In the Matter of John F. Wise
District Docket Nos. VC-2016-0001E and VC-2016-0002E
W. Clark, Esq., Chair Hon. Maurice J. Gallipoli, Vice-Chair
Peter J. Boyer, Esq. Thomas J. Hoberman Regina Waynes Joseph,
Esq. Peter Petrou, Esq. Eileen Rivera Anne C Singer, Esq.
A. Brodsky CHIEF COUNSEL Barry R. Petersen, Jr. DEPUTY
COUNSEL Rocco J. Carbone, III Timothy M. Ellis Elizabeth L.
Laurenzano Colin T. Tams Kathryn Anne Winterle assistant
Disciplinary Review Board has reviewed the motion for
discipline by consent (censure, three-month suspension, or
such lesser sanction as the Board shall deem warranted),
filed by the District VC Ethics Committee (DEC) in the above
matter, pursuant to R. 1:20-10(b). Following a review of the
record, the Board granted the motion and determined to impose
a three-month suspension for respondent's violation of
RPC 1.3 (lack of diligence), RPC 1.4(b)
(failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the
status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable
requests for information), and RPC 1, 16(d) (upon
termination of representation, failure to take steps to the
extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's
interests, such as surrendering papers and property to which
the client is entitled and refunding any fee that has not
been earned or incurred). The Board further determined to
dismiss the charged violation of RPC 1.4(c) (failure
to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to
permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the
representation), RPC 1.5, presumably (b) (when a
lawyer has not regularly represented a client, failure to set
forth in writing the basis or rate of the attorney's
fee), and RPC 1.16(a)(2) (failure to withdraw from
the representation of a client if the lawyer's physical
or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer's
ability to represent the client).
according to the stipulation, sometime in 2015, grievant
Allen Jenkins closed his business and retained respondent to
assist him in filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Jenkins paid
respondent a $2, 500 retainer fee, in three installments.
After Jenkins made the final installment, on July 15, 2015,
respondent did not contact him.
August 2015, Jenkins went to respondent's office, which
was empty. On September 8, 9, and 10, 2015, Jenkins sent text
messages to respondent. On September 10, 2015, respondent
directed Jenkins to contact his secretary regarding any
September 21, 2015, Jenkins retained Katrina Pin Lucid, Esq.,
"to protect his interests." That day, Lucid
informed respondent that Jenkins had retained her and
requested a refund of the unused portion of the $2, 500
retainer, as well as all documents relating to Jenkins's
October 2, 2015, respondent informed Jenkins that his office
was no longer located in South Orange and that he was now
associated with the Goodson Law Offices in Montclair.
Although respondent provided Jenkins with a phone number to
call to make an appointment, he did not give Jenkins any
information about his case.
October 14, 2015 e-mail, Lucid reminded respondent that she
had requested Jenkins's file and a refund of the unused
portion of his retainer; informed him that she had called his
office several times, to no avail; and advised him to make
haste with her requests so that she could act quickly to
protect Jenkins's interests, as a levy had been placed on
his bank account. On December 2, 2015, Jenkins e-mailed
respondent to request the return of the unearned retainer and
his file. The next day, respondent replied that he
immediately would forward Jenkins's file and a check to
Lucid. He did not keep his word.
December 15, 2015, Jenkins sent another e-mail to respondent,
stating that, unless respondent returned his file and issued
a refund, Jenkins would file a grievance against him with the
Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE). Respondent, however,
continued to ignore Jenkins and Lucid until after Jenkins had
filed a grievance and the OAE contacted respondent about the
matter. Finally, on February 23, 2016, respondent sent a $2,
500 check made payable to Lucid and Jenkins. However, as of
August 16, 2016, respondent had not provided Jenkins or Lucid
with a copy of Jenkins's file.
in an unrelated matter, in 2014, grievant Sonya Martin
retained respondent to assist her in evicting a tenant from
property owned by her mother's estate. That property was
the subject of a mortgage foreclosure and Martin intended to
proceed with a short sale. She paid respondent a $2, 500
retainer, although there was no fee agreement.
did not perform the required legal work. He missed
appointments with the Surrogate's Court and failed to
file necessary documents. Respondent also ignored
Martin's attempts to communicate with him and failed to
notify her that he was no longer associated with his prior
firm. Finally, respondent did not comply with Martin's
request for the return of her file and the $2, 500 retainer.
Board found that, in the Jenkins matter, respondent's
lack of communication with Jenkins violated RPC
1.4(b). His failure to return the $2, 500 retainer to Jenkins
violated RPC 1.16(d). In the Board's view, the
stipulated facts did not support a finding that respondent
violated RPC 1.4(c), as the record lacks any
evidence that respondent undertook ...