On Monday, June 2, 2023, the Supreme Court of New Jersey censured attorney Wardell Huff for aiding non-lawyers and unauthorized lawyers in New Jersey to engage in illegal practice of law

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Wardell Huff,” with case no. 087701.

The charges cited New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4(a), 1.5(a), 1.5(b), 1.8(h)(1), 1.15(d), 5.3(a)(b), 5.4(c), 5.5(a)(2), 7.1(a)(1)(4), 7.5(b), and 8.1(b) which states:

Failing to inform a prospective client of how, when, and where the client may communicate with the attorney.

Charging an unreasonable fee.

Failing to set forth, in writing, the basis or rate of the attorney’s fee.

Making an agreement prospectively limits the attorney’s liability to a client for malpractice.

Failure to comply with the recordkeeping provisions of Rule1:21-6.

Failing to supervise nonlawyer staff.

Permitting a person who recommends, employs, or pays the attorney to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the attorney’s professional judgment in rendering legal service.

Assisting another in the unauthorized practice of law.

Making false or misleading communication about the lawyer or lawyer’s service.

Failing to identify the attorney’s name in advertisements and communications with the client.

Failing to cooperate with disciplinary authorities.

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The allegations state that the respondent was accused of assisting individuals who are not licensed lawyers, as well as a lawyer who lacks authorization to practice law in New Jersey, in engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. These claims suggest that the respondent allegedly played a role in enabling non-lawyers and an out-of-state lawyer to perform legal activities or provide legal services in New Jersey without the required licensure.

The Decision states:

“It is ORDERED that Wardell Huff is hereby censured, and it is further ORDERED that the entire record of this matter be made a permanent part of respondent’s file as an attorney at law of this State; On December 9, 2016, a credit union sent the New Jersey Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (the CUPL) a copy of a November 28, 2016 letter from the Firm. In that letter, which was signed by a nonlawyer, the Firm stated that it represented a New Jersey client, enclosed a signed power of attorney, and requested information about the client’s debt. On behalf of the CUPL, Anne Mohan, Esq., investigated the matter and could not identify a licensed New Jersey attorney at the Firm. The CUPL secretary, however, spoke with Lee Stein, Esq.,1 the Firm’s managing partner, who told her that the Firm maintained an association with the respondent’s New Jersey law firm. Therefore, on May 22, 2017, Mohan sent a letter to both the Firm and the respondent requesting information related to the Firm’s alleged unauthorized practice of law and failure to comply with New Jersey’s Court Rules. and it is further ORDERED that the respondent reimburse the Disciplinary Oversight Committee for appropriate administrative costs and actual expenses incurred in the prosecution of this matter, as provided in Rule 1:20-1”

The Decision continues:

“Four months later, on February 12, 2018, the Firm, through its counsel, Robby Birnbaum, Esq., replied to the CUPL, claiming that “[respondent] is involved with all New Jersey clients from the time they retain the Firm until their matters are resolved through negotiations or litigation.” The Firm further represented that it had complied with the applicable Rules and enclosed a copy of the revised power of attorney form, with the letterhead listing the firm name as Stein & Associates, P.C., and the respondent as being admitted in “DC, NJ, NY, Dist. of MD.” It also represented that the respondent “provided evidence of the existence and use of the required IOLTA Account in New Jersey, and the Firm ha[d] ensured that the professional and ethical requirements associated with New Jersey law practice are complied with.”

The Decision further states:

“Birnbaum did not reply to Mohan’s February 25, 2018 letter. Thus, on April 4, 2018, Mohan sent a follow-up letter, again copying the respondent. On April 20, 2018, Birnbaum sent a letter to Mohan, providing a second revised power of attorney form and proof that Stein & Associates, P.C. had registered with the New Jersey Secretary of State as a domestic corporation. Birnbaum stated that “Stein is still in the process of opening the trust account for Stein & Associates, P.C.” and that he would provide proof of compliance within the next couple of weeks.

In lieu of the aforementioned violations, the court decided to censure the respondent.

The Disposition states:

“It is ORDERED that Wardell Huff is hereby censured, and it is further ORDERED that the entire record of this matter be made a permanent part of respondent’s file as an attorney at law of this State; and it is further ORDERED that respondent reimburse the Disciplinary Oversight Committee for appropriate administrative costs and actual expenses incurred in the prosecution of this matter, as provided in Rule 1:20-1.”

Mr. Wardell is licensed in New Jersey with license no. 035062005.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.