stewart the information. Edward had no recollection of receiving any calls from respondent about Redding.

         On August 2, 2013, respondent appeared for the PCR hearing, before the Honorable Joseph W. Oxley, J.S.C., Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County, Law Division, Criminal Part. Redding, who was not aware of the hearing, did not attend. Judge Oxley noted that, although Redding had filed the petition pro se, he failed to appear. When the judge inquired about respondent's efforts to contact Redding, the following exchange took place:

THE COURT: Defendant has failed to show up for a petition that he originally filed pro se.
Counsel, have you tried to contact him, and if so, what . . . efforts have you made?
[RESPONDENT]: [m]y office has written him letters and . . . made multiple phone calls. However, every number I do have right now is off and not working. I will relay this information to him via letter. The letters have not been returned.
So it appears that, based upon his inactivity, he does not wish to pursue the petition.

[Ex.C14 at 3-15 to 3-25.]

         The judge stated further that, because Redding was on lifetime monitoring, he could not "disappear." Respondent then replied:

[J]ust for the record, I did advise him that . . . his conduct . . . the initial charge restrict [sic] liability and that basically that it * s probably in his benefit not to pursue the petition. I did advise him of this. He wanted to still proceed last I spoke with him. We did have a meeting in my office. And that was really the last meaningful communication that we had.


         At the DEC hearing, respondent acknowledged that his reply to the judge should have been more clear. He had intended to convey to the judge that respondent and Redding were "previously communicating by letters"; he had only "nonworking phone numbers" for Redding; his last meaningful communication with Redding was at his office; and he did not have a current address for Redding, which Redding had promised to provide. Respondent added that he thought the court was asking the general question of whether he and Redding ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.