In The Matter Of Bassel Bakhos An Attorney At Law
Argued: November 15, 2018
Docket No. XIV-2016-0612E
Adler appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.
Respondent waived appearance for oral argument.
Bonnie C. Frost, Chair.
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matter was before us on a recommendation for a censure, filed
by the District XIII Ethics Committee (DEC). The three-count
complaint charged respondent with the following violations:
three counts of RPC 1.1(a) (gross neglect); three
counts of RPC 1.1(b) (pattern of neglect); three counts of
RPC 1.3 (lack of diligence); three counts of
RPC 1.4(b) (failure to communicate with the client);
three counts of RPC 1.16(a)(2) (failure to withdraw
from the representation); two counts of RPC
3.3(a)(1) (lack of candor toward a tribunal); one count of
RPC 3.3(a)(5) (failure to disclose a material fact to a
tribunal); one count of RPC 3.4(d) (failure to make
reasonably diligent efforts to comply with legally proper
discovery requests from an opposing party); one count of
RPC 4.1(a)(1) (false statement of material fact or
law to a third party); two counts of RPC 8.4(c)
(conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or
misrepresentation); and three counts of RPC 8.4(d)
(conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
reasons set forth below, we determined to impose a censure.
was admitted to the New Jersey and Maryland bars in 2002, to
the District of Columbia bar in 2004, and the New York bar in
2010. He has no history of discipline in New Jersey.
time of the underlying events, respondent was a senior
associate with the law firm of Kaufman, Borgeest & Ryan,
LLP (KBR) in Parsippany, New Jersey. At the outset of the
hearing in this matter, respondent, through counsel,
stipulated to all of the facts and allegations of the
complaint. Therefore, the hearing was held solely for
presenting mitigation. The facts are as follows.
One: Jerkins v. Voorhees Pediatric Facility, et. al.
September 13, 2016, respondent filed a certification with the
Superior Court of New Jersey, admitting the following
misconduct in the course of his representation of defendant
Voorhees Pediatric Facility (Voorhees), in the above matter.
Subsequently, on September 30, 2016, the Honorable James P.
Savio, J.S.C., sent a letter to the Office of Attorney Ethics
(OAE), documenting respondent's conduct during a June 27,
2017 proceeding before him, and enclosing respondent's
September 13, 2016 certification. In his letter to the OAE,
Judge Savio reported that respondent made false
representations to the court.
on November 14, 2015, the plaintiff, Jerkins, served
respondent with the October 22, 2015 expert report of Barbara
Darlington, RN, MS, ANP, LNHA, supporting his claims against
Voorhees. Two days later, on November 16, 2015, Jerkins
served respondent with the November 16, 2015 expert report of
Steven E. Swartz, MD, FACS, in additional support of his
claims against Voorhees. Respondent did not send a copy of
either expert report to Voorhees.
in the matter was scheduled for April 28, 2016, but
respondent failed to inform Voorhees of the trial date. On
April 28, 2016, the court granted co-defendant Peter Turner,
MD, an adjournment of the trial date to June 27, 2016.
Respondent did not notify Voorhees that the trial had been
adjourned, that he had consented to Turner's request for
an adjournment, or that the court had scheduled a new trial
17, 2016, respondent attended the deposition of Jerkins'
expert, Robert J. Lerer, MD. On June 22, 2016, respondent
requested an adjournment of the June 27, 2016 trial date,
which the court denied. On June 24, 2016, respondent attended
the deposition of Dr. Turner's expert, Kimberly
Kulchinski, MD. Respondent failed to notify Voorhees of any
of these events.
27, 2016, respondent appeared for a trial call but, had not
notified Voorhees. Respondent admitted that, through the date
of the trial call, he had represented to Voorhees that the
Jerkins matter was still in the early stages of
respondent was not prepared for the trial, at the June 27,
2016 trial call, he asked Judge Savio for an adjournment,
which was denied. Instead, Judge Savio informed the parties
that a jury would be empaneled if the matter were not
resolved or submitted to binding arbitration. Respondent did
not so notify Voorhees. He also misled the court into
believing that he would contact Voorhees to seek authority
for binding arbitration.
plaintiff agreed to submit the matter to binding arbitration,
if Voorhees consented to a high-low agreement between
$450,000 and $1,500,000, and Voorhees agreed to pay the
entire award. Respondent did not have the authority from
Voorhees to consent to the terms of any such binding
arbitration or to settle the matter; yet, he misrepresented
to the court that Voorhees had agreed to the terms of the
respondent misrepresented to John Mullahy, Esq., his attorney
supervisor and a partner at KBR, that the Jerkins matter was
in the early stages of discovery. During a review of
respondent's cases, Mullahy learned that respondent had
entered into an agreement to dismiss the case, and proceeded
to arbitration with a high-low agreement, without the
permission of KBR or the client. Consequently, KBR filed a
motion on behalf of Voorhees to vacate the settlement
agreement, which was granted. KBR submitted certifications
from the client confirming that respondent had not notified
Voorhees that he had entered into a settlement agreement with
September 13, 2016 certification to the court, respondent
advanced a belief that his mental health issues had affected
his ability to function, and had led him to neglect his
professional responsibilities in this matter. Despite knowing
that his condition impaired his ability to ...