The Delaware Supreme Court has suspended for a year a New Jersey lawyer who represented more than 75 personal injury clients without being admitted.
The court found on Dec. 4 that Cherry Hill solo Raymond Nadel had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Besides the suspension, he is barred for three years from seeking pro hac vice admission in Delaware.
Nadel conceded that he tried to settle insurance claims for auto accident victims in that state from April 2009 to September 2012. He began seeing Delaware clients regularly after a Delaware physician, Morris Peterzell, asked him to assist a patient with a legal matter, the court said.
Many client meetings took place in Peterzell’s office, and Delaware clients accounted for 10 percent to 15 percent of Nadel’s practice, he told the authorities there.
Nadel claimed he was not aware of the requirement that he be licensed in Delaware to represent clients in prelitigation matters. If a settlement could not be reached, he referred the case to local counsel and did not file suits.
But the court found his actions demonstrated an awareness of a violation or at least willful ignorance of the rules.
He admitted violating that state’s Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5(b)(1) and (b)(2), which bar lawyers not admitted to that state from establishing “an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law” and from representing to the public that they are admitted to practice there.
The court’s disciplinary counsel, Patricia Hartley Schwarz, recommended a three-year suspension.
Nadel argued that a public reprimand would be more appropriate, primarily because New Jersey would likely impose a reciprocal suspension.
Schwarz referred the case to a panel of the court’s Board on Professional Responsibility.
Nadel’s lawyer, Charles Slanina of Finger & Slanina in Hockessin, Del., argued that Nadel was prejudiced by the choice of the Board on Professional Responsibility, and said the case should have gone to the Board on Unauthorized Practice of Law, which he said would have issued a lighter penalty.
The court rejected that argument, saying the decision to send the case to the professional responsibility panel was within Schwarz’s authority.
The court arrived at the one-year suspension after applying the American Bar Association Standards on the Unauthorized Practice of Law.
The standards say suspension is appropriate when a lawyer knowingly engages in conduct that is a violation of a duty owed as a professional, with the intent to obtain a benefit for the lawyer or another, and causes serious or potentially serious injury to a client, the public or the legal system.
The court said there was no injury to clients but found a potential for injury if Nadel were confronted with a unique issue of Delaware law.
Nadel was admitted to practice in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 1982. In 1997, he received a public reprimand in New Jersey for representing the driver and passenger in an auto accident case despite a conflict.
New Jersey disciplinary authorities are expected to review the case for reciprocal discipline.
They are not bound by a foreign jurisdiction’s ethics findings, says Bennett Wasserman of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon in Teaneck, who practices professional responsibility law.
Any proceedings for Nadel in New Jersey would take into consideration factors such as his prior ethics record and the severity of his offense, Wasserman adds.■