In The Matter Of M. Blake Perdue An Attorney At Law
District Docket Nos. XA-2016-0018E; XA-2016-0025E;
C. Frost, Chair
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matters were before us on three certifications of the record
filed by the District XA Ethics Committee (DEC), pursuant to
R, l:20-4(f). The complaints charged respondent with
violations of RPC 1.1(a) (gross neglect),
RPC 1.3 (lack of diligence), RPC 1.4(b) and
(c) (failure to communicate with the client), RPC
1.16(b) (failure to properly withdraw from the
representation), RPC 1.16(d) (failure to protect the
client's interests and to return the file upon
termination of the representation), RPC 3.2 (failure
to expedite litigation), RPC 4.4(b) (failure to
promptly notify the sender of attorney/client privileged
information), RPC 8.1(b) (failure to cooperate with
an ethics investigation), RPC 8.4(a) (attempt to
violate the RPCs), RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation), and
RPC 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the
administration of justice).
totality of respondent's misconduct in the matters, we
determine to impose a six-month suspension.
was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 2014. He has no prior
discipline. He was declared ineligible to practice law on
August 28, 2017 for failure to pay the annual assessment to
the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, and
remains ineligible to date.
PP Matter - Docket No. DRB 18-319
of process was proper in this matter. On December 4, 2016,
during the ethics investigation of DRB 18-320 (the ML
matter), the DEC received an e-mail from respondent
indicating that he had closed his law office and that all
future correspondence should be sent to him at his home
address, which he provided.
October 24, 2017, the DEC sent the complaint by certified and
regular mail to the address that respondent provided. The
certified mail was unclaimed and returned by the United
States Postal Service (USPS), marked with a new address. The
regular mail was not returned.
November 28, 2017, the DEC sent a "five-day" letter
by certified and regular mail to respondent at the home
address that respondent had provided on December 4, 2016, not
to the new address received from the USPS. The letter
informed respondent that, if he did not answer the complaint
within five days of the date of the letter, the allegations
of the complaint would be deemed admitted, the record would
be certified to us for imposition of discipline, and the
complaint would be amended to charge a violation of
RPC 8.1(b). The certified mail and the regular mail
were not returned.
24, 2018, in connection with a different disciplinary matter,
the DEC received an envelope returned by the USPS,
post-marked June 14, 2018, and identifying respondent's
new home address in New York. On June 28, 2018, the DEC
mailed a copy of the "five-day" letter to
respondent at the New York address. The certified mail was
received, having been signed for on July 3, 2018 by "R.
Delgado." The regular mail was not returned.
time within which respondent may file an answer has expired.
No answer was filed as of July 16, 2018, the date of the
certification of the record.
turn to the facts of the complaint. On September 4, 2015, PP
retained respondent to represent her in respect of pending
domestic violence and divorce proceedings. On October 14,
2015, respondent told PP that he would receive the decision
of her final restraining order (FRO) the next day. PP
repeatedly inquired into the status of her FRO, but
respondent failed to reply. In early November 2015, PP mailed
her signed divorce complaint to respondent. Again, she
contacted respondent regarding the status of her application
for permanent restraints and of the divorce, but respondent
failed to reply. In late January 2016, PP contacted
respondent's wife, which prompted a reply from
however, respondent ignored PP's numerous telephonic,
e-mail, and text message requests for updates about the
status of her matter. On July 1, 2016, respondent finally
sent an e-mail, stating that he had mailed a letter to PP
"some time ago" about his decision to leave the
practice of law, and claiming to have returned the remainder
of her retainer. PP denied receipt of that letter. The
complaint is otherwise silent about the return of the
retainer. Throughout the representation, respondent never
informed PP that he had not filed her divorce complaint.
to the complaint, respondent's failure, over the course
of the ten-month representation, to file PP's complaint
for divorce constituted gross neglect, lack of diligence, and
failure to expedite litigation, in violation of RPC
1.1(a), RPC 1.3, and RPC 3.2. Moreover, for
respondent's failure to reply to PP's requests for
information about the status of her matter, he was charged
with violating RPC 1.4(b) and (c).
during the representation, respondent sent communications to
PP that misled her to believe that he was diligently pursuing
both her domestic violence and divorce claims. Specifically,
on October 26, 2015, respondent sent PP an e-mail stating,
"I apologize, I believe I texted you on the 15th right
after the judge read the decisions. The final restraining
order was denied then. If you did not get it then, I am
sorry." In January 2016, respondent assured PP that he
had filed her divorce complaint. The following month, on
February 16, 2016, he informed her that he had not yet
received a date for "the default hearing," despite
the fact that he had not filed a complaint for divorce. In
March 2016, respondent again misled PP by stating that
"default proceedings can unfortunately be slow,"
and that he had not had any contact from her estranged
husband or his attorney. When PP independently investigated
the status of her matter, she learned that no divorce
complaint had been filed. Thus, respondent could not have
made application for the entry of default. Respondent's
dishonest conduct and misrepresentations were alleged to have
violated RPC 8.4(c).
according to the complaint, respondent failed to reply to the
investigator's written and telephonic requests for
information about the grievance, in violation of RPC 8.1(b),
RPC 8.4(a), and RPC 8.4(d).
ML Matter - Docket No. DRB 18-320
of process was proper in this matter. As mentioned above, on
December 4, 2016, during this ethics investigation,
respondent provided to the DEC a home address for service of
November 20, 2017, the DEC sent the complaint to respondent
at that home address, in accordance with R. 1: 20-4(d) and
R.1: 20-7(h). The certified mail was returned to the DEC
unsigned. The regular mail was not returned.
14, 2018, the DEC sent respondent a "five-day"
letter at the same home address, informing him that, unless
he filed a verified answer within five days of the date of
the letter, the allegations of the complaint would be deemed
admitted, the record would be certified directly to us for
imposition of discipline, and the complaint would be amended
to include a violation of RPC 8.1(b).
certified mail receipt was signed by "J. Brown" on
June 19, 2018. The regular mail was returned by the USPS,
indicating a forwarding address in New York. On June 28,
2018, the DEC sent respondent another "five-day"
letter, to the New York address, by certified and regular
mail. The certified mail return receipt was signed by
"R. Delgado" indicating delivery on July 3, 2018.
The regular mail was not returned.
time within which respondent may answer the complaint has
expired. As of the date of the certification of the record,
respondent had not filed an answer.
complaint alleged that the grievant, ML, retained respondent
to represent his interests in respect of temporary
restraining orders, divorce proceedings, and a matter before
the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P).
to the complaint:
2. On April 29, 2016, Grievant's then-wife returned a
cell phone to ML she had improperly purchased through