On Tuesday, February 20, 2024, Timothy M. Ellis, Chief Counsel of the New Jersey Disciplinary Review Board, issued a letter of admonition to attorney James E. Gelman related to his representation of a veteran in a service-related disability claim over a decade ago.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of James E. Gelman,” with case no. DRB 24-004.

The charges cited New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1(a), 1.3, 1.4(b), and 1.16(d), which states:

Engaging in gross neglect.

Lacking diligence.

Failing to communicate with the client.

Failing to protect the client’s interests upon termination of the representation.

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The letter details that in 2010, Gelman volunteered with the Public Counsel Law Center’s Pro Bono Advocates Program to represent veterans seeking disability benefits through the VA. In November 2010, Gelman was assigned to represent a veteran identified as E.M. regarding a disability claim. However, Gelman had no prior experience handling such claims.

The letter states that Gelman relied on guidance from lawyers at the Center for Veteran’s Advancement, which administered the program but failed to follow up when he did not receive adequate assistance. Gelman did not independently research how to process the claim or refer the client to a more experienced attorney. Over ten months, Gelman did little work on E.M.’s case due to his lack of competence in this area.

Chief Counsel Ellis found that Gelman’s inaction amounted to gross negligence and violated rules requiring diligence and competence. Gelman also failed to properly communicate with E.M, did not inform the client when he could no longer assist, and incorrectly assumed the program had replaced him without confirmation. This constituted failures to keep the client informed and protect their interests upon ending representation, violating additional rules.

While noting Gelman’s unblemished record spanning over 40 years, the Review Board imposed an admonition for his misconduct.  The Board considered Gelman’s admission of wrongdoing, but the letter serves as a warning and will be considered if any future issues arise. Gelman was also ordered to pay costs associated with the disciplinary proceedings.

According to avvo.com, Mr. Gelman is an education attorney in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. He attended the New England School of Law. He acquired his law license in New Jersey in 1979.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.