Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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 Isa

Supreme Court of New Jersey

August 10, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF ULYSSES ISA AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

          Ellen A. Brodsky, Chief Counsel.

          CORRECTED 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 certification of the record filed by the District VI Ethics Committee (DEC), pursuant to R. 1:20-4(f). The eight-count formal ethics complaint charged respondent with violations of RPC 1.1(a) (gross neglect), RFC 1.3 (lack of diligence), and RPC 1.4(b) (failure to keep the client adequately informed and to promptly reply to the client's reasonable requests for information) (count one); RPC 1.5(b) (failure to communicate in writing the rate or basis of the fee) (count two); RPC 1.15(a) (failure to safeguard client property) and RPC 1.6(f) (presumably, RPC 1.6(a), (revealing information relating to the representation without the client's consent)) (count three); RFC 1.15(d) (failure to comply with the recordkeeping requirements of R. 1:21-6) and MFC 8.1(b) (failure to cooperate with disciplinary authorities) (count four); RPC 1.16 (presumably, subsection (c), failure to comply with applicable law when terminating a representation, specifically, by failing to comply with R. 5:3-5(d)) (count five); RPC 5.3(a), (b), and (c) (failure to supervise a non-attorney employee) (count six); RPC 5.5(a)(1) (unauthorized practice of law) (count seven); and RPC 8.1(a) (knowingly making a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter) and RPC 8.1(b) (count eight).

         For the reasons set forth below, we determine to impose a three-month suspension, with a condition.

         Respondent earned admission to the New Jersey bar in 2006. During the relevant time frame, he maintained a law practice in Union City, New Jersey. Respondent has been administratively ineligible to practice law since October 21, 2016. He was temporarily suspended, effective May 9, 2018, for failure to comply with a fee arbitration determination. He remains suspended to date.

         Service of process was proper in this matter. On December 6, 2017, the DEC sent a copy of the formal ethics complaint to respondent, by certified and regular mail, at his home address. A certified mail receipt was returned, which reflected a delivery date of December 11, 2017, and the signature of "Elvira Isa." The regular mail was not returned. Respondent failed to file an answer to the complaint.

         On January 16, 2018, the DEC sent a "five-day" letter to respondent, by certified and regular mail, at his home address, informing him that, unless he filed a verified answer to the complaint within five days, the allegations of the complaint would be deemed admitted, the record would be certified to us for the imposition of discipline, and the complaint would be deemed amended to charge a willful violation of RPC 8.1(b). The certified mail receipt was returned, which reflected a delivery date of January 19, 2018, and the signature of "Elvira Isa." The regular mail was not returned.

         Respondent failed to file a verified answer to the complaint. Accordingly, on February 6, 2018 the DEC certified the record to us as a default.

         We now turn to the allegations of the complaint.

         In May or June 2016, grievant April Patterson retained respondent to represent her in post-divorce child custody actions. An order had been entered awarding physical custody of the children to Patterson's ex-husband, with visitation to Patterson.

         Subsequent to the entry of the Order, Patterson's ex-husband began permitting Patterson more liberal visitation with their children. Patterson retained respondent to formalize the more liberal visitation, and to request that she be granted physical custody of the children.

         Pursuant to a July 11, 2016 retainer agreement, respondent charged a flat fee of $1, 000 for the filing of Patterson's motions. Patterson never signed the retainer agreement, but she paid respondent the $1, 000 fee. The retainer agreement failed to comply with R. 5:3-5, which requires that the writing be signed by both the attorney and the client, that a copy of the executed agreement be provided to the client, and that the retainer include an explanation of the effect of an award of counsel fees.

         From the outset of the representation, Patterson was frustrated by her inability to communicate with respondent, and by his consistent failure to return her telephone calls. Often, Patterson's telephone calls were placed on long holds by respondent's staff, only to be disconnected. Respondent's voice mailbox was often full, preventing Patterson from leaving a message.

         Respondent had encouraged Patterson to text him to receive more prompt responses, and, thus, she often attempted to communicate with respondent through that medium. For example, Patterson would forward to respondent copies of text exchanges between her and her ex-husband, for use as evidence in the custody and visitation action. Respondent, however, frequently failed to reply to her texts. He informed the DEC that he had a habit of losing or breaking his cell phones, and was, therefore, unable to produce copies of any text messages from Patterson.

         At various points during the course of his representation of Patterson, respondent was ineligible to practice law. Specifically, he was ineligible from September 12 through October 6, 2016, and again from October 21, 2016 forward, for noncompliance with Continuing Legal Education, New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (CPF), and Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) requirements. Although the DEC informed respondent of his ineligibility on February 10, 2017, respondent continued to actively practice law, appearing in court and holding himself out as a lawyer, via his law firm website and LinkedIn profile.

         Moreover, although he had been retained in July 2016, respondent neither filed a notice of appearance in behalf of Patterson nor filed the motions for which he had been retained, until September 2016. The motions "consisted of standard court forms that . . . [required supplementation via] minimal information" concerning Patterson, her ex-husband, and their children. Yet, his initial motion filing was rejected by the court for "procedural reasons," including his failure to include addresses on the notice to litigants, his failure to send the notices by certified mail, and his failure to include a proposed order granting the relief that Patterson sought.

         On October 6, 2016, respondent made a second attempt to file the motions, but, again, they were rejected as deficient. Thereafter, he made no further effort to file the motions. During a DEC interview, respondent recalled only one attempt at ...


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.