United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
J. SINGLEY, ESQUIRE, SINGLEY & GINDELE ATTORNEYS AT LAW
LLC, Attorneys for Plaintiffs Jonathan and Jacqueline Hinker
RUSSELL L. LICHTENSTEIN, ESQUIRE COOPER LEVENSON, P.A.,
Attorneys for Defendants County of Cape May and Cape May
County Sheriff's Department.
M. WILLIAMS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter having come before the Court upon the Motion [Docket
Number 15] by Plaintiffs, Jonathan and Jacqueline Hinker, for
an Order disqualifying the law firm of Cooper Levinson, P.A.
(“Cooper Levenson”) from representing Defendants,
County of Cape May and Cape May County Sheriff's
Department, in this matter. The Court notes that Defendants
oppose the Motion. The Court has reviewed the parties'
submissions and held a hearing on December 11, 2019, and, for
the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' Motion is
following facts are established based upon the record
presented, particularly, from the certifications and exhibits
submitted to the Court in support of the current Motion and
in opposition thereto. The Court limits its discussion and
analysis to only those facts that bear upon Derek G. Timms,
Esquire's representation of Plaintiffs and his
relationship with Cooper Levenson. However, given the gravity
of the matter and the importance of Timms's expansive
email communications with Cooper Levenson, this Order must
precisely capture Timms's relationship with Cooper
filed the underlying Complaint on August 17, 2018. Complaint
[Dkt. No. 1]. Plaintiffs are represented by the law firm
Singley & Gindele Attorneys at Law, L.L.C.
(“Singley & Gindele”). The Docket lists
Matthew J. Gindele, Esquire and Derek G. Timms,
Esquire as counsel of record for
Plaintiffs. According to Singley, “Derek Timms,
Esquire was assigned primarily [sic] responsibility for the
prosecution of Plaintiffs' claims.” Certification
of George J. Singley, Esquire (“Singley Cert.”)
[Dkt. No. 15-2], at 2, ¶6. Defendants are represented by
Cooper Levenson, and Russel L. Lichtenstein, Esquire is
listed as counsel of record.
Timms's Communications and Interactions with Cooper
before May 2019, Cooper Levenson placed an advertisement
seeking to fill a position in the firm's Negligence
Defense Department. Certification of Kenneth J. Calemmo, Jr.
(“Calemmo Cert.”) [Dkt. No. 18-3], at 1, ¶2.
That department is chaired by Carmelo Torraca, Esquire.
Id. Timms learned of this opening and emailed
Torraca on May 8, 2019. Timms email dated Wednesday, May 8,
2019, at 1:12 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2], Exhibit A. Timms's
email describes his various frustrations with Singley &
Gindele and his overall interest in seeking “a little
more stability” at Cooper Levenson. Id. On
Friday, May 10, 2019, Torraca responded with an encouraging
email that Timms would be a good fit and advised Timms to
call to “get this started!!!” Torraca email dated
May 10, 2019, at 9:12 A.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2], Exhibit B
(emphasis in original).
Monday, May 13, 2019, at 9:59 A.M., Timms emailed Cooper
Levenson's Chief Operating Officer, Kenneth J. Calemmo,
Jr., expressing his interest in the firm and the
kind of work he hoped to develop. Timms email dated May 13,
2019, at 9:59 A.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2], Exhibit C. Calemmo
responded at 1:32 P.M. and set a morning meeting for
Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Timms and Calemmo email chain dated
May 13, 2019, at 1:19 P.M. and 1:32 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2],
interviewed Timms on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Calemmo Cert.
[Dkt. No. 18-3], at 2, ¶¶3-6. Calemmo certifies
During my interview with Mr. Timms, he indicated that he had
“a case with Russell” who I understood to be the
firm's partner Russell L. Lichtenstein, Esquire. Mr.
Timms did not advise me what the case was or who our client
was during the meeting. I asked Mr. Timms if he would be
leaving that file with his previous firm and he indicated he
would. At that time, I did not have any further conversations
with Mr. Timms or anyone at Cooper Levenson concerning this
issue. Mr. Timms did not indicate to me that there was a
second matter in which he represented a client adverse to a
firm client. The second matter was being handled by partner
Steven D. Scherzer, Esquire.
