In the Matter of A. Jared Silverman An Attorney At Law
Argued: January 17, 2019
District Docket No. XIV-2016-0142E
Christina Blunda appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney
Respondent appeared pro se.
A. Brodsky " Chief Counsel
C. FROST, CHAIR
Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme
Court of New Jersey.
matter was before us on a recommendation for disbarment filed
by Special Ethics Master Harold W. Fullilove, J.S.C. (ret.).
The Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) charged respondent with
knowing misappropriation of client and trust funds, a
violation of RPC 1.15(a) (failure to safeguard funds), the
principles set forth in In re Wilson, 81 N.J. 451
(1979), and In re Hollendonner, 102 N.J. 21 (1985),
and RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit
or misrepresentation); RPC 1.8(a)(2) (improper business
transaction with a client); and RPC 1.15(d) (failure to
comply with the recordkeeping requirements of R. 1:21-6). For
the reasons set forth below, we also recommend that
respondent be disbarred.
was admitted to the New York bar in 1971, the District of
Columbia bar in 1981, and the New Jersey bar in 1988. At the
relevant times, he maintained an office for the practice of
law in West Orange. Respondent has no disciplinary history in
represented Kent Lessman from 2008 until Lessman's death
in December 2016. Lessman brokered sales of petroleum and
petroleum products and arranged the financing of
"various petroleum related projects, such as
sales/purchases and refining capacity."
functioned as Lessman's "paymaster," by
depositing in his trust account funds from Lessman's
business associates and, pursuant to Lessman's
instructions, disbursing the monies to third party service
providers in payment of fees, commissions, and expenses
incurred in respect of particular projects. According to
respondent, he accounted for Lessman's trust account
funds on a project-by-project basis.
April 15, 2015, respondent wired $7, 500 to Ghassan Mahmoud
Kamal Sajim for the "Impact Executive" matter.
Prior to the transfer, the Lessman client ledger reflected a
$108, 848 balance. When the disbursement was entered on the
ledger, however, the running balance remained the same, when
it should have been $101, 348.
attributed the incorrect balance to a "computer
glitch." The OAE referred to it as "an innocent
recordkeeping violation." The parties agreed that, due
to this error, respondent subsequently over-disbursed $7, 414
in Lessman funds.
learned of the error on May 26, 2015, when he performed a
three-way reconciliation for the month of April 2015. He sent
an e-mail to Lessman, informed him of the $7, 414
"overdraw," and explained why it had happened.
Respondent attached a copy of the ledger to the e-mail, and
requested Lessman to replace the funds
"immediately." Lessman replied: "There is a
new deposit coming."
to respondent, Lessman stated that he would "make up the
shortfall from the proceeds from a completed
transaction." Because Lessman had at least two projects
in progress, respondent relied on his representation.
Thereafter, market volatility required the cancellation or
postponement of various Lessman projects and, thus, Lessman
did not replenish the funds.
admitted that, after May 26, 2015, he was aware that the
Lessman ledger continued to have a $7, 414 shortage. Despite
respondent's knowledge of the shortage, he continued to
disburse funds from that account.
early 2016, the OAE conducted a random audit of
respondent's attorney books and records, which uncovered
the trust account shortage. By letter dated February 1, 2016,
Robert J. Prihoda, then Chief of the Random Audit Compliance
Program, listed the deficiencies that had been discussed with
respondent on the conclusion of the audit. In addition to the
negative balance on the Lessman ledger card, respondent's
business account was not properly designated; he had made
electronic transfers from the trust account without signed
written instructions; and he had failed to perform the
three-way reconciliations properly.
respect of the $7, 414 trust account shortage, Prihoda
instructed respondent to replenish the trust account and
submit proof of doing so within two weeks. Respondent did not
comply with the request.
letter dated March 21, 2016, OAE Director Charles Centinaro
set a ten-day deadline for respondent to comply with the
February 1, 2016 letter. Because respondent ignored this
letter as well, the matter was docketed on March 31, 2016.
April 6, 2016, OAE Auditor Arthur Garibaldi requested
respondent to replenish the trust account and to certify that
he had corrected the recordkeeping deficiencies. Garibaldi
also informed respondent that a demand audit would take place
on April 26, 2016, at which time respondent was to produce
all attorney trust and business account records from April
2015 forward. As seen below, respondent did not fully
replenish the shortage until December 6, 2018.
April 15, 2016, respondent informed the OAE that he
"reasonably" expected that, "within the next
week, funds will be available to replenish [his] attorney
trust fund." Specifically, a Lessman transaction would
be completed within a week, and respondent expected to
receive funds from another transaction within two weeks. The
trust account funds were not replenished.
testified about respondent's trust account activity,
based on respondent's own 2015 accounting records, which
included the original Lessman ledger reflecting the error, a
corrected ledger, and the monthly three-way trust account
reconciliations. According to Garibaldi, respondent claimed
that, between May 26, 2015, when he discovered the shortage,
and December 31, 2015, neither he nor Lessman had personal
funds sufficient to replenish the trust account. Yet,
respondent's 2015 receipts journal showed that, after
respondent had discovered the $7, 414 shortage, he received
$9, 090 in total fees through the end of the year in
non-Lessman matters. Respondent used none of the monies to
replenish the trust account. Instead, he used the funds to
pay bills and make purchases.
addition to the legal fees, on July 31, 2015, respondent
received a $10, 000 loan from his client, Richard Yahya.
Respondent used none of the loan proceeds to replenish the