In the Matter of Agnes S. Wladyka
Docket No. XIV-2016-0360E
C. FROST, ESQ., CHAIR BRUCE W. CLARK, ESQ., VICE-CHAIR PETER
J. BOYER, ESQ. HON. MAURICE J. GALLIPOLI THOMAS J. HOBERMAN
REGINA WAYNES JOSEPH, ESQ. EILEEN RWERA ANNE C. SINGER, ESQ.
ROBERT C. ZMIRICH
A. BRODSKY CHIEF COUNSEL MELISSA URBAN DEPUTY COUNSEL TIMOTHY
M. ELLIS LILLIAN LEWIN BARRY R PETERSEN, JR COLIN T. TAMS
KATH RYN ANNE WINTERLE ASSISTANT COUNSEL
Disciplinary Review Board reviewed the motion for discipline
by consent (reprimand or such lesser discipline as the Board
deems appropriate) filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics
(OAE), pursuant to R. 1:20-10(b). Following a review of the
record, the Board determined to grant the motion.
Board's view, a reprimand is the appropriate measure of
discipline for respondent's violations of RPC
1.1(a) (gross neglect), RPC 1.5(b) (failure to set
forth in writing the rate or basis of a legal fee), and
RPC 1.15(d) and R.1:21-6(a)(2) (recordkeeping
violations; attorney fees must be deposited in an attorney
in 1999, respondent assumed the representation of a
seventy-four-year-old client, "J.D." J.D. resides
in her own home, is widowed, and has no children. She
receives social security, a pension, and a monthly annuity.
Respondent was introduced to J.D. by Catherine Picut-Parker,
who had been J.D.'s designated attorney-in-fact and
healthcare proxy prior to Picut-Parker's departure from
conceded that, once retained, she failed to set forth the
rate or basis of her fee in writing. Rather, she and J.D. had
an oral agreement that respondent would be paid for legal
fees after J.D.'s death, at which time respondent would
serve as executor of J.D.'s estate. Although respondent
kept billing records over the course of the representation,
she never submitted invoices to J.D. for payment and, thus,
fees accumulated from 1999 through April 2015.
had given respondent copies of previously prepared documents,
including a power of attorney, and a last will and testament
that named a church in Italy as J.D.'s sole beneficiary.
On December 31, 1999, J.D. executed a new general power of
attorney naming respondent as her attorney-in-fact.
seven years later, on November 22, 2007, J.D. executed a new
will, naming respondent as executor and the
Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc., as her sole
April 15, 2015, respondent and J.D. met to discuss the
representation, after which respondent memorialized their
meeting in a letter. J.D. believed that respondent should no
longer wait to be paid for her work because she was devoting
much more time to J.D.'s representation than either of
them had anticipated. Under their new agreement, J.D.
immediately gave respondent a $ 15, 000 retainer against past
and future services. Respondent's billing rate for
attorney fees was set at $300 per hour, while non-attorney
services were to be billed at an unspecified, reduced rate.
Respondent stipulated that her failure to provide J.D. with a
writing setting forth the basis or rate of her fees for
attorney and non-attorney time violated RPC 1.5(b).
April 2015, respondent used J.D.'s power of attorney to
retain a contractor, Fazal Ray Mohamed, and his company,
"Rite Temp," for construction and repairs to the
house. Mohamed was selected because he was the husband of
Tina Rodriguez, J.D.'s home health aide.
initial contract called for the removal of
asbestos-containing tiles in the kitchen. Respondent did not
seek estimates from any other contractors before awarding the
job to Mohamed. After the work was completed, respondent
retained Mohamed during the period between April and October
2015 for subsequent alterations to the home's natural
gas, plumbing, air conditioning, and heating systems. She
failed to obtain estimates for each subsequent job.
Respondent stipulated that she disbursed J.D.'s funds to
Mohamed and Rite Temp "without any analysis or
consideration of the reasonableness of the charges." All
of the ...