District Docket No. XIV-2017-0598E
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 RIVERA 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
KATHRYN ANNE WINTERLE ASSISTANT COUNSEL
Disciplinary Review Board reviewed the motion for discipline
by consent, an admonition or a reprimand, filed by the Office
of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to }L 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 RFC 5.5(a)(1)
(unauthorized practice of law) and RPC 8.4(c) (engaging in
conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or
in March 2014, Ousmane Al-Misri, Esq. hired respondent as a
paralegal for New Jersey cases, and as an attorney for
Pennsylvania cases, after respondent had been admitted to the
Pennsylvania bar. On July 9, 2014, Roberto Barnes hired
Al-Misri's firm to file a civil complaint. Initially,
Barnes met with both respondent and Al-Misri, but thereafter,
regularly communicated only with respondent prior to the
filing of a complaint. All of respondent's e-mail
communications with Barnes, and the business card respondent
provided to him, identified respondent as an attorney. The
business card had the address and telephone numbers for the
Newark office, and did not indicate where respondent was
licensed to practice law. Respondent led Barnes to believe
that he was handling his case in New Jersey; yet, respondent
was not licensed in New Jersey.
April 16, 2015, Barnes sent an e-mail to both respondent and
Al-Misri, indicating that he "wanted to speak with the
head attorney." Respondent replied the same day that,
"Mr. Al-Misri has told me to inform you that I am still
the one handling your case thus your communications will be
with me until a time where he is not as busy . . . however,
we have many cases going on. I will continue to work on your
complaint for your signature. Very truly yours, Ian Z.
e-mail correspondence from respondent to Barnes neither
identified him as a paralegal nor listed Al-Misri as the
responsible attorney. Respondent left the firm several months
before the statute of limitations expired on Barnes'
cause of action.
admitted violating RPC 5.5(a)(1) by practicing law
in New Jersey when he was not yet licensed to do so and
RPC 8.4(c) by misleading Barnes to believe that
respondent was representing him in his lawsuit in New Jersey,
although when respondent was not licensed to practice law in
Jersey, paralegals are permitted to sign routine,
non-substantive correspondence to clients, adverse attorneys,
or courts, provided that the attorney who supervises the
paralegal is aware of the exact nature of the correspondence;
the paralegal's identity and non-attorney status is
noted; and the name of the responsible attorney is set forth
in the correspondence. Joint Opinion No. 46 of the
Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law and Opinion
No. 720 of the Advisory Committee on Professional
Ethics, 204 N.J.L.J. 57 (April 4, 2011) modifying Opinion
No. 611 of the Advisory Committee on Professional
Ethics, 121 N.J.L.J. 301 (February 18, 1988).
admitted that, not only did he fail to identify himself as a
paralegal and a non-attorney in New Jersey, but he also led
Barnes to believe that respondent was the attorney handling
his case. Respondent also admitted that he was responsible
for the prosecution of the matter, notwithstanding his
non-admitted status in this state. By handling the New
Jersey-based civil action on behalf of Barnes, respondent
violated RPC 5.5(a)(1). By misleading Barnes and
allowing him to believe that he was eligible to practice law
in New Jersey, respondent violated RPC 8.4(c).
attorney who, like respondent, was licensed in other states,
but employed as a paralegal in New Jersey, received an
admonition for practicing law in New Jersey. See In the
Matter of Sean T. Hogan, DRB 09-278 (December 2, 2009).
however, has the added violation of making a
misrepresentation to a client. A misrepresentation to a
client requires the imposition of a reprimand. In re
Kasdan, 115 N.J. 472, 488 (1989). A reprimand still may
be imposed, even if the misrepresentation is accompanied by
other, non-serious ethics infractions. See,
e.g.. In re Ruffolo, 220 N.J. 353 (2015)
(respondent exhibited gross neglect and a lack of diligence
by allowing his client's case to be dismissed, not
working on it after filing the initial claim, and failing to
take any steps to prevent its dismissal or ensure its
reinstatement thereafter, violations of RPC 1.1(a)
and RPC 1.3; the attorney also violated RPC
1.4(b) by failing to promptly reply to the client's
requests for status updates; finally, his ...