In The Matters Of Marc Z. Palfy An Attorney At Law
Argued: April 19, 2018 (DRB 18-011)
District Docket Nos. IX-20 14-000IE, IX-2014-0010E, and IX-20
Gordon Licata appeared on behalf of the District IX Ethics
waived appearance for oral argument.
A. Brodsky Chief Counsel
C. FROST, CHAIR
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matters were before us by way of two different procedures.
DRB 18-011 was before us on a recommendation for an
indeterminate suspension, filed by the District IX Ethics
Committee (DEC). DRB 18-113 was before us by way of default
filed by the DEC, pursuant to FL 1:20-4(f). We have
consolidated these matters for disposition.
complaint in DRB 18-011 charged respondent with violating
RPC 1.1 (presumably (a) (gross neglect)) and (b)
(pattern of neglect); RPC 1.4 (presumably (b),
(failure to communicate with the client)); RPC 3.2
(failure to expedite litigation); and RPC 8.4(c)
(conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or
complaint in DRB 18-113 charged respondent with violations of
RPC 1.1(a); RPC 1.3 (lack of diligence); RPC
5.5(a)(1) (practicing while temporarily suspended) and (2)
(assisting a nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law);
RPC 8.4(c); and RPC 8.4(d) (conduct
prejudicial to the administration of justice).
reasons set forth below, we recommend no further discipline.
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1999. He has an
extensive disciplinary record, including a history of
ineligibility to practice law for failure to pay the annual
fee to the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection
(the Fund). His periods of ineligibility were September 25,
2000 to February 11, 2002; September 24, 2007 to April 21,
2009; and September 27, 2010 to June 23, 2011.
was temporarily suspended twice for failure to comply with
five fee arbitration determinations. In re Palfy,
212 N.J. 331 (2012) (effective October 26, 2012) and In
re Palfy, 214 N.J. 110 (2013). He also was temporarily
suspended for his failure to cooperate with disciplinary
authorities. In re Palfy, 214 N.J. 105 (2013).
on November 20, 2014, respondent received a censure for
recordkeeping violations and for failing to cooperate with
disciplinary authorities. In re Palfy, 220 N.J. 32
March 26, 2015, respondent was suspended for three months for
failing to file an affidavit of compliance, as required by IL
1:20-20, for failing to cooperate with disciplinary
authorities, and for engaging in conduct prejudicial to the
administration of justice. The Court ordered that respondent
remain suspended until he complies with the fee arbitration
determinations and pays the ordered sanctions. In re
Palfy, 221 N.J. 208 (2015).
on July 22, 2016, respondent was suspended for three years
for grossly mishandling eight client matters; knowingly
practicing while ineligible; lack of candor toward a
tribunal; failure to obey court orders; failure to maintain a
bona fide office; misrepresentations to clients and
to the court; and conduct prejudicial to the administration
of justice. In each of the eight matters, respondent was
hired to handle bankruptcy petitions on behalf of his
clients. He repeatedly allowed those petitions to be
dismissed for failure to provide proper documents, succeeded
in reinstating the petitions, and then allowed them to be
dismissed again for the same deficiencies. In re
Palfy, 225 NJ. 611 (2016).
turn to the facts of each matter.
February 15, 2017, respondent received notice that the DEC
hearing would occur on March 18, 2017. On February 22, 2017,
he requested an adjournment, representing that he would be
unable to attend the hearing because of medical difficulties
and pending doctors' appointments. On March 3, 2017, the
hearing panel chair received a letter from respondent's
health care provider, confirming that respondent's
medical appointment was scheduled for March 9, 2017 - nine
days prior to the scheduled hearing. The panel determined to
deny respondent's request for an adjournment. Respondent
did not appear for the hearing.
Leonardo Lengua Matter
September 28, 2012, Leonardo Lengua retained respondent to
defend him in a New York civil matter. The fee agreement
provided for a $3, 500 retainer. The record is unclear
regarding the payment of that $3, 500. The complaint alleges
that Lengua paid respondent in three installments on
September 27, October 5, and December 10, 2012, but lists
only the dates of payments without corresponding amounts. In
a letter to respondent, Lengua's subsequent counsel,
Neely Moked, claims that Lengua paid respondent a total of
accepted the representation, although he was not a licensed
attorney in New York. During that representation, effective
October 26, 2012, respondent was temporarily suspended from
the practice of law in New Jersey.
did not appear at the ethics hearing. Instead, Moked
testified about the events, based on information she had
received from Lengua. Specifically, on September 28, 2012,
during the initial consultation, respondent provided Lengua
with a draft answer and affirmative defenses with
counterclaims, but with an incorrect case caption. At some
point, respondent also provided Lengua with a cover letter,
dated December 27, 2012, with the correct case caption. That
letter purported to enclose an answer, affirmative defenses,
and counterclaims. Respondent signed the letter and included
the moniker, "Esq." The record contains no
indication of any other work respondent may have performed
on his accountant for assistance, Lengua eventually filed a
pro se answer to the complaint against him in New York.
Lengua failed to plead potential affirmative defenses
available to him. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a summary
judgment motion. At that time, in February 2013, Lengua
retained Moked to replace respondent.
further testified that, after hiring respondent, Lengua had
difficulty contacting him. Lengua also expressed his
frustration that he had paid respondent a large amount of
money, but had no communication with him.
attempted to assist Lengua in his defense of the summary
judgment motion; however, the plaintiff was eventually
awarded approximately $50, 000. Moked also attempted to
contact respondent herself, in an effort to recover the
monies Lengua had paid him. Upon reviewing respondent's
papers, provided to her by Lengua, Moked became concerned
that they were "sloppy" and that respondent
"didn't know what he was doing." She attempted
to contact respondent several times, via letters and
telephone calls, to no avail.
complaint charged respondent with violations of RPC
1.1(a) and (b), RPC 1.4(b), RPC 3.2, and RPC 8.4(c).