IN THE MATTER OF JASON M. TABOR AN ATTORNEY AT LAW
Argued: March 15, 2018
Docket No. XIV-2013-0539E
HoeChin Kim appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney
Ethics. Respondent appeared pro se.
C. Frost, Chair Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel.
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matter was before us on a recommendation for disbarment filed
by Special Master Patricia B. Santelle. The single-count
complaint charged respondent with violating RPC
1.15(a) and In re Wilson, 81 N.J. 451 (1979)
(knowing misappropriation of client funds), RPC
8.4(b) (criminal act that reflects adversely on the
lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer
in other respects); and RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). For the
reasons set forth below, we recommend that respondent be
was admitted to the New Jersey bar, as W*1JL CIS the
Pennsylvania and Massachusetts bars, in 2002. At the relevant
times, he maintained offices for the practice of law at Tabor
Legal Solutions, LLC, in Billerica, Massachusetts. New Jersey
has jurisdiction over this matter, pursuant to RPC
8.5(a), which provides that "a lawyer admitted to
practice in this jurisdiction is subject to the disciplinary
authority of this jurisdiction regardless of where the
lawyer's conduct occurs."
has no disciplinary history in New Jersey. This matter
originally was before us in September 2013 as a default.
Subsequently, on October 22, 2013, we granted
respondent's motion to vacate the default, and remanded
the matter for a hearing. Following a hearing, the matter is
again before us on a recommendation for
matter involves respondent's handling of funds received
on behalf of the grievant, Gregory Buchanan. Specifically,
the complaint alleged that respondent knowingly
misappropriated $16, 250 intended for his client, Buchanan,
and/or his client's company, Buchanan & Associates
(B&A). Although respondent admits that he used the funds
for his own purposes, he maintains that he was Buchanan's
business partner -not his lawyer - and that the funds
represented his "sweat equity" in the business.
Thus, he claims, the funds at issue do not constitute
"client funds," and, therefore, are not properly
the subject of RPC 1.15(a) or In re Wilson, 81 N.J.
background leading to respondent's use of the subject
funds is somewhat involved and convoluted. Moreover,
presumably because the parties dispute the characterization
of the funds at issue, a fair amount of the testimony was
devoted to the nature of respondent's relationship with
Buchanan and/or his companies.
in 2008 or 2009, a mutual friend, Kyle Spells, introduced
Buchanan to respondent, indicating that respondent was a New
Jersey attorney. Buchanan claims that, soon thereafter,
respondent began providing legal services to him, including
the review of contracts, purchase and sale agreements, and
lease agreements, as well as general legal advice relating to
one or more of his companies. Respondent admits that he
performed these tasks, but denies that his services were
legal in nature or that he ever functioned as Buchanan's
to respondent, he, Spells, and a third individual created
Vinamar, LLC (Vinamar) in order to provide professional
consulting services to Buchanan and his several companies.
Respondent consistently pointed to the consulting agreement
between Transworld World Power, LLC (Transworld), a
Buchanan-owned company, and Vinamar, which specifically
refers to non-legal services, to support his claim that he
did not function as Buchanan's attorney. Ultimately,
however, the work Vinamar performed for Transworld included
incorporating foreign entities, as well as drafting corporate
resolutions and operating agreements.
testified that he considered respondent to be a very
competent attorney, in fact, in his opinion, respondent
provided all of the value from Vinamar, which is why
respondent eventually left Vinamar and formed his own entity.
Specifically, he formed Tabor Legal Solutions (Tabor Legal),
which, respondent maintained, was also a non-legal services
company. After respondent formed Tabor Legal, Buchanan had no
further contact with anyone at Vinamar, other than
respondent. Thus, Buchanan testified, Vinamar was not
involved in the $16, 250 payment dispute that ultimately
developed. Respondent, however, maintained that Tabor Legal
was formed while the agreement with Vinamar was still in
effect, that the Vinamar agreement was never terminated, and
that, therefore, Tabor Legal and Vinamar are one and the
to Buchanan, sometime in 2010, Transworld officially hired
respondent, as an individual, to perform various legal
services. A written agreement to that end was never drafted.
Despite the lack of a formal fee agreement, Buchanan
periodically sent respondent money to cover
"out-of-pocket expenses." Otherwise, respondent
would participate in the ownership structure of any new
entity acquired by Transworld, which Buchanan described as a
"success-fee type of relationship." Buchanan also
described the relationship as one that gave respondent an
equity stake in lieu of a fee. Buchanan testified that,
ultimately, respondent was a partner only in Transworld
Aerospace and Transworld Capital. They had formed those two
entities together, but, unfortunately, nothing ever came to
fruition beyond that.
