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After passing the bar in 1985, Isadore May fiddled around with the practice of law for a couple of months, but then went to work at the family’s lumber business. When the company closed its doors six years later, he decided to open up a solo practice in Ventnor City, N.J., specializing in personal injury and real estate. One of the first callers was his brother-in-law, Paterson, N.J., sole practitioner Norman Ross, who was representing multiple parties in automobile accident cases and asked May to take on a few. During the next few years, May took on at least 69 cases. Or at least, he became the attorney of record. The question before the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) last month was whether May was actually serving as a “conflict remover” for Ross. If so, May could get a one-year suspension of his license for assisting Ross in engaging in a conflict of interest. Office of Attorney Ethics Counsel Thomas McCormick said that while May was listed as the attorney of record in those cases, Ross was actually doing the work. Together, they took in $74,476 in fees, with $49,654 going to Ross as “co-counsel fees.” He may not have known early on about the prohibition of representing multiple parties who may have competing interests, but he should have realized after a point that what he was doing was wrong, McCormick said. Ross was disbarred earlier this year for knowingly engaging in conflicts of interest and for misappropriating client funds, and McCormick said that May should be suspended for at least one year, even though the clients approved of the relationship between May and Ross. “Getting a consent and waiver is not good enough,” McCormick told the DRB. “He should have known better. There were enough red flags being thrown up.” May eventually cooled his relationship with Ross after realizing that Ross was essentially engaging in a conflict of interest and also, according to briefs filed with the DRB, because Ross was acting “dismissive and arrogant” and actually handling most of the cases himself, said McCormick. But, he added, “The light bulb should have gone off a lot earlier.” May’s lawyer, Willis Flower, said May at the time was an inexperienced attorney who was taken in by a relative. “He picked the wrong hero,” said Flower, a partner at Linwood, N.J.’s Ford, Flower & Hasbrouck. Flower said there was no intent on May’s part to engage in a conflict of interest or to assist Ross in doing so. “I’m not here to make a case that ignorance of the law is an excuse,” said Flower. “But there has to be clear and convincing evidence that he intended to do this.” The OAE has charged May with violating R.P.C. 1.7 for engaging in a conflict of interest; R.P.C. 8.4 (a), assisting another attorney in engaging in a conflict of interest; and R.P.C. 8.4 (c) and (d) for engaging in a pattern of dishonesty. The case is In the Matter of Isadore May, DRB Docket 00-325.

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