On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, the Supreme Court of New Jersey suspended attorney Edan E. Pinkas for assisting a lawyer who is unauthorized to practice law due to prior suspension. The case is entitled “In the Matter of Edan E. Pinkas,” and was brought by the Office of Attorney Ethics with case no. 087239.

The charges cited New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5(a)(2) and 8.3(a) which states:

Assisting another in the unauthorized practice of law.

Failing to report another lawyer’s RPC violations that raise a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness.

The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

On April 6, 2021, the New York Supreme Court suspended the respondent for 18 months for conduct that involves assisting another lawyer who is unauthorized to practice law and failing to report colleagues’ violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. This is in relation to the respondent’s assistance to his suspended colleague Mr. Gonchar, who was disciplined for maintaining a side practice of law without his firm’s knowledge and in contravention of the terms of his employment agreement.

The filing states:

“Gonchar also asked the respondent and Friedberg if he could obtain employment with the Firm during his period of suspension. Following Gonchar’s inquiry, the respondent contended that he had spent “quite a good deal of time” researching whether the Firm could employ Gonchar and allow him, as a suspended attorney, to perform work. However, the Firm did not maintain a subscription to LexisNexis or Westlaw, so the respondent conducted internet research regarding the permissibility of employing Gonchar. Respondent also inquired with Gonchar’s ethics counsel regarding what work Gonchar could perform during his term of suspension. Neither respondent nor Friedberg retained outside counsel to determine the proper scope of employment, if any, for a suspended attorney.”

The filing continues:

“Gonchar failed to inform his client that could no longer represent a function of his disciplinary suspension. Respondent and Friedberg also did not inform Gonchar’s former clients thatGonchar had been suspended from the practice of law.”

The filing further states:

“Respondent also sent e-mails to Gonchar at the Gmail address, rather than to the Firm e-mail address. Respondent admitted that he did not object to Gonchar’s use of his Gmail address, and in fact, used it himself because he believed that Gonchar’s ethics counsel endorsed the continued use of Gonchar’s e-mail address. As he did with crafting Gonchar’s job description, the respondent also chose not to seek independent legal counsel regarding Gonchar”‘s use of his Gmail address.”

The filing additionally notes:

“When asked if he ever had sought Gonchar’s advice on how to handle a legal issue faced by a client, the respondent stated that he had, but later clarified that he would not have characterized his conduct as seeking advice from Gonchar. Rather, the respondent and Gonchar discussed “logistical issues, facts about transactions, what was going on in terms of, was a closing scheduled, did a closing happen. Not legal advice.” Respondent asserted that, because the Firm was an “open space,” everyone discussed the Firm’s matters “all the time.”

The board stated that in the current matter, Mr. Gonchar nor the respondent informed Gonchar’s former clients that he had been suspended. That omission led the clients to believe that Gonchar was still permitted to practice law and still offer legal opinions. The misconduct of the respondent, as of the OED, is undoubtedly more severe and more analogous to cases where the sanctioned lawyers received suspensions. So based on the foregoing facts, the board determined that the respondent’s misconduct warrants a baseline suspension of six months.

After the Disciplinary Review Board forwarded its decision to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, the latter decided to adopt the conclusion of the board, thereby suspending the respondent for a period of six months as a reciprocal discipline in the State of New Jersey.

The Disposition states:

“The Disciplinary Review Board having filed with the Court its decision in DRB 22-001, concluding that as a matter of reciprocal discipline pursuant to Rule 1:20-14(a)(4)(E), Edan E. Pinkas of White Plains, New York, who was admitted to the bar of this State in 2005, be suspended from the practice of law for a period of six months based on discipline imposed in New York for unethical conduct that in New Jersey constitutes violations of RPC.”

Mr. Pinkas attended Brooklyn Law School, graduating in 2004. He practices in New York, New York. He is licensed in New York as well as in New Jersey. Mr. Pinkas’s info can be found on Linkedin.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.