Buchanan did pay respondent, it was either by check or in
cash. The checks ranged from $1, 000 to $5, 000 so respondent
"wouldn't fall behind." He considered
respondent a trusted friend. Therefore, if respondent said he
needed a few dollars, Buchanan would give it to him.
Buchanan began operating B&A, an executive search and
recruiting company. Buchanan consistently denied that
respondent had been an equity partner in B&A, that
respondent assisted in its creation, or that respondent
provided any legal services to B&A. Conversely,
respondent claimed he was an owner/partner of B&A.
eventually began providing recruiting services for Chromalloy
Gas and Turbine, LLC (Chromalloy). These services involved
the recruitment of Ricardo Cruz. It is undisputed that
respondent had no involvement with Cruz's recruitment.
Rather, according to Buchanan, respondent became involved
with B&A only when Buchanan began establishing that
entity. Buchanan needed somewhere to bill for the Chromalloy
job and he had not yet formed B&A. When he asked
respondent's advice, respondent offered to establish a
"d/b/a" account under Tabor Legal to which
Chromalloy could send money until Buchanan was able to
"set-up" the new entity.
on the other hand, categorized the Chromalloy business as a
venture between Transworld and Tabor Legal. For tax purposes,
the money was to flow through respondent's entity, Tabor
Legal, in order to move the partnership forward. To that end,
on June 3, 2011, respondent opened a business checking
account ending #9988 under "Tabor Legal Solutions, LLC
DBA Buchanan Associates." The address on the account was
respondent's home address in Billerica, Massachusetts.
August 8, 2011, Chromalloy issued a $5, 000 check to B&A,
as a retainer for services. On August 12, 2011, respondent
deposited that check into account #9988, bringing the balance
of the account to $4, 265.17. Respondent immediately began
making regular ATM withdrawals and debit card payments from
the account, to businesses such as Exxon Mobil, K-Mart, and
Best Buy. On several occasions, the account fell into an
overdraft status, thereby accruing significant fees. As of
August 31, 2011, the ending balance of account #9988 was
testified that he never received the $5, 000 retainer check
from Chromalloy. The check was sent directly to respondent,
and, at some point, Buchanan told respondent to keep the
check as a retainer to cover any future expenses. Buchanan
was clear, however, that this money was intended to cover
future services since, as of August 8, 2011, respondent had
been compensated for all past work with other "monies
disputed Buchanan's explanation. First, he asserted, he
did not receive this money into his company as an attorney.
More importantly, respondent claimed, he cashed the $5, 000
check and sent the funds back to Buchanan. At another point
in his testimony, however, respondent explained that he kept
the $5, 000 for services "between me, my entity,
Transworld Power, and Chromalloy." He also argued that
the fee represented his compensation for consulting performed
for Cruz, but then admitted that he had no involvement with
the recruitment of Cruz or his services. Rather, he
explained, his involvement was limited to the formation of
Tabor Legal Solutions d/b/a Buchanan & Associates, as
well doing the general corporate work for the entity.
a third explanation, respondent testified that, as an
owner/partner of B&A, he was not required to perform any
services. Rather, the money he kept was for his share in the
partnership and not payment for services. Elaborating
further, respondent explained that the $5, 000 rightfully
belonged to him for taking all of the risk, such as insurance
costs, taxes, liability (if Chromalloy sued), and other
liabilities to which he was exposed- "I had all the risk
[Buchanan] had none." According to respondent, this was
the deal he made with Buchanan, albeit a verbal arrangement
that was never reduced to writing.
still a fourth explanation, respondent maintained that he
returned the $5, 000 to Buchanan during a meeting in the fall
of 2011. Almost within the same breath, however, he claimed
that he had sent a $5, 000 money order to Buchanan's home
in New Jersey.
noted earlier, a review of respondent's account ending
#9988 began and ended with a negative balance for the month
of August 2011. Bank statements evidence various transactions
over the course of the month, depleting the $5, 000 he
deposited - all in the form of ATM and debit card
transactions and overdraft fees, with only several entries
for more than $100. When challenged on the lack of evidence
supporting his claimed distribution of the $5, 000 to
Buchanan, respondent explained that he had paid the monies
from his separate, personal account, not account #9988, and
not by check. Thus, he had no record of the payment. He later
maintained that he paid the money to ...