In the Matter of Farrah A. Irving
C, Frost, Esq., Chair Bruce W, Clark, Esq., Vice-Chair Peter
J. Boyer, Esq. Hon. Maurice J. Gallipoli Thomas J. Hoberman
Regina Waynes Joseph, Esq. Eileen Rivera Anne C. Sihger, Esq.
Robert C. Zmirich
A. Brodsky chief counsel Paula T. Granuzzo deputy chief'
Counsel Melissa Urban first assistant counsel Timothy M.
Ellis Lillian Lewin Barry R. Petersen, Jr. Count. Tams
Kathryn Anne Winterle ASSISIANT COUNSEL
Disciplinary Review Board reviewed the motion for discipline
by consent (reprimand or such lesser discipline as the Board
deems appropriate) filed by the District IIA Ethics Committee
("DEC"), pursuant to FU. l:20-l0 (b). Following a
review of the record, the Board determined to grant the
motion. In the Board's view, a reprimand is the
appropriate quantum of discipline for respondent's
violations of RPC 1.5(c) (failure to provide a
contingent fee agreement, stating the method by which the fee
is to be determined), RPC 3.3(a) (lack of candor to
a tribunal), RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation), and
RPC 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the
administration of justice).
in February 2014, Rosalynd Smith retained respondent to file
a petition with the Office of Administrative Law to contest
Smith's notice from the Paterson School Board that her
contract would not be renewed and she would not receive
tenure. Both respondent and Smith were aware that the statute
of limitations had expired on Smith's 'claim.
Respondent, however, agreed to assert an alternate theory of
the case, in an attempt to expand the statute of limitations.
Respondent did not provide Smith with an agreement setting
forth the basis or rate of the fee, believing that it was
unnecessary in a fee shifting case, which she considered the
case to be.
to filing the petition, respondent sent a draft of it to
Smith for her review. Smith found two minor errors in the
petition, which respondent corrected. Respondent also
prepared a certification for Smith's signature, which
asserted, among other things, that Smith had read the
petition and that, to the best of her knowledge, the facts
contained therein were true. Respondent signed the petition
"R. Smith," without including a notation on the
certification that Smith had not personally signed it. Smith
maintained that she had read the petition and would have
signed the certification had she been asked to do so.
Respondent admitted that she signed it, but did so
"simply to save time."
admitted that she violated RPC 1.5(c) by failing to
provide a written fee agreement to Smith, and RPC
3.3(a), RPC 8.4(c), and RPC 8.4(d) by
filing the certification with the court, which contained a
signature purporting to be Smith's.
the discipline imposed in cases involving failure to provide
a client with a writing communicating the basis or rate of
the fee is an admonition. See, e.g., In
the Matter of Paul W. Sonstein, DRB 17-044 (April 25,
2017) (attorney failed to provide the client with a writing
setting forth the basis or rate of the fee in a workers'
compensation matter at the inception of the litigation, or
within a reasonable time thereafter; numerous mitigating
circumstances considered); In the Matter of Gerald
M. Saluti, DRB 11-358 (January 20, 2012) (attorney
failed to communicate his fee in writing with respect to a
post-conviction relief application and a potential appeal
from the client's conviction); and In the Matter of
Myron D. Milch, DRB 11-110 (July 27, 2011) (attorney did
not memorialize the basis or rate of his fee in writing; the
attorney also lacked diligence in the case and failed to
communicate with the client).
improperly signing a client's name on documents, a
reprimand may result depending on the presence of mitigating
or aggravating circumstances. See, e.g.,
In re Uchendu. 177 N.J. 509 (2003) (motion for
reciprocal discipline; reprimand for attorney who improperly
signed clients' names on at least sixteen documents; on
thirteen of the documents, he placed his initials, presumably
to indicate he had signed on their behalf, notarized four of
the documents, and filed them with the probate court;
mitigation included the attorney's submission of
affidavits from some of the clients, stating that they had
authorized him to sign their names).
the Board considered, in mitigation, that: respondent had no
ethics history; she was a relatively newly admitted attorney
at the time of the misconduct; knowing that the statute of
limitations had already expired, she was aware that the
likelihood of success was questionable, but, nevertheless,
tried to help Smith; she was remorseful and apologetic for
her conduct; and she was candid and cooperative with the DEC
are the following documents:
Notice of motion for discipline by consent, dated December
Stipulation of discipline by consent, dated ...