Cert. [Dkt. No. 18-3], at 2, ¶7. Later that same day, at
12:43 P.M., Timms emailed a thank you note to Calemmo. Timms
email dated May 15, 2019, at 12:43 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2],
Exhibit E. Calemmo replied at 1:16 P.M., stating
“everyone is on board and we would like to move
forward. I will get you over a[n] [sic] offer letter before
the end of the day. Let us know of your acceptance [and]
[sic] your start date. Also[, ] I am assuming that you will
be primarily working here in AC. Welcome Aboard[.]”
Calemmo email dated May 15, 2019, at 1:16 P.M. [Dkt. No.
15-2], Exhibit F.
P.M., Timms responded enthusiastically to the informal offer.
Timms email dated May 15, 2019, at 1:23 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2],
Exhibit G. Timms requested a start date of June 1 or June 3
and stated he would “start this week to discuss the
move with my clients to make the transition a smooth
one.” Id. At 1:47 P.M., Calemmo emailed Timms
the formal offer letter. Offer Letter and Calemmo email dated
May 15, 2019, at 1:47 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2], Exhibit H. At
2:48 P.M., Timms replied, accepting the offer, and requested
a June 3, 2019 start date. Timms email dated May 15, 2019, at
2:48 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2], Exhibit I. Timms's acceptance
email again emphasized that he would begin “reaching
out to my various clients to insure a smooth transition to
Thursday, May 16, 2019, Calemmo circulated an internal email
among Cooper Levenson's partners and senior management
advising them that Timms was joining the firm. Calemmo Cert.
[Dkt. No. 18-2], at 2, ¶9. That same day, Scherzer
informed Calemmo that Timms presented a conflict,
id. at 2, ¶10, and, either that evening, or the
morning of Friday, May 17, 2019, Lichtenstein called Calemmo
“indicating that there was a non-waivable conflict with
respect to Mr. Timms and that the firm would need to promptly
withdraw any offer of employment.” Certification of
Russell L. Lichtenstein, Esquire (“Lichtenstein
Cert.”) [Dkt. No. 18-2], at 1-2, ¶4. Lichtenstein
certifies that he had a “second conversation with Mr.
Calemmo on Friday, May 17, 2019 along the same lines. I once
again specifically instructed Mr. Calemmo to withdraw any
offer of employment that had been made at that time.”
Id. at 2, ¶5. Calemmo also certifies that
Lichtenstein expressed these concerns and instructions.
Calemmo Cert. [Dkt. No. 18-3], at 2, ¶¶10-11.
Monday, May 20, 2019, Calemmo contacted Timms and
“advised him that as a result of the firm's
assessment of the conflicts that would be created if he were
to join the firm, Cooper Levenson was withdrawing the offer
of employment.” Id. at 3, ¶12.
response, Timms relentlessly attempted to overcome the
withdrawal. Timms sent numerous emails to Calemmo, Torraca,
Lichtenstein, and Lloyd D. Levenson,  each time emphasizing his
frustrations with the situation and ultimate desire to join
Cooper Levenson per the terms of the offer. Throughout these
emails, Timms mentioned the Hinker case, stating:
• Timms to Torraca:
I am freaking out and now may be without a job very soon.
Russell told me that the cases were “big” cases
and Cooper would [not] [sic] step away from them. That bothers
me because oneis a BS case where a
combat vet (my client) suedCape MayCounty
for kicking his service dog out of a park.
Itisn't worth shit.
I cannot believe that Cooper may end up screwing my career up
and leaving me without a job to keep one case that is
a nothing case and one where I did not even sue
Timms email dated May 20, 2019, at 1:01 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2],
Exhibit J (emphasis added).
• Timms to Calemmo:
[T]his whole situation has placed me in a very difficult
position. I know you have been very supportive and helpful
and I appreciate that. I will be honest, however, that it is
frustrating that essentially two minor cases are
keeping me in limbo.
Timms email dated May 22, 2019, at 2:07 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2],
Exhibit K (emphasis added).
• Timms to Torraca:
I'm glad [Calemmo] is still on this. No explanation,
though, about why Russell's got him by the balls and is
opening Cooper up to a big problem for a shit
Timms email dated May 22, 2019, at 2:51 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2],
Exhibit L (emphasis added).
• Timms to Levenson:
[Calemmo] called me and told me that there was a problem.
Essentially, Cooper would need to “punt” any case
where I was on [t]he [sic] other side. That would mean
Russell would have to transfer his file so that there would
be no conflict. I am fully familiar with the case and
candidly I[t] [sic] is not a huge matter.
Timms email dated May 24, 2019, at 1:20 P.M. [Dkt. No. 15-2],
Exhibit M ...