In The Matter Of Hercules Pappas An Attorney At Law
Docket No. IV-2016-0037E
C. Frost, Chair, Etten A. Brodsky Chief Counsel.
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
this matter was before us at our October 2017 meeting on a
certification of default filed by the District IV Ethics
Committee (DEC), pursuant to R. 1:20-4(f). The complaint
charged respondent with violations of RPC 5.5(a)(1)
(engaging in the unauthorized practice of law) and
RPC 8.1(b) (failure to cooperate). We found that
respondent had violated only RPC 8.1(b), for which
we determined to issue a reprimand. The decision in that
matter was transmitted to the Court on January 22, 2018.
Three weeks later, on February 12, 2018, respondent filed a
notice of petition for review (PFR) directly with the Court.
Although respondent's cover letter indicated that a copy
of the PFR was sent to both the Court and the Office of Board
Counsel (OBC), his certification in support of the PFR makes
clear that he delivered eight copies of his petition to only
the Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court. Neither the OBC
nor the DEC were served with respondent's petition.
September 7, 2018, the Court remanded the matter to us to
allow respondent to move to vacate the default. The Court
further ordered us to file a supplemental decision following
the disposition of respondent's motion to vacate the
default (MVD). The Court retained jurisdiction.
October 29, 2018, respondent filed a MVD with us and with the
Court. For the reasons set forth below, we determine to deny
the motion and rely on our previous decision to impose a
reprimand based solely on the violation of RPC 8.1(b).
PFR, respondent stated that he became aware of the
disciplinary matter against him only after we had issued our
decision. He added that he has only the complaint, dated
January 16, 2018, and our decision, dated January 22, 2018.
Respondent presumed there was a typographical error
somewhere, noting that the decision appeared to have been
filed six days after the complaint was dated and signed.
However, the complaint that respondent referenced (and
attached to his PFR as Exhibit A) was a request for a
statement of respondent's position in response to a
grievance filed against him in Pennsylvania. The remainder of
respondent's PFR mirrors his MVD. Therefore, we now turn
to the motion.
receipt of the Court's remand Order, we communicated with
respondent by letter dated September 11, 2018, and set a
filing deadline of September 26, 2018 for his motion to
vacate default. The matter was docketed for our October 2018
meeting. Soon thereafter, respondent requested an extension
of time to file his MVD in order to seek and obtain the
assistance of counsel. Respondent was granted an extension to
October 15, 2018, and the matter was rescheduled for our
November 2018 meeting. On October 11, 2018, respondent again
contacted OBC, by e-mail, stating that he had secured counsel
but that counsel indicated that he would enter his appearance
only if "I am able to get more time." Respondent
requested another extension to file his MVD. The request was
granted and he was given until October 29, 2018, to file his
October 29, 2018, respondent filed a MVD with us and with the
Court. Notably, he did so p_rg se. Further, he again failed
to serve the DEC. Thus, on October 31, 2018, OBC forwarded
the motion to the DEC, enclosing respondent's papers, and
requesting a response by November 7, 2018. On that date, the
Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) filed a response to the
motion on behalf of the DEC.
respondent must meet a two-pronged test to move successfully
to vacate a default. First, a respondent must offer a
reasonable explanation for his or her failure to answer the
ethics complaint. Second, a respondent must assert
meritorious defenses to the underlying charges.
the first prong of the test, respondent outlines his
involvement in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPA)
matter that led to his temporary suspension there, and his
"extremely limited" involvement in the District of
New Jersey (DNJ) matter, which led to the underlying ethics
grievance. Respondent's version of his participation in
the DNJ matter does not even remotely resemble the version
set forth in the Pennsylvania disciplinary complaint.
Nonetheless, the order in the EDPA matter and its effects are
inconsequential because we determined that respondent did not
violate RPC 5.5(a)(1) since the EDPA order was not
enforceable outside of that jurisdiction.
pertinent, however, is respondent's explanation for his
failure to reply to the grievance. Respondent did not address
directly why he failed to answer the formal ethics complaint.
In his PFR, respondent claimed that he had not become aware
of the New Jersey ethics matter until we issued our decision
on January 22, 2018. A review of respondent's multiple
submissions beckons a closer examination of this claim.
brief in support of his motion to vacate default, respondent,
providing no dates, states that, when he first became aware
of the grievance filed against him by Vasyl Kavatsiuk, he was
confused as to how Kavatsiuk had standing to file a grievance
since respondent had never represented him at any time.
Further, although respondent did not believe the EDPA order
prohibiting him from practicing in the DNJ was enforceable,
he entered into a consent order with the U.S. Trustee's
Office and removed himself from the matter in the DNJ matter.
After "being notified by the Board of the matter, I
believed that they were unaware of the Consent Order and I
instructed my paralegal to forward a copy of same. I believed
the matter was over at that point." Based on
respondent's own assertions, it certainly appears that
respondent was aware of the grievance. Yet, instead of
responding to it in any manner, respondent simply determined
that he did not need to submit a response. Instead, he merely
forwarded the consent order and took no further action.
failures continued in the months that followed. Specifically,
he states that he recalls two conversations with his
paralegal, inquiring why he was still receiving notices from
the DEC "when it was already resolved." Respondent
states that he asked her to make inquiries and she assured
him that it was a mistake, and that it had been handled.