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In re Schlissel

Supreme Court of New Jersey

August 3, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF AILEEN MERRILL SCHLISSEL AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

          Argued: April 19, 2018

         District Docket Nos. XIV-2015-0456E; XIV-2016-0247E; and XIV-2016-0464E

          Joseph A, Glyn appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.

          Respondent did not appear for oral argument, despite proper notice.

          Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel

          DECISION

          Bonnie C. Frost, Chair.

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

         This matter was before us on a disciplinary stipulation between the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) and respondent. Respondent stipulated to having violated RPC 1.15(d) and R. 1:21-6 (recordkeeping violations), RPC 5.5(a) and R. 1:21-1B(a)(4) (unauthorized practice of law for failure to maintain professional liability insurance), RFC 8.1(b) (failure to comply with a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority), and RFC 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, based on her failure to file an affidavit of compliance in accordance with the R. 1:20-20). For the reasons expressed below, we determine that a three-month suspension is warranted. We do not agree, however, on whether the suspension should be prospective or retroactive.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey and New York bars in 1997, and the Nevada bar in 2008. She was temporarily suspended, effective March 8, 2017, for failure to cooperate with the OAE's investigation in this matter. In the Matter of Aileen Merrill Schlissel, 228 N.J. 161 (2017).

         This case involves respondent's failure to cooperate with the OAE for more than one-and-one-half years. Following two overdrafts in her trust account, she failed to produce records she was required to maintain under R. 1:21-6, despite the OAE's numerous requests, the granting of extensions, and scheduled audits. As mentioned above, respondent's failure to cooperate eventually led to her temporary suspension. In the interim, she also failed to reply to an additional grievance.

         Respondent owned and operated AMS Legal Group PC (AMS), located in Rutherford, New Jersey, with offices in California and Nevada, as well as Merrill & Associates (Merrill), also with offices in California and Nevada. Both law firms were primarily engaged in mortgage modifications, even though respondent is not licensed as a debt adjuster in any jurisdiction. Respondent admitted that she had not obtained profess

         Respondent is also associated with the law firm of Malkin & Associates Attorneys Corp. (Malkin). Arthur Malkin, Esq.' is the principal owner of Malkin. Respondent was a signatory on the Malkin business and trust accounts. She maintained four business accounts and one trust account at Bank of America for AMS, and three business accounts and one trust account at Wells Fargo Bank for Malkin.

         On July 16, 2015, a $370.91 overdraft occurred in the Bank of America AMS trust account. Before docketing the matter for an investigation, the OAE attempted to obtain respondent's explanation for the overdraft. She did not reply, however, to the OAE's July 28 or August 17, 2015 requests- for a written, documented explanation for the overdraft.

         Thereafter, by letter dated August 18, 2015, Bank of America notified the OAE of another overdraft in the AMS trust account, in the amount of $958.85.

         From August 25 to October 8, 2015, the OAE sent four additional letters to respondent, seeking written explanations for the overdrafts, to no avail. Therefore, by letter dated November 23, 2015, sent to respondent's New Jersey and California addresses, the OAE notified respondent that, because she had not replied to its six earlier letters, the OA1 had scheduled a demand audit on December 16, 2015. Respondent failed to appear for the audit.

         On January 5, 2016, the OAE telephoned respondent, at which time she admitted receiving the OAE's correspondence, but asserted that Arthur Malkin, Esq. ran the New Jersey law office. The following day, respondent wrote to the OAE that she was "eager to fully explain all of the events that occurred in 2015," but still did not supply the records that the OAE had requested.[1]

         Thereafter, respondent again failed to produce the records that the OAE requested in yet ...


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